In Search Of A Great Photograph

What makes a great photo? Composition? Lighting? Surely subject matter I hear you ask. I'd say a combination of all three and more. Or less.

The fact is that it is a very subjective idea. What appears to be a great photo to one person can be completely overlooked by another. I could rant and rave for a couple of pages and we still wouldn't come to a definitive answer. Because whilst the word photography encompasses many things, it is undoubtedly emotional. At least in my humble opinion, it should be. And because it has an emotional component, the answer will vary from person to person and the debate will probably last as long as that other great photographic debate - "Is photography art?", which has been revolving since the first photographic print was produced back in the nineteenth century.

So, I wanted to show you a couple of pictures from the same wedding which are completely different from one another. One, in colour, could be considered great by some, and the other, in black and white, probably not. The BW image, when seen in its portfolio, is often overlooked. But I like it. It moves me. Not a great deal, but enough. The story behind the photo is not obvious, indeed it only comes as a result of the some of its parts. A head shot of a girl from behind with black hair. When viewed as an individual image, we have no idea who she is or why she is there, except for the three white roses in her hair. Although small they signify a wedding. We don't yet know if she is the bride or one of her maids, but we do know it is a wedding just from those three tiny flowers. Off to the right-hand-side is a make-up brush being held by a woman. Even though we don't see much of her, we know that she is female from her hands and her ring. She holds the brush expertly. From this we can construe that she is most likely a make-up artist. The idea that we are seeing a photograph taken pre-wedding is confirmed. The camera has caught a split-second moment where the brush has been held off the face, we know we are watching the action unfolding. Over to the left-hand-side is the outline of a window and we also see the top of a dining chair below the black hair. Instantly we know that most likely this activity is happening within the bride's home. Not a salon or hotel room where the lighting and certainly the chair would have been very different.

I like this image because it is simple but not obvious. Of course I could've just photographed from the front and the story would be the same. But then it wouldn't be quite as fun to discover. The viewer could look straight into the subject's eyes and would not have to go any further. Instead we are encouraged to take in all the information the image provides, thereby absorbing the other components which formed an integral part of the bigger event - the wedding.

The second photo, in colour, is quite the opposite. Put simply all the components telling the story are there. It is a wedding, shown by the woman, from the BW photo above, in a white gown. Her pretty maids accompany the couple whilst the men stand proudly in their suits. They are happy, their faces reflecting the joy that surrounds the occasion. In contrast to this moment we see in the background Mother Nature doing her own thing, seemingly oblivious to the day's ceremony. The clouds appear violent almost, and are swelling with promise of a heavy downpour. Sensing the movement and thunder in the air a flock of birds have flown from a background tree and are taking flight before the clouds have their say. And just as a reminder, as well as to create form and contrast, there are umbrellas and a huge puddle. We know that rain is not only imminent, but that a large amount has also been. It's safe to say this image could have been taken in Queensland, Australia. Which of course it was. After all, Queensland is known for weather like this.

They say that it is good luck to rain on your wedding day and certainly it was the weather which helped us to construct this amazing image. We had perhaps a minute and a half to create it before the heavens opened upon us. And as quickly as the moment had presented itself, it was taken away.