What makes good pictures?

Good pictures are more than just sharp, contrasty and well lit. In addition to technical know-how, you also need talent and the photographic eye.

What distinguishes these two images?

Technically perfect, but photographically not well done

Obvious posing and excessive post-processing combined with a lack of context are the typical attributes of standard stock photos.

Atmospheric image

This photograph is a sensitive shot, like a silent observation, which becomes a painterly work of art through the mood of the light, the composition of the picture and the grace of the reading lady.

Both photos are technically well done. Nevertheless the first one lacks the artistic aspect. You can clearly see that it is only intended to be used in as many different ways as possible for advertising purposes. There is no intention beyond that.

The second picture, on the other hand, shows that the photographer has empathized with the person being photographed and wanted to capture the mood of the moment. This is what makes a good photographer. He knows how to influence the effect of the image through composition, light and the right balance of aperture, shutter speed and focal length.

The technically perfect picture

To control the effect as deliberately as in the second photo, you first need know-how in using the camera. A technically good image should be sharp and sufficiently bright. Furthermore, in most cases it is desirable that the color rendition looks natural.

Sharpness means focusing correctly on the central subject. When it comes to portraits, it’s a matter of focusing on the eyes.

The depth of field is primarily determined by the aperture. The more you reduce the aperture, the larger the area considered to be sufficiently sharp becomes. With landscapes it is often desired that it goes over the complete picture. For macros and portraits, on the other hand, blur is ideal to make the photographed subject stand out from the background.

The sharpness of movement depends primarily on the exposure time in combination with the movement of the subject. The faster the movement, the shorter the exposure time must be. In wildlife photography and for shots of cars, often creating a motion blur in the background by dragging the camera with you. This design tool conveys dynamics in the picture.

Motion blur as a design tool

Here motion blur is used deliberately so that the subject stands out from the background.

Furthermore, the sharpness of an image also depends on the quality of the lens and sensor used. In addition, the photographer always needs a steady hand.

Tip! For a sharp picture, you should focus the camera on the right point and choose the shortest possible exposure time. 1/30 s is theoretically still sustainable without a tripod. Play it safe with 1/125 s.

Care should also be taken that the Color reproduction is largely natural. The visual color perception is always a mixture of the color of the object itself and the light falling on it. A good example is the different color rendition under a fluorescent tube compared to daylight. If there are no strong color casts, the human eye compensates for these deviations as far as possible. A white surface always appears white.

The camera, on the other hand, perceives the light as it actually is. On the picture you then see a color cast. The only way to avoid this is to teach the camera what is white to the human eye. This is called performing a white balance. Modern cameras perform this automatically if desired – with more or less success. Alternatively, you can choose between presets for typical light situations or perform a manual white balance.

Tip! If you want to take pictures spontaneously, the automatic white balance of the camera is usually good for you. In the age of digital image processing, it is in any case completely unproblematic to correct color casts afterwards.

The third and last point for a technically good picture is the Exposure. Logically, the photo should be bright enough so that you can clearly see all the important elements of the image. As a rule, the camera already works well with its exposure metering. Minor corrections are always possible with suitable photo software on the computer.

It always becomes problematic when the differences in brightness exceed the dynamic range of the camera. This often occurs when you want to shoot a shadow area and the sky at the same time. Provided image information is available, highlights and shadows can be brought out again with appropriate software. If this does not lead to the desired success, because the differences are too large, then the only solution is to take several pictures with different brightnesses. These are then composited back together on the computer to create an HDR image.

In the right light

Besides the exposure, the light itself is also very important. In many situations the possibilities to influence it are strongly limited. Therefore it depends on good timing and a little luck.

Because the color temperature changes in the Course of the day If the image changes, it is important to press the shutter at the right time.

With vertical light at noon, very short exposure times can be used due to the high brightness. The color is neutral. In terms of image composition, this is rather unspectacular.

Golden hour

The golden hour: the warm light at sunrise and sunset is ideal for portraits. The later it gets, the more romantic it becomes.

Blue hour

Photography in the blue hour after sunset: some sunset red is still visible on the horizon. The rest of the image has a very cool color temperature. You can directly feel how it just freshens up.

Long exposure at night

Night shots with available residual light or in moonlight are particularly exciting. Interesting image effects can be created here.

Besides time, the Weather of course, also a big influencing factor. There is basically no such thing as bad weather.

Strong contrasts in bright sunshine

Drop shadows in sunshine give buildings clear contours and, especially in black and white, can be used to create strong, impressive contrasts.

Diffuse light

Diffuse light in a cloudy sky is very good for portraits. Everything looks softer and there are no hard shadows that wrinkle o.a. would emphasize.

Rain and thunderstorms: a dramatic sky just before a thunderstorm behind a subject still in the sun often makes for a more exciting image than photos taken when the sky is blue. Raindrops and puddles also give interesting picture elements.

