What makes a good photograph?
The tough thing here is that everyone’s opinion on what makes a good photograph is different. A windy, wet landscape is a masterpiece for one person but just plain bad weather to someone else. An un-retouched portrait is realism and documentary to some, and an opportunity for extensive retouching to others (and maybe the subject too…). So when you’re taking your photos, a degree of self-belief is important.
Many people have a camera on them every day – on their phone – so everyone knows how to ‘point and click’. As a result, what makes a good photograph is everyone’s personal taste, but in terms of quality (and winning Shine prizes) it really comes down to composition. You can find all kinds of useful guides to composition online.
As a starting point, we liked this article.
Reportage or art?
Shine is interested in photographs that are either journalism or an artistic statement.
A news photograph needs to accompany an article and provide impact in a way that words cannot, adding clarity to the points being made. Perhaps someone has triumphed, failed, been hurt, or retiring? Be sure to tell these stories sensitively and carefully. Always remember that you’re impartial: a journalist and observer, looking from the outside in. This article explains more about this topic:
- A news photograph needs to accompany an article and provide impact in a way that words cannot, adding clarity to the points being made. Perhaps someone has triumphed, failed, been hurt, or retiring? Be sure to tell these stories sensitively and carefully
- Always remember that you’re impartial: a journalist and observer, looking from the outside in.
This article explains more about this topic.
- We also welcome entries that are beautiful images which illustrate their publication
- Why not try creating a theme in your work? Perhaps you love Britain’s countryside, modern architecture, rusty door handles, vintage antique bottles…
- Don’t forget that themes aren’t just what you take the shot of, it could well be stylistic: using a certain tone or colour palette, or shots from a certain angle
- … but the end of the day, it only takes one great image to win
How to get the best result from even a simple camera
We appreciate that you may not have access to expensive camera equipment. However some of the best photographs can be taken with a phone… and they’re certainly of sufficient resolution to print in your publications.
So don’t let the equipment you’re using diminish your enthusiasm. Needless to say though, if you have an good quality digital camera or SLR you’re going to get a result of a different kind.
What sort of photograph is going to be right for my publication?
From an artistic perspective, this is really a topic for you and your team. As mentioned earlier, a theme (for instance, all black and white; all reportage; all mood-led artistic shots) could work well depending on the tone and subject matter of your entry and affect the overall look of the publication positively.
- We suggest doing visual research and informing your decisions by looking at other examples of photography you like and feel suits your publication.
- Try joining Pinterest and creating boards of great photos around a project you are about to start.
- It can be overwhelming when you see incredible classic photos, but take courage: inspiration from the experts shouldn’t daunt but rather inspire you to try new things.
A few final thoughts…
Maybe the best ideas are under your nose. Before going too far afield, look around at the places you know well and see if you can capture something of your everyday life with your camera. It will inevitably feel authentic.
Consider a trip to a closed down factory, newly finished building, National Trust property or public park. Is there a story to be told? Some detail or beautiful object that inspires you? It’s these images, personal and carefully considered, that make great photography.
- Be a ‘boy scout’…
If you’re contributing to a news magazine about your school and you’re shooting one piece, such as a football match, try and shoot action imagery that will really tell a story about what happened. Get close to the touchline and be ready for that magic moment where your team scores. Half the success of a great photo is preparation and readiness.
- Practice makes perfect
Try and try again… For instance, choose an object, building or indeed person, and try taking the same photograph again and again in different lights and times of day. You’ll find that each time you do this, the photograph has some difference from the time before and your take on it will evolve every time. In addition, it’s likely that your method of taking the photo will change and grow increasingly subtle. These can be useful techniques you can then apply to other topics.
- Get out there
Wherever you live in Britain, you will find a place to inspire you and try new ideas, it’s just a case of looking around you and seeing things in a different way. Ask your teachers for ideas but we suggest visiting art galleries to begin with – not just the art on the walls but the buildings themselves. Try taking photos of art (if they will let you!) up close and from a distance. Ensure you’re straight on and your camera isn’t off centre (and if it is, fix it later!) – or ignore our suggestions and do your own thing – there are no rules!