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View Full Version : What makes a photograph rather than a snapshot?




Applespider
Nov 22, 2005, 08:33 AM
A question here that I'd be interested in people's views on; what makes one image a photograph and another merely a snapshot?

Is it entirely composition or subject? Is it technical skill to do with the depth of focus, lens quality and lighting? Does it vary according to whether your image is macro or landscape?

Do enthusiasts have a different perfect image from amateurs? I tend to only loiter around camera sites when I'm in the market to buy one; but on a recent foray, there appeared to be a distinct divide between the amateurs who prefer a sharp, punchy image out of a camera and the pros who prefer the camera to do as little as possible so they can post process. Is this because amateurs (and I'm including myself in there so don't take it as a derogatory term) can be nervous about over-processing, scared of making their shots look less realistic while pros focus on making the best of it?



Blue Velvet
Nov 22, 2005, 08:38 AM
Good question. And a debate of sorts on this topic can be illustrated by the works of Martin Parr. (http://www.magnumphotos.com/c/htm/TreePf_MAG.aspx?Stat=Photographers_Portfolio&E=29YL53UHBZX)

When is a urinal not a urinal? When it is pronounced art by Marcel Duchamp.

Lacero
Nov 22, 2005, 08:41 AM
Photographs evoke emotion through careful attention to detail, composition and framing of the subject matter; painted carefully with light and shadow.

A snapshot is what an inebriated Uncle Joe shoots at a wedding with his $5 disposable camera.

iDM
Nov 22, 2005, 08:47 AM
Photographs evoke emotion through careful attention to detail, composition and framing of the subject matter; painted carefully with light and shadow.

A snapshot is what an inebriated Uncle Joe shoots at a wedding with his $5 disposable camera.

I agree with Lacero's explanation but I'd like to take it a step further and add a few criteria for a snapshot, using a disposable camera for one is a good way to take a snap shot, using a digital camera completely on auto-settings in areas that typically would require other settings, walking down a street for the first time in a city and taking pictures while basically moving is also what i would consider a snapshot.

A photograph I think requires a much longer explanation but basically I think it involves the amount of intent the photographer has to actually compose the shot while taking into account lighting, motion......on and on and on.

Applespider
Nov 22, 2005, 08:50 AM
But if Uncle Joe picked up someone's DSLR and managed to find the shutter button, that wouldn't necessarily make it a good picture. Equally, a photographer might pick up Uncle Joe's disposable and get some better results... What would he be doing differently?

A snapshot can equally convey emotion although I suspect it's limited to shots taken of people which bring back memories rather than inspiring strangers.

Blue Velvet
Nov 22, 2005, 08:57 AM
I honestly think it's a subject that is very hard to define.

The criteria for journalistic photography i.e. war photography is completely different from say, fashion or portraiture photography.

The way that Capa and Henri Cartier-Bresson worked is very different from Ansel Adams... different subject matters, different intents.

gwuMACaddict
Nov 22, 2005, 08:59 AM
Lacero makes a good point, but I often find that my "snapshots" are just as tought provoking as some of my "photographs"

I don't think it's possible to know until after it's developed. And it depends on who is looking at it and how it makes them feel.

efoto
Nov 22, 2005, 09:07 AM
But if Uncle Joe picked up someone's DSLR and managed to find the shutter button, that wouldn't necessarily make it a good picture. Equally, a photographer might pick up Uncle Joe's disposable and get some better results... What would he be doing differently?

A snapshot can equally convey emotion although I suspect it's limited to shots taken of people which bring back memories rather than inspiring strangers.

I was just going to make this point before I read your post. ALL cameras are tools, it's up to the eye behind the lens to make the magic happen.

I have a few photographs and a ton of snapshots, all from DSLRs. To me, a photograph encompasses something more, makes me feel. I have a shot of my cousin starring directly at the lens (he is less than a year old) and it's like his eyes tell a story or something, it's just amazing (at least to me, I love the little guy :o). Then I have other images of another cousin (who is 2) that just capture a moment but don't really 'do' anything.

whocares
Nov 22, 2005, 09:35 AM
I tend to agree with Lacero, minus the "Lacero edge™". :p :p

I'd say a photograph is something the photographer put time into making (composition, exposure, etc.) with the clear intention of creating a photographic expression of his/her emotion, vision, etc. of the subject.

