National Geographic Explains What Makes a Great Photograph

The question of what makes a great photograph is certainly tossed around a lot in photographers’ minds as well as in various forums online. Since everyone has a different thought process, vision, and technique, the definition of what makes a great photograph can vary greatly from person to person.

Certainly there are good photographs, but the question still remains, “How can I take a good photograph and make it into a GREAT photograph?”

Good question.

I’ve always struggled to come up with a good answer for people when I’m asked that question because of the numerous visions for photography.

I recently saw this video from National Geographic on how they chose their photography contest winners for 2015. Watch the video below…

National Geographic has been synonymous with amazing photography for years. So, I think their credibility is pretty solid.

At first, I watched the video with great interest because they show so many amazing photos. But, then I started to notice what the judges of the contest were saying.

They were giving tremendous insight throughout the video on what makes a great photograph.

I played the video again and simply listened to what the photo editors were saying instead of looking at the submissions. I made a list of the descriptions they said make a great photo. Here’s the list:

  • Energy
  • Artistry
  • Originality
  • Environment
  • Surprise
  • Uniqueness
  • Truth
  • Honest
  • Challenge Ideas
  • Originality

Now, if you read that list, you might think I made a mistake. Yes, I put originality on there twice because at two points in the video, the editors mentioned originality as a trait that leads to a great photo.

Certainly the other word descriptions are important as well. The photograph need to have a sense of energy (whether that energy is vibrant or subdued), it needs artistry, environment, truth, and all that jazz, but the description of originality stands alone.

A description so important that it needs to be said twice is worth our attention.

So, if you’re looking to take your photography to the next level, what should you really try to focus on? Copying someone else’s style? No, not at all.

Find your originality and you’ll be on the right path to great photography.