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What is a good photo?
© Bernhard Westrup (Bergfex) (collage with only own pictures)

Three months ago, the administration of the ambassador pictures fell to me. This group is one of the flagships of ipernity, because the pictures in this group are shown to curious visitors from the web when they discover our website and click onto the button: Explore ➽Noteworthy.

At this occasion, the co-admin raingirl, who also is a jury member, asked the important question: "What is a good photo? What makes us vote yes?". Actually, these are two questions. The first is to find out what distinguishes a good photo. The second is about which of the lot of 'good photos' shall be shown to our visitors. After all, any visitor should not be overwhelmed with millions of 'good photos', but only be shown the ones that are particularly worth seeing.

You can well imagine this selection process from the idea of wanting to make an annual calendar with your own pictures for your relatives for next Christmas. Since a standard annual calendar has 12 sheets, you are faced with the task of selecting the 12 particularly worth seeing pictures from your large number of good pictures.

It is the same with the ambassador pictures. How the jury selects the most noteworthy photos is a separate problem. In any case, the basic set for the selection are 'good photos' submitted by the group members. Therefore it might be helpful to reflect on this matter. So let me invite you to discuss the following.

In my opinion there are 5 criteria for photo assessment:

1. Content (the motif as such)
Is it a common motif or a rare one? Does it show a unique subject or situation? Does it arouse my curiosity? Does it widen my horizons?

2. Composition
Is the photo cropped appropriately, or are there too many unimportant elements distracting from the main motif? Does the photo contain irritating elements? Has the shooting position and/or the perspective been well chosen? Is the choice of foreground or background correct? Are there any criteria for picture composition such as golden section, line management, space allocation, contrasts or opposites? Was the appropriate picture format (landscape, portrait, square) chosen?

3. Technical realization
Is the correct sharpness applied to the main motif? Is any blurring intentional or unintentional? Is the depth of field appropriate? Is the photo correctly exposed? Is any overexposure or underexposure a design element? Is any noise in the picture a design element? Is the visible horizon horizontal? Is a conscious colour design (colourful/off-colour, warm/cold/complementary) recognisable? Is there a colour cast? Is the colour saturation appropriate?

4. Lighting & colour
Does the light emphasise the essential elements of the picture? Is the light too harsh or too dull? Does the light emphasise the mood? Was the motif photographed in a suitable lighting situation (foreground light, side light, back light, artificial light, mixed light, diffuse scattered light)? Does the light emphasise the mood?

5. Impact
Does the picture have an emotional impact on the viewer? Does it tell a story or have a message? Is it creative or original? Does the viewing evoke appreciation of the photographic achievement?

If I were to propose a scoring system based on these criteria, I would do so as follows:

0 = Against the rules
Copyright infringement (plagiarism), violations of the law (freedom of panorama, pornography, hatred, violence)
► Delete. ✂ ✂ ✂
Examples:
Permitted reference citations according to copyright law. Published originals:
© SOUL7, Suspenders © Virtual model, Bea, exposed for you © A M, In the water
Well, these 3 pictures are legally admissible in Europe. But they are a disgrace for the photographer as well as for ipernity. Photographers with a sense of decency wouldn't upload something like this at all.


1 = Insufficient

Major technical shortcomings, meaningless content, no recognisable image design or design that contradicts all aesthetic principles. Not even sufficient for amateur demands.
► Rather delete as well. ✂
Examples:
Permitted reference citations according to copyright law. Published originals:
©
Christophe Ruelle, DSC00549 © Michiel 2005, Venice 2022 – Spy outfit


2 = Deficient

Elementary deficiencies in the realisation of a barely adequate pictorial idea.
► For documentary purposes at best. ☹ ☹ ☹
Examples:
Permitted reference citations according to copyright law. Published originals:
©
Christophe Ruelle, DSC00663 © Steve Bucknell, Happy New Year!


3 = Just sufficient.

