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Mar 18
2015

How To Take A Good Photo

I cannot tell you how to take a good photo. Ammm... it might be a bad way to start a post on how to take a good photo. The reason I wrote it is because we have to agree how we measure photos in the first place.

First assumption: something is considered to be good if enough people think it's good. I probably can write a book on that assumption but lets decide to agree on that just for the next few paragraphs.

We live in a fast world. Fast internet, fast food, fast cars, you name it, if you can't keep up, you stay behind. Time is almost the last thing we can't control, yet, and so, time is priceless. We, as photographers, or photography lovers, see thousands of photos and we need some mechanism that will help us decide if we are looking at a good photo as fast as we can, because we don't want to waste our priceless time on a bad photo.

Second assumption: a good photo is a photo that enough people think it's good.

A photo is like a business, it has to stand out in order to succeed. It doesn't matter if it's a landscape photo or a manipulation of pixels targeting to criticize some government policy, if this photo can't make you look at it for more than 2 seconds, it's not good.

I mean, think about it for a moment, when you're looking at a bad photo you're actually wasting your time, but staring at a good photo can be valuable, where as it may inspire you to change your way of life or just help you decide where to go next year. When you're looking at a photo, you decide that the photo you're looking at is worth 14 seconds or even a whole minute. But, as I said before, 1 person who is willing to spare a few seconds on a photo won't make it necessarily good, it takes more than that. I have a photo in 1x website that has over 1.1 million views.

San Antonio

If, in average, each one of the people was willing to give away 3 seconds of his life to watch it, my photo would now worth more than a month. That is an awesome way of looking at it, right?

So what have we learned so far? We learned that a good photo is a photo that is worth time. People won't spare their time on your photo unless you can make them give away this time in the first second they looked at it. Let's call it the WOW effect. Now, all you have to do in order to take a good photo, is to remember to put some WOW powder in it.

Now for the hard part, how do I get this f***ink WOW powder. I think that one word can sum it up, Drama. We humans like drama. Whether it's a cheetah hunting or a lava bursting out of a mountain, drama keeps us watching. Our brain gets lots of information all the time and it has to decide what is relevant and what's not, what should be considered and what can be ignored. When we see something than is not normal, meaning, we don't get to see it a lot, that's drama, that's when our brain tells us, hey, focus on that s**t. That's, for example, why so many people love sunsets. Burning sky and colorful clouds are not part of our daily routine, they are rare enough to draw our attention, so does rainbows. Drama can be an unarmed man standing in front of a tank, trying to block it with its own body, it can be dark clouds comming from the sea or even a baby hugging a dog. But drama can also be surprising. What do you think about this shot?

Meal
Photographer: Henry Hargreaves

What is possibly dramtic at this food photo? What about this one?
Meal
Photographer: Henry Hargreaves

Now try to imagen the people who chose this as their last meal. Now you can see it differently.
No Seconds, Henry Hargreaves

That's the power of series, it can create drama by telling you a story in a few stages. Each photo by its own is not interesting enough, but taking a few photos of the same subject and combining them can spark the imagination of the watcher, it makes him spend more time in each photo while trying to find the connection or the meaning of the story.

Great, so we manage to take a photo that contains something unusual. We got a few minutes, even an hour, but we're greedy, we want more, we want people to spend more time watching our photo, hell, let them spend even more while commeting it or even share it so more people will spend their time on it. To do that, we need 1 of two things. 1 document something that is so rare that it will be worth minutes even if the technical quality is bad. 2 technical perfection that even with little or none deep content is worth the time. Obviously, if you get them both, it's better.

A good photo can be taken only when you get out there, to the unfamiliar territory, where unusual things happen, when most people sleep or where most people are afraid to be or too lazy to go to, there you will find good photos.

But don't forget that photos only remind you the things you experience. Go be the explorer of the new world, dare to walk the extra mile and be there when the magic happenes.


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