It’s just a “snapshot”

I read a recent post on a photographer’s blog that I sort of respect.  I say sort of because while I like his images, I’m not a big fan of his process because it alters the image too much for me to be comfortable with it.  His work is beautiful, no doubt about it, but a niggling little thought in the back of my mind gripes “but it’s not REAL!”

His post touched on several issues, but the point that stuck with me was his assertion that unless the image is taken at the best times of day (the golden hours) in perfect lighting and great conditions, it’s nothing more than a snapshot. 

Now, I have a problem with that statement.

First, it’s too absolute.  Yes, the lighting might be best for a few hours at the start and ending of the day, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take a decent photograph in between.  In fact, most of us probably need to practice at all hours in between so that when we see that perfect setting at the perfect time we can accurately capture it. 

Second, how can you get off dissing whole groups of people for not shooting in your style/preference?  If we all take landscape photographs at the exact same time of the day with the exact same great conditions (and by the way, you probably won’t be photographing a lot because perfect conditions are pretty darn rare) wouldn’t our work look the same?  Who wants that? Boring!

Third, there’s nothing wrong with a snapshot.  Not every image needs to be perfectly composed and set up.  Sometimes a snapshot captures a feeling, a moment that a carefully thought out image will not.  To imply that somehow a snapshot is less worthy than a professionally composed photograph is snobbish in the extreme.  

I would bet that most professional photographers are “guilty” of taking loads of snapshots when the subject isn’t a solemn occasion – family events, or trips and outings.  Who wants to set up a formal shoot for a Christmas photograph? No one!  Snapshots are really a different genre, not a lesser version of the “real” thing.   

I realize that photographers are straining desperately to separate their work from the GWC (guy with camera) – the amateurs running around with professional level DSLRs and nice lenses.  I think there’s a trap there that we should try to avoid – assuming one’s work is highly superior simply because one has been in the business for years or gets paid to do it is wrong.  We amateurs freely admit that the pros are better than we are in many cases – after all, we can practice until we get it right: pros have to get it right the first time. 

Amateurs can take wonderful and beautiful photographs.  To dismiss our work as mere “snapshots” is elitist.


9 thoughts on “It’s just a “snapshot”

  1. Well stated! I too roll my eyes at some of the absolutes the pros (and even just more experienced amateurs) insist on, and I’m pretty tired of all the post-prod being flung about out there as well. Thanks for putting it in words (I tend to just gripe to my husband about it all and then wander off in a funk…).

    Nice snapshot, by the way. ;D

  2. I agree, MP. However, I don’t think there should be a distinction of quality between ameteur and professional photographers. I think there are good and bad photos, but either group can and do take them! There is some wonderful ameteur photography out there, and some professional stuff I don’t like at all. Sometimes it’s a matter of pure quality of the shot and sometimes personal taste. As someone who is attempting to gain what would be called ‘professional’ status (just means I’d make a living from it), I wonder what all the fuss is about. I think it does come down to snobbery, which I am not a huge fan of!
    Photographers everywhere, enjoy what you do, and do what’s right for you.

  3. I definitely agree – personally, I get a little bored seeing perfect shot in the golden light, time and time again. Give me something a little more unique, different, mix it up. Try photographing in non-ideal conditions, and instead of lamenting them, work with them!

    (I should also add I have nothing against these ‘perfect’ landscape shots, and some of them are absolutely amazing, but it’s not the be all and end all of photography.)

  4. It always amuses me (to borrow from Elvis Costello…”I used to be disgusted, now I try to be amused…”) when someone makes a generalized statement about ANY art form, or better yet, form of self-expression… ‘snapshots’ indeed… I have not read the post that you mention, but I do grow weary of ‘holier-than-thou’ people in ALL walks of life, but particularly from someone who is on the same walk as I, yet they don’t like the way I, or others, point our feet…
    BTW…M, you won the print from my blog, so send me your mailing address!!!!

  5. i dont take photos to become a pro but because it is like a therapy for me, capturing something and making it uniquely mine, photography is art for me not a job, i guess that is one way of categorizing different styles!

  6. I couldn´t agree more!! well said!!! I see lots of pictures on daily basis, trying to get new ideas, to see how it was done and learn to do it. I really find some of them beautiful but just a few really inspiring. It happens that people who inspire me the most, turns out to be amateurs.

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