What Makes Some Photographs Better Than Others?

Art is so subjective that there is no correct answer to this question. But there are some things that can help you analyze a photograph. I find it interesting that the majority of people can tell the difference between an average and a great photo and choose the ‘better’ one, but they struggle to articulate why. Here are some of those harder-to-explain things that might draw them toward the ‘better’ picture. I’m sure there’s many more things I’ve missed—we never stop learning:

rainbow photography

“California Desert Rainbow” captured by PictureSocial member ‘Vegas’


Lines are the strongest design element in a picture. Without lines, you can’t have shapes, patterns, or textures—they are everywhere! The strongest of these lead your eye through the different elements in photographs.

photography leading lines

“Chairs” captured by PictureSocial member Lilian Ann Murphy

Shape, Pattern, and Contrast

The shapes of your subject and background elements and how they interact will tell your story. Our brains are programmed to look for these things. One of your main challenges as a photographer is to demonstrate a 3D world in a 2D format, and good photographers understand how light (and shadow) interact with these subjects to make a scene come alive.

patterns and shapes in photography

“Untitled” captured by PictureSocial member Paweł Kostka


Color has a huge emotional effect on a photograph. We often use colors to describe our mood. Colors can work together in harmony or they can clash, and this can be used in your story. Or, you can use a black-and-white photograph to force people to concentrate on the other aspects of it.

colorful photography

“Neighbourhood Street in Venice” captured by PictureSocial member Pat Kehoe

Beautiful Subjects

Even if you have no idea about photography, there are some things or people that will almost always look great. Once you do have an idea, you can make them look spectacular.

landscape photography

“Kirkjufell-Kirkjufellsfoss” captured by PictureSocial member Avar Guoundsson

The Moment

You hear about “the moment” a lot in the photography world, but what does it mean? It’s hard to explain. For me, this means that you captured a small piece of time, which tells a story that you don’t need to explain with words.

photo storytelling

“Sunrise” captured by PictureSocial member Atik Sulianami

A great moment can tell a story that spans a much longer period of time than it took for the shutter to fire. Sometimes, the moment is so good that you will have a great photograph even if your technique wasn’t perfect.

All the great pictures ever taken don’t necessarily include all of these, but I’m fairly sure they each include at least one. More importantly, if you can start to think about these things before and during your photo shoots, I guarantee that you will begin taking better photographs, simply because you are no longer snapping and hoping. You may even start to enjoy seeing more, even when you don’t have a camera!

But photography isn’t only about being able to see what’s in front of you; you have to be able to record what you see using some technology that is more advanced than what it took to take Neil Armstrong and his buddies to the moon. This can be quite daunting for some people and is the reason you see so many people with really good cameras keeping their dial on the green auto mode and never moving past that. Don’t be that person.

Do you think there are other things that make photographs great? Have you ever taken a great photograph?

About the Author:
Edward B Johson is from PhotographBear (photograbear dot com). “He lives in a cupboard full of photography equipment and when the big humans aren’t looking, he borrows a camera and goes on adventures.”

Like This Article?

Don't Miss The Next One!

Join over 100,000 photographers of all experience levels who receive our free photography tips and articles to stay current:


  1. Steven Gill says:

    I believe that good photographs are not essentially about buying expensive courses, but about experience, and the willingness to try something new. Coupled with this , is an awareness of the possibilities, and the limitations, of one’s camera. I have been very lucky in that I have been able to travel quite a lot, and by doing so Ihave had the chance to record, on photos, things that were beyond my imagination. Alone ,The Great Wall of China, was a spectacle that led me to take one or two remarkable shots !

  2. Erik Winther says:

    Till recently I didn’t know how to perfect my photography skills when it comes to space/stars/moon. I found out that some telescopes can communicate with a DSLR and take much better photos. I tried that and now I know how to take awesome pictures of space.

Leave a Comment

Personalize your comment with an avatar from Gravatar.com!

Prove Your Humanity * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

New! Want more photography tips? We now offer a free newsletter for photographers:

No, my photos are the best, close this forever