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How Understanding Your Good or Bad Photos Can Improve Your Photography


Landscape photography is an art. That is for sure. It is a way for us to express our emotions when in a location and capture a scene forever.

With social media, you could easily be mistaken to think that I good photo is the one with the most likes or comments. Or you may think a good photo is one that wins a competition. But this is somebody else’s interpretation of a good photo. It is missing a key ingredient and that is YOU.

The only thing that matters is whether you like that photo. If that photo brings back memories and rekindles the emotions of the moment you took it then it is great.

Ever since I started photography 30+ years ago I have been intrigued by why I like one photo and not another. It isn’t just about amazing conditions. In fact, if you look at the photos below, one is in stunning conditions but I just don’t like it, compositionally it doesn’t rekindle my emotions. The other is in dull overcast conditions but it works for me and I have it hanging on my wall.

Amazing conditions but composition not inspiring
One of my favorite images on an overcast day.

I feel that if you can start to understand what makes a good and bad photo then it is a great way of progressing your photography. I am not talking about rules and intersection of thirds, but rather the elements that you like in photos.

There are some guiding principles that you can follow, though, that have really helped me. They may not work for everyone but I feel if you can say to somebody why you like a photo then you will be going a long way to improving your photography.

Here are 5 compositional elements that you can look at

#1. Balance: When you look at the image, does it have balance? Or if not, is it intentionally unbalanced to provoke an emotion?

The farmhouse in this image helps to balance the shot and provide some asymmetry as well as scale.

#2. Flow: Does your eye flow through the image? Good photos usually allow you to go on a journey.

#3. Attention: Does the photo keep your attention? This is really important. If I think about my best photos then they allow me to linger and enjoy the photo for a long time, discovering new elements.

In this image there are many different elements that help the viewer stay for longer such as the sheep under the tree.

#4. Simplicity (feeling): This should probably read ‘not over complicated’. But less is often more in photography.

#5. Distractions: Are there any distractions that lead your eye away from the subject, mood, or element of the image that is the main focus point?

I also think it is a great idea to listen to others. But I always say take advice with a pinch of salt. Don’t let others control your vision for a photo. After all, you may be producing something that is unique and one person may not like it but 50 others might. Ultimately only one thing really matters and that is your love of the image.

P.S. If you enjoyed this video and article, you can find more by subscribing to my YouTube channel.

About the author: Nigel Danson is a landscape photographer based in the UK. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of Danson’s work on his website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.