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things that make a good picture

Updated on July 30, 2010

What is it that makes a really good picture? From photography to painting, there are those that look good and those that look amazing! But what is it exactly that makes the difference, and how can we make pictures that inspire the same level of awe?

It is a combination of things, and don't get me wrong art is art and sometimes the most unlikely subjects can be the most beautiful or using the wrong technique can accidentally become the best decision that could have been made! We look for things that make us say WOW! It could be that there are so many bright colours, or the right colours, it could be the interesting subject or unusual focal point. It could also be about finding that perfect angle to show the subject off and it could even be about capturing the feeling and atmosphere of the moment portrayed.

So lets have a look at what makes good pictures, maybe we can learn something and apply it to our own hobbies of art or photography! Feel free to add any comments as to what you personally like to see in a painting or photograph as I'm sure I'll never manage to cover everything!

Colour & Subject?
Colour & Subject?
Angle & Atmosphere?
Angle & Atmosphere?
Focal points & Arrangement?
Focal points & Arrangement?


Colour can be used to set a theme or mood, or to create an impact. Blues, greens and purples are cold colours so can add a chilly feeling to a scene, or a sad or lonely mood. Reds, yellows and oranges on the other hand are warm so imply passion and comfort.

I like the idea behind 'mood boards', where a collage is made using various shades of the similar colours to invoke a particular mood when looked at. This can be done to a certain degree by choosing the colours for your painting well, or by compiling the right colours in a photo.

Sometimes though, too much of one colour can be overpowering. If you wish your viewers to focus on a subject or feature it must stand out from the rest, which is usually done by showing it against a different background or texture. You need contrast. There is a rule used by photographers called the 'rule of thirds' which as well as applying to positioning of features, can also help with separating colours to be easier on the eye. For example taking a photo of a plain blue sky with blue sea can be a bit overpowering, or accidentally invoke a sad feeling! Taking the same photo but including the cream sand and white clouds in the sky warms the overall feeling and allows the eye to make sense of the features.


The angle at which you view your subject can change many aspects of the finished picture. It can change how you feel, determine how interesting the picture is or bring in other focal points. A picture looking upward from the ground can instill a sense of wonder, like a child looks up at everything with awe, changing the angle can turn a boring or common subject into something unusual thats worth looking at. By including other features you can bring a sense of depth to a picture, for instance a sunset that is nice in itself can still be a little boring but if you include a feature such as a siluette or birds you can create a whole new interest.

Thinking about angles, there are many ways in which the background can emphasise a feature or become a feature in itself. Leading lines for example are objects or patterns like roads or fences that direct your gaze toward the subject. The same road or fence could also become the subject if angled correctly.


The compilation of a picture is a mixture of getting the right balance of colours, the best angle and a good arrangement of features. Again the rule of thirds plays a big part on most pictures in reference to where the subject is placed but isn't always a hard and fast rule! I think as you develop a good eye for art, you get to know instinctively when to break the rules.


Unless you are looking at a picture of a inanimate object such as a bowl of fruit, it is much nicer to see a picture that portrays the feeling of movement of your subject. It could be the movement of the wheat in a field in the wind, or a horse running instead of standing still.

These are the kind of images that jump out and draw you in, you can almost smell autumn on the breeze and feel it, or hear the thunder of the horses hooves on the earth and the snort of its nostrils.

Hopefully I've set a few ideas into place for your own project, photos and paintings! I'd love to hear of any other things you find is important in making a good picture as would everyone else who reads this Hub so do post a comment!


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