Snapshots vs good photographs

June 23, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

Snapshots vs. good photographs

The proliferation of smart phones, along with their improved camera quality, has contributed to the often-held viewpoint, that anyone can create artistic, professional photographs. While it’s true that you don’t have to be a professional photographer, to create great photographs, there is a world of difference between a random snapshot vs a well thought out, professional photograph. In this article, we are going to explore how to create good photographs.  Many people often wonder if they can create good photographs with a smart phone, or do they have to invest in a DSLR – digital single lens reflex camera. While DSLR cameras do offer many features often not found on smart phones, which makes them the idea choice for certain types of photographs, you can still create good photographs using your smartphone. You just need to understand your camera’s limitations and work around them, while learning a new way to preplan, compose and capture images.


Basically, a snapshot is a random photo, taken without any creative thought, whereas as a professional looking, artistic photograph is created with intent and attention to detail.  Here is an example of what I’m talking about. You’re driving along the beach and notice a nice scene, so you park the car, grab your camera, and snap a picture. For all intents and purposes, that’s an example of a snapshot. Now contrast that scenario with the following:  You want to take some sunrise photographs at the beach during low tide, so you study when low tide and the sunrise will occur at the same time. Then you watch the weather, waiting for a sunny or partly sunny day, rise early enough to drive to the beach and capture the sunrise photographs. That’s an example of creating a photograph with intent and thought. Can you see the difference?


Most professional photographers would agree that great looking photographs have the following in common: They are in focus, properly exposed (not too dark or too light), have one main point of focus, are unique (difficult or impossible to reproduce again), cause the viewer to feel some emotion when viewing them and are artistic looking, which means they include the use of color, lighting, form/shape/patterns, perspective and good composition.


Now let’s discuss photographing the scene. Certain types of photographs will simply look better in specific lighting conditions. For example, a sunrise/sunset photo will show more color in the sky in partly sunny conditions…a portrait will look better on an overcast day, or in shade…a waterfall on a cloudy/overcast day…flowers on a cloudy/overcast day with minimal wind…mountain scenes just after sunrise, late morning, or late afternoon etc. This article isn’t meant to be a study course on how to use lighting to achieve a certain effect, but it’s important to study how various light can be used to achieve a certain effect. The key is to experiment by taking lots of photos under all sorts of sorts of lighting conditions, to learn which lighting works best.  The most challenging light for virtually any photograph will be at noon on a sunny day when the light is directly overhead. So, I would recommend avoiding this time of day if possible.


During your preplanning stage you should be thinking about which camera lens and settings will be used to create your photograph. DSLR cameras offer many lens options and numerous camera settings that will allow you to create good photographs.  Many of the lesser expensive smartphone cameras only have one lens (a wide angle), which will limit your ability to capture certain scenes, like wildlife, sporting events etc. Some of the more expensive smartphones have a telephoto lens and  will also allow you to adjust the shutter speed, which are important for certain types of photos, like sporting events, where your subject is always moving. If you are serious about photography, I would encourage you to invest in a new or used DSLR camera, as it will offer all the tools to help you create artistic photos.


Some other tips: Crop as much as possible using your camera, pay attention to backgrounds and move around your subject to eliminate distracting backgrounds that interfere with your subject. Look for interesting colors, patterns, shapes, forms, and lighting.  You may want to return to the same spot to take photos during the different seasons. If your subjects are coming out blurry, try leaning up against a tree, building etc., or pull your elbows onto your body to help steady the camera. You can also invest in a monopod or tripod to hold the camera.


Many photographs can be further enhanced using your computer to adjust things like shadows, lighting, contrast, color, sharpness, etc. Photoshop is a popular software program that is used by most professionals to add finishing touches to their photos.


So, what are you waiting for? Go out and create some photographs. Remember, some preplanning and attention to detail will help you transition from taking snapshots, to creating photographs.


If you have any questions, send me an email and I’ll try to help you.


Ron Bowman

[email protected]


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