The Difference Between Snapshots and Photographs

The Difference Between Snapshots and Photographs

The Difference Between Snapshots and Photographs

Walking around Prague on my latest international trip, I couldn’t help but notice the myraid cameras adorning the necks of enthusiastic tourists. It got me thinking: if everyone’s taking pictures of the same thing in the same place at the same time, what can be done to stand out? What’s the difference between a tourist snapshot and a quality travel image?

A great photograph is an interesting one. Whether it’s dramatic lighting, a unique angle, or the subject matter itself, the finished photo must be interesting if it’s going to capture and hold attention. One of the challenges with travel photography is that to the foreign visitor, everything is interesting, exciting, and new. But the feel and excitement of being in a new place doesn’t always translate into great photographs. A photo of a random street corner full of random people doing random things isn’t necessarily going to capture and hold attention. Even halfway across the world, it’s still just a random street corner and it’s your job as the photographer to capture the excitement of being there. To the locals being there is routine, and capturing interesting photos of the routine can be quite a challenge at times.

I have a lot of routine, mundane travel photos. I keep them only because I despise deleting photographs, and I do enjoy looking at them every once in a while. The photos I’ve shot which stand out all have one thing in common – for one reason or another, they’re interesting. And over time, I’ve found the best way to create interest in a photo is to wait for the right moment. Let’s revisit our random street corner: use the randomness of the moment to your advantage – someone is bound to do something interesting. Maybe someone will look directly into your camera. Maybe you can capture the emotion on the locals’ faces . Don’t just snap and move on. Wait for something interesting to happen, and then snap.


The key to creating interesting photos?

1) Find an interesting scene

2) Wait for the right moment within that scene


Street Scene

In the above image, I found a street corner I liked, but it was cluttered with tourists on a guided tour. That’s bad, bad news for a travel photo – nothing’s worse than photographing a bunch of other foreigners holding cameras. Having found an interesting street corner though, I didn’t want to give up so quickly. So I waited. A few minutes later the tour group was long gone and I was treated to the above scene, and that’s when I pressed the shutter button. This image is very different from the snapshot I would have had if I hadn’t been willing to wait for the right moment.

Prague at Dusk

The image above again shows how waiting for the right moment can really pay off. The location provided an interesting viewpoint, but the light just 20 min before this capture was such that the sky was blown out, the ground was too dark, and the lights on the bridges were turned off. Eventually everything came together: the lights, the colors, even the boat in the lower left corner. I (intentionally) snapped as the boat crossed under the bridge, and I came away with a picture I like. If you’re serious about creating interesting photos, it’s not enough to find an interesting scene. You’ve got to find the right moment within that scene, and only then should you take the shot.

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