The Trouble With Taking Good Photos

Taking a good photo is difficult.

The hardest part is you almost cannot do it on purpose. You just have to be in the right time and place, at the ready.

Who says a shot is good anyway?

The first person whose opinion you should seek is your own. Listening to others can be valuable but also confusing if you don’t take your own stance. Haven’t you often had compliments on photos you almost threw away, while other shots you’re proud of linger in anonymity?

I believe the creator should judge their own work. If they aren’t creating according to their own taste, how can they know what they’re doing? If they don’t have an opinion about what’s good, why are they doing it? Are they creating at all? Sure, it’s hard be one’s own critic, but seeing our work honestly is an important ability. Long story shourt, for our purposes, let’s just say a good shot is something we’re proud to put out there.


I think this is the least important difficulty with taking a good photo. Some poeple seem to niggle over this aspect, but it’s no suprise I don’t really like their photos.

A shot can be great for so many things besides technicalities. In fact what makes a shot technically good is different depending on what the photographer wants to acheive.

It makes it easier to start with capable equipment you know how to use, and a familiarity with the time-tested ‘rules’ of photography (what people are used to seeing, and which you can break whenever you want but which are good to know in the first place).

I confess to not being sure about what makes a shot technically good.


Let’s jump from the least important difficulty in making that shot to the most important, and most difficult problem. Capturing or creating meaning, and communicating it.

Plenty of people like photos with little meaning. Lots of good photos are just celebrations of the world we live in, and that’s great (most of my flikr are these). Most of the time we are just capturing second hand versions of life and pretending it’s somehow better, because, look, it’s art. What does it mean? That’s the hardest question.

The reason you take a shot becomes meaning when you share it. If done well, the photo frames and amplifies a meaning people wouldn’t normally arrive at on their own.

The best photos no doubt affect those who see them. They instigate a thought, a feeling. And that thought connects the photo and the viewer. so the photo becomes a part of them. That right there is THE most difficult thing about a taking good photo.

Sometimes I feel that I take tens or hundreds of photos every day just so one day I can take one photo that means something.

This photo means a lot to me, but almost nothing to someone else. I have never taken a photo I think someone else _should_ see for their own sake.

Interesting photos are difficult too.

If a photo isn’t particularly meaningful, it should at least be interesting. This is also hard. Interesting photos show something people don’t often see, or something common in an uncommon way.

I like urban explorer photos of abandoned buildings and hard to access places – that are often all around us in the city, but closed off and forgotten.

I like street photography that presses pause on life, taking one moment as an eternity and seeming to make some kind of statement of the infinate value of everything.

If I can take one interesting photo in a week, I’m happy.

I like to think I’m getting better at taking interesting photos. My reliance on post-processing to bring out effect belies this a little.


Photo February

My interest in photos exploded this month. Why now, and not before? Perhaps it’s a kind of mid-life crisis, or a dissatisfaction with my other hobbies and professional efforts.

I have some thoughts forming on photography – I prematurely published some earlier. It’s just me exploring why I like photos, taking them, and what I want to achieve by doing that.

For now though here are some photos I’m proud of. I post some on 500px in the hope that they’ll sell, and others on flickr.

Many people seemed to like this one, although it’s not my favourite.

late night train

Some “happy snappys” – my way to describe photos taken with little effort, giving questionable technical results, but are somehow nice to look at.

It’s my mother and niece 🙂

Dusky pizza

Light Pole on a Blue Sky

Grass frond in the sun

Rear View


Top Photos of 2014

Today was a good year for creative expression all around, and these photos aren’t any exceptions!

I’m also an avid instagrammer… these are my favourites from the year. If you’d like to see more, follow alidark3000. Some of these are SLR shots with a load of post-processing… some are straight iphone snaps. Some are good quality, some aren’t… but they each warrant a place for some reason.

Wandering Earl (2011)

Earl travels the world and writes all about it on his blog – which was chosen as one of the 25 best in the world by Time in 2012. I’d like to think I had something to do with that!

Earl approached me with his idea for the site, which I built, tweaking the design as I went. Although Wandering Earl doesn’t really look like it was designed this year, it’s still working well for Earl who earns a large part of his income from the site.

Working with Earl was a real pleasure, it was great to receive his positive comments which you can read for yourself on his blog.

Singularity Bot

This piece is available to print via my Deviant Art page.

In the future when robots become conscious – or are they already but waiting for the day they know they’ll win a fight?

It started with an idea. Here’s an initial sketch of that idea…


Pretty freaking terrible. I know. My sketches are almost never not fugly.

The first graphic version was promising though. I liked my robot. The environment had great contrast and there was an intriguing story burgeoning just under the pixels. I wanted to bring that out with visuals.

bad habit-1

Getting carried away, I made a bit of a mess of things… as invariably happens. I took a short break and then looked at it with fresh eyes. It needed to be tamed. Colour and light was everywhere.

bad habit

So I looked for the essence of the image and amplified only that. I love my Singularity bot.

bad habit



This is an illustration I have been working on as a gift for my two nieces, Frankie and Jules. The idea is that they will get the same scene with different lighting.

It was hard picking a final way to light this image. The colours and contrast has been altered using post-processing in Affinity Designer (for mac). I’m pretty happy with the result but no doubt there will be changes.

I have attempted to create a fantastic while realistic lighting for the scene creating transparent layers between objects to create a misty distance between them. The rays of light also fall amongst these layers and the objects to add depth (hopefully).

Note the giant bacteria floating around the forest. All Ghibli inspired, their incidental critters are great.

All in all an enjoyable way to pick up some new design software skills. Affinity Designer for Mac rocks.

Lighting tests (and early versions) …

The finalish image…