Can quality in photography be objectively measured?

Are there any standards on how can quality in photography be objectively measured (and art generally not only photography)? I would love to have your comments on this topic. Write your comments down in the comments areas please.

The beauty is in the eye of  the beholder. Is it?

Discipline, design, execution, good command of the technical elements, are these some sort of standards in achieving good and aesthetically pleasant photographs?


Golden tree against blue sky in Porto, Portugal.

Is it there an idea of universal standard of quality in photography? Are there any aesthetic standards to determine “quality” or “inferiority”?


Foggy misty landscape in Madeira, Portugal.

And if it is, who will determine “quality”? And by what standards?

Art is used to make a statement, we all intend to use art to make a statement or transmit a message, to portray, to describe, right? What is your view on this?

And how do we make a statement? Trough what elements? What are the ingredients of a good photograph?

I would love to hear your thoughts, please write your comments below in the “comments” area.


Starry Night, El Teide, Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain.


Glamour / boudoir noir photography, London Studios.



By | 2017-11-08T12:19:58+00:00 October 5th, 2016|beauty, blog, history of photography, Interviews, News|52 Comments

About the Author:

Ion Paciu is a proactive London based freelance professional photographer and a member of The Royal Photographic Society. He specialises in architecture/cityscape and people / portrait photography. Ion Paciu, Photography School Tutor and founder of Photoion Photography, teaches advanced photography topics and specialised photography topics for groups and on one to one photography classes. Subjects and techniques taught on the Photoion Photography School Workshops include: macro, speedlight and studio lighting photography, portrait, food, macro, cityscape, nude, etc.


  1. admin 05/10/2016 at 7:32 pm

    Please place your comments below

  2. ABRUDEAN GHEORGHE PAUL 05/10/2016 at 8:03 pm

    I guess the quality of a photo can be measured by some sort of feeling you are able to transmit to other people, now, or in 5 or 50 years from now, isn’t it?

  3. Graham Jackson 05/10/2016 at 8:11 pm

    Interesting, one can measure quality against technical parameters, Composition, exposure, lighting, sharpness etc. But the photograph must also be measured by how it effects the viewers emotions, the timing of the picture, the story behind the picture, the artistic palette, and the mood created by light and shade, the ‘wow’ factor. These are subjective and can only be measured by human emotions we already expect technical perfection, what makes a great photograph is the artistic and emotional content.

  4. Christine Beckett 05/10/2016 at 8:34 pm

    The article asks us to consider, amongst other things, if it is possible to objectively measure Quality in photography. I believe it’s certainly possible to measure technical qualities such as exposure, sharpness, etc in a photograph. And of course there are “rules” such as composition and balance etc, when it comes to what some perceive as artistic quality. But the latter is certainly subjective; rules aside, what pleases my eye might not please yours. There can be no hard and fast rules.

    As for technical quality… Well, even there, I worry that the pursuit of “objective” levels of technical perfection are bowing to a false god. Some of the best photographs ever taken fail on both technical and artistic grounds.

  5. David Edwards 06/10/2016 at 8:34 am

    Interesting blog post… what is a good photograph? Define quality? Take for example iconic images from the Vietnam war, there are great images that tell a story of a moment in time… they may not be the highest quality, they may not be super sharp and they may not be correctly exposed to the same extent a studio shot might be of the same era based on the conditions the image was taken… However, they exude a quality that can’t be defined as they tell a story and evoke an emotion. Now go to studio shots of the same era… high quality large or medium format images that define a style a fashion… this is where you can measure quality or can you? Can you look at them objectively or by looking at them subjectively does that override the ability to look at them objectively? I look at some modern images taken by some brand based photographers that are highly processed to the point that the shot isn’t what the camera took but how the image was developed in post processing software and it leads me to question the reality and whether that camera is suitable for my purpose. Are these photographers great on social media at developing a following/buzz or are they truly great photographers and I’m not seeing it? Is it all the emperor’s new clothes? Perhaps post processing can in some cases ruin what might have been a good image. I also look at the “new” genre of street photography and feel that some is questionable at best, even that produced by those considered at the top of their game… badly composed, badly cropped etc. Images that are so random that they would have remained on the cutting room floor in the past? As a schoolboy I was taken by an image… and if you said to me that I could have only one original image to keep and put on my wall it would be Ansel Adams’ Half Dome at Yosemite… that is quality and many reading will agree that it has a quality whether they like landscapes or not. Pre-social media only those photographs that were perceived to have a certain quality made it to the viewing public… now because of the internet/media in general we are in image overload and perhaps our senses are dulled by the level of imagery we have to take in… OR are we guilty of following the herd when the herd says… “Ooh that’s a great image” when in reality it is rubbish… but no one wishes to rock the boat. But at the end of the day beauty is in the eye of the beholder and what I’ve written above might be agreed by some and for others it is only for the trash can! For a creative I actually think we live in a great time… I was brought up on wet processing and have embraced digital photography… I look at my past commercial work that was shot on Ektachrome and am pleased that I had the opportunity to learn in that period of time… I look at my digital work for clients and if they are happy that is great… However, I am guilty of putting personal work up that might not be to everyone’s taste… but does it lack quality? Well that’s was the question… is there an answer? Maybe… maybe not…

  6. Danny 06/10/2016 at 9:18 am

    Good morning all.
    I believe this depends on the reason you take a shot.
    If you just want to take a photo for making Art, the parameters dont matter really as long as the result reflects the emotions you want to envisage.
    It s not ideal to stick to parameters without thinking out of the box unless if the cause of the shooting is purely picturing reality.
    Personally i d prefer a more free from rules -shooting.


