What makes a beautiful picture?

I recently posted a story on why do I take pictures.

I could have then given the simplest answer: “to take beautiful pictures”.

It is a very valid answer. Actually, it probably applies to all photographers, professional, enthusiasts or amateurs.

But a question requires further thinking: “What makes a beautiful picture?”

I know that beauty is subjective, not absolute.

Margaret Wolfe Hungerford once wrote that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in the Le Petit Prince wrote “One sees clearly only with the heart. What is essential is invisible to the eye.”

I do not think that I have the answer to what makes a beautiful picture… but a thought crossed my mind the other day that I wanted to share here.

Last week in my photography class, our teacher Linda Rutenberg gave us this exercise:

“to take pictures in your familiar surroundings (i.e.: home, workplace, street park nearby) with the following things to consider: horizontal and vertical lines, diagonals, curves, rectangles, triangles, squares, circles, patterns or textures.”

At first I thought the exercise to be very theoretical, mechanical and somewhat artificial. Just another exercise. Right? Well, maybe not!

As I was taking some fresh air in the park downtown by the office, I found all those visual elements that she was asking for.

And I also got my answer to “What makes a beautiful picture?”

These elements, these lines, curves, textures, are all elements that our brain (and Western culture) is programmed to recognize as “beautiful”.

Without knowing it, our brain positively reacts to what it thinks is beautiful. It’s instinctive.

If we train our photographic eye in searching and finding these elements of beauty we can start taking some beautiful pictures.

Like professional sports athletes taking 100 shots at the net during practice, if we photographers train our eye long enough to recognize these “beautiful patterns” through what may appear like theoretical, mechanical and somewhat artificial exercices, then when comes “game time” we can recognize “scoring opportunities” and take that amazing shot (pun intended!).

Thank you Linda.

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7 Responses to What makes a beautiful picture?

  1. linda says:

    Thanks for the credit but you reacted with your head and heart so that is the best way to make beautiful and meaningful photos. The exercise is only a means to the end. Enjoy!

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