Lets answer that question first, with what it is not. A photo is not the camera or lens you used to take it. I’ll bet 9 out of 10 readers who see this post, or any other image they like, quickly try to ascertain what camera and lens were used in its capture. I normally provide those things in the caption but here I purposefully omitted that bit of information. Yet, we humans are curious creatures and we like to know those things. Hey I don’t blame you, I’m in that 9 category myself. But let me ask, does it really matter? If I used a Canon 7D, 1DsMkII, or 1DMkII, with a 70-200/2.8 and extension tubes, or my dedicated 180mm macro lens would that elevate or minimize the perceived worth of the current highlighted image? What if I used my Olympus e-pl2 with 14-28mm kit lens? Did that help or hurt your opinion of this photo?
Now that we are passed the gear obsession, lets look at the merits of this photo and see if we can answer the question posed in the title of this post. Photography is about capturing light on a subject so those two things are certainly part of what makes a photo. In the current image, we have some soft, warm, and dappled light (quality/type of light) hitting our subject (a daddy-long-legs spider) which is perched on the beautiful bark of a birch tree (background). The direction of light is from the left (as we face the image), which is evident from the shadows of the peeling bark and this direction of light helps bring out the texture of the bark. A small amount of fill light has been added to the subject to give it a little pop in the dappled light. Sharpness of the subject is critical to the image and without that, this image would be in the trash bin. Since I have chosen to frame the subject tightly (composition), I have a relatively narrow depth of field, but for this type of image that works. There is a pleasing amount of contrast and the neutral colors are warm. So in this photo, as in any photo, the answer to our question can generally be found in some combination of the bolded terms above. All of these characteristics may not be present all the time; but when applied correctly, these things can make the difference between a keeper image or one destined for the trash bin.
Until next time, good light and keep shooting. — KEVIN
Oh, because I know some of you are still curious about the gear I used…this image was handheld, captured with an iPhone 5s.