People often describe the process of photography as “taking a photo” or “taking a picture”. It’s the way of referring to the process of photography. But that phrasing has some shortcomings. It implies that the camera is simply tool that records an image when the shutter is depressed by an operator (AKA a photographer) and ‘captures’ the photo. It implies that the photographer is “taking" or "capturing" a photo, almost as a reaction.
But how often is this actually true? Sure, oftentimes we mindlessly “take” photographs – but for the most part, we are doing more than simply recording an image because we saw something that made us reach for our camera. Even an image as ubiquitous as a birthday girl about to blow out her candles is manufactured on some level. I'll wager you've witnessed the candles being relit because the picture was 'missed' the first time around. Or the birthday girl being asked to freeze for the picture. Or Aunt Miriam was blinking. We are consciously constructing the photograph we envision.
There are a thousand choices and questions that we often consider when photographing anything. Here are a few, in no particular order:
- What story am I telling?
- What should I include/omit from the scene?
- Can I improve the composition?
- Can I see everyone? Does anyone need to move?
- What aspect ratio do I use?
- Should I white balance for colour accuracy, or do I want to present something skewed?
- Landscape, portrait, panorama, dutch-tilt?
- Fast shutter to freeze the action or slow shutter to show movement?
- Depth of field. Should I isolate the subject or present sharp focus throughout?
- Am I close/far enough? Zoom in or out?
- Do I want some/a lot of grain or a noise-free image?
- Can I adjust the lighting and how?
- What angle makes sense for this shot?
How can a process this intensive simply be reduced to "taking" a photo? There’s a lot of thinking, imagination, inspiration, trail & error and adaptation that goes into creating a memorable and beautiful photograph. After all, you would never refer to a painter as a Pigment Application Engineer.
So let's take a page from the Germans, and start talking about how we make a photo (ein Foto machen)!
At the certainty of sounding pretentious, making a photo is a mindful and creative process. As a photographer, you don’t simply operate a camera – you’re involved in the process of deciding to make and bring something beautiful into the world!