What makes a good photograph?

Photography is a great hobby. When you first start out and begin to critique your own work you ask questions like “Is this photo any good?”  It is important to recognize that there is two levels in photography.

Level 1

Every photo a photographer takes is a good photo. For the person taking the photo there is a story attached to it. “I took this photo as we cruised down the Swan River”, “This is a photo of my daughter” Every photo is a good one! In level one the image tells a story TO the photographer.

Level 2

A level two photographer seeks to tell the story TO the viewer. There is nothing worse that judging a photo and wondering “Why did this person take this photo?” Every photo in level two needs to tell a story to the viewer. It doesn’t have to be an epic novel. A simple pattern in bark, the way light lands on a frond the interaction of rocks and crashing waves etc. When someone else looks at your photo they understand what you saw. So a level two photographer seeks to talk to the viewer.

This is similar to a spritual truth. God looks at all his children, takes a photo of them so to speak  – as He looks through his photo album he looks and he loves, the photos are special to God, they tell a story to him alone. This is level one and we all need to experience the love of God as he gazes at the story that is me/you.

God is a photographer and wants his images to be a level two – he wants our lives to tell a story.

So which level is more important? I remember walking along the beach with my family and the sun did something special and the light was perfect for some level two photography. My wife and kids were playing in the water with the dogs but I was focussed on getting a medal winning image. Don’t ever forget level 1 photography, it may not win you any medals but you can look back on the memories of your family with joy. Instead I have a mediocre boat photo and a memory of  “Dad, quick come and have a look at this” by the time I got there it was too late.

In a similar vein, with our spiritual lives, it is important to recognize we are level 1 photos, prized and loved by God for who we are. We know that God wants us to be level 2 photographs so it is often easy to fret and try and be better. Relax, remember level 1, if you are fixated on attaining level 2 everyone loses. Besides, how can a photo make itself better, only a photographer can do that.

2 Responses to “What makes a good photograph?”
  1. It juxtaposes the calmness of the boats and the vibrancy of the dog. And it is beautiful light.

    It is an addiction, that photo madness: I find it on holiday sometimes, I have to get a good picture, so I look at things for the picture rather than the thing.

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