  7. Ed Wilcock 06/10/2016 at 9:59 am

    This is an interesting subject and will invoke many differing opinions. What David Edwards has posted is very true. I am relatively new to Digital Photography having taken a break for some years after selling my old film camera years ago. I have seen many photographs that are technically brilliant but lack some emotion and heart. I have seen some photos that are technically awful which are very emotive and catch the eye and invite you in. As I have mentioned to Ion, I am always fighting with my artistic side as I am an engineer and everything tends to be symmetrical or linear although I am working hard on this. Subjectivity is always present in subject matter like this but ultimately if you like a photo it is ok. I am also with David Edwards that there are some clumsy and ugly post processing out there. I have been guilty of it myself on my path of discovery. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I’m afraid I fear this is very true.

  8. Haniyah Masowd 06/10/2016 at 10:59 am

    I believe everyone sees things differently a matter of individual preferences howeverthatis not a bad things every angle seen adds to the subject not detract from it, makes way to discussionsand views in another light even if there is disagreement it makes the subject even more interesting the quality of the photo can be measured by the way it draws the audience sometimes it doesn’t have to be perfect for it to make an impact there is no perfect blend for an image to take your breath away sometime a certain situation gives a photographer a gift but if the photographer is not talented he will lose the opportunity and squander it’should beauty. Ithinkthe two go hand in hand.

  9. Mark O'Hare 06/10/2016 at 11:17 am

    I’ll try and keep this short, however the fact I’m telling you that I aim to keep it short means that it will not be short.  , I am one of those “new age” street photographers, or urban photographer types.(sorry David ;) ) For me I like the tools available to enhance and develop not only my photographic skills but also my artistic skills, I always have an end game, to feed the creative beast.

    I post process images a lot, I also make simple rule formulating images also, because I can (are they technically immense, who cares?, creating or chasing perfection will always end in heart ache, instead enhance potential , grow your talent, there has never in the history of photography been the perfect photographer, or the perfect photo, and there never will be, and that’s just simply amazing, there will always be some who finds fault or rejects a photo based on nothing more than personal taste, personal taste is not a competent judge ) .

    Who’s to say the past greats /legends would not kick the utter arse out of photoshop etc, had they had the ability and access. Are my images so over processed that it ruins them, to some possibly, to others no, it a personal thing, a preference almost. I know what I like, and I know what other people like. I can produce images for me, for others, for competition, for my gran, and for wee Betty who lives across the road from me.

    Snobbery along with honesty, is a huge problem in photography, people who bleat on about purism etc, yeah purism is wonderful, but to back myself so tightly into a corner that I would only accept it as a true art form is an injustice to my creative beast., and an injustice to some of the amazing photographic artists world wide, some of the most jaw dropping images I have ever seen are 100% digital manipulation, they are still photographs, as well as art, each image was still made in a camera, with the photographer, utilizing talent, knowledge and having an end game, they used the tools they had to get that end game….

    some of the “purist” photographs I have saw from 50s 60s etc are all also manipulated excessively in the dark room also, dodge burn, etc, I saw an interesting blog on legendary photos of the past, and it showed the dark room proofs, the hand written suggestions, directions etc, almost a before and after, and even though the tools were limited they still under went huge post processing …

    My point being even the purists had an end vision and used what they had available to them to get it, whether that be a crop or a dodge and burn, I am a fan of getting it right in camera, but sometimes it just doesn’t happen for situations beyond your control. Knowing what you are trying to achieve is far more important for me, as I know that something I found difficult 12 months ago is now second nature and easy today, I enjoy the journey as well as the end result.

    Funnily enough I am posting in a wonderful street forum just now, it’s savage, I like that to an extent, but sometimes images up for curation are judged on the curators personal taste and personal perception of reality and “rules” rather than the impact of the image, almost as though what they have learned about street photography is final, and the can only judge on the past, with no vision for the future, forgetting that most importantly an image is about impact first and then you can look at the technical “rules”.

    Show me a human who looks at an image for technical excellence over impact first and I will show you a liar, I have never once done a double take at an image and said Wow, that image is technically wonderful, and look it meets all the rules, so therefore my eye accepts it at amazing, I have however done a double take at an image because the impact has made my hairs stand up, then the more I enjoy it, the more I observe it, I start to notice rules, faults, etc and then learn from it,

    In the street forum I spoke of I have posted some of what I think to be my strongest work for them to be rejected, yet photos I class to be my weakest are being accepted and enjoyed by current members (some of the best current street photographers) , in fact the 2 images that have been accepted this week are easily in MY opinion the worst images I have created, boring flat, impact-less, They are pure though, only sharpening, and crop…. And because they are “pure” the curator has done me and the world of street photography an injustice as it stays in the past, it follows the “rules”…. But hey, it’s their page they are allowed, so for this page I will continue to be unimaginative and instead of taking images that excite me and develop me, and possibly excite other photographers on the page I will stop and say what would Henri Cartier-Bresson do here, what is the rules ;)

    I embrace new technology and new vision, new styles , but most importantly my street and urban work is my taste, what I like, that’s why I am doing it, not for anyone else(unless i chose to post in street forums ;) ), if people like them then wonderful and a bonus, but I am more concerned if I like them, sometimes I even like posting one or two to enjoy the wailing and gnashing of teeth of the purists, I much prefer constructive criticism of my work, it’s easy to say something is shit, its much harder to tell why something is shit. I might not agree, but I enjoy seeing something I created from another person’s eye, after all every day is a school day.

