BPP 147: Stop Taking Snapshots and Start Taking Photographs

A lot of you are taking snapshots, thinking they are photographs.

Today we are going to break down the difference between them and I’ll share some actionable tips on how you can take less snapshots, and more photographs.

Did you enjoy this episode? Check out more recent interviews with other great guests!

Full Episode Transcription:

Disclaimer: The transcript was transcribed electronically and may contain errors that do not reflect accurately what the speaker said. Because of this, please do not quote this automated transcript.

Raymond: 00:00 Hey Raymond here from the beginner photography podcast. And today we're discussing the difference between a snapshot and a photograph. So let's get into it.

Intro: 00:10 Welcome to the beginner photography podcast with Raymond Hatfield, the podcast dedicated to helping you grow your photography skills. Raymond interviews the world's top photographers in their field to ask questions that will get you taking better photos today. Now with you as always, husband, father, home brewer, La Dodger Fan, an Indianapolis wedding photographer, Raymond Hatfield.

Raymond: 00:40 Welcome back to today's episode of the podcast. If you are here listening right now, I just want to let you know that I am grateful that you are here and want to learn more about your camera. I hope that I can help you out here along your journey. So let's get into today's episode. Today's episode is going to be about the difference, like I said, between a snapshot and a photograph. These are two very different things and I think that a lot of new photographers can get,uconfused by this. So we're going to talk a lot about that and,ushare some tips on how you can be taking more photographs. But first, first thing is, first I want to give a shout out to a recent,ureview of the podcast, the left on iTunes. Now, this review was not from Deb. Deb is in the podcast group, so I'm excited to share this one.

Raymond: 01:30 Deb says, for anybody wanting to learn photography from the ground up, this is your podcast. Raymond is a born teacher, easy to listen to and through his interviews with guests and solo teachings answers your questions about cameras, equipment, and photography that it'd beginner may not even know what to ask. Deb, thank you so much for that a review. And you're absolutely right. You don't know what you don't know. So I hope that I can facilitate some questions that can see the can, you know, get the brain going and get you excited about photography and keep you learning. So Deb, once again, thank you so much for leaving a review for the podcast in iTunes. If you're listening and are enjoying the podcast, I cannot tell you how grateful I would be. If you were to take just a moment of your time and leave the podcast a review on whatever podcast player you are listening to, it truly helps the podcast be found by other new photographers as well as guests who want to come on the show.

Raymond: 02:29 So if you would do that once again, I, I can't thank you enough. So Deb, thank you. I really appreciate it. Okay, let's get into today's episode. Once again, the difference between a snapshot and a photograph. A lot of you are taking a snapshot's as a, as a, as a new photographer. I remember that I was taking a lot of snapshots as well. And I wasn't

really taking the photographs, but I thought that I was, so today we're going to break down kind of all of this and I'm going to share some tips on how to take less snapshots and more photographs. So I'm going to take you back to that mindset that I had when I first started off in today. Kind of like Deb's review. I just kind of put this together is going to be a lot about maybe things that you are a unaware of.

Raymond: 03:16 Like maybe when you say the difference between a snapshot and a photograph, you can, you can figure out like what the difference is in your head. But how do you, how do you stop, you know, how do you, how do you take less snapshots in more photographs? So that is what this whole episode is going to be about. So when I first started in photography a while I went to film school because I wanted to study cinematography and then I picked up a camera, like a, a still camera and found it way more enjoyable in a creative release than cinematography was. And then that's when I really got started in photography to kind of, to take me to where I am today. But I thought, I still remember that day when I got my, I think it was a 2000 and it had been 2007 when I got my a cannon, a rebel x t camera and this thing was like eight megapixels.

