The 5 Elements That Can Help You Make Great Photos


Often a great photo relies on a combination of factors coming together to produce the final result. On a few rare occasions, all of these elements present themselves in perfect harmony by chance. However, the majority of the time as a photographer, you have to research, plan, and put a lot of effort into capturing a photograph that has these elements in it.



#1 – The Subject

Arguably the most important element of the photo is the subject itself (i.e. what you are photographing). A great photo can sometimes work if it isn’t technically perfect, but rarely works if the subject isn’t interesting enough to capture the viewer’s attention. You need to train yourself to be able to see those unique opportunities where a subject can offer the basis of a great photo, and then be willing to do whatever it takes to make it the best it can be (within the law). It takes practice, but in time you will begin to immediately see opportunities everywhere.


Keep your eyes open. You never know when interesting stories will present themselves.

#2 – The Composition

A great subject only works as a great photo, if it is composed in order to make the most of what you are seeing. Too much dead space and the subject is lost. Too close and the viewer may miss the surroundings which are imperative to the photo. The key is to take your time, and really think about the composition and how to make the most of the scene. Obviously, there will be times where you may be encounter fleeting moments, to which you need to react quickly – but the more practice you have, the quicker you will become.

Crop your image carefully to ensure in maximises the photograph.

Crop your image carefully to ensure it maximizes the photograph.

#3 – Lighting

Whatever you are photographing, whether that is indoors or outdoors, lighting is key to capturing a great photo. You need to think about how to either utilize the natural light if outdoors, or artificial light if indoors. For example, if you’re using natural light, at different times of the day the light will look completely different and give your photos a different look and feel. But, you also need to consider the direction of the light because, again, that will have a huge impact of how your photo will look. If you are working indoors or in a studio, this may require that you set up lighting, or manipulate the available light using things like reflectors or a flash.

Lighting is an important element in any photograph.

Lighting is an important element in any photograph. Try to capture your outdoor photos at the best time of the day.

#4 – Technical Elements

It is no good having a great subject that is composed well and beautifully lit, but blurred or out of focus. So, to capture great photos, you also need to master the technical elements of photography, such as focusing, depth or field, shutter speed, and so on. This part comes down to learning, and sufficient practice so that it becomes second nature to you. In addition to ensuring your photos are technically correct, it also allows you to have more creative control over the final outcome. For example, using a slower shutter speed to capture movement will give your photo a different look and feel, than freezing the action by using a fast shutter speed.

Mastering the technical elements of photography is a must if you want to capture great photos.

Mastering the technical elements of photography is a must if you want to capture great photos.

#5 – Originality

With photography becoming more and more mainstream, we are all becoming more used to seeing different places and subjects, so to really ‘wow’ people with photos, you need to show them something unique and different to what they have already seen. This could be everything from lighting or composition to actually showing a different perspective of something people have seen before. The key is to not be afraid to take risks with the photo. So, next time you are taking a photo, stop and think about how you can make it look different to what already exists.

Try to make your photos unique. The key is to do your research so you know what already exists.

Try to make your photos unique. The key is to do your research so you know what already exists.

Great photos are not easy to come by, but the great thing about photography is that the more you practice you have and by training yourself in the different aspects above, the better and quicker you will become to seeing and implementing the different elements needed.

Can you think of anything else? Share your tips below.

A local camel handler in Empty Quarter in Liwa Oasis

A local camel handler in Empty Quarter in Liwa Oasis

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Kav Dadfar is a professional travel and landscape photographer based in London. He spent his formative years working as an art director in the world of advertising but loved nothing more than photography and traveling. His images are represented by stock agencies such as 4Corners Images, Robert Harding World Imagery, Getty, Axiom Photographic, and Alamy and they have been used by clients such as Condé Nast, National Geographic, Wanderlust travel magazine, Lonely Planet, American Express, and many others.

  • Nice concept and your idea is really brilliant. I like your instruction. Now i follow this instruction. Thanks

  • Valeria Holmes

    I am getting a salary of 6800 dollars each week. Over a year ago I was in a horrible condition , jobless and no bank credit ..os Thanks to one of my friends who showed me a way where I was able to gather myself and making average of 58 d/h. So it can change your life as it has changed mine. Why not try this.

    Look here for details

  • Kav Dadfar

    No worries. I’m glad you liked the article.

  • Albin

    Good general concepts and some nice illustrations, but #2 bothers: it is a fine composition but the DOF is so shallow the knife is out of focus and the tip cropped. It’s the most dramatic element – I’m a real hater of this current penchant for shallow DOF and “bokeh” at the expense of detail. You’d only crop the tip after selling the knife short in the composition – tell me the knuckle and boring ring deserve priority of focus.

  • carolgreilick

    I see # 2 as a story about a human using a tool. I love it as is, with the weathered and hard working hand. I don’t care so much about the knife. I think the shallow depth of field and particular point of focus work well for the story. That’s the wonderful thing about visual art – there are so many different stories to be told!

  • A C

    Nice overview. Emotion and Moment are missing for me.

  • Luis Garcia

    I would suggest to send the ideas not to email…. I just unscribed from everything int rying to recover my email!

  • Leslie Hoerwinkle

    Take your lens cap off.

Join Our Email Newsletter

Thanks for subscribing!

DPS offers a free weekly newsletter with: 
1. new photography tutorials and tips
2. latest photography assignments
3. photo competitions and prizes

Enter your email below to subscribe.
Get DAILY free tips, news and reviews via our RSS feed