What do we mean when we refer to the aesthetics of an image, painting, garden, or anything?
Aesthetic is an adjective referring to the visual appeal of an object so we are referring to the appeal our images (this is a photography blog) have to those viewing them.
Does a photograph or image have to be aesthetically appealing to be good. No. Images of human drama may not be pleasing to our eyes, but many such photos tell a story and have an emotional impact that a beautiful, pleasing image does not.
Dorothea Lange was a photographer in the United States who photographed the hardships caused by the Great Depression. Her photographs tell a story that many of us would not understand just by hearing about the Great Depression. Some of them are not necessarily images of beautiful things, but they are some of the best photos I have ever seen. When you look at what she had to work with during her day, you have to really admire what she did.
Photography can be an art form. Photography can tell a story that words often cannot. Words leave it to the eye of the listener’s mind to visualize what is being described. Photographs can make it very clear and often unpleasant what the story is about.
Photographs can also be very beautiful and evoke warm pleasant feelings. Try to explore all the possibilities.