Photo Analysis for Personal Improvement

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We typically know, within a few seconds of viewing a photograph, whether we “like” it or not. It’s an automatic assessment, one that speaks to our instincts and our sense of aesthetics. When you’re learning to take great photos, though, it really helps to go through the process of understanding why we like or do not like a photograph. Once we’ve learned to identify the photographic elements that appeal to us, we can start practicing incorporating them into our own photography.

Take, for instance, this photograph that I came across in Flickr Creative Commons, by Les Haines.


The first thing that struck me was the use of colors and textures. The red brick, the green door, the old weathered wood in cream and blue, the peeling paint and rusting hinges, the slightly wet look as if the photographer captured the shot soon after a good heavy rain, all combined in a very appealing way.

Next my eye was drawn to the use of lines – the even and parallel vertical lines of the doors, complemented and contrasted by the horizontal lines of the brick wall, and the curving lines of the brick arch. This created a natural frame to draw the eyes to the colors and textures of the doors.

Finally, the photograph is attractively composed. The use of the rule of thirds showcases the highlights of the photo – the green door, the hinges, and the split between colors.

The photographer combined a lot of compositional elements – color, texture, lines, frames, and the rule of thirds. Putting a bit of thought into why this photograph is appealing revealed that its composition is a great deal more complex than my first glance revealed!

Let’s take a look at another one. This photo is courtesy of Mark Tighe on Flickr Creative Commons.


My first impression was that a little bit of wilderness was thriving in the midst of a sterile and technological world. The thistle is set against a monochrome background, drawing attention to the blue in the center and the deep green of the leaves. The use of very few colors create an appealing simplicity.

The photographer chose to include the hint of the modern – the pen, the mouse pad, the edge of the cell phone – to add interest to the photograph. The photo would have been attractive without them, but leaving them in created a story within the photograph.

This is also a great example of how breaking a compositional “rule” – in this case, the “rule of thirds” – generates additional impact. The bloom of the thistle is in the exact center of the shot, and the only other elements are off to the very far left, yet this composition really works for this photo and generates a specific mood.

Again, a deceptively simple photo turns out to have a lot of elements within it. The use of color (even in its absence), unique composition and storytelling hook all combine to create a great shot.

Practice this technique of photo analysis in your own photography, and tell me about it! Did you discover something new? Did you surprise yourself? I look forward to your comments and participation on our Facebook Page, Google Plus Community, and our Flickr Group.

All photos copyright their respective owners, and attributed per Creative Commons copyright guidelines.

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  • Danvil

    I really like the first photo, but the second one is annoying and distracting. Having pieces of objects sticking into the corner of the photograph, including a tiny edge of what looks like a pad of paper, but I’m not sure is not the best composition, only my opinion.

  • Robin Salvador

    Hey Tiffany!

    Do you have any more tips on how to create a great photographs with a minimal use of light?

    I’m going on my first professional shoot tomorrow night and i’m really excited to try out your techniques.

    Amazing shots btw!

    Vinz :)

  • tljoyce

    Hi Vinz, thanks for dropping by! I would recommend checking out the archives, and entering the search term “low light”. There are many articles that touch upon the various aspects of shooting in low light levels. Good luck!

  • Robin Salvador


    Thank you so much for your response. I really appreciate it. More powers to you.

    Have a great day ahead!!