Here is a checklist I use when editing images. Maybe it will help others.
- Identify the Subject - This is the subject of the image, usually an item or person (or small group) that is central to what is happening in the photo.
- Identify the Action - What is happening in the photo, either by the subject or to the subject and it could be active or passive action.
- Identify Supporting Subjects - Other elements (if any) that interact with or explain the subject and gives the image context.
- Do they support the Action? - Do these secondary subjects help explain the action or give value to the subject?
- Minimize Distractions - This can be done by controlling light, color, blur or physically removing them from view (compositionally or digitally).
The goal of any good photograph is to show the viewer a subject that is clearly identifiable with some kind of action that will hold their attention without visual distractions that dilute it. It sounds simple but every great image will hold up to that check. My checklist above will work both at time of capture and during editing. How much to adjust and how far to take those adjustments is entirely up to the individual artist. Sometimes just the smallest adjustment can alter the visual flow.