Bob Morris was a speaker at the Midwest Museum of American Art in Elkhart recently. Here are a few excerpts from his talk:
Any good photograph should have one major theme with several areas of interest supporting that theme. The viewer should not be confused about what they are seeing. This is easy to do if you are taking a picture of a lighthouse because your major theme is obvious. This is not so easy when you are taking a landscape picture – you come up over a ridge and look out over a beautiful landscape and you just want to gaze at it for a while. How do you decide the major theme of your picture? When I taught photographic composition I told people that if the theme is not obvious, look for the 5 elements of composition and see if one is dominant. They are lines, shapes, textures, tones and color. If you can pick up on a dominant element of composition you can generally narrow that down to a theme. If you cannot I just say give the picture a title and you will have your theme. If you know the major theme you have a better chance of capturing it than if you just point your camera and shoot.
So what makes a good black and white photograph? Usually a good black and white photograph has shades of gray ranging from nearly white to nearly black with no complete white-outs or black-outs. There should be some information in the lightest areas and some information in the darkest areas.