I used to practice photography, but I quit for a while after getting burned out, because I was not able to catch exactly what I was seeing at the moment — never same light, never same colors. I know that it is not always about catching exactly the same thing one sees, but it was what I was looking for. For example, could you catch a street lamp at night and not record more or less light than the exact appearance of the moment? Anyway...

I think that many many people who have no idea of the technical side of photography (including me) are taking a lot of black and white stuff, or "abusing" shallow depth of field for effect. People think that this is super-cool, when in reality nowadays it is super-easy to do. Digital technology and post-processing make it so easy — is it cheating (or lame or cheesy) to produce images with these effects when they take no real work?

So, what does it take to make a good photo? Does the technical side matter? Is it possible for an image which is artistically original but technically poor to be a good photograph?

  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't think this is the kind of question that can help benefit this forum; it's a very subjective and open ended question that clearly has no 'correct' answer. You may find some of the answers you need by reading through existing questions and answers on the site, but the question 'what is a good photograph' is not really going to generate a helpful answer. \$\endgroup\$
    – user456
    Jul 26, 2011 at 10:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Nick Actually, we already had the question What makes a photo a good photo?, which had some excellent answers. \$\endgroup\$
    – Evan Krall
    Jul 26, 2011 at 10:17
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    \$\begingroup\$ … and coincidentally, about the capturing a streetlight at night: What white balance settings do I need to capture the cast of a coloured streetlight? and How does the colour of ambient lighting affect colour rendition? :-) \$\endgroup\$ Jul 26, 2011 at 10:29
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    \$\begingroup\$ The question title as re-stated by @Mattdm is a great question. Can we resurect this question? Perhaps with some more editing? \$\endgroup\$
    – AJ Finch
    Jul 26, 2011 at 13:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ @arrrrgv, Don't feel bad about having a question closed - we're just taking care of the overall feel of the site. You are more than welcome to try again. Perhaps you could ask this question again but in more specific terms. Can you express the nub of question in one sentence? Can you express it so that the answer isn't very subjective? Good luck. \$\endgroup\$
    – AJ Finch
    Jul 26, 2011 at 13:19

3 Answers 3


This question is very subjective, but I think the answer is yes (at least in some cases).

Having some sense for situations and perspectives to capture is much more important than knowing how to set aperture and so on (at least in an artistic point of view).

I've seen photos taken with a point & shoot, which were great and interesting and I've seen people who own expensive DSLRs, read and understand the manuals, but take images, which are boring, even if they are technically perfect.

Just have a look at the lomo series. Plain analouge, very little settings, but great creative opportunities.

On the other hand, without technical skills, someone will reach the bounds of the possible very quick. So, however, technical skills are always a skill worth having.

  • \$\begingroup\$ But what I basically feel is that many people (even me) are just lucky and they get a one nice shoot by chance after 100. \$\endgroup\$
    – arrrrgv
    Jul 26, 2011 at 15:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ If you feel that you need technical skills, don't hesitate. There are great resources online and practice makes you perfect. \$\endgroup\$
    – Emiswelt
    Jul 26, 2011 at 15:38

Long story short, the answer is NO!

Compare this to an artist having good taste for art but cant draw good enough. Similarly no matter how good one can draw, can not be a good artist without real good artistic sense. Its true both ways. Camera is a machine to capture photographs. You'll need to be able to know how to operate the machine as well as the purpose of using it. If you cant photograph what you originally had in mind, its completely normal and takes years of practice and perseverance to achieve.

Be brave, be imaginative, try something out of the box! If you can not, keep trying.


As pointed out by Emiswelt, the question is subjective and somewhat unclear.

  • Technical skill as in "hardware technology"? Then it is a question of money.
  • Technical skill as in "the right settings", then it is to a large degree a question of software these days. Software that is effective whilst easiest to use is generally making the cut.

A seemingly uninteresting photograph can become interesting just by cropping in to specific details in the photo.

Night photography is something else entirely. Humans are actually seeing with their "mind" rather than the raw information stream from their eyes. There are actually 'filters' that ensure seeming blackness, when you are closing your eyes, otherwise your mind would just continue to project images.

Night vision in humans is more subjective than day vision., rendering the question of best reproducing what you or the photographer saw that night somewhat futile.

Technically I recently tried to estimate the requirements for a night shot to be as good as the motion-perception in a young person, after ones eyes have adapted to the dark. At the least ISO 2M. The best commercially available camera can shoot at ISO 400k.

"they take no real work"
A subjective statement.
Very smart people devised those algorithms we are using nowadays, but it is a technological evolution if more and more people are using these new technologies at expense of former technologies. Without placing judgment.

Tilt shift lenses are probably one of the best examples where the hardware equivalent simply makes no sense of buying these days.

Lastly, of course anyone would want to have as much unhindered access to as much information as possible. That is why most photographer's are shooting RAW

Ideally, some wouldn't want lenses on their camera to begin with. (http://goo.gl/EfrTas) But right now DARPA and research organizations are probably the only ones who can afford not to.

But it would probably be better to take that discussion up with someone who knows much more than I do in the field of post processing. Like Mikko Lagerstedt


So, what does it take to make a good photo?
Subjectively speaking, literally not much. Simplicity may suffice.
Objectively speaking, I am sure there are numerous papers on human aesthetics in vision. After all, marketing relies on photos, which often makes for well funded fields of research.

Does the technical side matter?
It always matters.

Is it possible for an image which is artistically original but technically poor to be a good photograph? Not sure what you mean. But novelty that is not gross, is generally liked.


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