Making Truly Great Images

by William Lulow

I’m simply amazed by the number of images I see taken by mobile phones and automatic cameras of one sort or another! But what’s missing from many of these images is the thought and consideration necessary to produce truly great photographs. Maybe it has to be said many times before people understand that really iconic images are made by photographers who really know what they are doing, and, who understand all the ways photographs can communicate their intended ideas. It’s not about just taking pictures and getting decent exposures. It’s about how to think enough about images to translate one’s feelings and thoughts about any particular subject matter, into the language of pictures. Being totally conversant in that language is a prerequisite to making great photographs.

It’s also about having an understanding about the world enough to recognize when something significant happens during the photographic process and to possess the ability to be able to capture it, whether it’s an action shot, a landscape or a portrait. The camera and lens are just tools to assist a photographer in this endeavor. Just as every bit of photographic equipment, lights, light stands, filters, backgrounds and anything else a photographer uses are extensions of this thought process. Without the thought, images are simply recordings of what happens to be in front of the lens.

If you are going to photograph something, you need to think about it first. You need to be aware of what is before your lens and what it means to you in the overall scope of things in your life and in the world. Possibly, this sounds kind of high-minded, but if all you are doing is aiming your camera at something without thinking about what you are doing, you are just recording data, not making photographs!

In these articles, I have tried to put forth my theories of how to make meaningful and thus saleable photographs. And, I will continue to do so, because far too many shooters who call themselves “photographers” are simply taking images without really thinking about how to make meaningful photographs. Photographs that show thought about a subject are always going to be more intense and convey much more feeling than simple “snaps.”

A photograph that captures a special moment…

One that captures a particular expression…

A portrait that reveals something of someone’s true character…

An image that captures the spirit of a place…

Or, an image that defines an object so well that it makes people want to buy it!

It’s really the thought behind the image that counts the most. Perhaps anyone, these days, can take a picture, but it takes someone who really thinks about it to make a really great one.