A snapshot is more of an instantaneous witness of time and space.

I make no value judgment between a photograph and a snapshot. They both have artistic value and are influenced by the artist's emotions and vison. A snapshot may be much better from an artistic point of view than many so called "photographs". I think is all about the "destiny" of the picture.

iSaint
Nov 22, 2005, 09:40 AM
About one in a hundred...

njmac
Nov 22, 2005, 09:40 AM
Now with my point and shoot camera - this is what I consider a typical snapshot. EDIT: My obviously crappy snapshot is the third one of my kids. I guess I didn't set the link the right way before.

I am starting to think about photography seriously now, so hopefully soon I will have some real photographs that I'll be proud to post.

I found these 2 pictures on Mike Matas' (http://www.mikematas.com/2005/07/back-from-vegas.html#links) website. He took these shots with a Canon S 500 point-and-shoot on automatic settings (no flash) and with a little tweaking in photoshop. His stuff is available as a high-res download his site.

whocares
Nov 22, 2005, 09:42 AM
I found these 2 pictures on Mike Matas' (http://www.mikematas.com/2005/07/back-from-vegas.html#links) website. He took these shots with a Canon S 500 point-and-shoot on automatic settings with a little tweaking in photoshop. His stuff is available as a high-res download his site.

Photograph <> snapshot has *nothing* to do with the type of camera used. I think the pics you posted illustrate this fact quite well. :)

efoto
Nov 22, 2005, 09:51 AM
Photograph <> snapshot has *nothing* to do with the type of camera used. I think the pics you posted illustrate this fact quite well. :)

Precisely. The camera used is simply a means to an end, it doesn't determine the end. P&S cameras can limit some manual-adjustment related creativity, but that doesn't count them out from making great images (as shown above).

Essentially it seems that a photography vs. a snapshot is all about personal preference and interpretation. What I deem a photograph may be called a snapshot by a friend. This could also bring up a discussion on photography vs. art....but not sure we want to tread down that path. I would imagine it's quite similar to the current discussion, having much to do with personal interpretation.

njmac
Nov 22, 2005, 10:02 AM
Photograph <> snapshot has *nothing* to do with the type of camera used. I think the pics you posted illustrate this fact quite well. :)


That's exactly why I chose those 3 photos. I think people are stuck on the fact that they need special equipment to take outstanding pictures and I don't believe that is true.

The same point and shoot camera in the hands of an artist will be a very different picture than in the hands of someone who just picks up the camera, aims and shoots without thought to composition or lighting or even interest.

When I look back at the snapshots of my kids over the last few years, I would say I have about 25 great shots that I love, and about 2000 mediocre snapshots.

Now that I'm learning about photography, I think about the shots differently and hopefully it will show even in simple spur of the moment snaps of the kids.

Sparky's
Nov 22, 2005, 07:28 PM
In my 40+ years of photography I hold the difference to be very simple. A photograph to me is premeditated, thought, posed and the image is made. A snapshot is a spontaneous act of capturing a random view, candid, and surprising. Both can be equally beautiful and thought provoking, its just the process of the act that is different.

Lacero
Nov 22, 2005, 07:53 PM
A photograph is like the Internet.

Thus we can also deduce from whence: <-- no idea what I just said.

snapshots are like the world wide web
portraits and formals are like FTP
IR photos are like instant messaging
albums are like dark fiber


i'm just rambling at this point...

BakedBeans
Nov 23, 2005, 07:27 AM
Personally I think its down to artistic intent. Snapshots are rarely beautiful but you can get great art from using a 'snapshot style', I sometimes shoot with a old polaroid and get some great results (I also get poor shots from a dslr)

I agree with Sparky though, all about intent.

EDIT: I wrote an article about this a while back, I will try to dig it out.

JDar
Nov 23, 2005, 07:43 AM
--The eye of the beholder.

If enough beholders have the same appreciation, then it's worthy, otherwise, it's a snapshot.