  10. Robert E Smith 06/10/2016 at 7:32 pm

    The technique of photography maybe be compared to a generally upheld ideal and as such, may be measured – visit any camera club to see this tragic process in action.

    Art may not be measured, as it is entirely subjective.

    Where the boundary sits between the two is up to you, for me, photography is, and should be an art form like any other. The sooner we get away from the shackles of ‘sharpness’ and embrace the feeling, the better.

  11. Steve May 07/10/2016 at 12:41 am

    Measuring quality in art. Wow. I dont believe it can be measured objectively. Photography often sets and suffers from basics such as focus and framing judgemental views but even these are not definitive. Monet? Blurred…. Van gogh? Odd light sensitivities… Picasso? Lines filled with unnecessary randomness.. Mondrian? Exaggerated shades..Pollock works if you are in touching distance of a real piece. Art is what you create in your mind and express yourself. But just because you say it is art doesnt mean i will view it as art. Good art and poor art exists, but I prefer the arrogant view ‘if i think it is art, it is, if you dosagree then i dont care’.

  12. David Edwards 07/10/2016 at 8:38 am

    Hi, I’ve just had a look at your work… nice work. And I wouldn’t judge it as “over processed” at all… it is processed. I would also agree that the greats and the legends would use software if they were transported forward to today. The post processing I cannot abide and I’ll be open and frank is the ability to take a person, photograph them and then disfigure them in post in the belief that it looks good – usually model orientated work which is what I was really referring to. That is where quality really suffers as by and large the processing is to mask bad photography skills. You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. I believe in keeping people real. My comments weren’t a slap or dig at street photography… I was shooting it on film 30 odd years ago… and I’d have used post as well if I had it then… but you have to know when to stop.

  13. John Hare 07/10/2016 at 9:26 am

    I think this is a never ending discussion as all art is subjective rather than objective.

    Most of us Photographers strive to produce the “best” images we can but in doing this we focus on the parameters set by whatever school we follow. Ergo improvement by one school maybe considered a retrograde step by another school.

    We can improve our camera handling, gain a better understanding of exposure, hyper focal length, depth of field, even perspective etc but can our results be objectively measured? We can say as individuals the percentage of images I shot, processed and like has increased but once more this is our own subjective assessment. We can enter competitions and measure our success in those but once more these results are subjective as they are judged against a fairly small sample (the other entries) and also the Judge(s) views which in the main once more will be subjective.

    We can take formal qualifications by various Awarding Bodies, these qualifications will in part measure our skills but again are they really objective assessment of quality?

    As Ansel Aams said “There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer”. They will have different subjective opinions.

    Rhein II by Andreas Gursky the most expensive photograph sold was described thus:
    Florence Waters in The Daily Telegraph as a “vibrant, beautiful and memorable – I should say unforgettable – contemporary twist on the romantic landscape” and by journalist Maev Kennedy in The Guardian as “a sludgy image of the grey Rhine under grey skies”.

    I know which description I agree with but of course my opinion is subjective.

  14. Ion Paciu 07/10/2016 at 10:37 am

    Hi Danny, indeed, the purpose of taking a photograph plays a major role, there are no rules for taking good photographs but there are good photographs, that we like and admire, and they all have something in common, it is like a guideline of beauty! Or something like that.

  15. Ion Paciu 07/10/2016 at 10:41 am

    I really enjoyed your comments David, indeed, Robert Capa is a good example, amazing work from many points of view. His bravery was one huge strength which cannot be easily replaced or reproduced. Thanks for your comments. I look forward to more comments.

  16. Ion Paciu 07/10/2016 at 11:00 am

    Thank you Graham, Indeed, these are elements that can be decisive in other people’s eye, and, obviously the large public is in the end the ultimate “judge”, the majority I guess.

  17. Ion Paciu 07/10/2016 at 11:02 am

    Right Paul, time always tells indeed.

  18. Ion Paciu 07/10/2016 at 11:03 am

    Thank you Christine, it indeed a very subjective matter, as Ansel Adams said: there are not rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs!

  19. Ion Paciu 07/10/2016 at 11:06 am

    Excellent comments, I am really happy to see your constructive approach and I will get back to you with my reply to your thoughts.

  20. Ion Paciu 07/10/2016 at 12:59 pm

    Hi John, I completely understand you, it is a subjective matter. The are so many things to take in consideration when looking at a photograph and trying to decide its value. Feelings, technical aspects, wheatear you’re looking at this image with your viewer eyes or your photographer eyes, it is even more difficult to me as an educator and photographer to asses and decide weather a photograph is a extraordinary or just something ordinary. There are 3 images that I liked the most in my life, they mean a lot to me, and people often wonder why do I like these images so much? There is no answer from me, I say: I just like them, that’s it :) They are all 3 here

  21. Alan 07/10/2016 at 2:50 pm

    Like any art photography has certain technical expectations but even these can be broken and some of the most famous and successful photographers in the world have demonstrated that ‘rules’ can be and even should be broken to achieve the desired shot that only the photographer (the artist) knows in their own mind.

