The Photographer’s DIET: The 4 Key Elements that Make a Great Photo

What’s the ‘recipe’ for a great photograph? As we embark on this new 365-day journey called “2017,” our friends at COOPH teamed up with photographer Craig Semetko to answer this question; and he believes it all comes down to 4 key elements: Design, Information, Emotion, and Timing.

Semetko has dubbed this the photographer’s DIET, so you never forget one of the four elements when you’re composing a photograph. Check out the video up top to hear all about it, or scroll down for a summary of each of the 4 points.



This is all about geometry and composition—whether that’s geometric shapes within the photo, or geometric relationships between the elements in your image. You don’t have to subscribe to any particular “rule” or composition, but don’t forget to make instead of simply take your photographs.



A great photographs provides context to the viewer; the beginnings of a story. Some photos tell more of the story than others, but any great photograph must contain at least the kernel of a story, which the viewer can then expand on in his or her mind.

Not enough information, and your viewer might feel nothing; too much information, and they won’t be able to make heads or tails of your image.



This element is repeated over and over again, but it cannot be overstated: a great photograph makes the viewer feel something. When you’re dealing with a human subject, that feeling might be joy, sadness, or amusement. For landscape photographs, that feeling might be calmness, or serenity.



Capture the perfect moment—when the elements of a scene, the light on a scene, or the subjects of a scene align just so—and photographic magic happens. This point is best summed up in the video by Semetko himself when he says:

A great photograph should give the impression that it could not have been taken a second before, or after.


To dive deeper into each of these “rules” and see more example images, check out the video up top. And the next time you’re out taking photos, ask yourself: does this image incorporate every aspect of the photographer’s DIET?

Image credits: All photographs by Craig Semetko, used courtesy of COOPH.

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