Why does that image look so good?

We really are inundated with amazing image, after amazing image, on our Facebook and Instagram feeds to name but just a few. It can feel overwhelming as a photographer. What can I do to improve? Who are these people that make these amazing images and how can I do the same? Why do these pictures look so damn good? Should I care ?

During a recent discussion by email and on Facebook, this theme emerged. How can I improve? Where do these internet maestro’s come from and wow don’t they dazzle? It can all feel a bit mystifying at times, and quite frankly we should never forget this is about enjoyment and creativity, not a competition and online likes.

On a personal level, a lot of the time a great picture is unexplainable to me. I feel like I’m in the groove and I see the mood, the outcome I want to achieve. I guess it’s easy to work in an intuitive way when the technical attributes are not a barrier. But anyway, trying to explain the unexplainable, here is some attempt at some tangibles. Some ideas that might help you improve your focus as a budding and improving landscape photographer.

Photographing the amazing Isle of Skye ..


And so the discussion went .. So why do so many pictures look so damn good online?

Firstly most of these ‘wow’ images we see online are flawless technically. Its second nature and these photographers don’t even need to think about things like aperture choice, ISO, what filter should they use, should I blend, etc. And that’s the key point really. The technical stuff doesnt drain energy from the thought process because once you know it, its intuitive, its essential and irrelevant in equal measure. It’s an amazing skill and aid in making great pictures but at the same time, it’s just a prerequisite. My advice, become technically flawless at a level that allows you to express your creativity. No more, no less. 

Secondly, these online maestros also have that technical skill when it comes to post-production. Intuitive and second nature. Furthermore, I feel like vision is a really big part of the shooting discussion within photography but sometimes forgotten in regard to post-production as the unwavering drive to learn what more and more buttons do continues. The technical skills are important and must be learned but in my opinion, like shooting, vision in post-production is more important. Knowing what you want to achieve and then trying to figure out how to do it. Good vision and good judgment come with practice. Focus more on what you want to achieve, as opposed to how you will achieve it.  The latter point will lead naturally from the first. 

Thirdly, light and composition. Our online maestro has a great eye for a picture, and they work on original and interesting composition in the best light. Difficult to teach this, but the more pictures you look at, and the more you go shoot yourself, the better you will become. Distribution of space. How the angle of the light influences the mood of the image. See a picture as your camera sees it, as what’s achievable in post, rather than a literal interpretation of what’s in front of you. For me thats a crucial step towards improvement. Step away from literal thinking. 

Fourthly, think about how much time is put in and what lengths people will go to. Crazy hikes to get into some locations, waiting for days for the right light, a willingness for some hardship to get the best picture, obsession. Big hikes aside, making consistently great landscape images requires an acceptance that you might just need to return to the same place, again and again, to get it right. Get wet, get dry, get wet again and go again. Do you like getting wet? Are you willing to get wet? I think this is really a core point that is often missing from the discussion. The most dedicated make the best pictures.

Summary of Core Points 

Technical skills in camera and in Post.

Vision in camera and in Post.

Understanding light and how it affects your images.

Dedication. Whatever your fitness level. A willingness to be persistent.

 I think if you look inside and think about these four points they might provide some guidance on what you need to improve on as a landscape photographer. As an educator within the landscape photography community, these are the factors we focus on quite extensively.

All that said, Aidan White from Living Earth Photography summed it up well as this discussion moved to our private Facebook group:

Dedication deserves reward. What we all must remember though is that behind the online perfection that we see is the failure we don’t see. Nobody gets it right first time, and for that one perfect image there’s a hundred others not quite right. By all means admire all those images we see online that are mind blowing and inspirational, but try to avoid comparison with one’s own work and just strive to be the best you can be and enjoy the light.

Well said Aidan.


IMPROVING YOUR TECHNICAL SKILLS – We offer 2 courses to help with this that are aimed at the beginner/intermediate level. Core Skills 1 and Core Skills 2 are designed to give you the foundation skills needed to begin the process of being more creative. Head over to the workshops page even just to see our suggested list of topics to lay the right foundation.

IMPROVING YOUR POST PRODUCTION SKILLS – We are currently working on a set of educational videos that will deal with the essential skills needed for Photoshop and Lightroom. There will also be an ongoing series to help you with vision and judgment while at the same time helping with your technical skills set. Watch this space.

LIGHT/COMPOSITION AND DEDICATION – Why not take an immersive workshop over 3 – 7 days and live and breath photography with us. The focus will be on experience and getting the best shot possible enabling you to learn while also creating a great array of stunning images. We also have some short Dublin courses and Wicklow Masterclasses that are more geared towards the intermediate to advanced levels.



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