    Beauty certainly is in the eye of the beholder. So the answers of yes or no really depend on what the client / commissioner of the photograph wants.

    The ‘rules’ of photography have been laid down according to how the ‘normal’ human brain works and what is considered aesthetically pleasing to the eye. But define ‘normal’ …. thankfully we are all different and therefore appreciate different things.

  22. Emma 07/10/2016 at 3:08 pm

    Absolutely – it can be measured – albeit to an extent.

    There are so many elements that will shape how an individual views an image and technical ability and composition have to play a large role in that. But let’s assume both of those are good.

    My life experiences, my background, my beliefs and my character all have a role to play in determining whether I feel that I connect, empathise or am moved by a particular image, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t appreciate that it is a high quality image which ticks all the boxes in terms of technical ability and can see that for many people it would indeed be beautiful (if not for me).

    I don’t really like any of the images that Ion chose as his top three – I don’t connect with them, but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate some of the qualities within them and therefore understand a little bit about why he might like them.

    Ultimately it depends on what you determine ‘quality’ is. Like all art there is always going to be a level of subjectivity. Everyone will be able to tell you whether they like or dislike a specific image but if you are to become academic about it, you need to take a more realistic or rounded view in order to determine whether with all the different elements considered it is worth of that label.

  23. Cathy 07/10/2016 at 3:11 pm

    There are many photographs that I consider to be quality photographs … Quality of light, colour, form and texture … But they don’t necessarily touch my heart or express the human spirit to me … There are many photos I’ve seen that communicate to me much better even though their ‘quality’ may be poor … But in the end I think it’s the photos that manage to communicate important messages of heart and soul and beauty through light and compositional meaning that move me the most

  24. Hanaa Turkistani 07/10/2016 at 3:43 pm

    This is breathtaking photo
    And I’m so lucky that i booked once with
    An amazing photographer and trainer ion

  25. Shelley 07/10/2016 at 3:52 pm

    What is photography? Capturing… the essence of a moment, the experience etched in a face, a person’s soul, a reflection of a character trait, true nature, or art. It is whatever the person you are asking believes it to be.

    A photograph can be beautiful to one person and ugly to another. Interesting and captive to one and boring and uninteresting to another. When someone looks at photograph it will bring about feelings that pertain to them….it’s all subjective.

    However, if you set standards and benchmarks, criteria if you will, then of course it can then become objective – but truly who is to say what is quality and what isn’t when you are dealing with what to a lot of photographers comes intuitively or is simply their own art.

    Some of the greatest photographers in history break the rules of what is deemed as quality photography. Julia Margaret’s Cameron (1815-1879) for example was deemed by her peers as unprofessional, making mistakes using unconventional methods and yet in experimenting with the wet process she was responsible for the ‘soft focus’ look that we all know, love and use today. She strove to capture beauty – it didn’t matter to her whether others deemed this as quality photography or not, to her it was art that she took up unconventionally late in life because she loved it.

    Another example – Cecil Beaton (1904-1980) he wasn’t considered a highly skilled technical photographer and yet because he focused on staging a compelling scene or model and got the perfect shutter moment he produced some of the world’a most lived images – Queen Elizabeth on her coronation, Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffanys, Marilyn Monroe and the Queen Mother were among his many famous subjects.

    If we were to base a photograph’s standard on what one body or group seems to be quality we would be truly excluding the artisanal nature of photography. There are guidelines to what makes a goo photograph, sure and when using equipment, guidelines to getting the most from that equipment but truly who is to say what the quality of art should or should not be.

    Steve McCurry’s Afghan Girl that features on the cover of National Geographic at the height of the Afghan War in 1984 totally captured thre world and yet it was merely a snapshot. How is this less of an image than one that is contrived – set up and where the photographer waits for hours for the scene to be ‘just right’.

    The truth is, it isn’t. You may hold the view that quality photography is only achieved through certain methods and practices and whilst this is indeed true in part, quality photography is subjective – it is as the eyes viewing it, see it. You can apply objectivity by way of quality standards but it is then no longer art, merely industry standards and a profession, a job. The quality in photography comes from the photographer themselves – the way their eyes see and how they feel, their intuition, their creation – that can be in a fleeting second or in hours of setting up before – there is no right or wrong – it simply is.

    So can quality in photography be objective?

  26. Louise hamilton 07/10/2016 at 4:17 pm

    To objectively judge a photograph would be to remove personal feeling or opinions in relation to the work, whilst I think this is possible if you use the parameters of the ‘rules of photography’; composition, lighting, sharpness etc. but to objectivity in this case misses the role of photography as expressionist art. A photograph can tell a thousand words, the boy in the ambulance being a recent example, it moved people in a way other mediums failed. So yes we can indeed objectively judge a photograph but why would we?

