Vital Elements Of A Compelling Photograph

It’s not just a photograph, it’s a story.



…photography was a way to strip away the masks that people wore to get to their core beings, the underside of individual existence. — Stanton Peele Ph.D.

Looking at an image of a child whose deep eyes, crinkling at the sides, glow and whose smile radiate amidst the depressing background of a war-stricken community, what does that tell you? Does it inspire sorrow or joy? How did it make you feel? Did you see the despair? Or were you able to catch that tinge of hope embedded somewhere in the child’s innocence?

As an aspiring photographer who wanted to do more out of photography, you wouldn’t settle for just taking snaps of what you find interesting. You would go beyond your comfort zone and challenge yourself to become a more mature photographer by conveying powerful stories through the art of photography.


But capturing an image that manages to express your artistic fervor can be quite tricky if you lack the elements. Though photography requires multitudes of components to make a picture speak for you and admittedly, these components cannot all be present in one photograph, it is still notable to consider that there are five main factors that are able to create a powerful portrait.

Looking back, I discovered that photographing people who are important to me is more challenging than strangers or persons from other cultures. — Leon Pomeroy Ph.D.

The Subject



Photographs can have its travesties and sprinkles of colors. Encompassed by those details, it must have a center – a subject; one that will truly catch not just the eyes of the viewers but also their hearts. They must be able to empathize with whatever the subject is trying to impart. Subjects are those that have the capacity to resonate with anyone; something that can make people utter superlative praises or harbor strong opinions about. Your subject should show character and must put some perspective on the message that you wanted to share to the world.



The Light


It sets the dramatic mood of a particular scene or subject. Light has the ability to illuminate or darken the quality of a photo, bringing emphasis to the key components in a frame and at the same time exhibiting textures and depth through the creation and mixing of shadows and highlights. Light has always been one of the main elements of a compelling photograph for the lack of it or the excessiveness of it may alter or destroy the composition of the entire image.



The Color



Hand in hand with light, color is also a fundamental element for setting the mood of a photograph. It plays significantly in tapping the emotional barriers of a person, providing a more realistic view of what was captured. Colorsare the primary tools used in any kind of photograph for they can make an image manifest emotions of happiness, rage, loneliness, fear, and whatnot. Blue skies can profess tranquility while dark gray skies feign a foreboding calamity.


In a world where an impossible standard of sameness is repeatedly reinforced by the media, Positive Exposure is a reminder to all of us to celebrate the magnificent differences in the human race. — Cathy Malchiodi PhD, LPCC, LPAT, ATR-BC, REAT

The Moment


Probably one of the strongest elements in this list, moments are defined by the action of the subjects. Even if you put a subject in a black and white backdrop, for as long as an interesting phenomenon is taking place, the image would still convey a powerful narrative. Moments can be categorized from its simplicity to its grandeur. It can be as simple as a mother smiling to its weeping child as she manages to wipe away her daughter’s tears or a farmer plowing his field under the scorching heat of the sun. Or it can be as victorious as an athlete crossing the finish line. Or it can be as emotional as helping an unconscious pregnant woman out of the rubble from a collapsed building after an earthquake occurred.


Photography must always trigger the senses. For without impact on the emotions, no matter what emotion it might provoke, an image would just be another image incapable of tangibility and substance.