PetaPixel

Taking Versus Making a Photograph

Here’s an uber-inspiring video in which National Geographic photographer Sam Abell discusses the difference between “taking” and “making” photographs through his experience of shooting one particular photograph for a story on painter Charles M. Russell. He explains that taking an image is shooting a photo as a reaction, without any preparation, while making a photograph is a process.

Abell spent one-and-a-half years hunting for and making the perfect photograph of bison skulls, and shot 25,000 frames for the 8 photographs that appeared in the story. Now that’s commitment.

(via The Atlantic via Chase Jarvis)


 
 
  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_FGAQWWUQY2EZQJ4LG5Y3ZHRB4U Joe

    This is a matter of semantics. I’ve found that people who say “making” a photo rather than “taking” are just being pretentious… Kind of like dropping into conversation that you own a Leica.

  • Anonymous

    When you’ve truly ‘made’ a photograph you’d feel differently about this.

  • Tony Bodinnar

    Hi Joe. I own a Leica. I also make images. I also own a couple of Canons. I also take photographs.  I often work with groups of kids, showing them how to see, how to find images, and also how to ‘make’ images. ‘Taking’ involves seeing (and anticipating) and capturing strong visual images. ‘Making’ has more involvement in the creation of what it is that then becomes the image or photograph. I accept that the differences are small, but nevertheless there ARE differences and so should be acknowledged. I can only hope that this doesn’t make me ‘pretentious’.

  • Tony Bodinnar

    Hi Joe. I own a Leica. I also make images. I also own a couple of Canons. I also take photographs.  I often work with groups of kids, showing them how to see, how to find images, and also how to ‘make’ images. ‘Taking’ involves seeing (and anticipating) and capturing strong visual images. ‘Making’ has more involvement in the creation of what it is that then becomes the image or photograph. I accept that the differences are small, but nevertheless there ARE differences and so should be acknowledged. I can only hope that this doesn’t make me ‘pretentious’.

  • Tony Bodinnar

    Hi Joe. I own a Leica. I also make images. I also own a couple of Canons. I also take photographs.  I often work with groups of kids, showing them how to see, how to find images, and also how to ‘make’ images. ‘Taking’ involves seeing (and anticipating) and capturing strong visual images. ‘Making’ has more involvement in the creation of what it is that then becomes the image or photograph. I accept that the differences are small, but nevertheless there ARE differences and so should be acknowledged. I can only hope that this doesn’t make me ‘pretentious’.

  • Tony Bodinnar

    Hi Joe. I own a Leica. I also make images. I also own a couple of Canons. I also take photographs.  I often work with groups of kids, showing them how to see, how to find images, and also how to ‘make’ images. ‘Taking’ involves seeing (and anticipating) and capturing strong visual images. ‘Making’ has more involvement in the creation of what it is that then becomes the image or photograph. I accept that the differences are small, but nevertheless there ARE differences and so should be acknowledged. I can only hope that this doesn’t make me ‘pretentious’.

  • Ryan S

    “and shot 25,000 frames for the 8 photographs that appeared in the story. Now that’s commitment.”

    Commitment, or worst success rate ever?

  • Ryan S

    “and shot 25,000 frames for the 8 photographs that appeared in the story. Now that’s commitment.”

    Commitment, or worst success rate ever?

  • Anonymous

    Great video, loved it!

  • Anonymous

    Great video, loved it!

  • Anonymous

    Both? 

    Remember, it’s the photographer’s choice to only show 8.

    I can’t even fathom the commitment to stick by 25,000 frames and then be happy with 8, especially on film.

    I’ve done 15,000 frames (shooting for 14 months) on digital and whittled it down to 100 and then put 60 in a book.

  • John Purlia

    Ultimately, he’s still just “taking” the photo, though he used a discerning idea to select his subject matter. He really didn’t “make” (I.e. something out of nothing) anything. There artists that use a camera to “make” a photograph or image by conceiving of an artwork, carefully staging that vision, and using a camera as a tool in the process of “making” an image.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_FGAQWWUQY2EZQJ4LG5Y3ZHRB4U Joe

    I made a #2 today. I also took several excellent photographs that speak for themselves and don’t need me going around explaining to folks how I “made” them, not “took” them… I guess I’m probably the pretentious one – I don’t make statements or waste time on conversations that try to justify my work.

