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What makes a good photograph?

What makes a good photograph?

Is there a definitive answer to this question?

Personally, I do not think there is a definitive answer. It is highly subjective and well, personal.

We were with some friends recently, when one of them said, “I don’t even know what makes a good photograph.” She said this coming from the point that she is an aspiring photographer who mainly wants to photograph her children well.

I thought about this question for a moment and I initally came up with a ‘technical’ answer. I always tend to lean on technicalities because the logical part of my brain goes there.

I blurt out some answer like, “Well, to me a good photograph is made up of the Right Moment, Good Light and Good Composition.” Now, this is not a bad answer, but certainly it is not definitive.

As photographers, we need to go deeper and ask ourselves “What makes a good photograph, to me personally?”

The way I see things and photograph people (sometimes things, but enjoy photographing people most), the most important aspect of a good photograph is the moment. Having good light and composition are surely a plus, but it doesn’t always pan out that way. Usually, I am fortunate enough to have the moment and good light OR the moment and good composition. Mostly I end up with the moment and composition. The conditions in which I find most moments, are not in ideal lighting situations. I can ‘make light’ on occasions, but for the most part it is too disruptive. I am usually left looking for the best angle to view a scene with the existing ambient light in the space.

Back to the moment being the most important element for me…

A good photograph to me is one that makes me feel. Whether I feel joy, sorry, pain, anger, etc…. If an image makes me emote, then it is good in my book. I find most images I am drawn too are moment specific, that technically are far from perfect or ‘pretty picture’. I like pretty pictures as much as the next guy, but quite often they do not make me emote. We are inundated with pretty pictures everywhere we look. Visually it is pleasing, but for filling the heart and soul, they are void.

Even though I have known this about myself I have pursued so many different kinds of photography and image making, that at times I ended up forgetting this one simple principle in my core. I would begin traveling down a path that did not resonate with me, primarily because I thought that is what other people would like. In the end it never works out when you follow the path that other people walk or think you should walk.

I firmly believe that if you stick to what makes a good photograph to YOU and you only, that people will be more drawn to your images.

I can say that within my wedding photography career, this has held very true. People that hire me see something in my photographs that make them feel and connect. They can visualize their own wedding and see things unfolding naturally. If I look at my work and then start comparing to what is ‘normal’ in the world of wedding photography, I can easily begin to think I am doing something wrong. In fact, for the first few years of my career in wedding photography, I fought this internal battle constantly. I would look everywhere else but inwardly, to determine what makes a good photograph. I started producing said photographs and began do dislike the art! This is not where you want to be when you are moving down the career path of photography!

I think it is great to view other photography work. Get a taste for what you love, what makes you tick and why you love it. Some work you will love, but it will not make you tick. When you find work that does make you tick, you may be onto something internally, which you should start to experiment with.

My heart is with Real Life and photography that captures it this way. I love to make a great directed portrait once in a while too, which serves as kind of a milestone. These directed portraits, however are not what drives me.

My most important job as a photographer is documenting my own family. This is something that ashamedly I have neglected many times. Sometimes I just don’t want to pick up a camera because I use one ‘on the job’. Sometimes when I am photographing my family, I want to perfect the image… This can lead no where really fast, because when your focus is on perfection you will miss so much!

To be quite honest, IMHO a good photograph doesn’t get much better than this one of Chyler taking a nap.

What makes a good photograph?

This is good to me because I know the context. It was the middle of the afternoon. Chyler crawled up on the couch, covered up and took a nap. I love the way her face is lit from the window, the way she is completely relaxed and especially the rainbow loom bracelets she is wearing. This is the year of rainbow loom. All of us have been wearing the wonderful jewelry the kids have been making.

This year my goal is to make a lot of “good” photographs for me, of my loved ones. They may never be viewed super size in a gallery, but they will surely line the photo books I create for us to cherish. Time to start preserving history.

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Family Portraits – Full of Life

Family Portrait

I must admit, what draws me to photography is life, people and connections. One of my favorite subjects to photograph is a growing family, especially when the couple has recently become new parents. There is something extraordinary about the relationship between new parents and their first child. It’s magical.

This particular photograph has my heart this week. I get lost in it when I view it. The little guy is so happy to be loved and Mom and Dad are still in such awe that they were blessed with this incredible gift.

Can you see it?

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Hi, I’m David and I have an Awesome Camera!

awesome cameras

My current stable of awesome cameras

I have a camera and it is Awesome! Actually, I have quite a few awesome cameras. I am a geek and I LOVE gadgets, so you can often find me drooling at the latest and greatest in camera and computer gear. The name awesomecamera.com came to me a number of years ago because someone would see my photographs and say “Wow! This photograph is beautiful, you must have an Awesome Camera!” If you are a photographer at any level, I am certain you have heard this as well! This statement does not offend me, because as I stated earlier, I do have an awesome camera or two. What it does make me realize is that for some reason when it comes to photography, there is too much emphasis on the camera and/or gear. In the end, good gear can help you but it does not determine your success.

