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Posted by on Apr 28, 2014 in Creative Process | 0 comments

Great Photos Tell Stories

Great Photos Tell Stories

Most photographers just point and shoot, then hope something turns out. Regardless of how advanced your equipment might be, failing to pay attention to basic design elements weakens your ability to tell stories with photographs.

In his article, The Secret: What Makes A Great Photo, professional photographer, Ken Rockwell (, points out that…

Every image needs a basic structure. Without an underlying structure, it is just another boring photo.

Every image needs strong underlying compositional order so that it grabs the eye from a hundred feet away.

If it can’t grab the eye from a distance, it will never be an interesting photo, regardless of how many fine details it might have.

Details don’t matter if there’s no story behind it.

The goal is to make sure your photos grab your viewer’s attention and visually hold their interest in your story.

Most photographers don’t even know that there are fundamentals, like light and dark, colors and shapes.

You have to get this underlying structure right, otherwise the photograph has no basis on which to stand.

Ken suggests looking at a shot from a hundred feet away before you the snap the shutter.

When you learn to look for the basics first, and can get the basics of composition down, you’ll be able to shoot anything, anywhere, with any sort of cell-phone camera, and walk away with the images everyone else covets.

It’s the basic underlying composition that makes or breaks an image.

Here’s a list of the fundamentals Ken believes every shooter must know in order to take great photos (condensed for this blog).

1. It’s not about the subject. It’s about the underlying compositional structure. Start looking for shapes and colors before you take a shot. These structures are what get people’s attention and keep it.

2. Eliminate unnecessary elements. Use everything you see as compositional elements. Remember that bold, broad strokes matter most.

3. Grab attention. Take time to look for the best point of view. Turn the camera. Or walk a few steps left or right. Do everything you can to make your viewer want to look deeper into the image.

4. Eliminate distractions. Anything that isn’t helping your shots composition takes away from it. Eliminate anything that makes your image weaker.

5. Add punchlines. They’re the little things discovered when looking inside the photo.

6. Emphasize gestures. Usually gestures refer to body language and facial expressions. But in photography, gesture can also refer to the positions of inanimate objects.

7. Use colors in harmony. Colors tend to be in harmony when two colors from opposite sides of the color wheel are in balance. Use color to add interest in your images.

8. Lighting is everything. It’s the most important technical element in photography. The direction of light and shadow in your image defines lines and shapes. So pay close attention.

9. Close one eye. It eliminates the 3D effect you usually see with both eyes are open. Closing one eye allows you to see how your photo will really look as a flat, rectangular print.

10. Never Imitate. Only you can be you. Great photographers don’t over worrying about technique, they look for good images. If you shoot what excites you, you’ll get good images.

11. You Can’t Go Back. When conditions are right, shoot. Ten minutes from now all the conditions will change. Shoot now.

What stories are your photos telling? Leave a comment.