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Formal Qualities of a Photograph

In looking at the critique of photography, I want to start out by looking at the formal qualities of a photograph. In this post I will attempt to list out all the formal qualities of a photograph. In the future, I will use this list, and whatever might be added to it, to tease out certain styles of photography which might eventually lead me to better understand how photographers might critique each other.

The list:

  • depth of field
  • perspective
  • light
  • focus
  • composition
  • rule of thirds
  • leading lines
  • shadow
  • contrast
  • detail
  • clarity
  • saturation
  • shapes
  • framing
  • looking into/out of the frame
  • abstract
  • approach
  • expression
  • theme
  • texture
  • value
  • angle
  • background
  • balance
  • contour
  • vantage point

What have I left out? Have I included things that shouldn’t be in the list?

Photography by John Wayne Hill

Learn more about John Wayne’s photography and view selected photos by visiting

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