The difference between taking pictures and photography

Digital cameras and smartphone cameras have turned nearly everyone into picture takers, but there is a massive difference between taking pictures and photography. Where anyone can take pictures, photographers are true artists.

This is a significant distinction because snapshots are great for sharing experiences, but they really cannot be called photography. True photographers—people who earn a good living with it—bring not only technical skills and experience, but they are creators who make new compositions instead of copying existing work. There is value in the former, but not so much in the latter.

The distinction becomes obvious when we peruse online photo galleries. Most galleries are full of shots of other peoples’ art: architecture, landscapes, food, lighting and flower arrangements, art and sculpture, textiles, hard and soft goods already on display. Snapshots of these require no artistic talent, no creation. Point and shoot. It is the camera wielder profiting from other peoples’ art.

Photographers, on the other hand, create their own shots. They carefully frame each shot. They possess a high level understanding of spacial relationships, lighting, and display. They can set up various elements just for the shot. They understand how to work with art directors.

It’s not that there is no value in snapshots, but if you’re representing yourself as a professional photographer, a portfolio showing nothing more than pictures of other peoples’ art displays a lack of talent that belies the ‘professional’ tag.

Kelly Hobkirk - teaching marketers how to harness strategy, goals, reality, and purpose to connect and do better work.


Kelly Hobkirk has been helping companies succeed in creative ways for nearly 25 years. His work has been featured in Time Magazine, and books by Rockport and Rotovision. Get exclusive articles when you sign up for his monthly newsletter.

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