Fog in the forest

There is often something mystical about fog in combination with the sun’s rays breaking through.


Backlight emphasizes the contours of the subject.

In addition to the time of day and the weather, the Seasons, How light rays work. There is much less haze in winter, especially in landscape photography.

Skillful image composition

Now that we have clarified when it’s best to take photos, let’s take a look at how best to set up the image below.

The first thing to do is choose the appropriate aspect ratio for the image. Smaller cameras often work with an aspect ratio of 3:4 by default. Somewhat more exciting, because not as uniform, is the 2:3 aspect ratio of most SLR cameras.

But also square shots can work well in certain cases. Since the square is absolutely balanced, however, it needs a lot of structure to break the calm and build tension.

Besides the aspect ratio, the arrangement of all elements in the photo is crucial for a good composition. By a simple change of location, a change of perspective, moving objects in space and the right timing you can shape the image composition.

Golden ratio for image composition

Applying the rule of thirds to image composition

The rule of thirds can be used to create more tension in the image. The image is divided into three parts both horizontally and vertically by two lines each. At the intersection of the lines you should then place the motif.

In addition to the positioning of the eye-catchers, the selected perspective is also decisive for the image statement:

  • Bird’s-eye view: the view from an elevated position, or. Directly from above makes the object appear smaller, compressed and more insignificant.
  • Normal perspective: At eye level is the usual view of things. While with landscapes the camera is simply taken in the hand, one must, z.B. with children or animals, also sometimes get down on your knees. This perspective seems more personal than the view from above.
  • Frog’s eye view: Looking from a very low point makes objects appear larger and more powerful.
  • Over the shoulder: This special angle of view causes a distancing of the viewer. You feel stronger, like a closet observer.
  • Frames: Windows, trees and much more can also be used as a frame for the actual image subject, which thereby gains more weight and appears more mysterious.

Another point that beginners are often not so aware of when composing images is choosing the right focal length. Due to physical effects, the focal length also changes the relationship of the objects to each other.

  • Wide angle: Short focal lengths increase the optical distance of all picture elements. Small rooms, squares and landscapes appear larger this way.
  • Normal focal length: 50mm is called a normal focal length in 35mm photography. Here no physical distortions of the depicted objects occur.
  • Telephoto range: high focal lengths reduce the distance of all objects and thus shorten z.B. Paths.

The photographic view

In addition to the technical know-how about the setting options on the camera and their effects on the image expression, the photographic eye is crucial for good photos. With this look you will perceive the photogenic features of subjects in your environment faster. This includes Simplicity, Clarity and Order.

Beginners often tend to take a lot of shots in a wide shot so they don’t miss anything. But that’s exactly what is often dead boring. Too many details are captured, creating clutter. It is better to focus on a detail. This can be achieved, for example, through the targeted use of depth of field.

Focus on exciting details

Here, the focus is on just one detail of the forest.

The finished video should of course not only be for you, but seen by as many people as possible. You can easily share your song on social media, and if the results are good, the chances of getting lots of clicks and shares are very good. If you or your band don’t have a YouTube account yet, it’s easy to create one.

It is best to set up your channel first, add a suitable profile picture and a description. Also, link to other platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. This way the first viewers know immediately where they can find out more about you and subscribe to you.

An example of a music video for a young band is provided by the PianoProject. The band formed in 2010 and released their first music video two years later.

But cleaning up can also help: Either remove disturbing elements before taking the picture or retouch them later on the PC.

The following are generally considered unphotogenic:

Blandness: Gray in gray often makes pictures boring, because an element is missing that attracts the eye.

Unfavorable background: Beginners often forget the background behind their subject. For example, a lantern suddenly protrudes from the head or there is simply too much unrest.

Internal camera flash: The built-in flash creates harsh shadows and highlights. Moreover, the closer it is to the lens, the more likely it is to lead to red eyes. It also destroys any light mood.

Obvious posing: posed pictures look unnatural, interchangeable and as a viewer you can’t build up a relationship to the motif.

Applying pointless tricks: No matter how trendy they may be, photo filters are usually just fads that rarely appeal to you after a few years.

As a photographer, you should always ask yourself: "What is special about this situation??" For example, large squares exist in every city. But what makes one special now? Are it the lines and patterns? Or perhaps the characters with their facial expressions? Once you have identified what is special, the task is to bring it out in the picture.

Enhance or change the image by editing

To immortalize the feeling of a certain situation in the photo is the great art. Sometimes it looks quite different on the photo, despite nice image composition and technically good implementation in itself.

This is where image editing on the PC comes into play. Using computer software, such as MAGIX Photo& Graphic designers, you can adjust colors and direct focus by darkening certain areas of the image and using blur selectively.

The photographic view is much more important than the technically perfect realization. The best way to train this is to study the pictures of great photographers, to go out with the camera again and again and to find out for yourself what you like best.

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Perfect your photos and create your own drawings or illustrations for flyers, cards and websites.

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