Why photograph?

09 May

Why take a photograph?

In response to my previous post I was asked by someone who happened to read the post what is the reason why people actually take photos? The question was quite simple, but the more I mused about it the more complex the answer seemed to becoming. So I checked a couple of photography books and the answer obtained from them suddenly made sense to me.

What I have tried to do here is put down an answer which I hope will make you also think why you are pressing that shutter release.

What most photographers want to do is communicate something. This is it in a nut shell.

The communication could be a true representation of what the photographer sees, abstract or symbolic, and is an attempt by the photographer trying to express something tangible to another person in a clear manner using visual communication. I know there are photographers doing commercial work such as fashion shoots or travel magazines who have to shoot what their clients want and this could be covered by a blog on its own so I am going to focus on individuals who do it for the fun of it.

An interesting point that was raised is that our modern society has become more interested in style than substance. We replace our normal communication with “mental candy” which is something to treat the eyes and ears rather than relaying basic information. The use of cell phones, email, Facebook and other social media’s wants us to be firstly entertained, before gaining knowledge. For most people this is an easy way out. We don’t want to work at communicating.

Photographers on the other hand only have the visual to communicate with, and should find this to be easy. But as we all find out this is not so, it often ends up being hard work.

The starting point of taking a good photograph is to have an idea of what we want to communicate. If we look at a scene and think ‘it is nice’ but have no idea of what we want to convey, it is going to be much more difficult to make a point with a stunning photograph. As an example, if I wanted to photograph an old rusted wheelbarrow it would be easy to make sure the exposure was right and hit the shutter. The picture would show an old rusty wheelbarrow, but it wouldn’t convey anything else. If I moved to the side and picked up how the light brought out the texture of the rust in comparison to some spots of peeling paint it changes everything by communicating to the viewer that I may have found the play of light and shade with the different textures being interesting to me.  By just focusing on more than just the wheelbarrow I am now communicating to the viewer that this is what took my fancy when I looked at the scene, and this is why I took the Photo.

I am sure there far more qualified people out there who could write a thesis on why people take photographs but I hope this very brief synopsis gets you thinking as to why you take a photograph.


Posted by on 09/05/2012 in Photo


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7 responses to “Why photograph?

  1. adinparadise

    09/05/2012 at 13:37

    Photography is a wonderful medium. I just love to look back on past experiences, and imagine I’m there again. 😉

    • paul

      09/05/2012 at 13:51

      Especially at my age I also need to be reminded where I’ve been 🙂

  2. 68ghia

    09/05/2012 at 14:48

    I hardly ever take a photograph – can never get the camera to see what I see.
    So, if I do take a pic, it’s just to cement that particular memory in celluloid 😉

    • paul

      09/05/2012 at 18:33

      I know what you mean! But with the mutitude of settings one gets with modern cameras you can try various combinations to get pretty close.
      I also found using my reading glasses made a hell of a difference!

      • 68ghia

        09/05/2012 at 19:13

        I have a Canon powershot SD890 IS – just a normal everyday digital camer. Does have a zoom, and that I do use every so often, but I have not really spent time on all the different settings – don’t even know what many of them means!!

      • paul

        11/05/2012 at 06:56

        Not quite a normal everyday digital camera. The 10 megapixel is ample for good quality and the 5x zoom is the equivalent of a 182mm lens. The Cannon image stabilizer is just great for crisp clear photos. And the various options for selecting colour saturations means you can do tons of stuff. Get out there and change your setting from auto to all the other options there are 🙂

      • 68ghia

        11/05/2012 at 07:29

        As if I even know what the menu option for colour saturation would look like!!
        Seems I have some research to do – or just RTFM 😉


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