Dan Jones – How To Evaluate a Photograph


Thanks again to Dan Jones for his really excellent presentation at our November 4th meeting where he explained the criteria used to judge a “good” photograph and showed us many of his own images illustrating these criteria.Thanks too for the excellent feedback he gave members on their submitted photos from the Autumn assignment.

To see more of Dan’s images take a look at his flickr account.

Here are Dan’s notes:


Four Criteria to Use

  1. Technical Excellence.
    Sharpness, exposure, use of depth of field, contrast, use of light.
  2. Composition.
    Use of graphic elements ( colour, line, pattern, texture, shape & form) and many other factors to be reviewed later.
  3. Creativity & Originality.
    Use of “ in camera” and “post processing” techniques to create a unique & original image.
  4. Impact ( the WOW factor).
    This factor gives an image a powerful grip on the viewer’s attention. It can involve the use of special lighting, unusual angle of view, a rare & difficult subject matter to capture, perfect timing of an event, an extreme close up of the subject, high level of technical proficiency etc.

Photography, like other art forms, is very subjective, so judges often evaluate images differently based on their own knowledge, experiences and personal preferences. Hence, as photographers, we need to develop our own style and make images that satisfy our own personal preferences and interests.

Two Major Components of Photo graphy.

As its name suggests, Photography is all about the use of “light” and the “graphic elements” that create a composition.
To evaluate a photo, is to consider how these components interrelate with each other and affect the eye of the viewer.

Light, the Magic Ingredient

The quality of light is determined by its intensity (harsh & direct vs. soft & diffused), direction (frontal, side, & back lighting), colour (temperatures degrees k that vary with time of day & weather for natural light & the source of artificial light).

Different types of light favour particular subject matter.

Factors that Create Strong Compositions

  1. Use of 6 graphic Elements.
  2. Simplicity, “less is more”.
  3. Centre of Interest.
  4. Use of recommended rules of photography.
  5. The Emotional Factor.
  6. Use of juxtaposition.
  7. Use of available elements to frame the subject matter.
  8. Use of strong geometric shapes.
  9. Use of odd numbers, especially #3.
  10. Use off leading lines.
  11. Treatment of backgrounds.
  12. Use of elements to create mood & atmosphere.
  13. Use of known objects to give a sense of scale where needed.
  14. Keeping horizons straight when necessary.
  15. Pleasing arrangement of elements in the frame.
  16. Giving the image a sense of balance.
  17. Leaving enough space around the main subject so it doesn’t feel too constrained.
  18. Avoid “mergence” where unwanted elements enter around the frame of the image.
  19. Create a sense of depth and perspective, so the normally two dimensional image looks three dimensional.
  20. For moving subjects, try to capture the action at the best time.

Hopefully, these tips will help you make better photos and improve your ability to evaluate them afterward.