The Friday blog: what's the difference between pictures and photographs

Did this question ever come to your mind? What is the difference between a picture and a photograph?

I consider pictures to be all those images we take out on vacations, family reunions, meetings with friends, snapshots that don't require us to think of the composition, lighting, setup or anything else.

Photos on the other hand, are those images that need our photographic talent to be put in motion, we have to think how the lighting will be, if the subject is well lit, if the composition we chosen is harmonious, if the setup isn't too crowded or too empty or unbalanced and if the image has a powerful idea or not.

There are stock images that are so perfect exactly because they are photographic replicas of the family snapshots that anyone can take with the only exception that they are stunning.

© Iofoto
Here is one example, seems like the average family on a beautiful day at the beach, it would've fooled anyone but I would use it in a travel brochure anytime, the light is perfect, not look at your family beach photos, I bet they don't look like that.

However, no matter how perfect the photos I produce are I would never trade my friends and family pictures for them, those are the most dear to me.

Photo credits: Iofoto.

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March 10, 2008


I have learnt a lot from your article.

November 05, 2007


You all right, despite I just a amateur photograhp and never take a serius course of photography, I know that just photos can be produced by photographer...

Good theme...

October 01, 2007


soooooooorry. :) I couldn't help myself. It just kind of came out. lol

October 01, 2007


Wow, Jay, you're expose was longer then my blog :)) but a nice one none the less.

September 30, 2007


I find it interesting that this subject comes up often in photography circles moreso than any other two dimansional artistic form. If we look at the definition of the word picture we will see that it is defined most popularly as: "a visual representation of a person, object, or scene, as a painting, drawing, photograph, etc."

In the same manner, the word photograph is defined as: "a picture produced by photography. "

What this suggests is that, while a photograph is a picture, a picture may not always be a photograph. In that manner, an artist who specializes in photography would not want his or her art to be referred to as a picture any more than a painter would want their paintings to be referred to as a picture, although viewers, who are not artists themselves would not be inclined to recognize or verbailize the difference.

Even further, in our pop-culture society, the term "snap-shot" has become more readily accepted to deliniate between someone who has a camera and captures images fully relying on happenstance or advanced technology to create a pleasing image and one who deliberately sets a scene and manipulates the settings on his or her camera to create an image. This is not to say that the art community should allow the masses to infringe upon the standard that is set within the membership of those who go to great lengths to study their art any more than an accountant would allow laymen to call their accounting ledgers, notebooks.

One thing that has had me wondering is, as I become a better photographer, the line between picture, or snapshot, and photograph becomes blurred. What I mean is that, as my ability increases and my familiarity with the cameras I use becomes almost reflex, even my pictures are increasing in quality. I find it hard to believe that Ansel Adams didn't, at one time or another, on a whim, decide to take some pictures and that those pictures turned out masterfully. Even in the example photograph above, with its picturesque feel is a good illustration of a photographer who has mastered the art of seeing light as his camera sees it and captures scenes, with very little effort or forethought, in some cases, by simply being aware of his surroundings. For some, who are just starting out, watching Mr. Chapple setup for that shot may appear to have all the signs of a snapshot in the making, but with time comes the mental preparation that eleviates the physical prep time to create an image.

Sorry this comment is so long, its just that the subject really got my mind in motion. Thanks Iona, for nudging me a bit and also for allowing me to ramble on. ~Jay

September 28, 2007


Yes, I had a photography professor who wouldn't allow us to call our photographs "pictures." A picture is exactly what you mention here: a snapshot of a moment with no planning or though except to get whatever moment it is on film. Sometimes though, luck can turn a picture into a photograph.

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