Think about it. Are there any other professions that are focused so much on gear? Music, maybe, but I can tell you I can pick up my 1995 $300 Mexican Fender Stratocaster and $5,000 Signature Edition Fender Stratocaster and the sound that comes out will be primarily the same…. Why? Because music is in your fingertips! I remember the time, when my brother in law, Steve came over to my house, picked up my Strat and started playing like Stevie Ray Vaughan. I could not believe my guitar sounded so incredible. There he was holding my axe, plugged into my tiny little amp and melodies were ripping out of there like they never have before. It had nothing to do with the gear… It was Steve and his gifts. I remember thinking at that point there was no use to me getting a better more expensive guitar. If I couldn’t make my current guitar sing like that, why should I spend the money on a new one? Sure, better build quality, weight, tonality, would be improvements, but if my fingertips didn’t get better there would be no advantage.

Enter my photography journey (which I hope never ends until I leave this world)

Impulses, at times have caused me to buy the newest gadgets over the years. My thinking, admittedly, has been ‘This is it! This is the piece of gear that is going to put me to the next level. My life will be improved, my photography will become more beautiful, new workflows will be birthed, ah…. rainbows and unicorns for everyone!’…. This just isn’t the reality that is achieved after the purchase is made. At first, it is exciting to get that new piece of equipment, but the excitement usually fades quickly. Nothing really changes and there I am, just where I was before I snatched up this new shiny object. There is actually a huge disappointment that comes after the purchase and you make your first image. Besides maybe some sensor colors/range/rendering my photographs still looked the same and then I had buyers remorse. Yuck! This can turn into a vicious cycle that impedes your growth.

Just like the music analogy I mentioned earlier, the crux of the issue is not the new gear or equipment. The issue is me. I was there before the new gear and I am still here after the new gear. So, if I was a problem before, I am still a problem afterward. It’s not about the camera, computer or gadget, it’s about me (and YOU)! I need to get better at the following:
listening
learning
growing
failing
seeing
composing
exposing
feeling
hearing
listening
observing
waiting
anticipating
reacting
understanding
planning
inspiring
minimizing
experimenting
etc.

The list continues. It all comes down to me. If I am not doing what it takes to make better photographs and an impact in this world, the journey ends. The destination will be right here, right now and be ‘This is as good as it gets..’

I don’t know about you, but this is not good enough for me. I don’t want to arrive at a destination. I want to enjoy the journey of photography which is such a crucial part of my life. I cannot be without photography. It comes with me everywhere. Just like my faith, photography is a part of me that I cannot detach myself from. I live it, breathe it and love it. I am assuming you do too, if you have read this far. You are hopefully in the same boat as me and I want to live this out together. Let’s learn together, grow together and make kick ass photographs that evoke emotion in people. I do not want to make pretty images or technically perfect images. I want to make photographs that people view and then ‘feel’ something. Something they may not be able to put their finger on, but it makes them ‘feel’.

I have been away from writing and sharing for the past 4 or 5 years because my priorities needed arranged. I am excited to get it out and continue the joy of helping and sharing. Awesomecamera.com is my platform to join you on your journey as well. My hope is to help each other become not just better photographers, but better souls. It is in my soul, where this passion resides. I need to feed it and grow it so it can be all it is designed to be. This doesn’t begin or end with gear and photography. It begins and ends with Us, flesh and blood, and our determination to learn, grow and take action. It is about doing. We will never be fulfilled if we are focused on the ‘things’ that assist us in making photographs. Only through continued development of ourselves, visions and goals will we achieve the satisfaction and joy that comes with creating great images and serving our audiences.

Let’s do this.

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Burke’s on Film

A few years back I started dabbling with Film photography again, just for a change of pace. We took a family beach vacation and I shot nothing but film. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed doing this. Mainly, I would snap a photograph and then move on with what we were doing. I was not trying to make things perfect. Since then I have shot film here and there of my family just for fun.

Recently I decided to go ALL FILM when photographing my family. I made this decision for a number of reasons, but it really boils down to one thing. I love it. Plain and simple. I shoot soooo many digital images throughout each year, that slowing down, changing pace and seeing the different look that film gives me makes it a perfect fit. I am not a film snob and never will be. LOL. I highly doubt I will ever work film into my professional services, because Digital is such a great fit for it.

My favorite film cameras right now are Mamiya 645 with 80 2.8 lens, Nikon N80 with 35 f2 and a Nikon One Touch 35 point and shoot. I have dubbed 2014 the year to document my family like I never have before. I am serious! I am going to be more intentional and enjoy the process of recording memories again. I have a new hobby of developing and scanning my own black and whites as well, which is VERY Fun and rewarding. My kids are starting to get used to not seeing their photos right away too! At first they did not know what to do haha!!

I am going to be sharing this series from now on called ‘Burke’s on Film’. Some of these go back a few years. It’s like opening up an old shoe box and finding these treasures again! I hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

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