Subject Matter vs Image Excellence: What Makes a Great Photograph?

Photography is a powerful medium of expression, communication, and art. It allows us to capture moments, emotions, and stories in a visual form. But what makes a photograph great? Is it the subject matter, the technical quality, or the artistic vision?

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” – Henry David Thoreau

Some people might think that the subject matter is the most important factor in creating a great photograph. They might assume that certain subjects, such as landscapes, portraits, or wildlife, are inherently more interesting, beautiful, or meaningful than others. They might also believe that the more exotic, rare, or spectacular the subject is, the better the photograph will be.

However, this is not necessarily true. Subject matter alone does not guarantee image excellence. As the user pointed out, we can find examples of poorly executed photographs of stunning subjects, as well as masterful photographs of mundane subjects.

The subject matter is only one element of a photograph, and it does not determine its value or impact.
“The camera doesn’t make a bit of difference. All of them can record what you are seeing. But you have to see.” –
Ernst Haas

Image excellence depends on many other factors besides the subject matter. These include the composition, the lighting, the exposure, the focus, the color, the contrast, the mood, the message, and the style of the photograph. These are the elements that reveal the photographer’s skill, creativity, and vision.

It is not about capturing what is in front of us, but rather what is inside us. It is about how we perceive, interpret, and express reality through our own lens. It is about finding beauty, meaning, and emotion in any subject, no matter how ordinary or extraordinary it may be.

Therefore, we should not limit ourselves to certain subjects or genres of photography. We should explore and experiment with different subjects and styles. We should challenge ourselves to create photographs that reflect our own vision and voice. We should strive for image excellence in every photograph we take.



Jack Hollingsworth