I was loading some images into the 500px website and it got me thinking about what makes a good image that will catch the emotions of a viewer. That got me thinking about the decisions that go into a photograph. It really is amazing when you think about it.
The first decision is how you want the image to look and what you want it to say. The first method for reaching that goal is the in camera cropping. What do you want to include and what to exclude. I try to picture how it will look in a mat. What information in the image is important and what is not. Then the job is to try to frame the shot to get on the road to that goal.
Next decision has to do with composition. How will the composition help with what you want to say or show. Do you need more sky or more water? Do you want to have many flowers or just one? Will it look better with the center of interest in a lower corner or an upper one? Will the colors add to your goal or take away from it? How do you want it balanced?
Then comes exposure. Do you want the image to be a bit on the light side to make it look the way you want, or should you under expose a bit to saturate the colors and darken highlights and shadows? Do you want the colors bright or muted or rich? What you are trying to share with the picture will help guide you to the answers to these questions.
Do you want blur or sharpness? Are you trying to show action or lines and shapes? That will affect what settings you will be using to get the exposure that you want.
Those decisions are why photographers take a multitude of shots of the same object, etc. While there, it is best to try different settings so you have different styles of images to work with later.
Then, of course, when you get home you have decisions to make when processing the image. Do you want it to look more vintage or bright and cheery? Do you want to crop it differently? Maybe you pictured it as a black and white image. Those are all processing decisions to make which will help you achieve your goal with the photograph.
Finally, you are ready to print. What paper to use? What lab is the one that you like best? If you print your own, should it be gloss or matte? Maybe even watercolor paper. All decisions to advance to the final goal of the image you pictured in your mind. Or maybe you have veered from that and have something even better by this point.
The ability to make all these decisions quickly and decisively are a big help to a photographer. The more you can think about how the image will look and the less you have to think about which button to push to make it happen, the better off you will be. That is why it is a must to know your camera.
Now, imagine it is 1880 and you are using huge glass negatives, a gigantic camera, and your darkroom is pulled by horses. That makes those old photographs even more impressive. We have great advantages in the digital world, but it all comes down to making the decisions that will give you the image that you want to make.