Raymond: 04:09 It was, it was like one of the first entry level. I'm pretty sure that it was the first entry level DSLR that camera that Canon had made. And I was, I was elated. I was so excited to pick up this camera and I thought like, I went out immediately that day. Actually. It was funny, I thought that I bought it on Ebay used and I thought that it came with a memory card, but it didn't. And I was like every camera store that I went to to pick up a memory card, it was a CF card, so you couldn't find them. It just like Walmart and stuff like that. But every camera store that I went to was selling. I think that my first memory card was a, was a 128 megabytes. But regardless, like, you know, the camera stores were selling them for like 50 or 60 bucks.

Raymond: 04:55 And I thought, now I have to buy this thing online and wait for it to be shipped to me cause it was much cheaper. And that's what I did. But those first probably like three or four days, I actually turned off the the requirement that you had to have a card in the camera to shoot because I just wanted to go out and shoot and see what the, what the result would look like on the back of my camera. So I went out to start shooting and what I thought was every photo that I was taking was now a photograph. It was no longer just a snapshot. It wasn't just a point and shoot camera. And I was taking beautiful photographs. Now at the time I believe that I was already shooting manual because I, that's what I had been taught in film school.

Raymond: 05:38 So I knew that all the settings transferred over from a, from a cinema camera to a still camera. But still I would go out and essentially shooting manual to me was just getting the exposure correct, lining up changing my settings so that in the, in the camera, the light meter would be right in the center and it would be properly exposed and I would just take the photo and then that would be it. Right. And what I was doing without knowing it was I was taking snapshots, I wasn't taking photographs. So let's talk about that now. A snapshot is, let's talk about what a snapshot is. Wikipedia defines a snapshot as a photograph taken without preparation. And I would say that that is about right. And like I said earlier, I could almost just in this episode right now and like that's the information, but that wouldn't really be helpful.

Raymond: 06:34 So a snapshot is, is just that, right? It's a photo that anybody can take because no skill and no talent is being used to, to, to capture what somebody else can see for themselves. No preparation is involved. A photograph. On the other hand, a photograph is a photo taken with, actually, I should probably should have seen what Wikipedia said about the definition of a photograph, but it probably would have been too literal. But the way that I classify a photograph is it's a photo that has been taken with artistic intention. So

almost the exact opposite of a snapshot. So a snapshot is defined as a photo taken without preparation. And I define a photograph as a photo taken with artistic intentions, meaning that you have to have some sort of preparation to, to take the photo because a photograph captures more than just quote unquote what it is, but it captures how you, the photographer want it to be seen.

Raymond: 07:47 Those are two very different things, very different things. What it is and how you want it to be seen are two very different things. Very famous. And prolific landscape photographer Ansel Adams has a very famous quote that is that there are two people in every photograph, the viewer and the photographer. And I think that that speaks very true to the difference between a snapshot and a photograph because every photo tells a different story to everybody else based on our different life experiences. Now you just simply cannot be intentional when taking a photo, when you're shooting in auto and that that becomes a problem. And that's because all of the decisions are being made by the camera. So a snapshot is without any preparation. You pick up a camera and you press the button, right? You press the shutter button, you take the photo, and then that's it.

Raymond: 08:55 If you have to come up with, you know, the settings and you have to figure out, you know, everything else, suddenly it's not a snapshot. It's more than just a snapshot. And there isn't anything inherently wrong with a snapshot. That's just what it is. And to be honest, some of my favorite photos are unintentional photographs, snapshots, but those photos, those snapshots they have, they, they have meaning to me. They have meaning to me, but almost nobody else would care about those photos. Right? Maybe it's the people in the photo, you know, different time. But if it's the people have like my family, you know, when I was growing up, I vividly remember a time where we're having like a small family reunion at my and my great Grandma's house. So we went and at one point, you know, like a lot of family gatherings do, they pull out an old shoe box of photos and there's no organization to these photos.