  27. Alkis 07/10/2016 at 5:23 pm

    That is a very interesting topic, a good question! Is there an answer to it… well here is no right or wrong to be honest! Photography is Art and I don’t think one or a group of people have sufficient power and knowledge to be able to determine the quality of a photo. From technical point of you in terms of sharpness, light and etc then yes, but the art is made by the photographer and every photographer is different and that is the beauty of it! Ten people can take an image of the same subject and I am pretty sure there will be 10 different photos purely because the Artist-Photographer sees the beauty for their own eyes. Photography is not like a factory that uses machines to generate the same products, it is something unique! A moment in person’a life, a memory, an iconic building, a milestone in history so can we actually measure the quality of those things… certainly not! If we try to determine the quality would be like judging the person that took the photo and that would definitely will come under measuring the personality and individuality and since every person is different the results would be chaotic and I believe the same applies for the Art of Photography. If I was to measure the quality of a painting, I would be judging the painter and the image without knowing what he/she was thinking during the creation and certainly lacking of knowledge to do so in general. Feedback can be provided but again that will be different from every person, but quality… I don’t believe so and if there was or will be a way to do it in the future that would be really bad! Quality can create barriers, which they are good in sports, I personally do movement and there is quality there as that results in to a good and smooth flow, but Art is more open to interpretation and that what creates brilliant images! Quality creates a solid piece of approved “something”… Photos are more than something, they can be anything and everything to me, you, the artist, the model…

    I would like to believe and that is my personal view that quality cannot be measured and Photography should be left open to everyone eyes and mind!

  28. Lauren 07/10/2016 at 6:42 pm

    I think this is a complicated discussion. I am a complete beginner in photography and am not sure i can construct a worthy comment for this discussion but i agreed with the much mentioned statement- beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I have taken pictures that i haven’t liked or been unsure about and someone else has liked it.
    Technically i think photography can be measured as i have only begun to learn about lighting, aperture, exposure etc but i don’t believe artistry can be measured. Certain pictures can bring different memories and feelings around for different people and everyone likes different things.

  29. Paul Baxter 07/10/2016 at 7:01 pm

    I’m a bit old hat with this my view is ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ I believe this applies equally to photography, art and fashion. To be fair anything we perceive we judge, we assess. So, what I say is, if it does it for you then why not? Now, technically? Always challenge, try new things otherwise you just churn out what everyone else is doing and above all, bin photoshop, the skill is in taking the shot you see!

  30. Jackie Dowden 07/10/2016 at 9:47 pm

    The first thing you learn in the creative world is ‘rules are meant to be broken’ if they weren’t we would not have the inspirations handed down to us by the phenomenal artists that have paved the way. It’s like building a house and then creating a home. There are guidelines so we don’t infringe on people’s liberties but the decor and taste is homage to what makes us all unique. Rules – meh.
    I like creating something that makes me feel good and others enjoy and I hope to improve so I can feel even better about it

  31. Ion Paciu 07/10/2016 at 11:06 pm

    Thank you all for constructive and comments, I will take some time and study them in depth and put together reply, have a great weekend!

  32. Mark Bentley 08/10/2016 at 8:41 am

    Hmmmm objectively measured, quite simply no it cannot in my book, we all like different things and have different ideas even in photography, I must point out I am not a technical mastermind in my hobby, when I look at an image it simply boils down to the fact do I like it yes or no, it is all too easy to criticise an image for exposure/ DoF or sharpness, without thinking about who took the shot – what their abillities or even dissabilities are possibly mental or physical and the fact that they took the shot is a fantastic achievement anyway and worthy of praise irrespective of if it followed the rules – afterall rules are made to be broken , some of the most iconic shots taken never followed the rules, stick a purist in a firefight and I guarantee they will not worry about composition. Is it just a case of taking photo’s for yourself ? And if others like them all well and good if not then ………… do I care ? unless you are a pro shooting for a client or entering a competition then you are going to follow rules in which case you could end up taking photos to please others that you do not like yourself.

  33. Aslı Yılmaz 08/10/2016 at 10:45 am

    Great discussion. In my opinion yes photography should follow some rules in the means of art and sensation. With rules, the photo seems automaticly much more impressive. This doesnt mean that we are not free. Yes while showing our feelings we can be more selective more effective. I cant use the word judge or best photo because everybody is giving his best effort to do that but more effective ones have some more proportions, techniques which makes the photo selective. Wish nice weekend to all…

  34. Lisa 08/10/2016 at 11:00 am

    Interesting!! I am a great believer that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I’m no where near being a professional photographer & it is purely a hobby but I take great pride in what I do, I take pictures of places/people/items regularly and love to hear people’s feedback. Some images I have taken are not to others taste but as long as I’m happy with it and the feedback can better me then I’m not fussed on opinions. We all do things differently, I was once told whilst doing an art course that I was drawing the wrong way because the tutor didn’t like my “out side the box” thinking/drawing….you can’t teach someone to do what you do or the world would be the same, we all do it differently and that’s what makes us different and stand out from the crowd !!

