Thinking of photography – What makes an image?

I don’t know how you look at your photography, maybe you are thinking just like me or maybe in a totally different way. Last night when I couldn’t sleep I let my mind wonder away around this question: “What makes an image?”

And thinking of it I came to the following answer. An image is:

• a mix of pixels or grains (I never meant to exclude analog photographers)
• a result of a technical knowledge
• a copy of the reality as it is
• a story about the motive
• or a story about the photographer

What is an image for you? Is it something above or a combination of things above?

Let me rephrase my question: What makes a great image?

Is it the technics, the motive, the photographer or is it a combination of everything above?

Right now much of my work is sketches in which I explores technics, ideas, motives, stories until I through my photography find my story and once I do. I know I get an image.


  1. Ann

    For me it’s the lighting and the story then the technical knowledge. They say that every picture tells a story but sometimes the story is almost non existent. I’ve seen a lot of technically correct photos but they don’t grab me ‘cos they are so boring. Lighting can make or break an image and it can be just as important as the story but the story to me is paramount. A good story can even overcome mediocre lighting. A good story, coupled with good lighting, can transport you into another world, and that’s what I look for and strive for, in toy photography. In any photography.

    • kalexanderson

      For me the light and how a photographer works with the light is a technical aspect, that is important. What the photographer want’s to tell for a story is important I agree. Thanks Ann for sharing.

  2. I have no idea what makes a great photo. Who am I to judge? But if you ask me which images stick with me…which images resonate with me? I have to disagree with your mix of pixels criteria, it negates all the people who still shoot and print from film as well as polaroid style cameras. May you would like to reword that line?

    For me it is a combination of technical skill, compelling story with a large helping of the photographer thrown in for good measure. If I don’t think the photographer has put themselves into the image, then it wont stick for me.

    I wonder if what makes a good image differs for men and women? Are men more concerned about the technical aspects while women are more concerned with an emotional response? What are your thoughts on gender differences? Or when you get to really great photos – you cant discern gender?

    • kalexanderson

      As a viewer you are the filter that judge if a image work or not. As a photographer you judge… so I don’t agree with you there. But maybe we talk about different things here. I don’t know.

      From my point of view I can’t separate a image that sticks with me from the photographer, because my opinion is that the photographer is such a great part of the image, and with the photographer come sex, the stories, the way the portray the motive/or the subject. So when you ask the last question I don’t see that as a question of gender but about the photographer and how it work and what he or she brings to the image. Any photo that sticks with me depends on how the photographer put themselves in the image, but we have totally different opinions in that part.

      Thanks for sharing your opinion.


  3. Phantastically thought provoking: Thanks a lot! While I did not come to a conclusion with the question what makes an image – or even a great image…

    Well, it is not the technique or technology involved, I do not care for that. Technique only comes into focus when a picture self-referentially says, “hey, look, I’m an artifact”, e.g. by exhibiting discernible brush strokes or grain or pixels (which can or cannot be a good thing).

    Be that as it may (there’s room for discussion) – I think a good toy photograph is a photograph that makes me forget what I really am looking at is toys. You and many other toy photographers seem to say something about the human condition, and/or tell a story way beyond the toys at hand. So I forget I am looking at toys. A good toy photograph shows so much more …

    Great toy photography to me seems like just the words we use to write our poems, or novels. That’s why I am so attracted to this genre!

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