What makes the difference between a wonderful photographic image and a snapshot? This is the Big Question of photography. It almost seems akin to asking where infinity ends, whether or not there is a God, and why do so many socks come out of the dryer as singles?
And yet there are some simple parameters.
Does the image make an impact?
Does it tell a story?
Is the eye drawn to the focal point, and not to distracting elements?
Is the photograph technically proficient - correctly exposed, elements that should be in focus are in focus, free of dust spots?
Beyond that, there is much room for subjectivity. I learn about what constitutes excellence by taking classes, by looking at lots of images, by taking many photographs and by accepting opportunities for critique. It's clear to me that some images work well, and others simply . . . don't. The problems aren't always clear. And my opinions are strictly my own.
Case in point would be the two photos below. I debated which to submit for the travel element of my camera club's recent competition. The only difference, you'll see, is that one includes a car speeding away, and the other does not.
The judge's evaluation was that with one small difference, he would have given the photo I submitted the highest possible score. Instead, he reduced my score because of what he considered a weakness. Can you guess which picture he liked and which he didn't?
It was frustrating, because of course I had exactly the photo he said would earned a top score. We simply disagreed about what was truly best.
And that is both the joy and the challenge of photography.