The 5 Elements of Captivating Photography

great photography

In my local photography class last night, I had the students shoot a photo of fruit and a knife on a nice wooden bread board to practice macro photography.  I let them shoot for a minute and then asked them why the photos on their LCD screens did not look professional.  We spent some time discussing what was missing from the scene, and it made me think that a post on this topic might benefit everyone on the site.

To me, these are the 5 most important factors that make a photo captivating.  You may consider other factors to be more important.  If you do, please leave your ideas in a comment below so we can all benefit.

Photography Element #1: Light. This should not come as any surprise to experienced photographers, but it certainly surprised the beginning photographers in my class last night.  Their composition of the fruit was perfect, their settings on the camera were flawless, but the photos were missing something.  The fluorescent lighting in the room absolutely destroyed any chance of accomplishing a beautiful capture.

Ready to pin on Pinterest!

Photography Element #2: Moment. While not applicable to all types of photography (like the fruit…), one element of a captivating photo is highlighting a particular moment in time.  Our eyes are incapable of freezing life to take the time to analyze one single moment, so capturing an interesting moment allows the viewer to fully examine one particular instant in time.

Photography Element #3: One clear subject. The placement of objects within the frame allows viewers to see the scene in an uncluttered and powerful organization that highlights certain aspects of the scene.  I am rarely impressed by a photo that has no clear focal point.

Photography Element #4: Clarity and simplicity.  If you read my post a couple months ago about DaVinci and composition, you know how strongly I feel about simplicity in photos.  It seems that every time I try to get fancy and orchestrate a complex photo, the results are disappointing.  As DaVinci is quoted as saying, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”  Included in this category, I would include technical elements which add to simplicity, such as preventing accidental blur, etc.

Photography Element #5: Message or Emotion. Photography needs to communicate in order to have any impact.  A fashion photo may communicate an emotion of cleanliness, a landscape photo may communicate serenity, and a news photo may communicate fear or sadness.

What do you consider to be the five most important elements of great photography?  I'd like to see your list of 5 in a comment below.

8 thoughts on “The 5 Elements of Captivating Photography”

  1. Great list. You hit everything I look for in a photograph. I also like the order of your list. Good light always attracts the eye first.

    Love your site. Keep it up!

  2. lighting, for sure, sharpness/clarity of part of photo that is in focus, idea its trying to portray, vibrant colors, composition – not cluttered..

    Mostly the same as yours!

  3. Thanks for the input. My 5 items I strive for in a photo: Color, focus, subject, lighting, affect.

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