Everyone Can Take a Picture but Few Can Make a Photograph

December 22nd, 2018
by doinlight

“Anything that excites me for any reason, I will photograph; not searching for unusual subject matter, but making the commonplace unusual.”

~ Edward Weston

There are millions of pictures taken every day, every hour even.  They are fun and spontaneous.  They record moments in peoples’ lives.  They are shared on social media and sent in emails. And when viewed later, they bring back memories.

It’s easy to take a picture.  The dominant camera is the smart phone.  Just hold it up and tap the red button.  It takes no time at all and the reward is instantaneous.  It requires no particular skills or training.  It’s easy; anyone can do it.

These pictures will fill the internet’s networks and some may even end up on peoples’ walls or in scrapbooks.  But mostly when shared face to face, it’s from the smart phone’s camera roll.

Making a photograph is not at all like taking a picture.  It’s not easy.  It requires training, experience, special skills and patience.  The rewards are not instantaneous and not everyone can do it.

Making a photograph does not document the world but rather is a window to the world as seen through the photographer’s soul.  It is a work of art.  When we view a made photograph, we not only see the photograph’s subject but we also see the photographer.

A made photograph begins with a connection between the photographer and some aspect of the world.  In many cases this connection causes an emotional response – joy, wonder, excitement, brooding, awe, dread, power, serenity and many others.  In all cases, the photographer’s response is personal and unique.

In making a photograph, the photographer’s intent is to not only capture the subject of the image, the thing that made him or her stop, but also the feeling that the encounter created.

To do this the photographer brings an accumulation of experiences and skills to bear.  The image is carefully and meticulously composed.  The elements are selected and arranged to draw attention to what the photographer saw and was attempting to capture.  Perhaps they also help to communicate why the photographer decided to capture the image.

Not only that but the photographer can evaluate the use of sharpness and blur to further strengthen the image’s message.

In landscape photography light is a powerful element in communicating emotion but it can also pose great challenges.  Recognizing these challenges and selecting the best techniques to deal with them is another key step in making a photograph.

Finally, all is ready and the photographer trips the shutter.  The image is captured.  But the work has just begun.  All the considerations and effort that has led up to this moment is just the starting point in making a photograph.

What happens next is the post processing that some disdainfully call ‘manipulation.’  But the camera is unaware of what the photographer had in mind or was feeling.  Therefore, it’s the photographer’s role to bring this to life in the digital darkroom.  Through the enhancement of the levels of brightness and contrast and the adjustment of the color palette the image achieves its potential, not as a reproduction of an external reality but as an expression of an internal, subjective reality.

When a photograph is successfully made it brings photographer and viewers together in a shared experience that has the ability to stimulate insights into and expand awareness of the world in which we live.  This is neither simple nor easy nor quick.  But it is fulfilling.

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