Alley in Pisa, Italy

by Lars Kotthoff

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Here and there, I hear people saying a photo is "technically correct". How can I tell whether a photo is technically correct or not?

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Remember that for any given image, the criteria listed below might be very important, or might not apply at all. For example, this photo farm1.static.flickr.com/18/70458366_7a26052091.jpg is blurry, front focussed, has fairly large distortion to its perspective from the angle, and lacks any significant horizontal or vertical reference. It's still technically proficient in many other ways, when combined with its subjective qualities, more than enough to still be a successful photo. –  ex-ms Aug 10 '10 at 19:59

3 Answers 3

up vote 25 down vote accepted

For start, one should be aware that technical correctness is no substitute for artistic vision. Here are some technical criteria in no particular order:

  • The exposure is correct, shadows are not lost, highlights are not clipped
  • The parts that need to be in focus, are in focus
  • There is no motion blur (caused by camera shake)
  • The photo does not have a color cast (probably because of incorrect white balance)
  • The colors are correct (what you usually see, not oversaturated or changed)
  • The noise/grain is not dominant
  • There are no sensor dust spots
  • There are no scratches, dust spots, interference patterns in case of scanned images
  • There are no obvious digital artefacts (sharpening halos, banding, compression artefacts)
  • Post-processing is not too obvious (think of overcooked HDR)
  • There is no obvious distortion, chromatic aberration, lens flare, vignetting
  • There is enough depth of field (important parts of your subject are not out of focus)
  • There is enough contrast (the photo is not flat nor overdone)
  • Orientation is correct, vertical objects are vertical and not leaning because of bad shot angle, horizontal objects are horizontal (usually horizon)
  • Skin tones are correct (in case of portraits/people shots)
  • The retouching marks/feel are not noticeable (think of visible cut edges in cases where different parts of image are from different photos or "Playboy skin" where all the detail is lost)

Any of these can be part of your concept or meant to create the mood, then they can be discarded.

Whether you're following this or not depends largely on the purpose - standards are higher when you sell your images or large prints, enter contests, etc and lower when you only do them for family album.

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+1 for the artistic vision statement. After all, technically correct isn't the same as saying a photo 'says something' to the viewer. In fact, in some ways, when somebody comments that a photo is technically correct, they're pretty much saying it didn't touch them. –  John Cavan Aug 11 '10 at 1:11
    
Perfectly said Karel. –  GeneQ Aug 11 '10 at 15:19
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Might want to add something about appropriate framing (to expand on the bit about orientation), something about appropriate lighting, and something about posing. Might also think about amending the "colors are correct" point to allow for black+white, like "colors, unless using black+white, are correct ..." –  thomasrutter Feb 14 '11 at 4:12
    
@thomasrutter - feel free to edit my answer :) –  Karel Feb 14 '11 at 13:13

The essentials of a "Technically Correct" image would be:

For the most part, if you use good equipment in auto mode and avoid things like camera shake, your camera will take care of the technically correct part. As long as you know how to avoid the big issues, you can take a picture that is technically correct, the hard part is taking one that tells a story.

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Thanks chills42.. :) –  Amit Aug 11 '10 at 13:44

A technically correct photo should:

  • be sharp rather than blurry
  • be focused properly rather than on some random AF point
  • be properly exposed
  • have correct color balance
  • not have too much noise
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A well-chosen subject for the notion of a technically correct photo! :) –  ex-ms Aug 10 '10 at 20:03
    
Fantastic example.. :) –  Amit Aug 11 '10 at 13:39
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More people should be posting visual examples like these. +1 –  Craig Walker Aug 13 '10 at 21:58

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