Do You Take Photos or Make Photos?

Simple Idea Trick
Creative Commons License photo credit: vaXzine

In response to my previous post on “My Weakest Area of Photography“, one comment got me thinking about the topic of “taking photos” versus “making photos”. Travis Campbell said it well in his comment:

I’m getting to the point where I want to create scenes instead of just capturing ones already in play. And I’m realizing just how hard it is to come up with good ideas that look good on screen or in print. I’ve started writing some of these down and letting them percolate, adding new bits to each one when a brainstorm comes around. It’s a slow process, but I’m definitely getting a better feel for it.

So this made me curious as to how many of us “take photos” and how many “make photos”. Are you capturing the scene as you see it, possibly waiting for the right moment or best light? Or are you creating the scene, planning it, and executing the capture of a concept? Personally, I’m a “photo taker” — I work with what’s already there and try to find interesting scenes that exist without my intervention. But what about you?

{democracy:49}

And check out the poll results from last week asking “Print From Home or Print On Demand?” It looks like we have a whole mixture of answers, but the POD services (online and offline) seem to be favored 2 to 1 with online POD services having a 3 to 1 favor over offline POD.

15 thoughts on “Do You Take Photos or Make Photos?

  1. Randy Stewart

    It’s funny the way you structured the headline and it’s what attracted me to the post. My family back in the Midwest (I’ve been a west coaster for 13 years) always asks to “make a picture” and I’ve always thought it sounded a little funny.

    That said, I get the difference and sadly, I only take photos. Making a photo is a lot of work. I’m envisioning fancy lighting, posing and such. When lighting is bad, I ask people to move, but rarely do I ever go through too much to make the perfect shot. Maybe my photos show that.

    Cheers,
    Randy

  2. My Camera World

    Definitely both Brian and if I examine the majority of photos I take I would say about 75% are take photos.

    With the take photos these tend to be because I have decided to go on a walk-about in my town or areas or on a tourist excursion with the family. There is not a lot of opportunity to plan these events except for the days of and time of day and even then not fully in my control.

    On the make photos, these will either a known location and I wait for the right weather and time of day. Some others are staged to look natural as in article I wrote with using a copper pipe as an outdoor vase.

    http://niels-henriksen.blogspot.com/2007/08/copper-vase-method-of-nature.html

    or when I brought nature indoors and more of a studio shoot as with

    http://niels-henriksen.blogspot.com/2007/09/reversing-50mm-lens-for-macro-work.html

    One thing though when outdoors I do subscribe to the motto to only take memories, and leave no trace, but occasionally I may bend an item to remove an obstruction if no damage will be down.

    Niels Henriksen

  3. Patricia

    Since I’m a journalist, I almost always “take” photos. I generally don’t like to stage things or set things up, although I have done that. I prefer natural and candid. However, when I do “make” photos, it’s most often in post-processing, where I have some fun. Here are a few examples of that:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/patriciapix/2574383405/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/patriciapix/2553344410/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/patriciapix/2332891028/

    Patricia Marroquin

  4. Chica

    Great question Brian. I’m a bit of both I’d say. With my marble shots and most of my family shots, I’m a taker, because what is already there, is already good enough in my eyes. With my other photography, I’m a maker. Maker meaning post editor. If I see something, and it’s missing something, I’ll make that in photoshop. I’ll create the lighting, and etc. Until I see what I saw in the original photo.

  5. Luis Murillo

    Personally I prefer to take photos though in rare occasions I actually plan and make photos. I love the candid photos and are what I most of the time do.

  6. Mojo Denbow

    Wow! I’ve been pondering this same thing for a month now. I’ve shot a lot of documentary and event and desire to get more creative. I’m just not sure how or even if I AM a creative. Thanks.

  7. Bryan

    While I admire the creativity and effort behind a “made” photo, the principals behind photojournalism and documentary photography (which I generally adhere to) compel me to do my best to capture the moment as it unfolds. Even though many beginning shooters might feel like they do not have the skills of a studio photographer, the art, skills, and science of “taking” a photo can be just as complex and involved as “making” a photo. Understanding available light, anticipating action, and responding to an unfolding scene are all difficult and complex variables that can be removed and controlled when a photographer enters a studio. Anyone who places the ability to “make” a photo on a pedestal above “taking” a photo should reconsider their motivations toward photography. Both areas are challenging in their own right.

    So, Randy, and anyone else who “takes” photos, there is no need to feel sad. Just keep challenging yourself!