Raymond: 10:06 They're just kind of everywhere. There's, there's a date only printed on some, and that date was put on by the by the developer, by the film developer when they would go to get the film developed and then they would create prints. A, the date was marked in the back, but that date was marked on the back from when the photo was developed. So who knows if that was really when the photo was taken. You know, if they just left film sitting in the camera for awhile. But the point is, is that these photos you could tell, you know, hadn't had, had no preparation. People would just go and like, oh, people are getting together. I'm just gonna take some photos. Because like, we have this camera and that is that those photos wouldn't mean anything to you. That wouldn't mean anything to you.

Raymond: 10:49 But to me they were a window into my, my great grandmother's life, right. Seeing her as a, as a young adult, right. And imagining what her life must have been like through a photograph of, you know, just her and some friends getting together later in life, you know, so these snapshots are, are meaningful to me and to nobody else. So that is why to me, snapshots aren't all bad. They're not all bad, but it's, it's that line. Like I said earlier of when I went out with my brand new still camera to take photos, I thought that I was taking photographs because of the camera itself and not because of the decisions that were going into the photograph that was taken. So the majority of you, I would say are still taking snapshots without knowing it. And that is a problem just like me, just like how I shared there in the beginning, because the snapshot is a snapshot is, is the moment.

Raymond: 11:54 It's in the moment. It is completely unintentional and you could say that it's simply a document. That's it. It proved that something happened at some time, whereas a photograph is planned, no matter how much it was planned or how little it was planned, there was some planning that went into it and it was planned with artistic intention. So

let's discuss right now how you can stop taking snapshots and start taking photographs. Now the first step to taking less snapshots is to ask yourself, and this was the problem that I had, is to ask yourself why you want to take a photo. As I mentioned earlier, in my example, I went out and I just started shooting just to shoot, just to shoot thinking, Oh man, I'm taking some great photographs here. This is incredible. Like because I'm here and I have this camera in my hand so I'm taking photographs.

Raymond: 12:57 This is great just snapping away. But I wasn't asking myself why I wanted to take the photos that I was taking and we've all entered into a situation where either something happens or we see something and say, Oh hey, I'm going to take a photo. But if you first ask yourself why you want to take a photo right now, you can then make decisions to help you take a better photo. Let me give you an example. If you are out, say you know a park or something public place and you see two people having an interaction, maybe you know you kind of come up with a story in your head. They haven't seen each other in a long time and they're just really connecting with each other and you want to take a photo right of that. Ask yourself why do you want to take that photo?

Raymond: 13:49 You want to take the photo because two people are having such a powerful interaction with each other. So that means that you will want to fill the frame with those two people. Don't make it so wide that you see like you know other kids running around and like you know somebody sleeping on a bench in the background. You want to fill the frame with what you want to have, the story that you want to tell. And in this case the people interacting with each other. So now that brings up a new question. If you know that you want to fill in the fill the frame with these people, do you a want to get closer or do you be wanting to zoom in?

Raymond: 14:27 Each of those things will make a different impact on the photo. Neither one is right. I can't tell you that neither one is right. If you decide to get closer, that's where I decision. If you decide to zoom in and that's also the right decision, but each one of those decisions, decisions that you make will make a different impact on the photo itself. But say that you are out and you see a beautiful full of flowers, just very colorful and vibrant, you want to take a photo of that. So how do you take a photo of that? What is it that you want to take a photo off? Is it the colors? Is it a, the, the, the, the flower or you know, whatever it is that is growing itself? Is that just that it goes on forever, you know? Do you now, do you get lower with your camera and get like on on the flowers eye level, you know like do get on its level or do you get higher with the camera and just try to fill the frame with this color?

Raymond: 15:25 But regardless, you have to ask yourself, you know, what is it that you're trying to take a picture of? What is it that you want to highlight? Why do you want to take this photo? So first you pre-visualize your photo and then you put your camera to your eye. One of the worst things that you could do is walk into a situation with you, with the camera to your eye. And I struggle with this at weddings because you inherently, you know, are walking into new situations all the time. Lots of new people, lots of emotion, and you already have the camera to your eye. But if you, if you walk into a place and you think like, wow, this is beautiful, and you ask yourself, well, what is it that's beautiful here? And then you can pre- visualize the photo that you want to take. Then when you put the camera to your eye, you're not just going to snap a photo.