  • Da Pistol

    Well la tee da….

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_FGAQWWUQY2EZQJ4LG5Y3ZHRB4U Joe

    Sorry Tony, I didn’t meant to strike such a nerve… Thanks for letting us all know about your Leica, though!

  • Anonymous

    Wonderful, thank you for sharing.

  • Anonymous

    When a photographer takes the time to  carefully consider composition, quality of light (or creates their own), decides how to handle depth of field and motion … these are all things that bring their own creativity to the process and certainly MAKE a photograph. As someone who has worked as both a fine and graphic artist I have no problem recognizing the artistry that -can- happen in photography.

  • Anonymous

    When a photographer takes the time to  carefully consider composition, quality of light (or creates their own), decides how to handle depth of field and motion … these are all things that bring their own creativity to the process and certainly MAKE a photograph. As someone who has worked as both a fine and graphic artist I have no problem recognizing the artistry that -can- happen in photography.

  • Dannynoonan82

    The quest for recognition and acknowledgement is vain and only serves to undermine the inherent value of any work

  • Dannynoonan82

    The quest for recognition and acknowledgement is vain and only serves to undermine the inherent value of any work

  • sharpie

    Rather self righteous don’t you think Joe?

  • sharpie

    Rather self righteous don’t you think Joe?

  • sharpie

    Rather self righteous don’t you think Joe?

  • Varga Girl7

    I’m not sure if I am fully understanding the definition of “Making” a photograph…BUT I can say that I believe “making” is the hell you go through sometimes to make the vision in your head come to life on film (or in this day and age, digital).  Like waking up a few hours before sunrise and being at the exact spot you want to be with your lens ready and focused, hoping to God you catch your subject at the moment necessary so it matches what you have been imagining in your head all this time. And if you don’t get it on the first session, then you do it over and over again till you see in your photo what you saw in your head all the while.  ”Making” to me is strategic planning of capturing beauty while “taking” is spontaneous luck capturing beauty.  Either way, it does not define who you are as a photographer or artist but rather the capacity of what you’ll go through to express yourself through your photos. 

  • Varga Girl7

    I’m not sure if I am fully understanding the definition of “Making” a photograph…BUT I can say that I believe “making” is the hell you go through sometimes to make the vision in your head come to life on film (or in this day and age, digital).  Like waking up a few hours before sunrise and being at the exact spot you want to be with your lens ready and focused, hoping to God you catch your subject at the moment necessary so it matches what you have been imagining in your head all this time. And if you don’t get it on the first session, then you do it over and over again till you see in your photo what you saw in your head all the while.  ”Making” to me is strategic planning of capturing beauty while “taking” is spontaneous luck capturing beauty.  Either way, it does not define who you are as a photographer or artist but rather the capacity of what you’ll go through to express yourself through your photos. 

  • Varga Girl7

    I’m not sure if I am fully understanding the definition of “Making” a photograph…BUT I can say that I believe “making” is the hell you go through sometimes to make the vision in your head come to life on film (or in this day and age, digital).  Like waking up a few hours before sunrise and being at the exact spot you want to be with your lens ready and focused, hoping to God you catch your subject at the moment necessary so it matches what you have been imagining in your head all this time. And if you don’t get it on the first session, then you do it over and over again till you see in your photo what you saw in your head all the while.  ”Making” to me is strategic planning of capturing beauty while “taking” is spontaneous luck capturing beauty.  Either way, it does not define who you are as a photographer or artist but rather the capacity of what you’ll go through to express yourself through your photos. 

  • sharpie

    Yes and for any Photographer (as opposed to picture taker) there are differences in “taking” vs “making” but there is artistry in both. 

  • sharpie

    Yes and for any Photographer (as opposed to picture taker) there are differences in “taking” vs “making” but there is artistry in both. 

  • Spud

    Sports photography is just like this.
    You might shoot over 1000 photos during a game, but only one will make the paper.

  • Spud

    Sports photography is just like this.
    You might shoot over 1000 photos during a game, but only one will make the paper.

  • Spud

    Sports photography is just like this.
    You might shoot over 1000 photos during a game, but only one will make the paper.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_FGAQWWUQY2EZQJ4LG5Y3ZHRB4U Joe

    Absolutely!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_FGAQWWUQY2EZQJ4LG5Y3ZHRB4U Joe

    Absolutely!

