Think about all the pictures you have ever taken and pick out a good one - a picture that you really thought was your finest work. Now that you have that mental picture in your head, ask yourself why you thought that picture was so great.
There are lots of things that go into making a photograph technically good. The first thing I think about that makes a picture technically good is that it is in focus. The subject needs to be clear and recognizable to the viewers. Next, you might think about color and exposure. Are the colors in the image complimentary and does it have the proper amount of contrast? Maybe the way an image is cropped makes it good. Is the subject in a place in the composition that draws the viewer's attention? A combination of all these things play a part in making a good image, but the main thing that makes a picture good is emotion.
How does the picture make you feel when you look at it? A picture of a baby making a silly face may make you laugh. A photo of someone special you have lost may make you cry. Some images make you think or maybe shock you. One might make you feel warm and fuzzy and another might make you angry. A photograph can be a powerful thing. Ask any lawyer, a great photograph can influence your opinion on a subject or the way you feel about a person.
My idea of a good image and your idea can also be two different things. You might like sports and I might like babies. You might like very closeup detailed shots and I might like far off landscapes. It is still a free country and everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion. So how do we decide what really makes up a good picture? They say that any day you don't wake up dead is a good day, so I guess all pictures are good; it's all in how you look at it.
(Brent Kepner is the owner and photographer at Foto 1 Pro Photo in Elkins. He is a Master Photographer, Certified Professional Photographer and president of the Professional Photographers of West Virginia.)