Making a Photo versus Taking a Photo

As I’ve ventured ever further into the world of photography, I begun to conceptualize a distinction in my mind between “making a photo” and “taking a photo.” Taking a photo is what we all do when we snap a picture of friends, or take a quick shot of pretty sight. Then we print it, email it, post it to the web, whatever it is we do with our photos now.

Making a photo is a more intentional process. It begins with seeing something, and saying, “wow, that could be  a cool picture.” Then we “compose” the photo (try to figure out what we want in the frame, and where). Then we take the picture. A case in point:

 

When I took this photo, I was intrigued by the flow of the rain over the car window. I thought it might make a pretty cool photo, especially Photo before editingwith the green background. I focused on the window itself, rather than what was visible through the window.

Unfortunately, you’ll note it looks kind of boring, washed out even. Frankly, just kind of gray.

So I began working on it with my editing software: I punched up the contrast so you could really see the impact of the water flowing over the grass. I added a bit more saturation and vibrancy to the colors.

Is this cheating? Shouldn’t photography be about faithfully representing what the eye sees?

Edited photo

I don’t think so. The camera cannot faithfully reproduce what we see with the naked eye. Our eye sees a wider range of light than a camera, a greater contrast than camera can capture. For me, one goal of photography is precisely not to replicate nature exactly, but to show something that we might not normally see, whether that be an image of flowing water stopped in time, or an examination of a smaller part of the light spectrum than our eyes would normally focus on.

As I said, there are those who think of this as cheating. But for me, this is the distinction between making a photo and taking a photo.

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