One Thing

Recently, at one of my classroom presentations, at a local Camera store, an elderly gentleman at the back of the room, asked me, what “one thing” in a photograph either makes or breaks it?

In politely and respectfully answering him, I did my best to hold back my layers of frustration, having been asked, hundreds of times before, this same question.

The truth is, as almost all photographers on this feed would tell you, it’s never one thing that makes or breaks a photograph’s impact and impression.

It’s a combination of things, all working together, in unison, like a symphony of sound.

After about 5 minutes of explaining to this gentleman, my take on the subject, I don’t think he liked or appreciated my musings. He wanted a much simpler answer.

In a roundabout way, this is what I told him…..
The one thing that makes or breaks a photograph is…
…the light. Light is the essence of photography, and how you use it can make a huge difference in the mood, contrast, and colors of your image.

…the composition. Composition is the arrangement of elements in your frame, and how you balance them can create harmony, tension, or interest in your photo.
…the moment. Moment is the capture of a fleeting expression, emotion, or action that tells a story or reveals something about your subject or scene.

…the focus. Focus is the sharpness or blur of your subject or background, and how you manipulate it can draw attention, create depth, or add drama to your photo.

…the perspective. Perspective is the angle or viewpoint from which you take your photo, and how you change it can alter the scale, proportion, or context of your image.

…the color. Color is the hue, saturation, and brightness of your image, and how you adjust it can enhance the mood, contrast, or harmony of your photo.

…the exposure. Exposure is the amount of light that reaches your sensor or film, and how you control it can affect the brightness, contrast, or detail of your image.

…the subject. The subject is the main focus of your photo, and how you choose it can convey a message, evoke an emotion, or create a connection with your viewer.

…the creativity. Creativity is the originality, imagination, or innovation that you bring to your photo, and how you express it can make your image stand out, surprise, or inspire your viewer.

…the context. Context is the background, environment, or situation that surrounds your photo, and how you include it can add meaning, relevance, or depth to your image.

…the contrast. Contrast is the difference between light and dark, or between different colors, shapes, or textures in your image, and how you create it can add drama, interest, or balance to your photo.

…the story. Story is the narrative, message, or idea that you want to communicate with your photo, and how you tell it can engage, inform, or persuade your viewer.

…the emotion. Emotion is the feeling, mood, or atmosphere that you want to evoke with your photo, and how you convey it can affect, influence, or resonate with your viewer.

…the framing. Framing is the use of objects, shapes, or lines to create a border or a window around your subject or scene, and how you apply it can isolate, emphasize, or enhance your image.

…the timing. Timing is the precise moment that you press the shutter, and how you choose it can capture the peak of an action, the change of an expression, or the movement of a subject.

…the balance. Balance is the distribution of visual weight or interest in your image, and how you achieve it can create symmetry, asymmetry, or dynamism in your photo.

…the detail. Detail is the small or subtle element that adds texture, pattern, or interest to your image, and how you show it can reveal, highlight, or complement your subject or scene.

…the simplicity. Simplicity is the elimination of unnecessary or distracting elements from your image, and how you practice it can create clarity, elegance, or impact in your photo.

…the movement. Movement is the sense of motion or direction in your image, and how you capture it can create energy, tension, or flow in your photo.

…the depth. Depth is the illusion of three-dimensionality in your image, and how you create it can add perspective, scale, or realism to your photo.

…the rule of thirds. The rule of thirds is a compositional guideline that divides your frame into nine equal parts, and how you use it can create interest, balance, or harmony in your photo.

…the background. Background is the part of your image that is behind your subject or scene, and how you manage it can affect the focus, contrast, or mood of your photo.

…the editing. Editing is the post-processing or manipulation of your image, and how you do it can enhance, correct, or transform your photo.

…the style. Style is the distinctive or characteristic way that you take or present your photos, and how you develop it can reflect your personality, vision, or message.

…the intention. Intention is the purpose, goal, or reason that you take your photo, and how you define it can guide your choices, actions, or outcomes.



Jack Hollingsworth