Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Snapshots versus Photographs — Taking versus Making Images

The Great Sphinx of Giza in the foreground with the Pyramid of Khafre in the background at the Giza Necropololis. Note the prominent display of casing stones at the apex of the Pyramid of Khafre.Periodically I receive emails from travelers who compare travel photographs made by me and other professionals, with their own, taken in the exact same place, why theirs look so different from the professional shots.

They typically send me an example of their photography, although, invariably I already know why there's a difference. It's not that they don't have the technical ability or knowledge to shoot wonderful photographs. It's ordinarily their approach, their conception of their photographs and the process to make them. Simply put, it's the difference between a snapshot and a photograph.

When I'm out touring I don't merely “point and shoot.” I look for specific composition possibilities to show off the natural beauty, the architecture, history, landmarks, the general location, the culture of the location, etc., before me.

I take time to get away from the viewfinder to see and experience where I am, rather than immediately point and shoot at each scene or landmark I see. If your trip is always revealed from the narrow viewpoint of your camera's viewfinder or monitor, you'll miss far too much of the travel experience. You'll miss the fun of travel, much of the interaction with what surrounds you, and you'll miss the best photographs too.

When I look around me, I survey the surroundings. I visualize photographs of images, scenes, and subjects. I consider why and what of the scene is special, worth capturing, worth preserving. I literally ask, "Why the heck am I interested in making a photo of the scene before me, why it's caught my eye?” I don't make a photo of every scene I see. I consider what story I want to tell, what I want to say, when making the exposure, what emotion I'm trying to capture, convey and/or invoke. I consider who the image is for; myself, others, a particular person or persons.

With some photographs these questions are asked and answered as the scene unfolds. With others, its solely within the photographer's imagination as the scene will unfold in the future.

I hope I'm helping you to understand that photographs are made, not taken. Photographs are planned. Snapshots aren't. They are taken by merely pointing the camera at an object and pressing the shutter release button, with little thought and no planning other than a desire to capture a memento.

I know the photograph above, of Giza is small, but I hope it still reveals it was carefully planned. The idea was to show the special nature of a slice of world history, its size and scale, and hopefully the skill and artisanship used to make the monuments in the scene.

I specifically wanted to capture the majesty of the Sphinx with one of the Great Pyramids in the background to relay the special character of the Giza Plateau, overall.

I had to find a location to stand which would allow me an angle to keep the hundreds of tourists at the Sphinx, and the substantial security measures of walls and gates, out of sight. I needed to set my exposure so I had a substantial depth of field so both the Sphinx and the pyramid, about a half a mile behind it, would be in focus. I framed the image using the “rule of thirds” to utilize the way our eyes view an image, to focus attention on the important aspects of the photograph.

great egret at john heinz national wildlife refugeIn the photograph to the right of a Great Egret in flight you see planning by imagination, by taking into account how I could utilize the conditions encountered, the angle of the sun, and knowledge of the area's wildlife. Having imagined the photograph I created it by planning where to stand, the necessary camera/lens settings, etc. With some patience I got my image.

In both cases the photographs were carefully thought out, planned.

Those taking snapshots, see a scene and snap away, without forethought.

Those making photographs consider where they should locate themselves to shoot the scene. They consider the viewpoint, up, down, right, left, low, high, etc. They factor background, depth, the symmetry, patterns and lines before them, into their exposure decision. They consider framing and cropping to intensify the framing.

They'll contemplate how to use the light at hand to paint the photograph, and how and if they can add addition light. They'll think about how they should draw the viewers' eyes through the photograph. Then having made their decisions about making the image, they will manage the technical settings to achieve the desired result.

I think a quote from the great American photographer and environmentalist, Ansel Adams is particularly appropriate.
“Simply look with perceptive eyes at the world about you, and trust to your own reactions and convictions. Ask yourself: 'Does this subject move me to feel, think and dream? Can I visualize a print - my own personal statement of what I feel and want to convey - from the subject before me?'”

1 comment:

NormanBurks said...

WONDERFUL Post. thanks for share..more wait ..

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