  • Graysmith

    I don’t think either word really fits with every kind of photography. “Take” sounds like you’re stealing something and seems rather unrefined and condescending to what photographers do. “Make” on the other hand feels like describing something staged and constructed, fake in a sense since the word in all other forms of creation is used for something created from scratch. They can both describe various aspects of photography, but neither seems able to fully describe the [...] of a photograph.

  • Graysmith

    I don’t think either word really fits with every kind of photography. “Take” sounds like you’re stealing something and seems rather unrefined and condescending to what photographers do. “Make” on the other hand feels like describing something staged and constructed, fake in a sense since the word in all other forms of creation is used for something created from scratch. They can both describe various aspects of photography, but neither seems able to fully describe the [...] of a photograph.

  • Field

    It might be better said that great photographers “compose” their photos for maximum visual impact. Composition involves the combination of many different skills necessary for a quality result.

  • Curley

    I dont think you are not truly ‘making’ an image unless you are building the image from scratch. 
    If you are shooting nature and waiting for the right light/angle then you may be patient and judicious, but in my opinion, you are still only ‘taking’ what has been presented to you. If you shoot in a studio, you choose the props/wardrobe and light the scene with skill, then i think that is when you truly ‘make’ an image. (ie: leave nothing to chance)

  • Steven C.

    Taking: You walk up the mountain see something lovely – do some framing and release the shutter.

    Making: You walk up the mountain, see something lovely and imagine how much lovelier it will be in the right light, with the right clouds during the right season. You keep going back to that spot when the conditions look like they will right and you repeat until you get what you foresaw, or perhaps something better.

  • Steven C.

    Taking: You walk up the mountain see something lovely – do some framing and release the shutter.

    Making: You walk up the mountain, see something lovely and imagine how much lovelier it will be in the right light, with the right clouds during the right season. You keep going back to that spot when the conditions look like they will right and you repeat until you get what you foresaw, or perhaps something better.

  • Flávio Filho

    Seriously, when he said about the Bison and the picture appeared in the screen, my head just blew up! What a nice history!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Daniel-Austin-Hoherd/576367461 Daniel Austin Hoherd

    Seriously, at that rate you might as well be shooting video and picking one frame.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Daniel-Austin-Hoherd/576367461 Daniel Austin Hoherd

    Seriously, at that rate you might as well be shooting video and picking one frame.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Daniel-Austin-Hoherd/576367461 Daniel Austin Hoherd

    Seriously, at that rate you might as well be shooting video and picking one frame.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Daniel-Austin-Hoherd/576367461 Daniel Austin Hoherd

    Seriously, at that rate you might as well be shooting video and picking one frame.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Daniel-Austin-Hoherd/576367461 Daniel Austin Hoherd

    1/1000 is .1% success.  8/25,000 is .03% success.  That’s a significant difference.

    If he’d gotten 8 photos with .1% success he’d only have had to shoot 8,000 photos, not 25,000.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Daniel-Austin-Hoherd/576367461 Daniel Austin Hoherd

    1/1000 is .1% success.  8/25,000 is .03% success.  That’s a significant difference.

    If he’d gotten 8 photos with .1% success he’d only have had to shoot 8,000 photos, not 25,000.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Daniel-Austin-Hoherd/576367461 Daniel Austin Hoherd

    I don’t know, I see “making” as creation in the way that effort is put out to alter the end result in a positive way.  I’d say fashion photographers make photos more than landscape, because they are actively doing the creating with their studio tools, not passively observing the creations of nature and slicing good parts off.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=504801344 Senén Cito

    It is an extremely important point to make. Creating a photograph is very different from taking a photograph.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=504801344 Senén Cito

    Ill give you a better example

    Taking, shooting a pretty girl randomly walking on the street

    Making (creating) choosing a concept based on the street, finding the right street, hiring the model, makeup artist, stylist, etc, communicating with the model and the team your desires and finally taking the photo.

  • Davidfraser59

    regardless of the semantics ( or smearanatics going on here) – as George Lazi MPA would ask of his 3rd yr class during print judging-”who is the maker of this image”-if you took the pic-  you are the maker of the image- there can and is only one maker-  and quite often the next line from George was- “its garbage”.