The Trouble With Taking Good Photos

Posted on March 6, 2015
Updated October 2, 2019

Taking a good photo is difficult.

The hardest part is you almost cannot do it on purpose. You just have to be in the right time and place, at the ready.

Who says a shot is good anyway?

The first person whose opinion you should seek is your own. Listening to others can be valuable but also confusing if you don’t take your own stance. Haven’t you often had compliments on photos you almost threw away, while other shots you’re proud of linger in anonymity?

I believe the creator should judge their own work. If they aren’t creating according to their own taste, how can they know what they’re doing? If they don’t have an opinion about what’s good, why are they doing it? Are they creating at all? Sure, it’s hard be one’s own critic, but seeing our work honestly is an important ability. Long story shourt, for our purposes, let’s just say a good shot is something we’re proud to put out there.


I think this is the least important difficulty with taking a good photo. Some poeple seem to niggle over this aspect, but it’s no suprise I don’t really like their photos.

A shot can be great for so many things besides technicalities. In fact what makes a shot technically good is different depending on what the photographer wants to acheive.

It makes it easier to start with capable equipment you know how to use, and a familiarity with the time-tested ‘rules’ of photography (what people are used to seeing, and which you can break whenever you want but which are good to know in the first place).

I confess to not being sure about what makes a shot technically good.


Let’s jump from the least important difficulty in making that shot to the most important, and most difficult problem. Capturing or creating meaning, and communicating it.

Plenty of people like photos with little meaning. Lots of good photos are just celebrations of the world we live in, and that’s great (most of my flikr are these). Most of the time we are just capturing second hand versions of life and pretending it’s somehow better, because, look, it’s art. What does it mean? That’s the hardest question.

The reason you take a shot becomes meaning when you share it. If done well, the photo frames and amplifies a meaning people wouldn’t normally arrive at on their own.

The best photos no doubt affect those who see them. They instigate a thought, a feeling. And that thought connects the photo and the viewer. so the photo becomes a part of them. That right there is THE most difficult thing about a taking good photo.

Sometimes I feel that I take tens or hundreds of photos every day just so one day I can take one photo that means something.

This photo means a lot to me, but almost nothing to someone else. I have never taken a photo I think someone else _should_ see for their own sake.

Interesting photos are difficult too.

If a photo isn’t particularly meaningful, it should at least be interesting. This is also hard. Interesting photos show something people don’t often see, or something common in an uncommon way.

I like urban explorer photos of abandoned buildings and hard to access places – that are often all around us in the city, but closed off and forgotten.

I like street photography that presses pause on life, taking one moment as an eternity and seeming to make some kind of statement of the infinate value of everything.

If I can take one interesting photo in a week, I’m happy.

I like to think I’m getting better at taking interesting photos. My reliance on post-processing to bring out effect belies this a little.