  35. Rose Atkinson 08/10/2016 at 11:08 am

    Whether it’s best of breed at Crufts, a Saville Row suit, an Olympic gymnastic competition, or a fine art photographic exhibition, we define and apply standards when judging quality. But humans cannot help but be subjective so quality is always in the eye of the beholder. And it’s always relative. So what is deemed ‘high quality’ one day, may not cut it on the next occasion when judged against different competition. Quality moves on. And… there’s always the rogue, the maverick, who breaks all the rules…

  36. Dorothy Clarke 08/10/2016 at 11:16 am

    Well for me personally if you are looking at the technical side of a photograph like sharpness, ligtning then maybe but going on the photograph alone then how can you measure anything. A photograph is taken by someone who is seeing the world through their eyes and we all see something different. Some will see the more obscure side of life and some not so much. So for me you can’t really measure how photographers visualise the world through their camera. It’s just how they see and express their world and as long as they are happy with the results it’s a good photograph. There are no rules unless you are maybe entering competitions you would have to have the correct objectives but overall anything goes as long as you are happy with it.

  37. Raymond Bridges 08/10/2016 at 12:43 pm

    Photography is, by it’s very nature, like all forms of art, subjective. Quality cannot be measured in a scientific way, but only by the emotional response we have to it. A photograph may be of high technical quality, but if it does not invoke an emotional response it can be no more than a technical exercise. A picture of poor technical quality can still invoke that emotional response, for example Robert Capa’s pictures of the D-Day landings and are still great photographs. In most cases technical quality is a secondary consideration, although still fairly important in some genres of photography.

  38. Christopher Russell 08/10/2016 at 1:10 pm

    The objective measurements include the technical aspects of photography and art referred to by professionals and professional associations. It also includes passionate consumers expectations in what they seek in photography and works of art.In addition the impact photography and art have on people generally.

  39. Dolores Mateo 08/10/2016 at 4:45 pm

    This is a challenging matter because art in any form cannot be rated in purely objective terms. There is a definition of technical quality in terms of sharpness, focus, composition rules, etc. But quality in photography is also the ability to capture a story in a still image without having to explain it with words and playing with the light to create beauty. This sometimes require breaking those rules of “quality” and play with the light in a way that perfect exposure can be different from correct exposure. I think the concept of quality in art is also influenced by trends, eras and fashion. There are big classics in the history of photography but some of the images that we produce now might not have been acceptable in the context of 50 years ago and vice versa.

    For me a high quality photograph is the one that can catches my eye and transmits a feeling without words.

  40. Chad McGregor 08/10/2016 at 9:00 pm

    Like all art photography is a personal choice, either as the photographer we all have our own style and enjoy our personal challenges to getting a great photo in our own eyes, along with looking at someone’s photos we either like it or not this again is choice we are all individual and have our own ideas in what we see in a photo. Personally I am only into wildlife photography this is my choice on how I wish to spend my time challenging myself to get the photos I enjoy taking, it may not be to other people’s style of appreciation but for me it’s what I enjoy and what I want to achieve, style is a choice for everyone love it or hate it, either way enjoy your personal style but always remember their are some great photographers out there, learning from others is what life is about, Ion has a great style of teaching for me personally I like the way he teaches it works for me. Most important is photography is supposed to be enjoyable so enjoy it.

  41. Helena Polackova 09/10/2016 at 11:31 am

    For me personally the technical quality of the photo is important. A well technically captured and processed photograph, its sharpness, exposure and DoF and composition would initially catch my eye and I would appreciate this quality objectively. However, to leave a lasting impact on me, an emotional, subjective quality of the photo will always prevail. In my opinion, a good photo has to influence a viewer in an emotional way, otherwise it is only a technical exercise, albeit perfectly executed. To be influential, a photograph should tell a story, it should draw a viewer in. A landscape photo should transport me to the place, it should evoke a desire in me to visit this place. A product photo should suggest that I really need to buy this item. Good food photography makes my mouth water and an excellent portrait should raise questions about the person and make me feel that I need to know their story. I came across my first most influential photograph when I was about 10 years old. It had the most profound effect on me and introduced me and attracted me to photography. It told a deep personal story. The photo was Steve McCurry’s Afghan Girl.
    Having said that, if this photo was not technically brilliant, it would probably lose some of its impact. So really, I think both technical and emotional aspects of good photographs are closely connected and both contribute to an overall excellence.

  42. Martin Hawkes 09/10/2016 at 8:01 pm

    In a word, no. A technically perfect image can be very uninspiring whereas one which breaks all the ‘rules’ can be the opposite. The combination of an otherwise unremarkable series of images can tell a story or make a statement. Like Capra’s allegedly fake fallen soldier, it gave the viewer a visceral sense of the horror of war, creates emotion in the viewer and therefore has merit, in my humble opinion. As a society we are, I think, hung up on measuring and competing. Surely if an image stimulates the imagination or gives pleasure, that is enough. The technical elements can be analysed ad nauseum by experts in the field but what purpose does it serve? If I’m looking at images, I’m certainly not going to consult an expert before deciding if I like it.

  43. Juliana Matsubara 09/10/2016 at 10:51 pm

    Technically you can measure a good quality photograph, however when it comes to a more subjective approach, I often wonder if there is a “universal beauty”, some kind of standard pattern that make everybody say “wow”, like when we see a natural landscape. But the concept of beauty changes from time to time and from natural to unnatural, a city skyline can be considered a beautiful view, maybe not for all people. My guess would be that there is a universal beauty but there is also a specific type of beauty, that only enlighten a few people, like abstract art or surrealism. It’s like when you love someone vs a fashion model, considered a universal beauty.

