Why Take A Photo?

Live Write Dream blogger, Lou, one of the bloggers I recommend here, has written a beautiful piece on travel in which she recalls wondering to her younger self while visiting the Grand Canyon, why anyone would take their eye off the scenery to take a photo. That really got me thinking. As a photographer, it would never occur to me to wonder, but back when I had no interest in the subject I recall wondering precisely that myself.

If you’re of a mind to divide the world into two kinds of people this is definitely one of the categories you could include. Those who wish to capture images and those who just want to take them in in the moment and move on. A good photographer actually has a foot in both camps. You don’t want to shoot everything you see, some things are better experienced and left to memory.

There there’s the rest of what you see. Or rather, what I see. In thinking about the question further, it seems that perhaps those who find no reason to capture the image are making assumptions about the process of taking a photo that reveal a lack of understanding about what serious amateur and professional photographers are doing when they capture an image. There are many reasons, and many ways of doing so.

On the matter of reasons to do so, the first one that comes to mind, and to me seems the most obvious, is you capture the image for posterity, and for your own recollection. It’s all fine and well to look at something and tell yourself you’ll remember what that was like at a later date, but if you capture the image, then you have it for as long as you choose. I know for myself, and for others I know, that seeing those images at a later date brings back a flood of memories that I might otherwise never recall, and a trip down memory lane can be a rewarding experience.

Then too, the mind being the tricky little devil it is, your memory of what you saw without the aid of a photo is quite likely to be faulty. That can sometimes be a good thing, but overall I know I would rather remember what I saw the way it really was. Therefore, I shoot. As I said, there are other reasons to capture images you see with a camera. Let’s look at a couple more.

There’s the matter of art. When you look at, say, some scenery that you find worthwhile, you look at it and you say to yourself, wow, that’s beautiful, and that’s that. A serious photographer looks at the scene and says to himself or herself, I wonder how it looks from other angles. Photography is about two primary elements. Light and composition. A photographer thinks more deeply about what they’re seeing and looks for the best angle to shoot it from, and if time permits, decides what time of day it would be best to capture the image. So being a photographer actually gives you a deeper understanding of what you’re looking at, and, I feel, more appreciation.

For many people none of that matters, and that’s fine. It’s just one more answer to the question of why someone would “take their eye off the view to take a photo.” In truth, a photographer isn’t taking their eye off the view; they’re seeing it more than those who are just looking.

Okay, one more reason. Art for art’s sake. Digital photography has reached the level where you can do much to enhance an image, both in the camera as and after you shoot, and later on in Photoshop or other such programs. I’m not a Photoshop kind of guy, to me doing anything more to an image after the fact than sharpening it and perhaps cropping a bit to get the best presentation isn’t pure photography, it’s graphic art. Which is fine, it’s just not what I can photography. But in the camera, I can make many adjustments that enhance what i’m seeing and make it a more rewarding image to see that what my eye sees unaided.

So that’s my long-winded answer to Lou’s question as to why one would take one’s eye off the scenery to take a photo. When I do it, i’m not taking my eye off the scenery; i’m taking it to a deeper level, and for me, and others, that’s a very rewarding experience.

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2 responses to “Why Take A Photo?

  1. That’s me! I’m mentioned in your post! Very cool…i’m honoured!

    To be honest, i took my eyes off the Grand Canyon many times…in fact i have about 50 photos to prove it! tee hee…but seriously, in that moment, that very first ‘i can’t breathe for all this beauty around me’ moment, i just wanted to stare with my eyes, not a lense. I wanted to imprint it into my memory, let it seed itself in my brain. But i totally get what you’re saying here. In fact, you may have just inspired me to take more pictures! 🙂

  2. Well, turn about is fair play, you inspired me with your post. There really are two kinds of people when it comes to photography, though, and most of my life I was in the other camp. With the advent of digital slr’s I became interested though, and now I can’t look at a beautiful scene without working angles out in my mind and cursing myself for not having a camera with me.

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