Raymond: 16:11 Because while I'm here in, in, in, in, I like this. Let me take a photo. If you figure out what it is that you like, and then you put the camera to your eye, you're already gonna know, you're gonna say, Oh, I've got to zoom in. I want a shallow depth of field. I'm going to go with a 2.8 . It's kind of, it's kind of dim outside. There's not a lot of light. I'm gonna Choose ISO 800 and now let's snap away, right? When you figure out that framing, you're going to be good, because now you're doing it with artistic intention. When you pre

visualize how your photo will turn out so that you can do without a a, you know, with, without a, without a still camera, you can do that with just your cell phone. And this next tip you can also do with just your cell phone and then is turn on the framing grid.

Raymond: 16:58 So if you're on an iPhone, you can actually do this in your settings. I don't even know where my phone is right now. So I can't show you, but you can turn the framing grid on in. You're on your, just on your cell phone camera, right? And the grid is just like a, it looks like a tic Tac toe board over the frame of your photo, which is the rule of thirds. So if you don't know what the rule of thirds is once again, imagine looking at a photo with a tic Tac toe board laid over it and where the lines intersect is where your eye naturally finds pleasing to want to go to. So if you put your subject in one of those four locations, I'm already, you're going to have any more interesting photo. So if you turn that on on your cell phone it is going to get you in the mindset to look for better compositions wherever you are.

Raymond: 17:52 And when you're on the lookout, you're looking with artistic intention. So this is a small change. It is a small change. And once again, you don't need the fanciest camera in the world. Literally any iPhone since like the iPhone three, I guess I found three g I suppose like you could turn this on, maybe even the first iPhone, maybe even the first iPhone. I'm not, I'm not positive. Don't quote me on that. But if you're still rocking the first iPhone, maybe sound upgrade. All right, so that is, that's the second thing that you can do is turn on the framing grid so that you can get yourself in that mindset to always be on the lookout for better compositions so that you can start looking with artistic intention. So next this one does require a camera with manual controls, but it's just simply choosing your aperture that you want depending on the depth of field that you're looking for in a photo.

Raymond: 18:45 Now this goes back to a pre visualizing your photo. And if you are absolutely brand new to photography, that may have sounded more confusing than it needed to be. So I apologize. But the, the aperture dictates how much you want a in focus and out of focus. Now by thinking about how you want your finished product to turn out, you are pre visualizing and then setting your aperture to match the pre-visualize photo in your head. You are, once again creating artistic intention. One of my favorite cameras, it's becoming less and less favorite every day as it gets a, as it's showing its age, but as the Fujifilm x 70, I love this camera. I love it so much. On the front of the camera it has an amateur ring. So if you're looking on youtube, I can change the aperture to whatever I want right there on the front of the ring.

Raymond: 19:46 So before I even turn on the camera, I can look ahead. I can say, Oh look, my kids are playing right now. We're out at the the fair or whatever. You know what? I don't need to shoot at f two, eight. They're moving around quite a bit. I could use a little bit more depth of field. I'm going to choose an f four and then I turn on my camera, right pre visualizing. Once again, how much you want in focus is simply setting that artistic intention. And that's a, a, that's a tip that you can use. Another thing that you could do also doesn't require you to have a, a expensive still camera you can use with just your cell phone, but it is simply getting lower to the ground to make a stronger eye connection with a child or a pet. Kids and pets have to be two of the most photographed subjects ever shared on the Internet.

