Monday, July 5, 2010

Snapshots vs. Photographs

The other day, I was out shooting pictures with a friend of mine.  We have identical cameras and we were walking side by side and taking pictures of the same things.  Yet, when we looked at the pictures at the end of the day, they were very different.  Why?

Of course, two people will never see the same thing the same way.  That's one of the things I love about photography.  No one else sees the world exactly the way I do.  But with my photographs, I can show them exactly what I see.  More precisely, I can capture the image the way I process it in my mind's eye.

That led me to a conversation with my husband about the difference between "snapshots" and "photographs".

Here's what I mean:

Snapshot of a fountain

Photograph of the same fountain

**Neither of those photographs have been touched (photoshopped, cropped, sharpened, anything.)  They are exactly what the camera shot.

In my brain, a snapshot is a quick "what you see is what you get" picture of something.  It may be a documentation of something for your memory book or something that is happening quickly around you.  A photograph on the other hand is something that you want to be a work of art - something you would want to enlarge and frame.  Do you understand the difference?  (This isn't a dictionary/official difference, it's just the way my mind grasps it.)

So - how do you get a photograph instead of a snapshot?  The answer - TAKE YOUR TIME!  Photography requires time and patience.  It requires you to think through what you are doing.  It means you have to observe all the little details in the viewfinder of your camera and in your finished product.

To make the point - I decided to walk through the thought process that was the difference between the two shots above.  This is what was going on in my brain.....

Oooooh!  Pretty fountain!   *snap*

You now have a snapshot of the fountain.  You can put it in a scrapbook, look back at it, discuss it with friends, talk about where you took the picture, etc.  For some, this is enough.  Not for me!!!

hrmmm.... the fountain is taller than it is wide.  
Perhaps I should take the picture portrait style. (Vertical instead of horizontal.) 

That's better, but I don't like the background...  

So I slowly circled  the fountain paying close attention to the background.

That arch with the name of the field might be a better background.  In this one, it's off-center and a little crooked.

(I took 2 steps to the right)

There, much better!  Centered, level, nice framing of the subject.  

Many people would stop here, but I'm a perfectionist.  I didn't like how the top of the fountain is a little lost amongst the trees in the background.

How to fix it?  I took a knee.

That helped.  
Then I got a little closer and zoomed in until the fountain nearly filled the viewfinder.

It is definitely MUCH improved!

Before and After

Now the truth is, I'm still not happy with the "after" shot there.  Again, my perfectionist tendencies are shining through.  But that's not the point of this post.

So what is the point??

I'm glad you asked!  The point is, that in order to take better photographs, you have to take your time.  Circle your subject.  Look at it from different angles.  Feel free to take shots in both landscape and portrait.  You might want to try both and see which one works best.  Pay attention to the background.  Think it all through.  Take several shots of the same subject.  Try different lighting settings, different points of focus, etc.  You will get so much more enjoyment from your Photographs!!

Have fun,


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