What I like is to dissect the experience I am having: what is it about the place I am in, and the things that I am seeing that is drawing my eye, and making me feel in particular way? Is it the colours? The light? The temperature or humidity? Abstract patterns? Sight-lines? The sky? Detail or the whole picture? The detail of a creature, or its place in the context of the landscape? An emotion? Do I feel light and bright, or sad and gloomy? Does the place seem happy or creepy? Is it real or unreal?
Thinking that through, I can then try and think how I can convey that to somebody viewing my image, so they cannot just see what I saw, but feel what I felt and experience what I experienced.
There is no right or wrong, just success or lack of it. I will not succeed in conveying what I felt or saw to everybody, but if I succeed in making people catch their breath in the way I caught mine, then to me, that is a successful photograph, and that will usually be achieved partly in the image I took, partly through how I took it, and partly through how I processed it.
Thinking of it in this way, I become more convinced that an image is about how it makes you feel, rather than its technical quality. Technical ability very frequently helps you achieve the effect you want to, and is an extremely useful tool. Lack of technical quality can impair the experience and therefore, technique, and the quality of the final image is important. Very important. But a photo doesn’t have to be technically perfect to be successful by my criterion, and often isn’t. Perhaps if we all lightened up a bit, and looked at what the photographer is trying to help us experience, or feel, we would all be a little happier with our own images, and get more out of looking at those of others?