I just dashed this off, and I’ll probably think of more things as soon as I post it, but I want to get it up. Feel free to add things as comments.
The following was cited recently on dpr as a list of the important things for good photography:
- Quality of light
- Proper exposure
- Shot in RAW
- Price of Lens
- Camera brand
I could quarrel with a lot of this list, but its big problem is that there are a whole slew of things that are more important than anything on it.
In no particular order, here’s my list:
Passion. If the photographer doesn’t care about the image, her audience will figure that out. If she doesn’t care, why should they? If the photographer doesn’t care about her images, she’ll stop making them after a while.
Emotion. Not all pictures emotionally involve their audience, but many depend on emotion. If the viewer is emotionally unaffected, he’ll need something else to keep him interested in the image. If he’s hooked emotionally, that may be enough right there.
Story. Some pictures impart a narrative. Some invite the user to supply one. Both deepen the viewer’s connection to the work.
Mystery. If the viewer gets everything there is to be gotten in the first 30 seconds, she’ll move on.
Ambiguity. Related to, but not quite the same as, mystery. Another thing that keeps the viewer engaged, and a reason to have an image on your wall year after year. Ambiguity can be strictly visual. Michael Kenna is a master of that.
Thought. Many pictures make the viewer think. Many good pictures are the result of clear thought on the part of the photographer.
Power. Can you make your viewer gasp, like Eugene Richards? Laugh, like Ted Orland?
Action. Great pictures often stir their viewers to do something. Ansel Adams and Eliot Porter knew that.
Timing. Weegee said it: f/8 and be there.
Intimacy. Capa said it: if your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.
Point of view: Why was The Americans so powerful?
Practice. Who was it who said: the more I practice, the luckier I get?
Work ethic. 100% of the exposures you don’t make won’t turn out. To use a military phrase, there is no substitute for time on target.
Pushing boundaries. Your own or your audience’s.