What Makes a Great Image Great

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How do I take a great photo?

This is a subjective. So let’s get that out of the way. Every one of these criteria will be different for every viewer, which is no different than a taste test for wine or choosing a favorite sports team. We all have our reasons and that’s totally ok. The reason I’m sharing this bit of info from PPA.com (The 12 Elements of a Merit Image) is because these are all things to think about when composing your image. You have the power to add or remove anything to/from your image. Take full advantage of that. You control the story your photo is telling.

I also want to point out that the number one element is impact. The initial impact the image has on the viewer is what will be most heavily considered when scoring the image. I take this same approach when choosing images to show my clients during their sales session. Even if a photo isn’t technically perfect, I’m going to leave it in if it makes a big impact. The other point I most strongly advocate for is story telling. If someone can look at a photo, say ‘oh, that’s pretty’ and move on right away, I would not be happy with that image if it was mine. I want the viewer to take their time exploring the image and play out the story that is taking place. I want my images to have lasting power and make the viewer think.

Without any further adieu…

“Twelve elements have been defined as necessary for the success of an art piece or image. Any image, art piece, or photograph will reveal some measure of all twelve elements, while a visually superior example will reveal obvious consideration of each one. Here is a list of all twelve elements.”

  1. Impact
  2. Technical excellence
  3. Creativity
  4. Style
  5. Composition
  6. Presentation
  7. Color Balance
  8. Center of Interest
  9. Lighting
  10. Subject Matter
  11. Technique
  12. Story Telling

Putting this list into action

Start with the photos on your website, and if you don’t have a website, look at the ones you post on social media. Go down this list and really take an honest look at your images. Being too generous with the scoring will not help you learn and grow. This is also why I suggest joining your local camera clubs and getting a second opinion from others. Hiring a coach to help you refine and improve your portfolio is also a great idea. I’d be happy to help you work on yours. Click here for more info.

Find out which of the elements you scored lowest in and make a plan to focus on that in your next shoot. You don’t have to work on all 12 at once. Choose 1. If you’d like some suggestions on how to make it better, join our private Facebook community here and share your work and questions with us.

Taking small steps at each shoot will make a huge difference over time. And trust me, you’ll see massive results quicker than you think. Just make a plan, add accountability, and stick to it. You’ve got this.

About the Author Mike Lloyd

Mike is the Tim Burton of photography. He tells powerful, imaginative stories with cinematic photography. He specializes in dramatic, film-noir style boudoir and epic cinematic portraits. He's also the creative force behind Photogs Unite! which focuses on learning from professionals outside the photography industry to learn marketing, sales, branding, and everything else you need to know to build a thriving photography business. And burritos are the key to his happiness.

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