When you think of what makes a good photo, what do you think of?
Maybe it’s phenomenal lighting.
Perhaps it’s the way the shot was framed.
It could just be that the photo speaks to you in some way, a way that might even be impossible for you to describe.
There are many elements that make a photo extraordinary, to be sure. These are just a few criteria our editors use to select the very best photos uploaded to our galleries.
But when you see a good photo, often, you know it immediately. You just FEEL it!
That’s the common thread between the photos we presented to you throughout the month of December in our Inspirational Photo of the Day feature. Each of these photos spoke to us, and we hope they speak to you as well.
December was an exciting month, as many superb photographers were featured and many photos selected that just blew us away with their quality and ability to evoke an emotion.
Below, we present the Most Inspirational Photographers of the Month. Use their work as a source of inspiration as you tackle your photography goals for 2017!
December 1, 2016 - Katarzyna Soszka
This portrait is aptly named “Little Angel.” What a perfect title! This image perfectly demonstrates how to use props in a portrait. The bubbles add a bit of whimsy to the photo but aren’t so great in number or size that they distract from the cute little girl. Also note the even lighting used - both sides of the little girl’s face are lit with warm light that give her skin a nice glow. Bravo! Use this as an ideal example of how to create a sweet, dramatic portrait of a child that capitalizes on the fun and innocence of childhood.
December 2, 2016 - Brian Bielmann
If you’re looking for inspiration, look no further! This Brian Bielman photo has gotten the Plotagraph treatment, and man is it ever eye-catching. Just that little bit of motion gives this photo all sorts of depth and interest to the shot that would otherwise be impossible in a traditional photo. Note as well how the motion of the waves adds dynamic contrast to the scene. The slight changes in shadows and highlights in the water create a wonderful juxtaposition with the stillness of the surfer. This photo transports you under the water with the surfer, doesn’t it?!
December 3, 2016 - Eden Bao
What a fantastic maternity photo! The photographer, Eden Bao, captures this lovely lady perfectly, with her baby bump on full display. The background makes it look a bit like a fairy tale setting, and the red gown from Sew Trendy is something to behold as well. Talk about eye-catching! This is a great example of how you can elevate any portrait shoot with tasteful wardrobe choices and selecting a background that offers visual interest - but not so much that it distracts attention from the subject. This is how you photograph a mom-to-be!
December 4, 2016 - Paul Zizka
Paul unleashed one of the most stunning photos of December, and you can plainly see why. Shot with a Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Paul captured the magic of this winter wonderland with perfectly placed lighting to highlight both the cave and the man climbing its icy exterior. Set under the sea of stars and a touch of the Northern Lights, there’s no lack of visual interest in this shot, either! An ISO setting of 1600 was used to help get a well-exposed shot, but notice how there is very little indication of digital noise. That’s a testament to the 5D Mark III!
December 6, 2016 - Roberto Pavic
This Inspirational Photo of the Day looks like something taken out of a movie, which immediately drew the attention of our editors. With the wide-angle 16mm view, Roberto captured the softness of the sky in the background which gives the photo a bit of a fairy tale vibe, while the birds flying toward the camera almost give it a sense of doom. What a great combination of moods! Roberto managed to document the beauty of the setting while also making us feel a very salient emotion. If that’s not the epitome of photography, we don’t know what is!
December 7, 2016 - Lior Yaakobi
Where to start with this gorgeous photo? The dynamic range is fantastic, with dark shadows to middle grays to bright highlights. Speaking of fantastic, how about that lighting?! The long shadows created by the setting sun give this photo a wonderful interplay between line and form. Add in the repeating patterns created by the waves coming ashore, the texture of the water and sand, and a distinct film noir vibe, and you’ve got a recipe for one powerful photo. Just wow!
December 8, 2016 - Rui Santos
For all you macro photography lovers out there, this is a perfect example of how to use a blurry background to draw the viewer’s eye to the subject. Note as well how the little bird is in sharp focus with the texture of the feathers on full display. When shooting macro, there is a very small depth of field, and Rui absolutely nailed it! And, how often do you see a shot of a hummingbird at rest?! Great work!
December 9, 2016 - Discovery Photo Tours
Like the caption for this photo says, “Not many cities can be looked at as a work of art…” We certainly agree that this photo shows that Florence fits the bill! The perfectly lit buildings and the wispy clouds just enhance the beauty of the scene. The elevated view makes the shot as well, giving us a more unique perspective of the city than would otherwise be achieved from ground level. The warm tones that repeat throughout the sky and in the city lights adds wonderful depth as well. If you want to photograph cityscapes, use this shot as your inspiration!
December 10, 2016 - Lior Yaakobi
Lior lands on our list again, this time with this stunning landscape. This is how you use foreground interest to draw the eye into the scene! The moss-covered rocks add the perfect amount of texture and color to catch the eye and bring it upward towards the mountain and sky in the background. The gorgeously diffused lighting under the shroud of the clouds gives the landscape a certain glow as well. Well done!
