The Ten Commandments Of Great Photographs

By Joyce Wilson

I was recently invited to be the juror for the annual Captured Photographic Exhibition at the Santa Barbara Tennis Club Second Friday Art Exhibition. It was a daunting experience considering the fact that without a theme, I was viewing subjects ranging from beautiful landscapes, abstraction and interpretative concepts to figurative photography and photojournalism.  Add to this, the diverse presentations from traditional silver gelatin prints with white mats to images printed on metal and/or mounted on canvas and art boards.  All techniques acceptable and considered photographic work in today’s market, but this made selecting award winners a challenge.

During the years I have judged for professional photographic organizations and taught at Brooks Institute, I used a guideline in my head to quickly evaluate images.

Ten Commandments for Creating Great Photographs According To Joyce

  1.  CONCEPT

(What is the statement or the story?)

  1.  COMPOSITION

(Interesting, unique or unusual cropping)

  1.  TECHNIQUE

(Use of photographic equipment….choice of camera, lens, focus or          non-focus….is it working?)

  1.  STYLE & DESIGN

(Selection and use of color or monochromatic tonal values and    arrangement of elements)

  1.  LIGHT IS THE HERO

(Soft and ethereal, or direct dramatic light….does it work with the  subject?)

  1.  PROCESS & PRESENTATION

(Choice of process….chromogenic print, alternative process, unique paper or substrate, mat selection, framing, canvas wrap….does it work?)

  1.  HARMONY

(Does everything work together?)

  1.  NO FEAR

(Did the photographer let go of the rules and jump off the cliff?)

  1.  WOW FACTOR

(Does the image move me, make me think…will I remember this image two days from now?)

  1. EXPERIENCE

(Equipment is unimportant….what is important is the experience, the passion, and the life experiences that an artist draws on to create)

The Captured Exhibition traditionally awards, Best of Show, Best Black & White, and Best Color. Two Honorable Mentions were added this year, as I felt there were other images that deserved recognition.

©Bobbie Bratz "Eclipse" Photograph on acrylic.

©Bobbie Bratz “Eclipse” Photograph on acrylic.

This beautiful little gem is just that…a lovely jewel. I loved the elegant, pure photographic print and it spoke to me on all levels.  Concept, Composition, Craftsmanship, and the WOW factor.  I’m impressed when a photographer takes the time and energy to chase the elements, and give us these magical images. I spent several years as a member of Photo Futures at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art under the guidance of the late Karen Sinsheimer. The photographic collection at the museum is heavily directed towards scientific photography, and I feel certain Karen would have enjoyed Bobbie Bratz’s “Eclipse”.

©Randall J. VanderMey  "Two Eggs Over Easy Listening "

©Randall J. VanderMey “Two Eggs Over Easy Listening “

Before reading the title, the viewer is pulled in and the image causes wonder and questions to arise.  The whimsical title then leads us into a surreal realm that has endless possibilities.  Kudos to Randall for his bravery in experimenting with this abstract approach. Photographic art is making huge strides into abstraction and new directions and it’s a joy to find an image this imaginative.

©Gina Papadakis "Fintini"

©Gina Papadakis “Fintini”

This image is so playful and imaginative one can’t help smiling.  I loved the presentation giving us a fantastical, larger than life view.  The image is a perfect example of technique combined with concept that equals WOW!  I strongly believe that passion and life experiences play a huge role in an artist’s work, and I’m familiar with Gina’s love of critters and the commitment she has to her craft which is evident in “Fintini”. And what a delicious title.

©Stephen Robeck "San Jacinto 2 Detail"

©Stephen Robeck “San Jacinto 2 Detail”

I’m very familiar with Stephen’s work and have enjoyed watching his progression from the genre of landscapes and flowers into thought provocative abstract imagery.  His mastery of technique goes hand in hand with the sophisticated presentation.  When viewing this particular piece, one becomes mesmerized by the print’s three dimensionality and the need to touch to see if it is real.

©Margaret Morrison "L & R" dyptych

©Margaret Morrison “L & R” dyptych

This was such an intriguing title and an interesting approach to a simple object, and I applaud Margaret for keeping it simple and letting the subject speak.  I especially enjoyed the diptych framing with subjects mirrored but each slightly different.

As you can see, the award winning images are not your usual Ansel Adam’s look-a-likes.  The newest great American sport is photography and everyone is a photographer…even the grandkids can use a cell phone with apps to turn an image into a fantastical, interesting piece.  If you want to take your photography to another level, come join me in one of the “Imagine” workshops.  Go to www.joycewilson.com for workshop information and registration.

Jan. 25, 26, 27   Figurative, Photoshop Compositing and Collage

Feb. 23, 24       Polymer Photogravure Etching

March 23, 24    Encaustic Wax

 

Happy Holidays!

Keep that camera handy to record special memories and fascinating scenarios.  At the top is a new favorite of mine.  The background image is the wall of a river lock captured from a boat deck. The carving of faces was photographed in a museum and then composited and printed as a solar plate etching.