What Makes a Good Photo?
Or what makes a photo good?
Or both?

Good Photo Graham Nash at City Winery Chicago

Graham Nash at City Winery

Like most people, I look at lots of photos every day.  Some are mine and most are not.  We all are exposed to a lot of photos nowadays…probably more than ever.    I’m frequently trying to determine what constitutes a good photo, or an image that’s appealing to me.  Not in a competitive or judgemental manner, but in an abstract sense.  That is, what is it about a particular photo that may or may not stand out?  It’s a difficult question since it’s one of those subjective things in our lives and what appeals to one person may not appeal to the next, of course.
However, I feel that we sometimes judge a photo on the basis of what the subject is rather than how the photo is composed, how it’s lit, the exposure, etc.  How many times do we look at vacation photos of ours or from someone else and marvel at the scene rather than the way it’s photographed?  It’s still worthy of the “Good Photo” praise, but is it because of what was photographed or how it was photographed?  Hmmm…I often wonder.
For me, I try very hard to take a good photo, regardless of the subject matter.  I don’t think it works out all the time, but I try.  It’s sometimes frustrating because the elements don’t add up the way I’d like.  That is, I can’t get to the right angle or time of day, or can’t get a highlight in the eye, or the shadow to fall just right, etc., etc.  But, when I do, it’s a great feeling of satisfaction even though I don’t expect too many viewers to notice…but it’s what I like to do.  It’s how I get my photo-satisfaction.  It’s what makes photography challenging and fun for me….and for many others.
I suppose because many people know of my interest, I get asked frequently to judge or express an opinion about someone’s photo or group of photos.  I find that particularly uncomfortable to do since I’m no judge!  I just know what I like, what I’m striving for, and what appeals to me.  My general feeling is that if someone got pleasure from taking a photo and also enjoys looking at it, it’s good.  Maybe it’s not what I would have photographed or how I would have done it, but that doesn’t matter.

Anyways, we were at the City Winery in Chicago the other night to see Graham Nash of the Hollies (one of my all time favorite British Invasion bands), Crosby, Stills, and Nash (and Young, at times), and other groups.  I happened to have my camera with me.  (Actually, that’s a lie!  I usually have my camera with me…haha)  And it had a 90mm “fast” lens attached.  By fast, it means that the lens has a wide aperture for capturing photos in low light.  More importantly, we had good seats!  I actually only took a few photos, relatively speaking, and tried to anticipate proper moments and postures during the performance.  I particularly tried to have the microphone in the “right spot.”  And, given that it was in an awkward lighting environment, I decided to shoot in b&W mode.  By that, I set my camera up to shoot both b&w jpegs and color RAW files.  Set up that way, the images in my viewfinder as I focused and composed were already black and white, which made it easier for me to visualize the final images.

Good Photo Graham Nash at City Winery Chicago

Graham Nash-City Winery

So, I got these two photos which I liked very much…that’s the first criteria above (remember?).  And I was happy with the dramatic lighting, the exposure, the expression and capture of the moment, the detail (in his hair), and the contrast from black to white…another criteria.
I looked at the photos and tried to “appraise them.”  I asked myself if they were good photos or photos that were good because they were shots of Graham Nash.  I deliberated over that for a long time…..
Then, I just determined I like ’em.  And that’s good enough!  So, I decided to post them and share them with you so that you can enjoy Graham Nash as we saw him.

Thanks for visiting!
-Stephen M. Levin


SML Photography