From Enthusiast to Photo Maker

“There is a giant chasm between the taking and making of an image.  This notion is what sets apart the amateur from the professional in my mind.

Anyone in today’s world can take a picture or a video clip.  You point the camera, hit a button and see what the processor pulls up for you.  The art (for lack of a better word) of taking a photo is being in the right place, at the right time, and getting lucky. 

Making an image is an entirely different experience.  Making a photo requires skill, knowledge, and the experience of knowing what you want from a set up before you even put the viewfinder up to your eye. The art of making pictures takes a lifetime to master.” (From The Wandering DP Read the whole article here.)

In other words taking an image is shooting a photo , without any preparation, while making a photograph is a process. Making a photograph is a combination of technical skill and knowledge and creativity. Now here is another definition.

 PHOTO TAKERS and PHOTO MAKERS (From Faby and Carlo

Let’s clear the doubts over the quality of the definition “Photo Takers“. I am not looking to diminish the quality of photographers by saying they are photo takers. A Photo Taker is someone who can see the moments arriving, having the ability to capture it. Street photographers and photojournalists are the perfect examples of photo takers; they are able to tell a story without intruding, without posing or directing the subjects.

On the other side, there are the Photo Makers. They direct and poses their subjects in order to make the tight image. They don’t focus on the moment that develops, they build it. Prime examples of photo makers are newborn photographers, who know exactly how to manage a newborn, posing her head to toe.

I don’t fully agree with the above definition. I think there is more to it than that. The street photographer and the photojournalist both still need the  technical skills to make the photo. They have to understand exposure, composition, and lighting. They have to go into situation prepared to get the photos. To me this is photo making. Do we make the difference between photo taker and photo maker based on the type of photography? Is the landscape photographer a photo taker or photo maker? What about the food photographer, the portrait photographer, the architectural photographer, the product photographer?

To me the photo taker is someone who is beginning in photography and has a very limited understanding of the technical side of photography. They point and they shoot and stay mainly in Auto Mode. The photo takers are the IPhone users who just snap away to record what is happening to them at the moment. Now could an IPhone user be a photo maker? Of course, if they understand exposure, composition and lighting and if they work at developing their creative skills. Now there does come a time when gear will impose certain limitations on your photography. 

To me the photojournalist is not a photo taker. Besides the need for great technical skill, they have to have an understanding of what will tell the story.  To me they are photo makers. They are experts at telling stories through their images.

I think it takes time to become a photo maker. How do you get there? Develop a sound knowledge of the basics of photography – exposure, composition and lighting. Study what other photographers are doing. Learn about photographic techniques and styles. And above all, you need to practice and experiment and begin to develop a photographer’s eye and a photographer’s mind. (For more on this you can check out Michael Freeman’s books The Photographer’s Eye and The Photographer’s Mind.

2 Replies to “From Enthusiast to Photo Maker”

  1. Great article Steve. Thanks for sharing your expertise and the links to help me understand the technical part of photography.

    Sometimes the amount of information out there is overwhelming. You’ve made finding resources much simpler for me.

    I have a very basic camera kit, T2i, with a 18-35 and a 55-250 mm lens, as well as a tripod. I edit in Photoshop Elements 14 and have an older Dell Laptop on which to edit my photos. Pretty simple stuff. All I want to do is create photos that I find pleasing and perhaps print out a few for fun. Nature is my love andjust being in nature is very therapeutic I find.

    I do have an iPad and sometimes transfer photos from my laptop to it in order to experiment with some editing freebies, like Snapseed and some Photoshop Freebies as well. It’s just fun for me.

    Definitely, I do want to learn more, but at a leisure pace. That’s what Retirement has been so far. No rushing, just doing home projects, crafts and photography. What I love about retirement is just doing what I want when the mood strikes. LOL I’m sure you can relate.

    Thank you again Steven for your generosity in helping people like me who feel lost sometimes about where to fine the best resources. Your site is awesome and I also love the Cornwall Photograpy group. K L has given me a few great tips. She’s been extremely generous and patient with me. Just love seeing the pictures from our local photographers.

    In regards to your article, I think I am somewhere in between picture taker and picture maker. I use Manual Mode most of the time, but in a pinch will use ‘sports mode’, especially for moving objects and dark situations. However, I am trying to stick with Manual Mode most of the time. I do enjoy telling a story with some of my posts, but I’m far from a Photo Journalist. LOL

    Thanks again Steven. Fall should bring us some wonderful, colourful scenes to explore. Can’t wait for the colour.

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