Nov 02 2018


Photo by Troy Holden

Ok I downloaded a poll plugin. I’m a nerd’s nerd and I like DATA. After the discussion in the last article, the comments became about the magic ingredients for a masterpiece level photo. That’s what I was getting out of it anyways. If we at least know the ingredients, maybe we can figure out how to bake these cookies.

After thinking about it all night, I do not think there is a magic formula for a photo that can ring truth spanning across all generations and cultures. But, if you are looking at this website and you know what we are doing over here, then you know that we are all in the same general type of genre/category/aesthetic or whatever you want to call it. So maybe we can have a formula for our little section of the photo universe.

Also, I think there might exist 2 ways to look at a photograph. One as a photographer. And one as civilian. For instance I think I look at photo books as a photographer, but I view the newspapers and commercial magazines as a civilian. This might not be true in every case, but generally I think I operate this way. So I made this poll to contain aspects of both types of viewing.

Vote here for what you think is the most number 1 important aspect of a great photo. What connects you most? What engages you as a viewer? We know it is a combo of all of them, but if you had to choose just one. What would it be?

If you choose “None”, then leave in the comments what you think I might have left off. Thanks in advance.

** Poll not responding on some mobile browsers. Not sure why.

Best Ingredient For A Masterpiece Level Photo

View Results

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Nov 01 2018

New Questions

Photo by Elmo Tide

Getting awesome feedback! Thank you all for reading these things and glad my random thoughts and ideas are resonating. If you have any questions that you think I should write about, leave them in the comments section or feel free to email me :

This came in from regular photo contributor Reuben Radding:

Here’s what I’m having a hard time with: new questions. When I started grad school I dedicated myself to finding new questions to replace the outmoded and fully answered ones like, “Is it documentary or fine art?” “Why black & white vs color? digital vs film?”, etc etc etc… And the idea was that if we accept these issues as a waste of thought, what is next? What are the next big questions?

I have spent two years busting ass, growing, learning, questioning, and I’m not sure I know what the questions are other than, “What is the specific energy or quality or whatever that makes a photograph really sing out when it obviously doesn’t depend on “correctness” or “important content”?

We all know this quality when we see it. And we all chase it. And different photos are strong for different reasons, but what is this elusive aliveness that no one can put in a lens review or a guide to composition? I’m only scratching the surface to find an answer for this yet, and I’m still looking for more questions that aren’t “Canon vs Nikon” or “Wide angle vs Normal.” Maybe, “How can I put everything I am into a frame?” or “Who the hell is Elmo Tide?”

Thanks Reuben. Firstly, I think this might be the impossible question. Let’s try it. I have mentioned story telling in other posts. I say if you can tell a good story then your photos are “good”. But that involves multiple frames and editing much like making a feature film. And I think you’re saying, “What makes 1 particular frame really good?” To me that’s almost like saying, “What is art?” Let’s look it up.


1. the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.
“the art of the Renaissance”
synonyms: fine art, artwork
“he studied art”

2. the various branches of creative activity, such as painting, music, literature, and dance.

Ok we have some clues. Look at the first definition. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. We know about beauty so let’s scratch that one off. “Emotional power”. That’s the nectar right there. You touched on it when you said “aliveness”. The viewer is feeling something looking at the photo. Maybe a “good” photo steers them in a particular emotional direction.

This is a list from Wikipedia :

Robert Plutchik’s theory says that the 8 basic emotions are:

  • Fear – Feeling of being afraid, frightened, scared.
  • Anger – Feeling angry. A stronger word for anger is rage.
  • Sadness – Feeling sad. Other words are sorrow, grief.
  • Joy – Feeling happy. Other words are happiness, gladness.
  • Disgust – Feeling something is wrong or nasty.
  • Surprise – Being unprepared for something.
  • Trust – A positive emotion; admiration is stronger; acceptance is weaker.
  • Anticipation – In the sense of looking forward positively to something which is going to happen. Expectation is more neutral.

Looking at this list it is no wonder why joy is favored as such a premium and why bad news dominates every tv channel. People need to get charged up emotionally in either direction.

This makes me think of Robert Frank’s “The Americans”. While 100s or 1000s of photographers have traveled across the country and made books about it, his became one of the most celebrated photo books of all time. And it’s because it had a darkness to it. A sadness. And in the 1950’s that kind of emotional exploration was new and sophisticated.

I don’t know if this is theee answer, but it’s an answer. Emotional content. Maybe if you can shoot something in a strong emotional state, and somehow that emotion transfers over to the viewer, then maybe you have just made a “good” photo.

Second. I don’t know who is Elmo Tide. But what a great example of no social media, no website, just Flickr and epic photos. I feel lucky that he somehow found Hamburger Eyes and decided to submit photos, a few rounds of photos actually. If you are reading this Elmo, we are huge fans and can’t wait to see more.

Nov 01 2018


Photo by Sandy Kim

Photo by Alex Bartsch

Photo by Alex Martinez

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