  8. Ryan Pennington

    I take a slightly different approach. The difference between “take” and “make” that I’ve adopted boils down to intent. I liken “taken” photos to the snapshots produced by the average person wanting to merely have a picture of the grandkids, or what have you. To “make” photos I think one must do so with the intention of conveying something deeper–in short, to make art. By crafting images in our own personal style (whether in the camera or in Photoshop), we imbue each photo with a part of us and in a way that the casual snapshot can rarely manage. We provide our interpretation of a scene or situation. Others can, though our photos, see what we see.

    Admittedly, the above is biased as most of my photography is observational. What I hadn’t thought of–and after having read the question I realize I must take into account–are those who create photos. By inventing a scene, a photographer has the potential to create more painterly images (i.e. the photographer can be more free with composition rather than relying on happenstance). I’ve been happy with very few of the still-lifes I’ve set up, but I greatly admire those who can do it well. Some of the spreads that Leibovitz has done for Vanity Fair (Killers Kill, Dead Men Die) and Disney are nothing short of astounding!

    That said, I make photos but rarely create them.

  9. Peter Liu

    I take “pictures” but I make “photographs”. I learned that distinction from a mentor a while back. I think of a picture as the larval stage of a photograph, much as a grape is to wine. Sometimes they both happen at the same instant with the click of the shutter, sometimes the photograph emerges in post. In either case, I think of it as “taking” a picture of a scene and intentionally creating or “making” the resulting photograph.

  10. Travis Campbell

    Oooh, hey, I got quoted! :-D

    I have to agree with Bryan’s comment. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with doing only one or the other. I just happen to be at a point in my photographic learning curve where I find the creative process associated with making a photo as “the next challenge.” A lot of this internal next-step prodding has occurred because of my interest in Strobist and wanting to have more creative control over my photos. At a certain point with Strobism, you get a decent enough handle on the technical side of things (place a light here, put a modifier there) that you start paying attention to other things in the photo. It’s not just about the light.

    For me, being able to take and make a photo just makes me feel more well-rounded. It’s not for everybody. As some folks have stated, they’re perfectly happy doing exactly what they’re doing and that is what makes photography satisfying. :-)

  11. Denis Rito

    I can say that I do both. But most of the time, I’m a taker. Except when am working on a concept, wherein I became a ‘creator or makerr’ of images.

    Cheers! =)

  12. Lucus Crawford

    I would have to agree with Travis above me. I don’t think there is anything wrong with either taking or making photo’s, it is more of what you are comfortable with and which direction you want to lean towards and learn.

    Myself, since I am still a noob at photography I am in the take category. I don’t think I have the technical knowledge yet to bring all my ideas to a satisfying shot (at least satisfying to me) if I was to attempt a make shot. I see all these wonderful, creative setup shots on sites like DPChallenge and know I am not quite there to compete but its a great inspiration.

    I feel the natural progression for a hobby photographer like myself is to take photo’s then as you learn and grow you end up on the make side and doing both Just like Brian says in his original post about being more artistic, this comes in time as you get to know the camera better and more importantly yourself and your shooting style.

    These are my beliefs and opinions take as necessary :)

  13. Jim Goldstein

    My response “Make Photos”.

    I think it’s misleading to say that taking photos is equivalent to photographing what is only present. Making photos isn’t just about manipulating the scene or adding to it. Making photos is about seeing a scene and getting the most out of it. Knowing how to work the light, knowing how use your camera to get the effect you want, applying filters, and then of course adding to the scene with props, people, etc. I bet more people who answered “Take Photos” actually “Make Photos” and don’t realize it.

    Cameras are tools to capture scenes in various ways whether that is to create shallow depth of field to isolate your subject or to slow your shutter speed and pan to blur your subject. All these setting adjustments are part of “Making” photos. It’s not just about adding people and objects or bringing in strobes.

    I hope those that have thought about the concept of “Take” versus “Make” photos think about their answer a little deeper. It’s not always obvious when we as photographers “Make” vs. “Take” a photo.

  14. Chris

    I think this may come down to your personal definition… If deciding to use a specific filter, or stop down a third is “making” a shot, then I guess everyone who uses a camera properly makes the shot.
    Personally I’d see it as Arranging the scene which you’re taking a picture of, not just choosing a viewpoint.
    In that sense I’d say pretty much anyone shooting in a studio is making the shot. And most portraits will be made. since if you hadn’t told them you wanted a picture then they wouldn’t be posing for you… I think most landscape stuff is taken rather than made. because you can’t go and move trees around. you can’t interfere with the scene, only choose a viewpoint and capture what is there…

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