Telling good photography from bad: the complete guide - BRYCE Watanasoponwong
Art and Documentary Photography - Loading bryce_m1-2-1-cover.png

Telling good photography from bad: the complete guide
bryce watanasoponwong
Jan 13, 2021

What makes a good photo vs a bad photo? To one viewer, an image may appear to be the best in the world, whereas it may present an ordinary image to another photographer. So this leads us to a question who is right in calling a photograph good? What are the critical, creative fundamentals that help sway someone's opinion?

Before we dive into the subject of good vs bad, let's establish a constant in the conversation. A photograph is a visual account of a memory or event. For example, if someone captures a family member's photo, this may mean something completely different to a non-family member. Rules and technique go out the window. The photo may even be overexposed like the one below - it’s the memory that outweighs the technique in this case. Different opinions are okay in photography as emotion can play a significant role in determining good vs bad photography.

good vs bad photography
                            good photo vs bad photo

Each photo varies in light, texture and contrast, so why do some photos appear better than others? To help unravel the photographic mystery below are some key elements to consider when next pressing the shutter button.

Correct Focus...

(Maintain Correct Focus to Ensure Your Fall In The Good Photo Category)

The first element that will determine if a photo is worthy of a frame is the focus. As photographers, some of us rely heavily on the cameras' autofocus to achieve pin-sharp focus. However, like all things in life, sometimes Murphy's Law kicks in at the worst possible time, and out-of-focus images are the result. To avoid this catastrophe below is a key point to consider.

Out of focus images are more common than you think. To ensure you gain a good photo that's in focus, pre-focusing is a handy tool to master. To prefocus just autofocus on the point where you know the subject will cross, manually switch the autofocus mode off.

good vs bad photography
                            good photo vs bad photo

When the subject passes the in-focus point - that you have already predetermined - then all you have to do is press the shutter button. Combining this technique with a fast shutter speed can certainly be handy for sports or any predictable fast-moving subject.

good vs bad photography
                            good photo vs bad photo

Perspective & Angle...

(Think About Perspective and The Angle You Take a Photo)

Moving a photo from bad to good can be easy if you just change your perspective. Take, for example, a parent taking a photo of their child playing. The photo below isn't nearly as good as the second image. That's because the second photo has more depth of field (or out of focus areas) around the child. This is possible because the person taking the photo crouched down to the child's eye line in the second photo. By doing so, they have instantly increased the distance between the child and the background. Whereas the other image, the background is closer to the child as the person taking the photo is standing up.

good vs bad photography
                            good photo vs bad photo
good vs bad photography
                            good photo vs bad photo

Also, think about how you might photograph stationary objects. Take, for example, architectural photography. Instead of photographing a building parallel to a wall (front on), walk to the building's corner and focus on an isometric image. By changing your perspective, you will gain more leading lines. The results will turn your bad photo into a good photo.

good vs bad photography
                            good photo vs bad photo
good vs bad photography
                            good photo vs bad photo

For macro photography this is also the case. You want to ensure you get as close to the subject as possible on the same level. You should also consider composition, light and perspective for all your close up photographs. While this may not be possible in all scenarios, perfecting your art by practicing can make all the difference when you are trying to photograph a fast moving bug!

Light Light Light...

(Expose Your Image Correctly By Ensuring There is Enough Light)

Without light photos appear dark, uninteresting and often have a lack of detail. The lack of detail isn't in the subject matter; it's referring to the quality of the image. You see a dark environment requires a higher ISO which can lead to a more grainy picture. While some photographers like this style, many consider them to be 'bad' photos.

good vs bad photography
                            good photo vs bad photo

So to avoid the debate altogether, you need to light your subject or scene correctly. There are various lights on the market that can assist. You can set up a small three-light studio or opt for a portable LED solution. Or if your budget is tight, consider using window light to photograph a portrait - as that's free! The sun produces the best soft light as it streams through the window. Your portraits will instantly increase in quality when using natural light in this way.

Composition and Rule of Thirds

You may often hear photographers talk about the rule of thirds. What they mean by this term is an alignment of objects in the frame to overlapping imaginary third lines. Landscape photographers will generally use this technique when photographing an image with a horizon present. When viewing a landscape photo taken by a pro, you may notice that the horizon isn't in the middle of the photo. Instead, the person behind the camera may position the horizon on either the top third line or bottom horizontal third line. Doing utilising this method, the photographer can have either two-thirds of the image as land or two-thirds of the photo as the sky.

good vs bad photography
                            good photo vs bad photo
good vs bad photography
                            good photo vs bad photo

Compositing is a cornerstone technique and rules for any photographer. However, like many things in life rules are there as guides and sometimes it is okay to break them. By doing so, you are not going to be making your photo bad; instead, you have the opportunity to be creative and express yourself. This breaking of rules may result in a good photo in the end.

Final Words

Photography is a very subjective medium. While composition, light, focus and perspective all play a role in making a good photograph - don't think you need to get each technique right. There are certain ways to blur the lines between the techniques using bokeh, panning techniques, long exposures, and Photoshop. Hopefully, by reading this article, you can educate yourself on what good vs bad photography is really all about. Remember, a photograph is something that should be a reflection of your feelings and thoughts. So express yourself and try your best to adopt some of these ideals, and your photography will turn from good to great.

good vs bad photography good photo vs bad photo

About Me

Photographer and visual storyteller based in Bangkok

BRYCE Watanasoponwong is a Thai-Australian photographer and visual storyteller. He is interested in producing a narrative series that evoke emotion and make a personal impact. Becoming more involved in how is photography is... read on
    good vs bad photography good photo vs bad photo good vs bad photography good photo vs bad photo good vs bad photography good photo vs bad photo  

BRYCE Watanasoponwong

The Hub of Visual Art Photography by Bryce Watanasoponwong | Narrative | Abstract | Street
Website via Visura

BRYCE Watanasoponwong is integrated to:
Visura website builder - grow your photography business
Visura's network for visual storytellers
A photography & film archive by Visura
Photography grants, open calls, and contests
A newsfeed for visual storytellers