What Makes a Good Photo?

Xerox’s new Aesthetic Quality Image Search evaluates image quality. The current site uses only test photos, but even with this limitation it provides useful information and example photos which help improve quality.

In the future, look for the ability to analyze your photos, as well as the ability to automatically improve aesthetic image quality. Ideally, evaluation will also consider individual preferences.

Here is some of the information from the Aesthetic Quality Image Search:

Beach Photos – A good beach image contains high cliffs, rugged coastlines, eroded landforms, pounding seas. Fast shutter speed (higher than 1/250) will stop the motion of the waves and freeze sea spray. Slow shutter speed will blur the waves and soften the seascape. Add human elements and a sense of scale. Head for piers and rocky promontories to include the sea in the foreground. A polarizing filter will often improve the colour and contrast around the water. Ref: Lonely Planet’s Guide To Travel PhotogrBaphy

Birds – Birds make fascinating and very very challenging photographic subjects. They will put your patience and technique through the most rigorous test. A 300mm lens is adequate for large birds, but, except from some rare exceptions, to have any hope of filling the frame you really need a focal length of 500mm or 600mm. To emphasize the shape of the bird and the colour of its feather pay careful attention to the background so that it does not get lost in a jumble of branches, twigs and foliage. Ref: Lonely Planet’s Guide To Travel Photography

Boats –Keep your horizon straight – It’s easy to stay focused on the subject (a boat, a sailor, etc.) and lose track of the way your own boat is rolling. Practice keeping an eye on the shoreline or horizon while you click away. Shoot with fast shutter speeds – Pointing a camera at a moving boat while standing on a moving boat increases the chances of making a fuzzy picture. Look around a lot – It’s very easy to get locked in to the scene in the viewfinder or to the cluster of lead boats. But there is action everywhere on a race course. Every so often take a good look around and see what’s happening – you may find the shot of the day. Ref: Micheal Bagley Photo

Clouds & Sky – Capturing a stunning photo of the sky is actually quite harder than it seems. The sun must be in the right place and patience is a virtue, waiting for the perfect light or clouds can be tiresome but well worth it. The clouds are what make the sky look so interesting. Too many, all clouds look the same – but as soon as one begins to study the vast number of possible cloud forms and varieties, one realizes that there is more to discover than there is time to observe! Ref: www.smashingtips.com www.weatherscapes.com

Flowers – The colour and the natural beauty of flowers make them a favourite travel subject, whether they’re growing in pots, decorating the exterior of a building or dominating a landscape in dramatic fields of colour. Flower studies require macro equipment if you want to fill the frame with a single flower and achieve maximum impact. In a sense you are looking to create an environmental flower portrait. Unless the flowers are all parallel to your camera or you are able to work with an aperture of at least f8, you’ll find that typically only one or two flowers will be in focus. The other flowers will form a soft and very pleasing background. Light coloured flowers against a dark background can fool light meters, so meter for the flowers to maintain detail and colour. Ref: Lonely Planet’s Guide To Travel Photography

Portraits – Pictures of the people we love make us smile. Be ready with your camera and you’ll be rewarded with memories that rekindle emotions for years to come. Get close. Fill the camera’s viewfinder or LCD display with your subject to create pictures with greater impact. Use natural light. You may be surprised to learn that cloudy, overcast days provide the best lighting for pictures of people. Bright sun makes people squint, and it throws harsh shadows on their faces. On overcast days, the soft light flatters faces. Avoid harsh shadows. Avoid harsh facial shadows by using the soft lighting of a cloudy day or a shady area. On sunny days, if your camera has several flash modes, select Fill-Flash.

Waterfalls – The flowing water of rivers and waterfalls can be interpreted in different ways through shutter-speed selection. To give the impression of running water, experiment with shutter speeds from 1/30 to one second. For best results and maximum depth of field use a tripod. Like rainforests, waterfalls photograph best in the evening light of a bright overcast day. Contrast between the water and the surroundings is often naturally high and the soft indirect light allows detail to be recorded in the highlights and the shadows. Ref: Lonely Planet’s Guide To Travel Photography


About Mark Mizen

I have over twenty years professional experience in all aspects of photography and digital imaging. I am Chair of the ISO WG5 TG2 committee responsible for physical properties and durability of imaging material and am currently with HID Global working on systems for security printing for IDs, licenses, and credit cards. Previously, I was Director of Digital Development at Creative Memories from 2009 to 2012 and was responsible for the Creative Memories digital products and services. I also established and directed the Creative Memories Technology Center, which evaluated new products prior to product introduction, assisted with production difficulties, and provided technical information to support product sales.
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