Photographs are a universal language that like any language, communicate to the recipient a message. Like any spoken language there are certain elements that are required to communicate what the speaker, writer or in this case the photographer, is trying to say. And like any language, the photographer, professional or amateur, must learn the language before they can speak it.
Having a nice camera without the proper knowledge of photography is no different than an illiterate having a nice pen (or today, a computer) and trying to write something meaningful. Such is the nature of many wedding photographers practicing today, given the availability of inexpensive digital cameras, websites and online advertising.
Having learned the language of photography over many years I have had success in competing in state and national professional photography competitions sponsored by the Professional Photographers of America (PPA) and have even had the honor of judging these competitions on the state level. As a judge, we must be able to explain and justify the scores that we give to the works of the competitors, who can be both fledgling and experienced pros.
To analyze an image, we break it down to several accepted elements necessary for it to communicate its message effectively. Anyone, amateur or professional, who understands and applies these concepts, can become a much better photographer. And, I believe that if engaged couples can understand even a little about photography, they can make a better educated decision about who to choose to preserve their wedding day.
There are more, but these are the key factors in judging photographs. Any photograph ever made can be analyzed and critiqued using the following criteria…
1- IMPACT…the sense one gets when viewing the image for the first time. Compelling images can evoke the emotion desired by the photographer. 2- CREATIVITY…is the image original and fresh? Does it express the imagination of the creator to convey an idea? 3- TECHNICAL EXCELLENCE…is the quality of the image–sharpness, exposure, color harmony presented properly? 4- COMPOSITION…the proper placement of the subject matter–are the elements in the photo “balanced”, for a pleasing effect? 5- LIGHTING…is it controlled and utilized properly and does it enhance or detract from the image. Proper utilization of lighting whether man-made or natural can enhance an image and create depth and a more 3-dimensional effect. 6- CENTER OF INTEREST…the point in the photo that gets the viewer’s attention. There can be more than one, but the eye is drawn to that position in the photo. Where it is placed will draw the eye to that location and its position will assist in the overall composition. 7- SUBJECT MATTER… should always be appropriate to the story being told. 8- COLOR BALANCE…provides harmony to the image when different tones work together to support the image. 9- TECHNIQUE…the process used to create the image. From straight camera capture with no manipulation to heavily enhanced images using advanced digital techniques, the proper (not excessive) use of technology can created terrific images. 10- STORY TELLING…using the above factors, is the photograph effective in telling a story?
Nonetheless, the photograph, if it is still called a photograph, must still adhere to the above principles to be effective in communicating what the photographer or artist is trying to say. The language of photography has not gotten more complex, just the tools available to convey the message has.
This is an excerpt from a Master Photographer Philip Kent of Northern Virginia.