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Snapshot vs Photograph: What is the Difference?

Updated: Aug 13, 2021

"You don't take a photograph, you make it." Ansel Adams

Picture the scene.

You are travelling along a picturesque route when you spot an area with some wonderful views.

You just have to stop and get a photo.

You park your car, grab your phone and jump out to capture that amazing view. Maybe you even take a few shots. Happy that you spotted that view, you get back in your car and carry on.

Sound familiar?

It sounds very familiar to me.

In fact, before I took a real interest in photography, that was the way I got most of my shots when travelling.

But as I progress along my photography journey, I realise that by doing this I am really selling myself short.

I’m not making the most of photo opportunities that present themselves and I am certainly not getting the best image possible.

To go back to the scenario described above. What could you do differently?

In my view, lots of small changes to that approach would make a huge difference.

I have been trying to incorporate some of the advice from experts so this is how a similar scenario could look.

I stop at my chosen location, get out and take a shot, either with phone or camera.

Then I ask myself the all-important question, the question I have been training myself to ask at every location,

How can I make my image better?

So, I go back to my image and have a look.

I start with the edges of the frame.

Is there anything there that doesn’t add to the image? It could be a power line, a piece of litter, anything that doesn’t fit into the image I want.

If so, I adjust my position and take another shot.

I always prefer to do this than try to eliminate unwanted objects later.

What about my second shot?

I consider my second shot. I look to see if this is the best I can get.

Do I have too much or too little foreground?

Do I have a definite focal point?

Is the composition as good as it could be – could I get a better viewpoint?

Could I get higher or lower, use a different vantage point to change the composition?

Do I want to include a lot of sky or only a little?

These are all questions I can ask, and I can then take a shot to try each option.

What I am doing is making images rather than just taking snapshots.

This set of images illustrates the point.

I was in a new location and had some time to spare so I began to explore my surroundings.

On one side I had a forest area, on the other there was a wide expanse of land with a mountain in the distance. Unfortunately, the sun was high in the sky and the sky was clear blue with no interesting clouds.

I had my iPhone with me, so I walked along to see if there were any possibilities for an image.

The mountain was too far away to provide a point of interest, so I looked for some foreground interest

I like everyday objects in random places, so I found a few of those

The gate provided the foreground with the mountain in the background.

The sky was uninteresting from a photography point of view, so I tried to include other interest.

I then explored the forest area to see what opportunities it would give.

I tried to show an everyday scene from a different viewpoint


Every image can be improved.

We can always get a better viewpoint, a different perspective or maybe a more unusual focal point.

We can move closer or stand further back.

We can look up and include what is above...

or look closer to the ground for our subject.

We can be deliberate in our composition rather than being snap happy.

Taking our time and thinking about how we want to compose our image is what makes the difference between taking snapshots and making photographs.

In this location I could have tried snapping mountain views or views of the forest trees from the road, but by focusing on foregrounds, on smaller subjects, by going into the forest to find some images, and by spending time thinking about my images, I believe I created photographs, not snapshots.

If you want to create photographs rather than simply take snapshots, why not try out some of these suggestions?

If you found this post useful, please feel free to share it.


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