Why your photos are still not good enough by Mohamed Hakem

Why your photos are still not good enough

By Mohamed Hakem

So you bought your first camera after some research, or you  already are comfortable and seeking an upgrade because your photos are simply not good enough. You still can’t get the Professional looking photos, the photos of your family and kids are still not different from the mobile camera,  travel photos are not so good,  Frustration is rising up. 

Even comfortable amateurs get into this dilemma. They do every thing right with their cameras, they get the best gear and invest in decent tools but still…why are the photos not that good?

The truth is, after some time, you will find that good photos are not made with just good tools. Of course when you hold a “couple of thousand dollars” worth of gear in your hand and you snap  a portrait, you find the face pops out in the shallowest depth of field possible and you will be happy, but still the components of a great photo is far complete.

The truth is that the Camera itself and right settings contribute to only 1/3 of what makes a good photo. Photographers learn that the hard way, even the great ones.

First, you must know when to take pictures and most importantly when not too. 

The 2nd  1/3 of what makes a good photo is light. Different lights give different pictures and I spoke about that in another article when I did an experiment of taking 5 photos from the same location at different timings of the day.

The 3rd 1/3 comes from the location and composition. Don’t go to the places where everybody blindly go. Tell me, if you go to a Paris, would you go on a 12:00 o’clock site seeing tour  on a bright sunny day to photograph the Eiffel tower? Do you expect to capture something special during the worst light possible?In the brightest sunlight with hundreds of tourists around? A real photographer would spend time first exploring the locations, and in that particular case he would have searched already for alternate locations and maybe explore rooftops, he would wait for the golden hours and maybe already did a small research on the sky in Paris and the best accessible rooftops available. Decent sky, lovely lights and of course correct camera settings and composition will get the job done.

Luckily I live near the greatest site on Earth, the Pyramids of Giza. So I took my gear and went there, spent 4-5 hours. took the normal pictures that everybody capture hundreds of time but nothing was worthy of sharing on my website or printing it. I was a bit frustrated that I couldn’t capture the wonder of the world as I would love to. So I sat down and decided to go again, but before I did that, I reminded myself to slow down and think of  why I didn’t get the shots that I would like. I found that I didn’t complete the triangle of Location/Lights/Camera, the sky in Cairo is usually boring except in the winter, the site opens at 9:00 and closes at 5:00. and it was summer so 5:00PM is 2 hours away from sunset. Check below the unconvincing below average photos…

So I planned to visit on a cloudy day in the next winter, at 2:00PM based on the weather forecast and  to give me better lights towards sunset, from 2:00 to 5:00 I hiked around  and outside for different views,, I climbed a small hill and I got a totally different view. During my way back out at 5:00 I captured some sunset shots that really satisfied my urge. check the below pictures after completing the triangle of a good photo with the same exact gear.

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  1. Enjoyed the article
    Unfortunately modern Cairo has swamped the Pyramids taking away much of their surroundings making the place lack the mysticism of old.

  2. Your article pretty much matches my experience as a non-academic enthusiast. For me, personally, the composition of elements would be another crucial addition. Your photos imply that you are able to handle focal length very effectively, which is an often underrated part of the composition. Mobile phones only start with implementation of this aspect, so one old school standard zoom has to travel with me at all times. It is unfortunate that no camera (that I know of) offers to blend in a Fibonacci Curve or other elements that help with composing an image. Anyway, great article and photos!

  3. It looks good!
    But sometimes I will be traveling with my family So… They will not be happy if I spend a lot of time in photography 🙁

    • Yes! This is often overlooked. I’m always travelling with the wife and kids so can’t dictate when and where we’ll be. Have to make the image with what’s in front of me at any time. I’m not sure my wife would agree if I said “I’d like to hang around for 4 hours to catch the sidelight from the setting sun!”.

  4. I could not agree with you more. I take good photographs cause I have great gear. My brother, who studied photography in school, can take great photos with crappy gear. Even with an iphone at a soccer match when people ask him to take their picture he will take a few seconds to compose the shot and then when he hands them their phone back they say wow how did you take that and he just shrugs. Thanks you for sharing.

  5. Great composition all around and a refreshingly self-critical eye. A good demonstration of how light can make a huge difference. I noticed you thankfully didn’t use post-processing as a fourth criteria.

  6. Nice to see a post on photograhy instead of gear. I like your balanced view that gear, and knowing it well, does make some difference. I agree that good light and where you position the camera (high, low, east, west, close, far) plus framing are extremely important. You can not expect great shots if you just jump off a tour bus and quickly grab a shot. Good shots take thought and anticipation (even under pressure of fleeting moments) and effort to work the scene angles. Thanks for posting some nice shots and sound advice.

  7. Actually, your photos with the grey sky are excellent. As I always say, ” If you feel your picture isn’t good enough, you can always put it in a beautiful frame! )
    Unlike you, I went on one of these horrible tours and got to spend one hour at noon in front of the pyramids. Then off to the Mena House for lunch.
    Which got me thinking. Book 3 nights at the Mena House and shoot to your hearts content. Problem “was”, when I looked into it, the Mena House was booked solid for 2 years! Now, with the ongoing circumstances, I’m sure rooms are available. Maybe book a room for your bodyguard?
    Great place and maybe with a bribe ( do they do that in Egypt? ), I could go in there early or late?
    The call of the pyramids is till in my head but slowly growing fainter………..

    • HaHaha I assure you there is no need for a body guard, its just media trash that we are roaming with bombs haha, its safe as always and the Mena house is better than ever.

  8. Bravo with the “when NOT to photograph” : this was Ansel Adams.

    These days software can add golden hour, fog mist, shadows, dramatic sky :
    Photo books, Photo mags, YouTube tutorials software turning mundane photos into stunning.

    Nevertheless craft of a photographer different from craft of a software operator.

    Personally (for me) craft of a photographer far more enriching rewarding :
    For you too reading this fine article you wrote.

  9. Nice photos. Good points. Unfortunately if one comes from thousands of miles away we’re more or less stuck with what we can get.

    • Great article and great photos! I definitely fell into the trap of needing that next best camera. I spent so much time buying cameras, learning cameras, that I neglected what really makes a good photo.

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