The 36 Qualities That Define a Good Photographer

You may be wondering if you are a good photographer. Although your question is legitimate, the answer is not easy. Your analysis must be objective.

In addition, it is easy to overlook certain defining elements.

In this article, I will give you a list of elements that constitute a completely objective analysis grid. I will share my inventory of everything that seems important to me when defining a good photographer.

These criteria will help you find an answer to your question.

Photograph in color of a landscape of Monument Valley.
Photograph in color of a landscape of Monument Valley.

You May Refuse the Obvious

When I ask a photographer if he thinks he is a good photographer, the answer is often no.

This may be the case for you. This is what I call "denying the obvious". I remember the time when I lived in doubt. I refused to show my photos to others because I did not believe that they were “good enough”.

This response and attitude are often motivated by a lack of self-confidence or by a misplaced ego.

Many photographers have those qualities of what it means to be a “good photographer”. They create interesting photographs that make sense. However, they often do not give themselves the means to become a truly great photographer.

The Story of This Article

A blog article is like a photograph. It is always interesting to know its story. It sheds light on a subject and helps the audience to better understand the why and the how of the matter.

This question of being a good photographer intrigued me for years. My passion for science always pushed me to ask questions and search for answers.

I have read dozens of books on photography, and yet, no author has ever taken the time to address this thorny issue.

With time as an artist photographer, I have developed a list of points that are interesting to me when defining what is a good photographer.

This is the result of many years of reflection and work. Even then, it is only my opinion, which will certainly evolve over time. Photography is a world that shifts often. Nevertheless, I thought it was interesting to share my current perspective in this article.

You Are One Out of a Billion

You are one of the billion photographers in the world.

You may be practicing photography as an amateur or a professional. You may use a smartphone, or a DSLR equipped with mirrors, or a mirrorless camera.

Regardless of your equipment, do you create interesting photographs that make sense? This question is impossible to answer because it relies on subjectivity, it varies from person to person. Likewise, your photos depend on the definition you give to the word “interesting”. This is a very subjective question that does not have a clear answer.

However, I believe that it is possible to tell if a person is a good photographer. Although it may be difficult, it is still possible to define criteria that are objective. You will be able to recognize a good photographer even if you do not appreciate his photographic approach and his works.

Before going into more details of the grid, it seems very important to define the words and concepts which I will discuss in this article.

Why Should One Become a Good Photographer?

You may be wondering about the question of why you should become a good photographer.

The answer is simple. To create interesting and meaningful photographs, you must define a photographic consciousness, which I mentioned in this article.

When you know where you stand in relation to others, you will understand the meaning of your photographic approach. You will be able to create different photos and stand out in the crowd. If you do not want to understand why you are doing photography, you will remain in the crowd. You will only copy the other photographers you like, never venturing from the familiar. Eventually you will limit yourself by becoming unrecognizable in a circle of similar photographers. This lack of creativity and passion will prevent you from practicing the photography. Indeed, this would be a great shame!

Defining the Photographer

The word photography was created by John Herschel in 1839. He was a British astronomer considered to be a pioneer of photography.

The word is composed of two roots of Greek origin:

  • The prefix "photo": light, clarity.
  • The suffix "graphy": paint, draw, write.
Photography is a technical process that allows you to write with light.
In general, a photographer can be defined as a person who practices photography.

Defining a Good Photographer

A good photographer is a person with above-average qualities.

But how can one define what is average?

For me, being average in photography is when someone who knows at least a few of these theoretical bases of photography:

  • Shutter speed.
  • Aperture.
  • Sensitivity.
  • Triangle of the exposition.
  • Rules of composition.
  • Framing rules.

I used the words "at least".

Indeed, these basics are necessary to be a photographer in an average sense. However, I want to be clear when I say that just because a person has more than this basic knowledge does not necessarily qualify them as a good photographer. To be above average is more complex.

Becoming a Good Photographer

There is no magic recipe for becoming a good photographer. You may choose to participate in art or photography classes or to learn independently.

I have created an analysis grid with criteria which I call "quality". It is an objective grid that is easy to understand.

I name each paragraph "Quality Number", however, the number is not chronological. Numbering is simply a way for me to be clear and precise in my comments.

Quality 1: "Knowing How to Last"

A good photographer can judge himself over time.

A photographer who has created some excellent photographs is not necessarily a good photographer, even if he is recognizable by a wide audience.

A few good images do not necessarily mean that a photographer is skilled.

Duration is an essential factor. When a photographer can create an interesting series for a long period of time, it is because he has developed a true photographic approach. At this point, the photographer can be considered "good".

You may easily perform this test yourself. Look at the number of photo series you have created. Analyze them. You will find the answer by yourself.

Quality 2: "Having a Clear Photographic Vision"

Your photographic vision reflects the way you see the world.

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Photography is an artistic language of self-expression. Some people choose painting, drawing, or writing.

Your vision is personal. It belongs only to you, providing you with a reason to create unique photographs.

Your vision reflects what is often called the soul.

Your photographic vision promotes balance in your life. It brings true meaning to your actions.

To be a good photographer, your vision must be clear and precise. If you are asked why you are creating photos, you must be able to respond by explaining your photographic vision.

Quality 3: "Having a Photographic Signature"

I believe that it is essential to possess a clear and precise signature for each of your hand-crafted photo series.

Your photographic signature is the key identifying factor of recognition. When a viewer gazes at your image alongside others, you want him or her to understand "This must have been created by ‘so and so’ because of this signature." For me, it is essential to be recognized.

The signature of a series is more precise than a general style.

The signature reflects your style and method of shooting as well as your choices in the development process.

Quality 4: “Utilizing One or More Photographic Styles”


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