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Three Guidelines for Great Photographs

By Michelle Ecker on December 06, 2016


The New York Institute of Photography is one of the world’s largest photography schools and because we are, we often publish fun and useful photography tips on our photography blog. Please enjoy!

Three Guidelines for Great Photographs

Sometimes it can be daunting to approach a busy scene and take the first compositional steps towards developing a clear, compelling photograph. If you ever feel overwhelmed by something you’re about to shoot and you’re not exactly sure how to compose, try to remember NYIP’s Three Guidelines for Great Photographs:

  1. A Good Photograph Has a Clear Subject- Every image you create is about either someone or something. Are you trying to tell a story about a certain subject or convey the particular mood of a landscape via something symbolic within it? Either way, whoever looks at the photo you create should immediately see the person or thing you’re trying to tell a story about. This should be clear and unambiguous.
  2. A Good Photograph Focuses Attention on the Subject- Once you establish a subject or theme, you need to then compose the surrounding elements in such a way that the viewer is not left confused or unsure of what they’re looking at. Try to make a scene that immediately draws said viewer’s eye to that subject.
  3. A Good Photograph Simplifies- Simplification is key to developing an image that tells a story. A good image should embrace additional elements that contribute to the story and enhance the underlying theme, and should exclude any outside noise that doesn’t add anything additional to the subject’s narrative.

If you try to apply the principles of the Three Guidelines to your compositional process moving forward, you'll see an immediate change in how you experience photography, especially at those times when you’re not sure how to begin. If you ever get stuck in the future, look at the image you’re about to snap and ask yourself the following three things:

  1. What do I want this photograph to be about?
  2. How can I focus attention on my subject and draw the viewer's eye to it?
  3. Have I simplified? Have I included only what draws attention to my subject? Have I eliminated everything that is non-essential or distracting?

Once you’ve answered those questions and adjusted accordingly, you’re ready to click the shutter.

Want to learn more? NYIP offers accredited photography classes that can help you learn photography or start a new career. Request your free course catalog today!