What Makes a Good Photo?

Twelve techniques for creating better photos from Andy Wilson.

September 21, 2022

There is a point in time for all serious photographers where you begin creating images that appeal to a wider audience. While trends come and go, there are some basic fundamental techniques and ideas that you can use to create better photos.

Massachusetts based photographer Andy Wilson explored this idea in a series on his Aminus3 website titled "What Makes a Good Photo?".

In his words...

One day, I flipped through my photography notebook that contained articles from books and magazines that I have cut out and saved over the years. As I flipped through the pages of my notes, I came across a series of topics titled, "What Makes A Good Picture?"

The book is long gone, and the author remains a mystery to me at present, but the articles were preserved in my notebook. While I was reading over them again, they served as a good reminder for me. I share this information with you realizing that I have not arrived but it is a continuing journey of making a good picture.

With that, here are the suggested techniques with some example photos.


Intimacy is the feeling of being close and belonging together. Close or warm friendship. Emotion can be melted with intimacy.

In these two images, we see couples sharing an intimate moment together.

Human Interest

Human Interest is a very broad term that can be applied to many different kinds of pictures. A photo with good human interest is one that draws the viewer into the frame where they may linger over it rather than a quick curious glance.

This group of women having a discussion at a party creates human interest. We might wonder what they are talking about or can relate to this experience.


Mood is the atmosphere or pervading tone of a place or situation.

We see in this photo how black and white images can often create an enhanced mood. These storm clouds passing by the beach convey a foreboding emotion.

Camera Angle

Look up, down and vary your position to capture a unique perspective. Try different lenses too!

This butterfly is seen from the ground looking up from a low angle.


Spontaneity refers to the quality of being in a spur of the moment, and coming from natural feelings without constraint.

Keep an attentive eye for those special moments, take plenty of pictures and you might catch a treasure like this dog joyfully licking the face of a boy.


Usually when I think of contrast, I think in terms of light and dark, but how many other varieties are there? Tall and short, big and small, strong and weak, old and young. The list can stretch for miles. Showing contrasts in creative ways can also be used to create juxtaposition in your photos.

In this photo the contrast is, "real and toy" but sharing the common element of being worn and discarded.

More example photos can be found in these contrast photo selections from the Aminus3 Weekly Prompt.


Drama is something that creates an instant emotional impact for the viewer.

While negative concepts such as tragedy and struggle are often depicted in dramatic images, positive concepts like triumph and happiness can be equally engaging.

In this example, a surfer struggles with a wave which creates a dramatic image.

Light and Shadow

Similar to contrast, consciously controlling the balance of light and shadows in your images creates good photos.

For this example, taking advantage of low angle light I was able to capture the suns rays through this glass of water.


Luminosity is the process of emitting or reflecting light.

As I was finding examples for this series, this one was a tough one for me. My first thought was to show a a photo of sunrise / sunsets, or of light reflecting off the water.

I do not have many kinds of these photos. It took me some time going through my archives to find this luminous image of a close-up of an orange lightbulb.


For this idea I am describing realism as showing how people live.

In this image that was photographed in Jamaica, we see what could be a group of taxi drivers waiting for customers, or perhaps just a group of men conversing and relaxing.

This idea of showing something unique from your own part of the world or your travels can allow another person to experience life in a different way.


Similar to camera angle, innovation can be achieved by introducing something from a different perspective.

When I spotted this mirror at a yard sale, I tried to get a unique image by showing the blue sky reflection which is quite different than the rest of the background.

The dark clouds in the sky, the rays of the sun sparkling off the brass bed rails and the tilted position of the mirror come together for an innovative photo.

Mirrors and reflections can be used to create "parallel worlds" in your images where you can portray two different versions of reality in a single frame.


The dictionary definition of the word creative is the concept of being original in thought or expression.

Ask anyone "What is creativity in photography?" and you'll get a terrific tangle of definitions. All of the techniques we have looked at so far can be used to make creative photos.

You might find creative photos to be offbeat and mysterious. They may use additional techniques such as multiple exposures, or experimental editing in the darkroom / Photoshop trickery.

Still, as a photographer you can make some highly creative and original photos right in the camera. This creative photo was made by shining green light on a CDR with water droplets.

All Around Us

Creativity is the glue that brings all the "What makes a good photo" subjects together, and you as the photographer can strive to make it your own.

The opportunities are all around us. All we have to do is look and apply.

As the quote from the article I saved in my notebook concludes, "Don't let creativity escape you - we all have it."

I hope this series has given you some ideas on how to create good photos.

Now, where is my camera!

You can find more of Andy Wilson's excellent images on his Aminus3 website.

TOPICS: learning technique guest-post

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