A photo that is in no way satisfying.
► Keep at most as a souvenir photo. ☹ ☹
Examples:
Permitted reference citations according to copyright law. Published originals:
©
Jianliang, Mia aminda nepo © Ramon Hierro, La belleza y el entorno .Burgos


4 = Sufficient

There are approaches in the 5 aspects mentioned above, but they are not satisfactory.
► One should not expect too much on publication. ☹
Examples:
Permitted reference citations according to copyright law. Published originals:
©
Steve Bucknell, This Way © Frank Wilhelm, BÖ0023300


5 = On average

The performance corresponds to average amateur photographic expectations.
► Middle-of-the-road, favs mostly from well-meaning friends. (★)
Examples:
Permitted reference citations according to copyright law. Published originals:
©
Salientia, Palmenhaus © Paolo Tanino, Il borgo di Boccadasse


6 = Good

The performance is upper mid-range. It's a good amateur photo.
► This could get favs also from others. ⭐
Examples:
Permitted reference citations according to copyright law. Published originals:
©
Ralf Markert, Hallstatt... © Patrick Brandy, 620A2705


7 = Splendid

An interesting content was presented with message-enhancing means without technical deficiencies.
► This could get favs from more people. ⭐⭐
Examples:
Permitted reference citations according to copyright law. Published originals:
©
Maeluk, Squirrel © Gary Benson (grbenson3 on flickr), Misty Morning Light


8 = Awesome

The photographer's work is to be fully acknowledged. However, slight improvements are conceivable.
► This could get many favs. ⭐⭐⭐
Examples:
Permitted reference citations according to copyright law. Published originals:
©
Karl Hartwig Schütz, Glück © Karl-Hartig Schütz, Regenfront


9 = Excellent

A picture that delights and is perfectly shot and edited.
► A picture like this can be submitted to photo competitions. ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Examples:
Permitted reference citations according to copyright law. Published originals:
©
Stephan Fey, Brahms Kontor, Hamburg - HFF © Knut Photos, Nads La Sho


10 = Top

Perfect rendition of a technically difficult, inspiring content.
► A picture like this can win in photo competitions. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Examples:
Permitted reference citations according to copyright law. Published originals:
©
Ralf Markert, Der Schwimmer © Berny, sky power

There are already some discussion contributions in the ambassador group on this topic. However, because of the general importance of this matter, I would like to bring it out into the open so that it can be discussed by all interested members.

Bernhard Westrup (Bergfex)
St. Johann in Tyrol
November 24, 2022

73 comments

Diana Australis said:

Hi Bernhard. This is a well thought out and realistic explanation of ‘good’ as it applies to a photo.
It makes quite clear, with explicit examples, what constitutes differing levels of technical and artistic competence. It works really well fir me. Thank you. Diana
2 months ago

William Sutherland said:

Hi Bernhard,

The article is great. It sums up I believe what most of us think makes a noteworthy photo. I can't find anything to add to remove from this well written article with excellent examples. Great job and thank you! William
2 months ago

Bergfex said:

Thank you both. The credit for the idea with the pictures goes to Laura. And thanks to Rob for checking the English version for mistakes and helping with the formatting.
2 months ago

Diana Australis said:

Thanks to all involved with it!
2 months ago

Karin G. said:

sehr guter Beitrag !!!!! zu meiner Beurteilung kann ich nur sagen dass ein gutes Foto, für mich, ein Foto ist das mich anspricht, positive Emotionen auslöst und das zum zweiten Blick darauf anregt. Technische Bildqualität und Bildaufbau vorrausgesetzt.
Gruß Karin
2 months ago ( translate )

Boarischa Krautmo said:

I'ld like to say (if it's not embarrassing) that I disagree:

Well, these 3 pictures are legally admissible in Europe. But they are so miserable that they should be deleted sooner rather than later. They are an embarrassment for both the photographer and ipernity.


pictures that are no copyright infringements, no violation of the law, legally admissible should be depeted asap because of embarrassment?
Really?
I encounter thousands of embarrassing moments every single day - should I always carry a Kärcher with me to wipe out these embarrassments?

A somewhat more chilled attitude is advisable.....
2 months ago

Bergfex replied to Boarischa Krautmo:

Of course, such lousy concoctions shouldn't be deleted the ima team. Because, as already said, these pictures do not violate European Law, and there isn't any censorship at ipernity.

But I would like the photographers in question to be so self-responsible that they don't upload such pictures of the poorest standard at all. They damage the image of Ipernity. This is my very personal opinion.

edit: However, I will willingly change the wording so that it is all clear that I am not calling for censorship, but rather appealing to the photographers' sense of decency. "Well, these 3 pictures are legal in Europe. But they are a disgrace for the photographer as well as for ipernity. Photographers with a sense of decency wouldn't upload something like this at all. "
2 months ago

LutzP said:

In diesem Zusammenhang verweise ich auch gern auf dieses:

www.ipernity.com/blog/lutzp/4643864
2 months ago ( translate )

Bergfex replied to LutzP:

Danke für die Erinnerung an Deinen Artikel aus 2016. Ich freue mich, nachträglich eine so große Übereinstimmung in allen Kernaussagen festzustellen und bin gespannt, wie sich die Diskussion darüber entwickeln wird.
2 months ago ( translate )

William Sutherland said:

Outstanding and thorough article! Stay well!
2 months ago

StoneRoad2013 said:

Interesting and informative article, Bernard.

