Making versus Taking Images

Black and white image of Canadian mountain peaks in the snow by Randall Romano.
The Peaks

When I was a young photographer, I use to believe that I had amazing vision. Simply by pointing my camera at a subject and taking a single image, I would undoubtedly capture an excellent photograph. Snapping and taking images quickly, was my technique because I had the gift of vision – the force was with me. Yes, my eye for images was exceptional and special!

After taking many poorly received images, I came to the realization that great images needed to be made, not just taken. Spending the time observing a subject and creating a well-designed composition is necessary to be a more successful photographer.

In reality, very few people can walk and take single successful images. Time, thought and knowing the subject matter well is essential. Photography, as in all crafts, requires study, focus, hard work, persistence, and a dedication to excel – to reach beyond and grow in the craft.

Black and white image created from inside a brick alley with a man walking past and harware store sign in the back by Randall Romano.
Hardware Canyon

This philosophy is even more important today than at any other time in photography because virtually everyone carries a camera on his or her cell phones. Every 60 seconds 216,000 images are posted on Instagram. According to InfoTrends – April, 2016 blog post… “InfoTrends estimates that over 1 trillion photos were captured worldwide in 2015 and forecasts that this number will grow 11% this year (2016) to over 1.1 trillion.”

This includes digital cameras, smartphones, camera phones, and tablets. Yes, everyone is truly a photographer taking images in today’s world.

Going beyond simply pushing a button and calling it “good enough”…

Thinking about why the subject should be photographed and deciding the best way to photograph it is important to the process. Also, asking what you are trying to say in making this image is of equal importance.

What follows is a quote from the Magnum Photographer David Hurn: “The photographer must always keep in mind that there is a purpose to the picture. That purpose is to reveal the chosen aspect of the subject matter, to clarify its essence – and to accomplish this goal through a visually interesting picture.”

Black and white image of two women covered in mud outside of a mud hole by Randall Romano.
Mudder Tough

Positioning and timing are two extremely important aspects of making a photo that are in the photographer’s control. Where to stand (our angle to the subject) and when to release the shutter are the main tools a photographer has in his toolbox.

Of further importance is to tell a story or reveal deeper meaning in a photo. Personal stories about people and places, and using universal themes such as: love, hate and courage should be considered. Maybe making images that document or reportage locations, creating a pictorial representation of a place, is more your style.

A made image embodies a thought and plan that ultimately reflects successful and meaningful photography. Making a photograph requires work and a greater dedication to perfecting the photographic craft – a craft that has a long history of master photographers.

Black and white image looking down a train bridge in the snow by Randall Romano.
Railway Vortex

The overall point is that simply taking images is not the same as composing and making images. There is nothing wrong with taking images for fun or to causally document an event. However, if your desire is to move towards making images that go beyond “good enough” to great, you must know the difference between the two.

By Randall Romano
All text & photos: © 2016 Randall Romano. All rights reserved.

All written content (and most images) in these articles are copyrighted by the authors. Copyrighted material from Apogee Photo Mag should not be used elsewhere without seeking the authors permission.

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