Ingredients for Great Pictures

In 1985 I presented a seminar to the Mississauga Camera Club on the various reasons why photographic images are successful. This subject fascinates me today as it did then and researching and refining it has kept me busy ever since.

On February 1st of this year I presented to the same club my updated version of this project which I have titled The Ingredients. Those of you who have followed my Facebook posts during the last four years will have seen my frequent references to various ingredients.

The Ingredients schedule is a condensed list, to show that Photography is not as confusing as it might seem to the beginner. With The Ingredients in mind, you can figure things out much sooner than you might think.

A comment on Composition: It is the most widely used ingredient, even though some photographers believe it is an unnecessary component of good photographs. The Ingredients explains why some very good photographers believe this is true: their specialized niche forces them to use ingredients other than composition to make their images work (Ingredient #5.)

Learning to recognize the main ingredients in good images is a powerful tool for developing your skill as a photographer. Annie Leibovitz says: “Look at your work and understand what you’re doing!” I am convinced The Ingredients will help you do this.

The list is subject to continuous improvement. In discussions, talks and workshops it is being modified and fine-tuned regularly so your feedback and suggestions for change are requested.

The Ingredients

1. Visual Order (Composition)

  • Simplicity
  • Effective placement of a single subject (rule of thirds)
  • Balance of multiple subjects
  • Tonal Balance (balance of brightness)
  • Lines ------------\
  • Shapes -----------\
  • Patterns -----------} Clear directions for the Eye
  • Symmetry --------/
  • Perspective------/

2. Unusual subject/situation

3. Interesting lighting

4. Visual impact

5. Emotional Impact (mood, human interest, photo-journalism)

6. Nature Story (current vs old)

7. Colour harmony

8. Complementary colours