John and Barbara Gerlach, in the second edition of Digital Nature Photography, describe three essential factors for making successful nature photographs.
The first is that you can’t make a good photograph of a scene that is lacking in interest. For landscape photography, this might normally require a site with natural beauty.
But when we speak about a photogenic subject, what do we mean? The term has many synonyms. Some of these do, in fact, refer to scenes of native beauty, which is what the Gerlachs intend by including this criterion. These synonyms include the terms picturesque, pretty, beautiful, and attractive. But others, like graphic, striking, and camera-friendly allow for less than beautiful subjects.
|Structures such as this operating water mill can make up in charm what they may lack in natural beauty. Cable Mill, Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee. Nikon D810, Nikon 24-70 mm f2.8 lens at 38 mm, 1/100 sec., f2.8, ISO 800.|
Thus, not all photogenic subjects need to be beautiful. Some interesting subjects may be notable for reasons other than beauty and others may even be downright ugly. What gives them the potential to make photogenic photos is the fact that they are appealing for one reason or another. In my judgment, the natural world offers far more variety and interest than can be found in the spectacularly beautiful alone. Besides, not all of us have access to dramatic scenery on a regular basis. That’s one reason my personal definition of “photogenic” has been expanded to include the subjects you’ll see in my book, Creative Composition for Landscape Photography, now available for Kindle on Amazon.com.