Few people are actually familiar with what goes into making a photograph, and what is needed to appreciate one.
At the moment of creation, photographers must choose the right framing of the right objects, with the right lighting, at the right moment. The exposure time, f-stop and ISO setting all must be chosen for their proper effects (for example, blurred motion, out-of-focus background (or foreground!) and graininess, respectively).
A multitude of things can be adjusted in the processing – contrast, brightness, colour balance… it’s really easy to overdo it.
In printing, the paper must be matched to the image, with an understanding of how the paper’s characteristics will affect the printed image. The camera, monitor and printer must all be matched
When you look at a photograph, consider the photographer’s choices of subject, framing, lighting, proximity, flatness (or bending) of the field of view, colour, sharpness (or blurring) of focus, depth of field, graininess, brightness, contrast, motion, paper texture and colour, layering or juxtaposition, and so on. Really look.
Then ask – Does this photograph make me see and think differently