December 11, 2016 - Randy
That perfect reflection, paired with the soft tones of the sunset, make this one eye-catching photo! Note how the vertical columns of the structure add height to the image, while the curved edges of the pond and the structure’s roof add additional interest to the shot. The coloring in the clouds is also worth mentioning - it’s often said to avoid oversaturation otherwise the image can feel a bit heavy. But Randy achieved the perfect level of saturation such that the sky pops and leaves us wanting to visit this location for the next sunset!
December 12, 2016 - Amina
This fun portrait demonstrates how the addition of a prop - in this case, the dog - can add a bit of levity to a photo. Often, candid portraits like this one connect in a more real way with viewers than a posed portrait because it’s easier to identify with the subject and to put oneself in that situation. Titled “Beauty and the Beast,” this photo has just the right amount of soft focus around the edges to bring more attention to the woman and her dog as well. The pops of red aren’t bad either!
December 13, 2016 - Yaopey
This photo, aptly titled “Inspired by Tron,” inspires us to go out and take some nighttime shots of the city. Taken at Marina Bay in Singapore, the photographer, Yaopey, perfectly captures the gorgeous lights of the city’s buildings in the mirrorlike reflection of the water. But there are other details that might otherwise go unnoticed that add tremendous depth to the shot - the array of small starbursts throughout the shot and the beautiful wispy clouds hanging over the city. That’s how you use detail to give depth to an image! And here’s a little secret: Yaopey processed the image using a luminosity mask in Photoshop. Give it a try!
December 14, 2016 - Stone Hall Photography
Photos are meant to convey mood and emotion, and this one certainly does just that! Nothing is as heartwarming as a parent’s love for a child, which is on full display in this perfect example of how to photograph loved ones. Note how the blurred background brings more attention to the subjects, but still allows us to see the texture and color of the surroundings that give the image added visual pop. Also note how the wardrobe choices fit in so well with the environment. The result? A sweet, loving image that’s highly pleasing to view.
December 15, 2016 - Mark
Mark gets down low and takes us to another world with this magical macro shot, and shows off a number of features that take a photo to another level. The composition is spot on, taking advantage of the benefits of the rule of thirds. The lighting is perfect as well, as though a single shaft of light is shining down from the heavens to illuminate this little mushroom. Better still, Mark captured the photo with a Canon EOS 700D, which shows you that you don’t need the biggest, baddest camera to take incredible photos!
December 16, 2016 - Artur Stanisz
“The Sundown” is a great title for this gorgeous image - just bask in the glow of that incredible late day lighting. As Artur says, “The winter sunset like this one is not always given in the local mountains in the Vancouver area, but when it is there, it can have unexpected intensity.” Intensity is right! The bold, warm colors provide a nice contrast to the starkness of the winter landscape. The textures of the trees come shining through as well as the soft light falls upon the scene from right to left. Use these lessons as inspiration for your next landscape photo.
December 17, 2016 - Marc Pickering
The title of this image, “Fields of Gold” is spot on, don’t you think? The depth of the shot is also spot on - just look at all those layers and fantastic shadows. But the subtle details is what makes this shot so epic. Notice the light catching on the fur of the animals in the shot, which give a hint of brightness. Also notice the patchwork of lines running from left to right throughout the midground of the photo, giving the image greater dimension. Superb work!
December 18, 2016 - Discovery Photo Tours
This gorgeous staircase is a great example of how even the most utilitarian of objects can still be breathtakingly beautiful. The framing is just impeccable, simultaneously drawing the eye to the detailing in the handrails and moving our eyes to the bottom of the stairs. This image also showcases how leading lines and the golden ratio can be used to create breathtaking photos. Let this photo inspire you to find beauty everywhere - even beneath your feet!
December 19, 2016 - Jens Klettenheimer
Talk about a mystical photo! The beauty of Iceland is on full display in this epic long exposure photo of Hafnarbjargafoss. While this is a lesser known waterfall in the country, you know there’s some pretty magnificent scenery there. Jens manages to use the lines created by the waterfall to draw greater attention to the enormous hole into which the water is flowing. The long exposure tactic was a good one as well, as it gives the image - which has relatively little color to add visual interest - a greater level of dimension to hold our attention. Great work!
December 20, 2016 - Jorma
Not sure what to say about this photo, other than WOW. Talk about a prime example of how perfect lighting can really take a photo to the next level! Just look at the detail of the light rays as they hit the ground. The linear lines of the buildings have a nice interplay with the angled lines of light filtering into the scene. Next time you’re out shooting, think of this photo and let it inspire you to find better light.