Raymond: 20:34 So what do they have in common? Well, they are much lower to the ground than we are unless you're a horse as a pet or a draft, in which case it is a, it's the opposite. But instead of standing over them over a child or a door, a, I don't know, traditional pet, like a dog or a cat, instead of standing over them and pointing the camera down, take a knee, get on their level. This is going to build interest in your photo because you know what? Adults who look at photos from the eye level of a kid, don't see kids at eye level every single day. They see kids from a height of five, seven looking down. So if you take a photo at, you know, five, seven, looking down, your photo isn't, it's not an interesting, it's not, it's, it's not

going to stand out immediately. If you get down on their level and you take a photo right away by looking at that shot, anybody will stop even if it's just for a moment and take a closer look at the photo. And this will build interest in your photo. And an interesting photo has an audience, an interesting photo gets talked about.

Raymond: 21:49 Next, you can choose a longer focal length to remove distracting elements from your frame. So once again, this is more of a, a, a still camera and not a cell phone. However, now cell phones do have multiple focal lengths. We'll just stick with the, you know, DSLR example here and being able to zoom in. So choosing a long goal longer focal length means that you it can be useful for more than just getting closer to your subject, right? Most people think, Oh, if I'm going to zoom in, that means that I can get closer to my subject when I'm far away. And while that's true, it can also be used to remove distracting elements in the background of your photo.

Speaker 4: 22:37 Okay.

Raymond: 22:38 So sometimes with a wider lens, it is hard to block things out. Like I said in that example earlier of a two people having an interaction in a park, if you're using a wide lens, you're capturing a lot of the scene around you. Maybe that's some trash on the ground, maybe that is a you know, a broken down car. Maybe it's things that you don't want in the frame itself or maybe it's a, you know, it's an expensive Ferrari, something that's going to distract you from, from the story that you are trying to tell. If you use the longer, longer focal length, not only will you be able to get closer, but you can also frame out a lot of distracting elements. So when you do that, when you're trying to block out things to that, so so that, so that you focus on what it is that you want the viewer to focus on. That is artistic intention.

Raymond: 23:29 These are artistic intentions that will turn your snapshots into photography. So let's go over them just one more time. The first one is ask yourself why you want to take a photo so that you can pre visualize the photo and then make decisions to make a your photo turn out. The way that you want to. Next is turn on the framing grid on your cell phone so that every time you go to take a photo you will be more in the headspace of looking for good compositions everywhere. Number three is choosing the right aperture depending on the depth of field that you want. If you once again pre-visualize your photo and ask yourself how much depth of field do you want? And then you make that change. You are making that artistic intention for the outcome or for the final photo then is getting lower to the ground and make stronger a eye contact with a child or a pet. It's just different. It is different way of framing to create more visual interest. And lastly, choosing a longer focal length to remove distracting elements from your frame. That's it. That one doesn't need an explanation. So then you go,

Raymond: 24:40 Those are artistic intentions that will turn your snapshots into photographs and very easy ways to do so and can be done with even just the, you know, the, the, the most entry level camera on the market. Now I know that it may seem like I'm giving snapshots a hard time, right? That, that snapshots are just the worst. But snapshots aren't the worst. Snapshots sometimes are just, they're just fine. In fact, I still take them, but again, I take them knowing what a snapshot is. It is a document. So when do I take snapshots? I take snapshots of, you know, my, my receipts so that I can keep them long term. I take snapshots when I'm at the store and don't know which one of two products to buy. So I just snapshot it and send it to the wife and let her make the call.

Raymond: 25:37 When I'm doing home projects and need photos for reference so that I, you know, don't go to the store to buy stuff and I'm just totally lost. Like wait, how far apart where those two things are? You know, how many plants do I need? I just take a snapshot. If you're doing work in the front of the house, I'd just take a snapshot of the Front of the house so that when we go to the store, I know, you know what for these things are not

going to fit there. Now I know that I could probably just take a tape measure, but a I like, I've been doing it for awhile now I'm just going to stick with this method. But now I want to talk about one reason or I guess one time where people think that it's okay to take a snapshot and it is definitely not okay to take a snapshot and that is when you're out somewhere, you're at a, you know, an amusement park with a family or or a restaurant or something and somebody asks you to take a photo like of them and their friends or whatever and then they hand you their camera.

