There are many principals in photography, and a comprehensive list would be difficult. Instead, I've handpicked five principals of great photography, which are listed below in alphabetical order.
Great Photography Is Aesthetic
|On A Brighter Day - Tehachapi, California|
There are a whole host of composition "rules" that photography schools teach, most of which should be broken. However, you should pay close attention to contrast (both light and color) and balance (both space and numeric). Lines are also important.
I'm not going to get too deeply into composition, but simply state that great photographs have great aesthetics. There is not a set formula for creating great aesthetics, and there are many different approaches. What works for one image might not work for another. It is the photographer's job to figure out how to best compose the image for whatever the scene is.
Great Photography Is Creative
|Inorganic Boy - Palmdale, California|
According to the dictionary, creativity is using your imagination to develop new ideas. From a photography point-of-view, creativity is coming up with a way to show through a photograph your own unique perspective. It is putting a piece of yourself (your mind and your heart) into your images.
Creativity is trying new things. It is experimenting. It is failing. It is trying again and again and not giving up. It is pushing yourself to try harder, to think deeper. Creativity is doing what others are not doing.
Great Photography Is Meaningful
|Pathway To The Soul - Tehachapi, California|
The meaning of a photograph does not necessarily need to be immediately obvious, and the meaning of an image can sometimes be found in the context of a series of photographs. In other words, the photographer may have infused a photograph with meaning, but the viewer may not get that communication right away. The important principal here is that photographs should non-verbally say something.
Meaningful photographs speak to the viewer. When the photographer successfully conveys a thought to a stranger looking at an image, that's when a photograph is great.
Great Photography Is Simple
|Fire Hose - Boron, California|
With written communication, you don't want to ramble on and on. You must use punctuation, appropriate grammar, correct spelling, and have direction with your words. Photography is very similar. A mistake that many photographers make is to include too much. The meaning of the photograph then gets lost in all the unnecessary clutter.
Viewers will only spend a second or two looking at a photograph unless something grabs them right away. If it is unclear what the point of the photograph is, the viewer will move onto something else.
Great Photography Tells A Story
|Rolling Dough - Tehachapi, California|
Great storytelling involves more than just having a great story. There is inflection, direction, pauses, and cadence. What makes a storyteller great is his or her ability to draw the audience in and have them on the edge of their seat. With photography, the photographer is the storyteller.
Telling a story with your photographs is breathing life into the scene, making it come alive to the viewer. It is much, much more than documenting, it is interpreting. It is saying something interesting and in a way that grabs the viewer's attention.