December 21, 2016 - Zachary Martgan
The beauty of Yosemite is on full display in this photo. Between that gorgeous light and the sheer the scale of the valley, we’re transported to this spot to take in all the beauty it has to offer. Zachary used his Canon EOS 6D to capture this image, and we think you’ll agree, it was a success! This photo is also an ideal example of how adding a human form to a landscape shot adds drama and depth. Even a small form, like the one seen here, draws the viewer’s attention. Take this as inspiration to add a person to your next landscape to give it more impact!
December 22, 2016 - Paweł
Talk about an idyllic landscape! You can almost smell the clean, crisp mountain air just by gazing at this photo. But that’s what photography is all about - transporting the viewer! Something else that’s transportive is the leading lines in this shot. The rugged road leads your eye from the foreground to the midground, where the variety of colors and textures in the trees delight the eye. The deep green of the evergreen trees also provides a nice color contrast with the white, snow-capped mountains. There’s simply tons of depth there!
December 23, 2016 - Stephen Wallace
This stunning portrait is a fine example of how lighting and perspective can come together to create a compelling story. The shafts of light act as leading lines, directing our attention to the primary subject - the little girl. But notice how Stephen used perspective to create a more unique portrait. By positioning himself below the little girl, she seems more powerful and commanding in the shot. That positioning also gets us down on her eye level, which makes the portrait more intimate as well. That’s some good inspiration for your next portrait!
December 24, 2016 - Ken Kaminesky
Talk about an Inspirational Photo! There are few places as beautiful as Iceland, and this photo puts that beauty on full display. Between those colors in the sky and the idyllic waterfall, this photo is packed with visual interest. Also note the interesting texture of the clouds, which gives the top portion of the photo an almost patchwork feel. Contrast that with the harsh lines of the waterfall, stream, and mountain, and you’ve got the makings for a photo that delights the eye no matter where you look.
December 25, 2016 - Camilo Jaramillo
This is one out-of-this-world photo! Taken in Peru’s Ica´s desert, Camilo found inspiration in the footsteps leading out to this spot. The reward was this incredible shot with a gorgeous blanket of stars adding tons of depth and interest to the photo. Better still, we have another prime example of how the interaction between man and environment makes for a compelling photo. Note the texture of the sand dunes as well, and how their curved apexes add even more interest to the shot. There’s just plenty for the eye to see!
December 26, 2016 - Pete Oxford
Today’s Inspirational Photo of the Day shows us how a pop of color can make all the difference in the world. All those yellow fish give a bit of contrast to the otherwise blue-dominated scene, and help bring attention to the fact that they are swimming for their lives! This photo also demonstrates how you have to anticipate the movement of a subject to frame it perfectly in the shot. Photography isn’t just about lighting, it’s about timing as well!
December 27, 2016 - VZmoda Photography
Portraits can be tricky sometimes, but this stellar example shows how a little bit of movement, a great pose, and a beautiful background can come together for one incredible shot! There is an understated beauty and elegance here as well. The photographer found a perfect balance between color, texture, and depth to make the photo visually appealing without overwhelming the viewer’s eye. And again, we see how wardrobe selection can make or break a portrait.
December 28, 2016 - Sean Scott
They say one of the most important factors of a successful photo is perspective, and this Inspirational Photo of the Day nails it! The way the curl of the wave captures the gold colors of the sunset makes it an even more compelling photo. This image also speaks to the value of timing the shot to capture the ideal moment. The way the water almost completely envelops the frame of the shot couldn’t have been timed more perfectly. Talk about a once-in-a-lifetime capture!
December 29, 2016 - Nina Masic
Just look at the sharpness of the model’s eye in this Inspirational Photo of the Day. Even though half the model’s face is obscured by her hair, the sharpness of her eye still gives you the feeling that you’re able to connect with her. And that’s what portraiture is all about, right? Helping the viewer develop an emotional connection is done in many ways - the model’s facial expression, the lighting, or in this case, the framing of the shot and the composition. Don’t be afraid to get in close on your next portrait - you might find the results are quite compelling!
December 30, 2016 - Amina
Aptly titled “Swan Lake,” this gorgeous shot flips the scene on its head, giving us a prime view of the reflected surface. Use this as inspiration for seeing the world around you in a different way. Try taking photos from a different perspective - get up high or down low. Notice how when you tilt your camera how the lines, shapes, and light of a scene can be transformed. Amina gives us an excellent example of how to find a unique shot even in the most common of places. It’s a cool take on creating a more interesting landscape scene!
December 31, 2016 - Rui Santos
This fascinating macro shot of a wasp demonstrates just how much depth of detail there is in the world around us. Looking at this image, it’s almost like you’re looking at an alien world on some far-off planet. Like any great photo, it transports us to another place and gives us a glimpse of what life is like from another perspective. This photo also demonstrates the importance of having the focus spot on - the sharpness of the wasp’s eyes give the image an incredible level of detail. Great work!