KEY ELEMENTS OF BEAUTIFUL PICTURE
5 key elements of a beautiful photo
Some of the key elements that I feel make a beautiful photo are: light, creation, emotion, and storytelling. Light is one of the most important aspects of photography. It can completely change the mood and feel of a photo. I like to use natural light whenever possible, but I also enjoy experimenting with different lighting techniques to create different effects. Composition is another important element of a beautiful photo. It is important to consider the placement of the subjects in the frame as well as the background. I often use leading lines and symmetry to create pleasing creation. Emotion is something that can really make a photo special. Capturing a genuine smile, laughter, or tears can really make the viewer feel something. Storytelling is also important in a beautiful photo. Telling a story with your images can help the viewer connect with the subjects on a deeper level.
Have you ever wondered what makes a photo stand out and stir specific emotions in you when you look at it? Of course, photos of your family and places you love will naturally give you the warm and fuzzies or leave you in awe but there are also very certain elements in great photos that help bring them to life and make you take a second look.
The simplest element of composition is a point.
Points are a bit deceptive; mathematically, they have zero dimensions. Photographically, we’re a bit more lenient. A point is just a small area of heed in a photo, or the intersection between areas of interest.
Stars in the sky in a photograph are “points,” and so is an out-of-focus light in the background. The same is true of the spot where two mountains meet one another, creating an intersection that pulls at the viewer’s eye.
Points matter in photography because they are one of the most fundamental ways to draw our concentration – to add interest to a particular area.
In the photo below, what element draws your eye the most? The answer should be immediately clear:
It is, of course, the peak of the sand dune – the point. It has a gravity to it. Our eyes follow the lines of the slope and end up at the same spot.
If you’ve internalized that points can draw a viewer’s eye and attract concentration, you likely have a good idea of why they are so important in photography; they help give a photo structure. I’ll cover the next simple element of creation: lines.
In contrast to points, which draw a viewer’s attention, lines are more like a path for a viewer to follow. Or, they are a frontier: the conflict between sky and ground, for example.
Like points, lines in photography are not defined as firm as lines in geometry. Photographically, anything that connects two parts of a photo or extend across your creation is a line. That includes a curved road or a ragged mountain ridge, for example. Even the misty, lightly defined edge of a cloud is usually a line.
Lines also serve an important function of relate two different elements of your photo. They can give an image structure, which is a critical part of making an image feel meticulous and intentional. A path noted from foreground to background has a way of making the image feel connected.
Sometimes, lines in a photo are imaginary, but they’re still there. Imagine a portrait of a child looking at a toy truck. The space between the child and truck might be “empty,” but the viewer knows it is important anyway. There’s a line – a connection between the two elements of the photo that makes each one more impressive.
Now, we move from the simple elements of creation to the complex. Shapes can be anything, from the curve moon to the shape of a smiling face. Each variety of shape has its own emotional impact on a photo, and it’s impossible to generalize. A circle might be peaceful, a heart redolent, a triangle dynamic, and so on – but the only thing to be said about every shape is that they have the power to attract our attention.
Sometimes, shapes are just the object itself. If you’re photographing the sun, it makes a circular shape. Other times, shapes are more imagnary, like a curved cloud over a curved valley that gives the entire photo a circular composition. Both types of shapes matter. The first attracts attention; the second gives the photo its structure.
In photography, keep an eye out for shapes in your photo, either obvious or abstract. Remember that they are very powerful in drawing our eye – particularly simple shapes, as well as those of humans and animals. Comprise your photos accordingly.
The quality of an object plays an important role in determining its emotional impact, as well as the amount of attention it draws.
What mood do you capture when you photograph smooth pebbles and mist from a long disclousre of the sea? What about jagged, rough mountains in high-contrast light?
Sometimes, textures themselves may be the subject of your photo, like patterns in the sand or waves of water. More often, though, textures are individual elements of a larger photo – either giving your subject some dimension or filling in the spaces between subjects.
Areas with more quality tend to draw extra attention. Sometimes, too much texture in “unimportant” areas of a photo can be distracting, making the overall photo appear too combination. In other cases, texture gives your subject a deciding sense of dimension, such as filling out the shape of a mountain landscape.
Another important element of composition is tone, both for individual objects and for the photograph as a whole. Although tone can refer to hues and intensity of color, it also relates to the brightness and darkness of an image, as well as its contrast.
A few other words can describe this same concept, but I prefer “tone” because of its connection to music. Photographs which employ tone successfully will carry the eye through the flow of a photo – much in the same way that musical tones carry listeners through the highs and lows of a performance.
Brighter regions of a photo attract the eye. So do those with high contrast – both low-level contrast (sharpness) and broader juxtapositions of light and dark.
At a more general level, the tones of a photograph also change its overall emotions. Photographs which are darker tend to obscure more of your subject, giving it a mysterious, intense, and even refined appearance. Brighter photographs are more etherial and optimistic.
Of course, you can adjust many of these factors in post-processing software very easily. Personally, I often darken the corners of an image to attract observation to the center. I’ll also “dodge and burn” (brighten and darken) individual elements of a photo that I want to emphasize or veiled. If there’s a distraction in your photo, one of the easiest ways to make it draw less attention is just to darken it a bit or lower its contrast.
So, pay attention to the tones of your photo, both in the field and in post-processing. They control how a viewer flows through the photo, as well as the emotions the photo conveys.
Most other techniques in composition – from simplicity to emotion – start with the elements of creation listed above. Although there are more than just ten elements of creation, these are the most important for photographers to know.
They’re also some of the easiest to contrivance in your photography, so it’s worth the effort to think about them while you’re taking pictures.