Photograph or Snapshot - What is the difference?
There are two types of images: a snapshot and a photograph.
One is taken quickly with little thought to either the technology or the art of what is being created in the image. These are "snapshots" and have a place in the world of communication but they are not often published or hung on a wall. These are the pictures we often find on a cell phone. They often are taken to convey an emotion or tell a story and most of the time they are quick, posed pictures of family and friends.
The image above is a snapshot. When you look at it where does your eye end up being attracted to the most? The ball? It is very large and bright and that is more attractive to our eye than the people. Now, to the photographer this shot has great emotion. It was taken at 4 AM and the kids are watching TV while their mother is upstairs with a midwife giving birth! Do you get that out of the photo? Probably not, you had to be there. Snapshots often have high emotional value and only make sense to the people in the photo. Can you see this photo mounted and in a frame and entered in a photo contest? No.
The second type of image is taken with some thought put into what the final image will look like. It is still taken quickly and to tell a story but it has something extra. It considers the viewer and where the photo will be viewed in the mind of the photographer while the photo is being set up. Will it be on paper or on a wall or digital in a small screen? It considers what is seen in the photo and how each element adds to or detracts from the message of the photo. It is a mind set that comes as a habit from lots of practice and thought about what make a photograph great.
This photo could have beeen a snapshot but because of the thought put into the process of taking the photo it is interesting even to the people who do not know Chuck. The background is out of focus which helps the eye focus on the subject. The composition captures your attention and draws your eye toward Chuck's mouth. Like a good piece of music there is not a lot of random motion of your eye looking around the photo for something interesting. The angle of the fish and the unusual activity in the photo does that. Finally the center of interest ,or the area that captures your attention, is located along something we call the third line following the Rule of Thirds. Read more about this in the Composition section of this site.
Now this final photo was taken with the final print in mind. Some photographers call this "pre-
visualization. The photographer saw this sunrise happening and saw the print mounted on the wall in his mind as he set his camera to make the shot. The photographer hoped that this would be good enough to mount, frame and enter in a contest. Composition is important. The eye is attracted to the bright sun which has been placed below center and close to the third line. The rays of the sunlight draw your eye into the sun and the color is warm and inviting. On the web the birds on the building at the bottom don't show up well but on the print they do. Exposure was set to be sure to capture the middle tones and not have the dark, shadow portions drop out of the photo.
In short, a photograph is taken with thought made toward the composition and design of the elements that are within the frame of the photo. Care taken in exposure and selection of lens and lighting helps make the photo communicate a clear and exciting message. The subject does not have to be exciting, like the sunset, to create a photograph. Pictures like the one above happen when the photographer sees something and quickly uses their skills to capture it before it goes away. Quick thinking from a habit of looking for patterns, shapes and messages caused the photographer to almost by instinct place the subject on the third line and frame them with the door. The camera was tilted vertical, again by instinct and a LOT of experience. The background adds to the message.
Snapshots, however, are taken quickly and usually driven more by emotion then care for how the final product looks. Snapshots turn into photographs simply by adding more thought and care. Take the time to look at the pictures that catch your eye in a magazine or at a movie. How were they composed? Where is the subject and where does your eye come to rest?
A GOOD PHOTOGRAPH tells a story or communicates and idea by presenting the viewer with an obvious subject or center of interest. A photo can be taken quickly with little conscious thought when we have been trained to see in a class like those offered by scphoto. Check it out.