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Photograph vs Snapshot

In keeping with my pre-designated blog schedule…. today is Photography Friday.  I initially began this post as an insight into my photography workflow, but as I began to write it seemed to evolve into something completely different.  In an effort to learn to listen to my inner voice rather than preconceived notions, I decided to delay the workflow post for another time.

About two years ago I began to realize that my life was out of balance — and had been for quite some time.  I enjoyed teaching and had spent nearly every waking moment devoted to that profession.  Teaching gave me a sense of purpose and it fulfilled the need to remain mentally challenged.  But living a life of all work and no play can create a rut that if left unchecked, can quickly become a prison. So I made the resolution that I would learn to balance responsibility with creativity – schedule with spontaneity – pragmatism with frivolity.

Photography has been a great hobby to help me achieve this balance in life.  It has awakened the right side of my brain and is helping me to see the ordinary world around me in an extraordinary way.  It has allowed me to feel artistically creative when I have no talent for drawing or painting.  It has enabled me to learn more about myself through visual images rather than just written words.

But photography also feeds the left side of my brain as well.  I have had to learn about the relationship between ISO – shutter speed – aperture.  I have had to learn about the Kelvin scale of light – and not all light is created equal.  I have had to learn that the way I see the world is not the way the camera sees the world – and it is essential to learn its language in order to properly communicate.

One thing I have learned this week, using Katrina’s Capture 365 prompts, is that I need to give more thought to my pictures BEFORE I click the shutter.  For me, I think this is the difference between a photograph and a snapshot.  A photograph is purposeful – it goes beyond the image to tell a story or convey an emotion.  A snapshot is spontaneous with the purpose of documenting a moment in time.

I have taken snapshots my entire adult life.  I felt it was my responsibility as a mom to pull out the point-and-shoot for each birthday, holiday, or family trip in order to fulfill my duty as family historian.  I remember one trip to Disney World where the children instinctively posed the same way for each character portrait.  It made for a quick and easy picture – but the emotional thrill of the vacation was missing.

In preparing for my trip to Paris, however, I realized that I wanted to photograph something more than the iconic images:  postcards serve that purpose. I was traveling alone and I wanted to capture my emotional reaction to these familiar sights in order to share them with family when I returned home.  It sounded easy enough … but as is most things in life, it was far more difficult than it first appeared.

I used to be naive enough to think that photography was not an art – it did not require talent.  All that was needed was decent eyesight to focus, and an index finger to press the shutter.  How grateful I am that I kept that ignorant comment to myself.

True photography, I feel, is about finding just the right angle – point of view – to tell the story.  True photography is giving thought to focus – what is tack sharp and what is blurred for effect.  True photography is as much about what is included in the picture as what is excluded.  True photography is about how the light is conveyed in the image – and how the shadows are acknowledged.

I do not pretend that this is all there is to know about true photography.  This is only what I have learned in the last few months of study and practice.  And while I had no idea that this one little hobby  would turn into a life long quest, I am delighted to have found such a worthy past time.

6 Comments

  • Paula Puffer

    It really is. This last year for me has been eye-opening to say the least in terms of my photography as well. I blythly said that if they let me go when the merger happened, I'd strike out and start working professionally as a photographer. Thankfully I didn't get let go, but somehow speaking the words about being a pro level photographer put that yearning in my heart and I've been steadily working on my craft and finding some peace that I haven't had in a long while.

  • Cathy

    Your distinction between snapshot and photograph was illuminating to me. The reason photography was never interesting to me had to do with "what you see is what you get."–Or so I had always supposed. (I've never studied photography.)

    When I began using Adobe Photoshop and playing with different filters, I began to enjoy photographs more, because I could layer in moods, or crop to mood.

    But the thought of putting emotion/mood BEFORE snapping the picture is a great new idea to me.

    Or to feel an emotion and to search for an object–an objective correlative, as T.S. Eliot first described with regard to literature, is new to me.

    I always look for the objective correlative when writing scenes in a (fiction) manuscript, which is also always dependent on which character's viewpoint I'm in.

  • Carola Bartz

    You're talking about my big passion here! I love photography, have done so for more than 30 years. It is so fulfilling, creative with endless possibilities, and I have the feeling I'm never done learning.

    Wow, I haven't been to your space for a very long time. 2012 didn't leave much time for me to spend in blogland. I hope this is different in 2013 and I'll be here more often.

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