Teresa Pilcher Photography

3 Essential elements

I begin with an idea and then it becomes something else. ” ― Pablo Picasso

A good friend recently asked me, what makes a photograph transcend into Art? The best answer I had, “I know it when I see it”. But it got me thinking… I needed a better answer for him and for myself. There are no magical formulas or secret techniques. Instead, I believe it is a combination of 3 essential elements.  Now this is not an original idea, but like Picasso I have taken it somewhere else.

When we develop our eye we are looking for elements of Design. We learn to see the world differently to every other person. Design encompasses all areas of ideas and composition. Use of natural contrast for emphasis, leading lines and use of scale. Repeating patterns,  motifs and echoes. Rhythm, movement, balance. The rule of thirds, the rule of three, a unique perspective… To make a good photo Great, we need to shoot with intent.

The second element is Information. Not only what we include in a frame, but what we leave out that makes a photo interesting. What is suggested outside the frame. The image may tell a story or leave questions in the viewers mind. We may use two or more unrelated events to create interest.

The last essential element is Emotion. If your image has emotional impact, then it will translate to the viewer. Emotion can be real or implied, a subject can appear lonely without being lonely. Does the image make you smile, or perhaps uneasy? An image with strong emotion will stay with you.

Good art will challenge you to see the world differently.

So to combine all these elements we just need to practice our art. Take many photos, capture the emotion, your ideas and design to make an everyday scene into works of Art.

Chicago Reflected 2016.


Horizon Line. Chicago. 2016


Layla’s Nashville. 2016.


Memphis Nights. 2016


New Orleans. 2016


Union Station. Chicago. 2016

As a creative it is my job to create the image, I am not here to judge whether my images are in fact art. However, I do have an emotional response and they do convey information and a sense of design. Art is in the eye of the beholder, so whether or not you like these images, they capture a sense of time and place. Thanks for asking the question Rich.

Any thoughts? T


Teresa Pilcher

Teresa Pilcher Photography A Blog on Street Photography


Leave a Comment

  • teresa, now you got me thinking. I guess the trick is to look for those ingredients , things that we have varying degrees of control over and have them come together in a frame.

    • Hi Rich, thanks for visiting, Well said, I believe if we become aware of these elements of design etc then we compose an image it becomes more intuitive about what elements to include and what not to include. Having them all come together in the frame is the trick. ;))

  • teresa. Especially in the kind of photography we both love, street. In studio or portrait the photographer can control for all the elements. We rely on a certain amount of luck and serendipity