Photo Appreciation 101

The recently concluded MadAboutUS 3 event opened a new window of opportunity for me to learn how to appreciate each of the photo entries. To see what the author of the photo wanted to relay to the audience and to understand why the judges chose a particular photo over the other, was an enriching and humbling experience.

Anyone can critique a picture but doing so constructively to help the photographer improve and enhance his work is another thing. When the judging gets tough and a tie-breaker is needed (as what happened in MadAbout Us 3, Best of Show Category), judges Marissa Floirendo and Gutsy Tuason agreed that the experienced eye would rely on the technical aspect used in capturing the subject matter.

Today, while going through my favorite websites, I chanced upon a Wetpixel post by Jeff which aims to help less experienced photographers like me evaluate our photographs.

Let’s read and learn 🙂

What makes a good photograph?
A guide to critiquing images.

What makes a good or great photograph is a subject of much debate. There is however some general agreement on things that one should consider when viewing and evaluating a photograph. For experienced photographers most of these considerations have become second nature; for less experienced photographers I think it can be valuable, particularly when submitting photographs, to do some self-evaluation according to some of these generally agreed upon principles. I have started with a list of some principles applied to topside photographs, which can usually be applied underwater, and then I will add some ideas that I have learned regarding underwater photographs. I hope that we can generate some constructive comments to add to this list, particularly from the pros. As always, rules in art and photography, can be broken at will, but it is still valuable in my opinion to evaluate a photograph from this perspective, even if only to see where a rule may have been broken with good effect. The following list is a summary of things I have read and learned from others. There is nothing new or original here.

Hopefully this list and any discussion that follows, will be helpful, especially to beginners and new posters, particularly in the image galleries. I think it will also be helpful when regular members critique other peoples images, particularly newcomers, to refer them to these guidelines and critique accordingly.


Most of the time the main subject at least should be in focus and sharp even if the background and other components may not be. Notice the depth of field and see if it is working well for the image. Evaluate the depth of field, is the depth of focus effectively controlled with aperture and lens angle of view to have the desired areas sharp, and others out of focus?
There may be times where the photographer is purposely trying to create an out of focus or softer effect, or trying to create the effect of movement.


Does the photograph have a purpose. Is it clear what the main subject or subjects of the photograph are? If one has to look for it or the photographer has to explain it, this may be a problem. On the other hand the photographer may be trying to create some mystery within the photograph, though generally the photograph should have a purpose.


Again is it clear what the main subject is? Are there areas or parts of the photograph that do not contribute to the overall visual effect of the image.Is the subject lost in a distracting background? Consider vertical versus horizontal orientation of the image. How do the lines of the subject lead into or out of the photograph? Should one get closer, does the photograph need to be cropped preferably at the time the photograph is taken. Consider Rules of composition like ‘Rule of Thirds’, ‘Bottom right or left’. Does your eye move easily within the photograph or do they jump around?


Is the lighting well balanced, and does it support the elements of the composition to create the desired effect. Are there good shadow and highlight details with good range of shades in between? No ‘blown’ highlights except for some desired specular highlights. Does the lighting direction fit with the composition, are any of the lighting elements creating a distraction? Does the image have adequate contrast, is it a high key or low key image, and does this contribute or detract from the image. Is the use of ambient and strobe used to good effect?


Particularly in underwater photography is the color well balanced, are there any color casts that detract from the image or do they genuinely help create mood or effect.


Is it an interesting composition, does one see an interesting perspective. Look for dramatic angles, lines, colors, textures, and shapes


How does this shot make you feel? Does it create a mood or generate an emotional response? After all the technical discussion, good or great photographs usually evoke an emotional response at some level.


1 Comment

  1. CONGRATULATIONS PAZ!!! Had a feeling your entry will be in the top 3!!!

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