What Makes a Great Photo?

What Makes a Great Photo?

Published On: 04-01-2013 05:35am

Comments: 12 - Hits: 0

Taking great photos is something that takes time and practice to learn, but it can be done and is worth the effort. 

Lighting and composition are important components of great photography as is understanding how your camera works and knowing how and when to edit photos. 

Light boxes are one way to achieve good lighting.  These are usually three sided boxes with an opening at the front.  Lights that mimic daylight are used to illuminate the subject inside the box.  A basic set up can be purchased commercially and is relatively inexpensive or there are many 'do it yourself' tutorials online that show how to build your own light box.  The benefits to a light box are uniform, reliable lighting and that one can take photographs at any time day or night.

Natural indirect light can produce a beautiful picture, but there are some limiting factors such as time of day and whether or not it's sunny or overcast that the photographer has to keep in mind.  For myself, I find the hours between 11:00 and 2:00 when the sun isn't making deep shadows to be optimal. 

It's best not to use a flash as the flash will reflect off of the item being photographed resulting in a glare (this is especially true with shiny objects like jewelry).  Direct sunlight causes harsh shadows, so if it's a bright sunny day and photos are being taken outside, they should be taken in a shady spot.

These fabulous mother of pearl earrings by Catherine, of Shadow Dog Designs, are well lit, bright and in focus.  Neither over exposed or under exposed with just a hint of a soft shadow, Catherine has nailed it with her lighting.


Composition and backgrounds are other important things to consider.  There is a lot of debate over what color of backgrounds to use.  The general consensus seems to be that a white background is the most effective.  However, gray and black can produce great results as well.  Generally, it's a good idea to stay away from bright colored or busy backgrounds as they tend to be distracting and overwhelm the item being photographed.

This stunning photograph by Anna of AnnaArtist uses no props and her gorgeous wire wrapped amethyst pendant is the star of the show.  Anna has spent years honing her photography skills and it shows.


Whether or not props enhance or detract from product photography is another subject of debate.  Some feel that it's best to photograph the subject of the photo all by itself, while others feel that props can tell a story.  An old saying is that a picture is worth a thousand words and this is particularly true when selling or shopping on-line. 

This is a photo where using a prop really works.  By positioning this wonderful hand crafted kitchen counter basket next to a flour canister and filling the basket with fruit, Joanna of Joanna's Collections has effectively shown the size of the basket, ideas for it's use and how it would look on a kitchen counter.


It's also important to know how to use your camera.  Most of us don't want to wade through pages of instructions, but without doing that cameras are not being used to their full advantage.  Today's cameras have many tools and features that can help us become better photographers if we take the time to learn.

Using the macro feature on a camera allows one to get up close and photograph the important details.  And, using a tripod to steady the camera is a must in order to get clear and in-focus pictures.  If a tripod is not available, a stack of books or something similar can be used to avoid camera shake.

This close-up photograph of a hand knitted caramel latte Pippy scarf by Stacy of Sewstacy does a fantastic job of showing the viewer the intricate colors and textures of the scarf.  One can almost reach out and touch those soft, earthy colored fibers.


As for myself, my photos are a work in progress.  Gone are the days when I'd snap a few photographs in the middle of the night using a flash with little thought of the end result.  There has been much improvement and there is still a lot for me to learn and do - like reading my camera manual.  *ahem*

This recent picture of a leopard spots eye glasses holder is well lit and in focus, but the composition could be better.  If the book were turned at an angle and the glasses slightly out of focus, I think I could call this a great photo.  As it is, it's a good photo.


Of course, like art, photography is subjective and what one person may love another may not.  The important thing, if one has the desire to take great photographs, is to hone those skills, study and practice, practice, practice.

Oh, and don't forget to read the manual that came with the camera!

Reader's Comments

By JewelryArtByDawn on 05/23/2013 @ 03:03am

Thank you much for taking a moment to leave a comment. My approach to this article was to keep it simple; like many of you, too much technical information is over my head at this point and I find my eyes glazing over after a while. The intention was just to provide some basic starting points that it would help others who want to improve their photos. Hope it helped everyone who read in one way or another!

By bluemorningexpressions on 05/22/2013 @ 05:18pm

Great information, Dawn. The taking of photos is an ongoing thing for most. There is always going to be the need to change and learn as sites change their criteria for photos. I know I battle this daily, and I think most artists do as well. Thank you for your post reminding us how awesome great photos can be and what it will do for our sales. Julie and Blu

By Guest on 05/19/2013 @ 02:06am

A most appropriate blog post - thank you. I continually struggle with my photos and you have shed some "light" on areas that I can improve. Lisa

By craftingmemories on 05/17/2013 @ 11:51pm

Thank you for your insight on photography. I struggle with it and but I have improved since I first started but still a long way from perfection!

By luvncrafts on 05/12/2013 @ 08:52pm

The pictures are gorgeous! I need to get to know my camera more...not time! ARGH! Thank you for the tips!

By Laurascrafts on 05/10/2013 @ 12:21pm

Wonderful informative post! This is an ongoing challenge for, like many others, and your examples and explanations were very helpful.

By EweniqueEssentials on 05/09/2013 @ 02:24am

Improving my photos is an ongoing challenge that I enjoy. You have shared some important tips. I need to use a tripod...

By JewelryArtByDawn on 05/08/2013 @ 03:36am

Thank you so much to all of you for your insightful comments - picture taking seems to be something that all of us constantly work to improve. That's a good thing!

By craftsofthepast on 05/07/2013 @ 07:27pm

What a wonderful and generous idea, your blog to show how to make excellent photos and to promote your fellow sellers at the same time!

By PebblesatmyFeet on 05/01/2013 @ 03:30pm

Photography is an ongoing challenge for us as online artisan sellers. This is a great post with inspiration to do better in my own presentation.

By CatsWire on 04/02/2013 @ 09:35pm

Great post, Dawn! I think no matter how long someone takes pictures, they always have to work on it. I like to experiment with my own ones and sometimes I feel I'm just getting lucky, but sometimes I'm doing it just right. It's all a matter of practice

By ShadowDogDesigns on 04/01/2013 @ 01:41pm

Wow, Dawn, thank you! I am truly honored that you included one of my photos in your blog. Such as informative post. As you said, the photos are always a work in progress. All of my photos are taken outside, which sometimes can be a real chore here, especially with the wind. Love those rare overcast days (: Usually 6-10 photos are taken for each one shot used, using different camera settings to hopefully get a good pic. A tripod is always used. Am still learning and do refer back to my manual from time to time! Thanks again, my friend.

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