Taking a Picture vs. Making a Photograph

Recently I’ve noticed that the trend is to say “ I made this photograph” instead of “ I took this picture”.  I think Ansel Adams’ quote “ You don’t take a photograph, you make it” probably has a lot to do with.  I really like that quote and I found myself quite often writing  “I took this picture ” and then switching it to “ I made this image ” because it sounded more photographically correct.

‘You don’t take pictures; the good ones happen to you “. – Ernst Haas



So the question became: Which one should I use? Which one sounds better? Which one is correct? Well, the best answer is really: who cares ? Or as Bruce Gilden would say: who gives a s##t ? ”. Because it really doesn’t matter how you say it, it only matters how you do it.

“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader. ” – Robert Frost



But let’s talk about it a little more, for the sake of argument. I am pretty sure  Mr. Adams’ intention was to convey the message that we take some time to think about the photograph before we press the shutter. Take some time to ask questions such as: Is this original? Is it well composed? Is the light good? Is this interesting? Is this something nobody has ever seen?

“Try not to take pictures which simply show what something looks like. By the way you put the elements of an image together in a frame show us something we have never seen before and will never see again “. – Constantine Manos



For a street photograph all these questions need to be asked and answered in a fraction of a second because we don’t have the luxury of setting up for the shot or asking our subjects to move a little bit to the left or right. But we can control what time of the day we shoot so we get the best light. We can pay attention and compose a scene in our head before it happens. And most importantly we can decide when to press the shutter. If we go through this process then we can say that we honored Mr . Adams’s message, or at least we tried.

“But there is more to a fine photograph than information. We are also seeking to present an image that arouses the curiosity of the viewer or that, best of all, provokes the viewer to think–to ask a question or simply to gaze in thoughtful wonder. ” – Sam Abell


When I talk or when I write I will probably use taking a picture a lot more than making a photograph, just because I’m used to it ( sorry Ansel). But the point is that it doesn’t matter how we say it, it matters how we do it.


Thank you for visiting. As usual your comments and feedback are appreciated.

All images on this post are (C) Juan Jose Reyes. All Rights Reserved.

7 thoughts on “Taking a Picture vs. Making a Photograph

  1. Great pictures Juan, I like the included quotes too. I think making pictures is nearer the truth though, but also taking pictures, oh I don’t know. I guess making pictures takes into account the process was fully considered. Love the I love Miami shot!!

  2. terrific images these all of them! and i agree COMPETELY I never “take” anything, even a photograph. Taking sounds like you are stealing or getting something you really shouldn’t. I know in German you don’t say take a photo, it’s make a photo.. worte a blog post about language. you might enjoy it!

  3. me encantan estas foto están preciosas, sobretodo la de los dos hombres canosos de perfil, uno sentado, común ser humano y el otro más extravagante con pose de modelo cincuentón!

  4. Good stuff! Its doesn’t really matter at the end of the day.. Making photographs sounds better indeed its more serious taking pictures sounds kinda casual.. Just going out and doing it is way more important than at the end of the day.

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