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Qualities of a Good Photograph

Know what qualities will make your good photographs great.
happy photograph image by Laser from Fotolia.com

Taking a good photograph is something that most people can do, but typically a good photograph is something that many people do by accident because they do not understand the qualities that make a superior photo. This is what often separates the novices from the professionals. Knowing all of the qualities of good photography can help you turn your mediocre snapshots into frame-worthy photographs that you’ll be proud to share.


Composition is a key element when it comes to setting up the shot you plan to take. You must decide exactly how to position the camera, how far to zoom in or out, where to set your depth of field and what will actually be in the frame of your photograph. This is called composing.

While this is a bendable rule, there are certain ways that good photographs are typically set up. Using the “rule of thirds,” photographers divide the field of view through the lens into three vertical sections and three horizontal sections. The idea is that the human eye is naturally drawn to a space about two-thirds up the page. With this in mind, try to put the main subject in your image at the intersection of one of these thirds. Putting the subject in the center isn’t always the best composition technique.


Good photographs must usually be in focus unless there is some expression the photographer is trying to make that calls for an out-of-focus shot. It is important to focus on the main subject of your photo, or the most interesting portion of the scene, so that the eye is naturally drawn to what you want people to see.


Contrast can often be a powerful quality of a good photograph. Contrast in a black-and-white image is the change from the light gray portions of the photo to the dark or black portions. In a color photograph, it is the layering of different colors that are separated by some distance in the spectrum. Black on white or yellow on dark green are examples of highly contrasting colors.

Evokes Emotion or Tells Story

One of the most important qualities in a good photograph is its ability to tell a story to or evoke emotion from the person viewing it. Perhaps the best images need no explanation by the photographer. If the image is composed and set up properly so that the viewer automatically knows why the person shot the photo and understands what they are looking at without having to be told, it is a reliable sign that the photograph is of high quality.

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