  44. Andy 10/10/2016 at 9:01 pm

    To me a photograph is a composition like a piece of music, a book, a painting even a bottle of wine! With all compositions there are basic elements that have to be learnt. These are not rules but generally accepted techniques that once learn and applied usually result in a “better” composition. To an extent these techniques can be “measured” or at least the application of them can be assessed but that is only part of the story. The composer will have an result in mind that they want to achieve and will apply the techniques (or not) throughout the creative process. The resulting composition will undoubtedly be pleasing to some and less so to others and we should accept that it is a personal preference and not try and measure it or declare it a poor composition as “the rule of thirds was broken”.

  45. Joanna 11/10/2016 at 3:25 pm

    Obviously we can set standards on quality in photography and even measure them, but the question is – ‘should we’?
    If Pablo Picasso had followed the painting standards of his times, he would never had transformed the look of modern art.
    Quality standards are useful or even necessary in commercial photography, but not so much in art. Most of creative geniuses in history went beyond rules. If you follow standards, you are just a follower and can only create a copy of something what already exists.

  46. Roy Hornyak 13/10/2016 at 9:14 am

    Having read this well put together Blog, it seems to me that to answer all of your questions would be to write a blog of my own, but here goes.

    I do believe that there are standards in art that are measurable, even if only by the artist him/herself. This has to be whether or not the artist can convey the thought and feeling for the scene. For example, I recently did a seaside shot, that people said they could almost smell the sea just looking at the photograph, this in my opinion means in that one shot, I was able to convey a measurable standard. Beauty in the eye? I really think it goes much deeper than that. If the beauty of a piece of art is just in the eye, then people would not spend millions on it. Beauty has to grip you in the chest, just like the first time you realised you were in love. Anyone can create a photo that people look at and say wow nice pic mate,and 10 minutes later they have forgotten they ever saw it, but the right photo will cause you to return to it time after time, and that’s the reason people buy art, just so they can be close to it.

    Aesthetically pleasant photographs. I use Facebook all the time, and I see lots of photo’s that have been banged out on mobile phones. Their was no technical thought put into these pics, but how many times have I thought NICE SHOT! Even though in most cases they are way way off of straight, and half the head is missing, lol. I think that photography has to be split into two groups in modern times. The serious amateur/ Professional photographer, and the selfie phone user, both can create pleasing images, but one will be aiming to achieve a certain result, the other will just want to look good. So in a nutshell, if a photographer wants to create a certain kind of image, then the technical side of photography is needed to complete that.

    As for standards in photography. I would have to say it’s all about DOF, get that wrong and no matter what the subject, it’s heading for the bin, there is of course, other constraints too, such as a working knowledge of the exposure triangle, but if you have that, then DOF is for me the most important thing.

    When I am looking at a potential shot, my mind is set on relaying the beauty that I am lucky enough to see. I am lucky enough to live by the sea, and many are not, so I am always trying to let others know, what else besides what they have, is out there. Even a messy area can have some beauty about it, we are the artists not the camera, we tell the camera what to see, and how to see it, and we are the ones who process our images and say wow before anyone else has any idea that a new photograph is born.

    I believe that to be a good photograph, it first has to wow the photographer, we see so many that we look at and just say “ehhhh, nope”, so when that good one jumps off the screen at you, you know, but what is it that makes that happen. Well for me, it’s sharp lines, and striking colours. I need to be able to reach out and hold that image, I need it to be real, warm and physical. If a photograph has that, then you’ve got it.

  47. Andrew Thompson 13/10/2016 at 1:28 pm

    I believe that Mastery of any art form is a blend of technique and inspiration. If you try to measure quality in any art form based on technical prowess alone, you are going to run into a dead end. It is possible to make a beautiful work of art with little to no skill. In music, imagine a simple folk melody played or sung over a constant drone. This can be hauntingly expressive and a high quality work of art. For me, this is similar to pointing and shooting. It is possible with the right subject, to get a stunning photo with little skill.

    As with any art form though, if your skill set doesn’t go beyond writing melody with rudimentary accompaniment, or shooting on Auto or painting abstracts without any training in draftsmanship, then it’s going to get a bit samey, so whilst you might be capable of creating a great work of art, it would be hard to regard you as a great artist.

    That’s probably why Picasso is often cited as one of the greats. He was a phenomenal draftsman with a traditional skill set to rival his forbears working in the Neo-Classical style but without the inspiration to boldly develop so many different styles, he would have been another postcard artist.

    Bach is similar. At music A’ Level, everyone studies Bach’s Chorales and they learn how to harmonise according to his rules. Bach is possibly the most Mathematical composer and it takes a good deal of study to understand his rules. Of course, he was such a master that he was able to break them and it is in these moments of inspiration that he reveals his soul and his genius.

    It comes back to the old adage that you must learn the rules before you can learn how to break them. I lament the state of arts education that the science of these subjects seems to be being diluted in favour of incorporating them into social history. We should learn to be artisans before becoming artists.

  48. Simon Ling 14/10/2016 at 12:23 am

    For me photography is highly personal. I love to capturing that moment no one else sees. As a amateur photographer I crave acceptance of my work and will garner opinions from my peers. But at the end of the day there is no right or wrong answer. Just take pictures and be happy What is photography, it is open to enteriptation and always challenge. Looking to learn more try one Ion fantastic courses.