Sometimes, one takes an average image as just a record of being there. So many railway or sites of interest images are like this - the "standard" front 3/4 view of a locomotive or a view "photobombed" by another visitor ...

I must admit that some of my images are better classed as failures, but sometimes I've kept them as a record of something, for example a visit by a bird or animal that rarely stays long enough to pose for me and I'm in a hurry to take the image. Or the colour balance / lighting produce a tinted affect, perhaps because a wall or another object is painted with a bright colour like orange and that 'reflects' into my image ...
2 months ago

Bergfex replied to StoneRoad2013:

I don't cover myself in glory either. But my family and my network of friends love this kind of thing:
Matterhorn Worldwide
2 months ago

neira-Dan said:

Excellente analyse pour moi !
2 months ago ( translate )

ROL/Photo said:

Ja, dein Meinung zu der Analyse, die Sie gerade persönlich durchgeführt haben, ist vernünftig. Aber Bernhard, eine Personenanalyse ist eine Personenanalyse, also ohne jede Grundlage, wenn wir die Fotos in Gruppen beurteilen, bleibt immer die Entscheidung der Mehrheit erhalten..!
wo es sich nicht lohnt, der Gruppe beizutreten.
Guten weekend
2 months ago ( translate )

Jean-luc Drouin said:

L' article de Bernard a le mérite de poser la question que beaucoup se posent : qu'est qu'une bonne photo ? La question que l'on peut également se poser est : à quoi ou à qui, est destinée cette photo ?

Nous sommes sur une plateforme photographique, et Ipernity rassemble tous types de photos avec une grande diversité de sujets et de qualité technique. Le niveau et l'intérêt de ces images sont donc inégaux. Mais ce n'est pas grave, IP n'est pas un site professionnel et se destine avant tout aux amateurs.

Et depuis plusieurs années que je suis membre d'IP, je réalise que souvent, la photo n'est qu'un prétexte pour garder un lien social. Moi-même, si je suis toujours sur IP, c'est que j'ai plaisir à échanger avec des amis rencontrés ici et pour certain d'entre-eux, dans la vraie vie.

Même une photo floue, mal cadrée, avec une dominante colorimétrique sera considérée comme "bonne" par son auteur, puisqu'il la partage. Surtout si pour lui, elle comporte une charge émotionnelle lié à un souvenir ou à un être cher. Elle doit être "excellente" pour beaucoup de membres, si j'en crois le nombre d'étoiles accordées à ces images que je considère médiocres de mon point de vue de passionné de photographie. Mais sur le fond, je me refuse à juger ce qui est du registre de l'intime. Je me contente de ne pas mettre d'étoile.

En revanche, il m'arrive de mettre des étoiles à des photos que je considère "moyennes" car je trouve que l'auteur est en progrès. Alors que je n'en mets pas toujours à des membres plus expérimentés car je trouve qu'ils sont capables de faire beaucoup mieux. Dans ces cas précis, je mets un petit commentaire pour expliquer ce qui ne va pas et ce qui pourrait être amélioré. Ce qui m'a parfois valu des remarques désobligeantes de certains qui n'admettent pas la moindre remarque. J'ai eu un exemple encore assez récemment. Mes remarques sont généralement bienveillantes et se veulent constructives.

A contrario, il y a des membres qui acceptent et demandent des conseils. Ceux là ont bien progressé depuis que je les connais.

Certains font des critiques sur certaines de mes photos. Je suis d'accord ou pas, mais jamais je ne m'en offusque. Ça permet d'engager un débat souvent très intéressant et constructif qui alimente la réflexion.

Alors oui, une bonne photo doit être techniquement et composée de façon irréprochable, le sujet doit être intéressant et lisible au premier coup d'oeil (même s'il y a des exceptions à cette lisibilité immédiate pour des plans très larges avec une multitude de choses à voir)...
Ça c'est dans l'absolu. Et la tentative de classification faite par Bernard à le mérite de donner quelques outils concret pour bien utiliser et comprendre IP.
2 months ago ( translate )