- They convey emotion and tell the viewer a story.
Human beings are hard-wired to respond not only to emotion, but to crave a good story and pictures really are worth a thousand words. Truly beautiful images make us feel something. They make us laugh, they make us cry, and they put us right there in the moment.
They also make us wonder, think, and contemplate. Try approaching your subject by asking yourself what you want your photo to say to the viewer. What story are you telling them and how do you want them to feel about what you’ve just said?
- They leave a little something to be imagined.
Speaking of stories, have you ever noticed the way the really good ones don’t just spell everything out for you? They always leave a little something to the imagination and invite you to wonder what happens next. It’s why the book is almost always better than the movie. Books stimulate the imagination in a way a movie simply can’t.
Truly fantastic photos do the same thing. They only take the viewer part of the way there when it comes to what they’re trying to say. The viewer is left to imagine the rest of the scene.
- They capture contrasting concepts in unique ways.
One of the most poignant ways to get a viewer thinking with just one image is to look for ways to add contrast. However, contrast isn’t just something to consider when you’re making lighting or post-editing decisions. You can create contrast using subject matter as well and the world’s best photos often do.
Try experimenting with objects, people, or concepts that go perfectly together on one level because they contradict each other on another. Examples include but are not limited to children paired with elderly people, beautiful flowers paired with garbage, or very clean items paired with very dirty ones.