Think Smart!

The SMART approach to image creation and evaluation. (an overview)

Or “How to go from Snap-shots to images that Crackle and Pop.”

“Uluru in the scorching heat”


This is all about Why (Soul/Mind) and What (Art) and  the photographer perceives and interprets about the subject, and How (CraftTechniques are used to successfully extract that unique essence of the subject.

The skill is to observe and realize the uniqueness of the subject and the skill to present the subject in a way that one’s subconscious mind has seen it, particularly taking context into account.

So let’s look at an overview of the SMART approach and see if it does fit in with your ideas of a good photo and if so you can bring it to mind when creating and evaluating photos.


Colosseum lion… training 🙂

The SMART checklist:

  1. Subject –  Story, Adjective, Characterization/Appeal/Connection/Interest/Beauty Identifying the essence is the hard bit. And it all depends on the purpose and context of creating the image in the first place. A good way of working out what you’re trying to get across is to think of a title for it. If it’s a noun, forget it. It needs to be an adjective.
  2. Mood –  Emotion. How it affects the viewer. Elated, curious, sad, angry, pleasant, wonder etc.
  3. Aesthetics –  Artistic. Composition, lighting, motion, point of view et al.  Is there a certain style or panache? Image ratio, leading lines.
  4. Rarity/Essence –  Difficulty/Wow factor  –  How often do you see this or in this way? Does it capture the essence of the subject?  The difficulty factor. This is what makes photos impressive.
  5. Technique –  Appropriate exposure, focus, depth of field and so on that bring out the above characteristics of the image to best effect.

Ask yourself, “How many of the above aspects can I employ?”

Techniques you can use to create SMART photos.

Ned Kelly Tribute
How many points for this?

What’s the main point of the Subject? Adjective and Characterization aspects? SAC
What is the mood I want to portray? What effect and elements will portray it?
What reaction do I want from the viewer?
What props or elements of the scene can I use to emphasise the story/point.
What adds and detracts from the main point/mood?
Lens (wide, tele, normal) to emphasise, compress or otherwise.
Positioning – where is the best place to shoot from? Leading lines, angle, distance and position.
Composition – where should my main element and others be? What ratio is best for the image?
Shapes and textures – are they highlighted?
Exposure – what exposure, shutter and aperture, can provide the best feel?
Light!!!!!! – contrast/highlights/shadows, or dreamy but never, never bland, overall, flat lighting unless the image requires it for effect.
Colour – helps the mood – can use polariser, coloured or graduated filters, white balance.
Grain – can help the mood.
What is the idea, what complements the idea and what detracts from the idea?

A good exercise is to go over your photos and critique them with the SMART points above and see if and what you could have done or could still do to improve them. If you can’t tick most of the boxes, keep the image to yourself. If you can, get it out there and impress people.

That was a summary, now read each in detail: (coming soon)

Bluebird of Happiness






Remember to think before and critique after, think SMART!


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