Can You Recognize a “Good” Photo?

“A lot of photographers come into our gallery.  They wouldn’t recognize a good photo if they took one.”  This is a paraphrase of something I heard at a photography conference over the weekend.

“A good physicist recognizes a discovery when they see it and they know what to do with it.”  I heard this later in the weekend on the radio.  (I’ve paraphrased once again.)

Both statements got me thinking about the creative process and recognizing that creativity.

How do you know when you’ve taken a good photo?  Post below please so we can all learn.

Camel Caravan Morocco KAC7124 texture
Show shutter speed of a camel caravan in Morocco. One of my personal favorites.

Author: kathyadamsclark

Professional photographer leading workshops and tours.

17 thoughts on “Can You Recognize a “Good” Photo?”

  1. Sometimes I think a “good” photo is strictly in the eye of the photographer. A photo that does not appeal to me and may seem out of focus, etc may be a favorite of yours. As long as I am pleased with what I get, that’s all that matters to me. Of course if you are trying to win a magazine contract, that might not apply Lol


  2. When I take a photo I really like, I remember minute details of what was going on around me at the moment I tripped the shutter. So So and crummy photos I take rarely take me back to that moment in time.

    On a recent Lindblad/NatGeo trip, Sisse Brimberg was presenting photos from some of her published Nat Geo Traveler articles. During the Q&A I asked Sisse what she remembered about “that moment” when she took some of those photos. She answered “essentially everything” and proceed to demonstrate her recollections about some of the photos she had just presented.

    That is obviously not a criteria any of us can use to judge another person’s photos. But, when I am looking at another person’s photos and have the reaction, “Why didn’t I think to take a photo like that?”, I always feel like I am looking at a good photo.


  3. An interesting topic. It seems to me that many can’t distinguish between a good subject and a good photo. A good, imaginative photo of a mediocre subject is far more interesting than a drab (or alternatively vastly overprocessed) photo with a crooked horizon of a great subject.


      1. Sorry, I said more or less the same thing twice – only because my first attempt just seemed to disappear without trace in amongst trying to log in etc!


  4. It’s all very subjective. I think I’ve taken a “good” photo when it represents to my satisfaction what I “see,” and at the same time keeps in mind the elements of good photography: clarity, composition, the color, the light, the dark. It’s also all very visceral, very personal … When a photo I take “sings” to me, I’m happy, and satisfied … of course, not everyone will agree. I expect that.


  5. Hi Kathy,
    Maybe there is more than one answer. For your photo, i am drawn to the colors of the desert and subtle hint of motion. I am glad you told me what it was as i was looking to try and see detail (maybe this is just me). For other photos, I have sometimes felt an everything-comes-together feeling, where color and form and composition just work and create something more than the sum total of its parts. At other times, intangible “yes!” moments just come to us when we capture something of personal meaning. Or maybe it’s powerful graphic effect.

    In sum, i have no idea what that moment of recognition is, but we all know it don’t we. The joy of photography for me is in communicating those special moments.


  6. I think that a paraphrase of Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s observation about trying to define pornography applies here also: I not going to define it, but I know it when I see it. Others have commented about the subjectivity of identifying a good photo. I think that when a photo arrests a person’s attention and causes them to really look at it, it could be called a “good photo” from the standpoint of the person viewing it.


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