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The Secret Behind Great Creations: When is a Picture Truly Good?

Updated: Nov 19

As a photo artist, I constantly move on the border between reality and imagination. In this article we explore how creative image editing creates extraordinary works of art that both appear real and push the boundaries of imagination. We delve into the world of image composition to understand what takes an image from good to great.

In contrast to traditional photography, in which reality is often captured unchanged, photo art is about visualizing an idea, transforming and reinterpreting images. Here we combine elements that may not appear together in the natural world to create something completely new and stunning.

There are principles that always apply!

While the boundaries between traditional photography and photo art are fluid and often subjective, certain fundamental principles remain that characterize an image as high quality. These universal elements - from image composition to color harmony - are the foundation on which both classic photographers and photo artists build. In this post, we explore these fundamental factors and their application.

The enduring core of image creation

Image composition

The composition is the heart of every image, the scaffolding on which the visual narrative is built. It determines how the different elements of an image are arranged and how they interact with each other. The rule of thirds, where the image is mentally divided into nine equal parts, is a classic example. Placing key elements at these intersections or along these lines can result in a more balanced and natural-looking composition. Also leading lines, frames within frames - all these elements help guide the viewer's eye and tell a story. But even consciously breaking this rule can lead to dynamic and interesting effects. The composition of the image also includes the balance between different elements, the symmetry and asymmetry, as well as the use of negative space to highlight the main elements and guide the viewer's eye.


Color effect

The effect of colors in an image is enormous. Colors can create moods, tell stories and evoke strong emotional reactions. Warm colors like red, orange, and yellow are energetic and vibrant, while cool colors like blue, green, and purple can convey calm and relaxation. The choice of colors in an image, whether in the natural scenery or through post-processing, contributes significantly to the overall mood. Color contrast, such as the use of complementary colors, can attract attention and create visual tension. On the other hand, color harmonies, such as monochrome or analogous color schemes, create a feeling of unity and coherence.


Colors and color theories

Colors play an emotional role. They can enhance moods, create contrasts or create harmony. A well-chosen color scheme can transform an image from average to exceptional. Knowledge of color theories and harmonies is crucial to creating visually appealing and emotional images.


Application of the color wheel in practice: A crucial tool for understanding and applying color theories is the color wheel, also known as the color wheel. Canva offers a particularly user-friendly and intuitive tool for this purpose. Link


Using complementary colors (colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel) can result in vibrant and dynamic images, while analogous color schemes (colors that are next to each other on the color wheel) often create harmonious and calming scenes. Color psychology also plays an important role: red tones can suggest passion or danger, while blue tones can suggest calm and trust.


Color Grading is the art of manipulating colors in post-production to enhance the visual narrative of an image. By making targeted adjustments to hue, saturation and luminance, artists and photographers can influence the overall mood of an image. It is a powerful tool for enhancing the emotional resonance of an image.


Light and shadow

The way light and shadow are used in an image can dramatically affect the perception of depth, texture and mood. Light is the elixir of life in all visual design, including photography. Playing with the figure-ground contrast is a crucial factor. High-contrast images captivate, while subtle nuances exude a fine elegance.


Light and shadow not only determine how well we can see a subject, but also how we interpret it. Light can be used to draw focus and attention to specific parts of an image, while shadows create depth, volume and mood. The quality of the light – whether hard or soft, warm or cool – has a direct influence on the perception of the image. Not only in photography, light and shadow can be manipulated to create unreal and surreal effects that blur the boundaries between reality and fantasy, but also in photography during post-production.


Perspective and angle of view

Perspective in an image is crucial to convey meaning and context. It influences how the viewer perceives and interprets the image. A change in perspective can transform an everyday subject into something unique. By choosing an unusual perspective - be it from above, below or from an asymmetrical position - a new reality is created that encourages the viewer to pause and think. In the photo art, the manipulation of perspective can be used to create surreal scenes that push the boundaries of possibility. This requires a deep understanding of space and dimension, as well as the ability to break common viewing habits.


AI in image composition: A tool, but not a replacement for creativity


In the modern world of image creation, artificial intelligence (AI) is playing an increasingly important role. AI systems are trained to automatically take into account the basic principles of image creation, such as composition, color harmony and lighting. This allows virtually anyone to generate visually appealing images without a deep understanding of these concepts. However, AI is missing a crucial element: the understanding of individuality and the ability to implement a personal vision. True art is not created through technology alone, but through the artist's unique perspective and creative expression.


Another aspect is flexibility, e.g. in contract work. Imagine that you have created an image pixel-perfect according to your ideas or based on your customer's input, and you or the customer wants a small adjustment - for example to move an element 2 mm to the right. This is easy to implement when editing manually. However, this is much more difficult when using AI, as the fine-tuning and precise adjustments go beyond the AI's specified parameters. Of course, one could resort to traditional image editing software in this case, but that only highlights that true artistic adaptability and subtlety often require the human hand.


Combining a deep understanding of image creation theories with your own vision and the ability to adapt flexibly leads to truly remarkable works that go far beyond what AI alone can achieve.

 

How to apply the Secret of Great Creations in your own works


We embarked on an exciting journey through the world of image creation and discover the secrets behind effective compositions, color effects and play of light. You may now be wondering how you can apply all of these techniques yourself. You can find the answer in my Photoshop Elite Masterclass, which takes place in December and January.


If you want to learn how to implement all of the concepts and techniques explained in this blog post and why they are so powerful, then this course is for you. We delve deeper into the world of image editing, explore the intricacies and you learn the skills to implement your own vision with precision and creativity.

Photoshop Elite Masterclass with Kathrin Federer

This is your chance to take your digital imaging skills to a new level. Join us and transform your passion for photography into masterful works of art.






Here are some tips to immediately put what you've learned into practice:

  • Use this blog post as a checklist: Review your images using the parameters discussed and use this article as a guide for your creations.

  • Analyze images and learn from others: Practice analyzing the works of other artists considering these parameters. This will help you develop a deeper understanding of how these concepts are applied in practice.

  • Consistent practice and application: Mastering this art requires continuous practice. Over time, you will automatically apply these principles.

 

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