Raymond: 26:35 Most people, myself included for a long time were just like, oh yeah, of course. Hold up. This is an iPad because I once again don't know where my phone is, but they would just hold it up and they'd take the photo and say, here you go, and then just go on with their day. But you are a photographer. I don't care if you, if today is the first day that you have ever picked up a camera, if you have a camera in your hand, you are a photographer. Even if you're not a race car driver, if you are behind the wheel of a car, you are a driver. Same thing with photography. If you are holding a camera, you are a photographer and you have a duty to make that photo the best that it can be within reason, obviously.

Speaker 6: 27:27 Okay.

Raymond: 27:28 If somebody hands you their phone to take a photo of them, it means that they want to remember that moment. They want to remember the people that they're with, they want to remember where they are. So help them out. You can help them take a second say, oh yeah, of course. Sure. Take a second. Look around, look for good light. You know, if they're like facing the sun and they're like, they're all squinting and stuff, like just trying to smile, that's not going to be a great photo. Turn them around and they just move yourself so that you can take a photo with the sun to their back so that they have brighter eyes, they're happier, they, you know, you can see their faces better. Or look for an interesting background, right? If people are, are, you know, out and they're standing somewhere and you look in the background and you're like, oh my gosh, there's no broken end car and some trash, you know, whatever.

Raymond: 28:20 I'm just going to keep using that example. Then just have them move to something better. Maybe you see a tree like 10 steps to the left, like, oh great, let's just, I'll get you guys right here in front of this tree. A lot of times you can get better backgrounds without having them move at all, but just you kind of circle around to them. So if you take a few steps, it's a whole lot easier to get a better background than having them move somewhere completely different. And I know what you're thinking. Like I'm, these people just handed me their phone. They don't want me to like go on a photo session with them. That, first of all, I'm not talking about spending like 15 minutes here trying to get like the best photo, having somebody come out with a, with a sheet to diffuse the light.

Raymond: 29:00 I'm talking about just turning directions, right? Rotating your body, rotating them. You know, just changing the background and that is it. And the truth is people want to be told what to do. I know it sounds crazy and you're thinking like, no, I don't. Yes you do. When you have a camera in your hand, tell them what to do. Even if it's just with the cell phone. People want to look good in photos. That's it. They do. Nobody. Nobody's ever like, Oh man, I took a good photo of me. There was like, Nah, man, I got a bad photo of me. If you can do your best to take a good photo of somebody, they will be more than happy to take an additional 10 seconds to rotate their body so that you get a great photo of the background or a sign or put them in some good light.

Raymond: 29:54 People want to be told what to do and when you're behind the camera that, I mean, I've only found that to be true in my life. And the more that you get into that head space of being intentional with your photographs, the faster you're, you will improve

your skills, I promise you. The faster these things will become second nature to you. I promise you, and the faster you will be taking photos that you are proud to share, I promise you, being a good photographer is not always about having the newest camera or most expensive lens or being in the most exotic location or having the most beautiful subjects. It all starts from having a solid understanding of the fundamentals of photography. That is how you will stop taking snapshots and start taking photographs. No. All right. There you go. They have it. That's it. That is it for this week. So until next week, I want you to get outside. It's nice outside. Trust me. Get outside, go out and shoot. Shoot with intention, artistic intention, focus on yourself and stay safe. All right. I love you all.

Outro: 31:26 If you enjoy today's podcast, please leave us a review in iTunes or your favorite podcast player and continue the conversation with Raymond and other listeners of the podcast by joining the beginner photography podcast Facebook group today. Thank you. We'll see you again next week.

BPP 147: Stop Taking Snapshots and Start Taking Photographs

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