  49. Andy Walker 17/10/2016 at 4:03 pm

    I have thought long and hard about the question and have, in the end, found myself agreeing totally with Graham’s comment and cannot add to it in any meaningful way.

    With regard to Ion’s response I would just like to say that he has more faith in the majority of the population than I do, especially after certain recent votes lol.

    I think it must come down to the individual as to ‘how good’ any particular picture is no matter how technically proficient it is,and, no doubt, a person’s favourite picture may change on a day to day basis, what I love today I may not even give a second glance to next week.

  50. Nirish Shakya 17/10/2016 at 9:31 pm

    Photography is a form of art. To objectively measure the quality of art requires dissecting it into its building blocks. Scott McCloud, who in his revolutionary ‘art’ book ‘Understanding Comics’, lays out the six elements of art which he believes any artists goes through, knowingly or unknowingly, in the process of creating art. I believe the quality of the art can be measured by the level of deliberation the artist puts into each element of his art. Although it is possible to get one or more of these elements right with a bit of fluke, the deliberation can only come consistently from the mastery of those elements.

    The six elements McCloud lists (in the order of difficulty of mastery) are:

    6. Surface
    5. Craft
    4. Structure
    3. Idiom
    2. Form
    1. Idea

    6. Surface
    “Production values, finishing… the aspects most apparent on the first superficial exposure to the work”

    This is the shiny surface and what most people notice first in any piece of art. This is where most photographers also start – by learning to make their photographs look ‘shiny’ and eye-catching. Think of most Instragrammers and Facebookers – all they care about is picking a filter to make their photographs stand out.

    5. Craft
    “Constructing the work, applying skills, practical knowledge, invention and problem-solving”

    Beyond the shiny surface lies the craft or the technical skills involved in creating the photography. This includes learning the tools of the trade – the camera, editing software, etc. This is where the casual snapper starts becoming more serious about the art of photography.

    4. Structure
    “Putting it all together… what to include, what to leave out… how to arrange, how to compose the work”

    After mastering the craft, the photographer would then learn to tell a story through composition, lighting and the craft. Is the photographer able to show the viewer what she/he wants to show?

    3. Idiom
    “The ‘school’ of art, the vocabulary of styles or gestures or subject matter, the genre that the work belongs to… maybe a genre of its own.”

    This is where the photographer introduces style and language into the photograph. Helmut Newton’s photos of people speak a completely different language to those of Henri Cartier-Bresson which are also different to Brandon Stanton’s.

    2. Form
    “The form it will take… will it be a book? A chalk drawing? A chair? A song? A sculpture? A comic book?”

    This I believe is picking picking the right form to tell your story – digital / film / format / prints / dimensions / platforms, etc.

    1. Idea/Purpose
    “The impulses, the ideas, the emotions, the philosophies, the purposes of the work… the work’s ‘content’.”

    This is probably the most difficult one to master and create. Anyone can pick up a camera and snap a bunch of random images, but very few can answer the ‘why?’ behind those images. What is the higher purpose, as a photographer, of the photo he/she took?

    I believe these elements can be used as a framework to objectively (but not perfectly) measure the quality of a photograph. Every photograph lies somewhere on this 6-point scale spectrum of quality.

    If I had to objectively measure my current quality as a photographer and those of my photographs from the above scale of 6 to 1 with 1 being the highest, I would say 4.5. :)

  51. berrin 24/10/2016 at 12:08 pm

    When i look at a photo if i can feel the emotion i describe it as a ‘good photo’. Sometimes technically perfect shoots can be so ordinary from my point of view… Of course the noise, shutter speed etc important but these elements can be fixed if i really need to do it. For me first step is to find a nice light and background as much as possible , second step is to enjoy the moment…

  52. Steve Jackson 10/01/2017 at 12:26 am

    All I can add to the lengthy debate above which has covered all the merits of technical, compositional and artistic value is that I see a photo and I have a range of responses.
    Wow love it ! ( wouldn’t change a thing )
    That’s very Good
    Like it
    That’s alright
    Oh dear
    and all the latter barring indifference could have a BUT however, meaning I can see what would improve it for me and/or that something still pleased/interested me enough to look more closely.

    I am frequently gobsmacked at the popularity of certain images and bemused at the lack of response to others, including my own work. There is no quantifiable way to specify good or bad photography. If it pleases you or as said frequently above evokes a reaction then it’s got merit. There are however certain iconic images that reach beyond others and all for varying reasons but essentially create a mass emotive response that can’t be ignored.

    Also…. how many of us bought a music album that had tracks we didn’t like on the first few plays but over time seeped into our souls and became firm favourites along the way ? A photo often doesn’t get beyond a quick first glance so it has to have something special to hold our attention. I flick through thousands of online thumbnails daily and from those I’ll be surprised if any more than 1 or 2% entice me to open and look further.

    The digital world we live in makes it even harder to stand out as we are bombarded with visuals constantly and the advent of cameras on phones and tablets can result in someone who has no real photographic understanding producing that one exceptional photo that goes viral. Who’d be a photographer ? :0)

Leave A Comment