Snapshot versus Photograph

An Lightsinteresting thought came to mind after I recently posted my architectural photo journal Gold Coast a few days ago.

There was a comment made regarding creative snapshots that made me ponder the question “what constitutes the difference between a snapshot, whether creative or otherwise, and a photograph and was this meant to be an insult?

Is it the time taken to take the photo that rules it a snapshot – just a quick, mindless click of the shutter without thought to depth of field, aperture, composition etc?  Does a creative snapshot give it any more credibility or is it just a condescension or “elitism” from professionals who will not rate it as a proper photograph!

My photos may not be “professional” and yes I am an amateur or beginner but I do take the time to frame my pictures, to consider composition, to get the right speed and aperture for what I want to create… are these “creative snapshots” or photographs?  Because I am an amateur does this grade my photos under snapshot instead of photographs??  What is the distinction or the standards that are used to warrant the category it should be placed in?  Do I break all rules of photography, ie not using the “rule of thirds”, a bit of dust on the camera lens perhaps or using the wrong aperture so the whole picture is not sharp when it should be, does this make it a snapshot?   I would be interested to know.

When I am on holidays I do take what I call snapshots that can be quick and random and YES I do regard these as snapshots, there the line has been clearly drawn in the proverbial sand and it’s not hard to see which category it should be placed in.  BUT sometimes it’s that split second shot, technically a snapshot, that is a winner and I am sure some of our best photographers in the world would have a few of these in their portfolios that has won them some acclaim.  So is a snapshot a dirty word?  I certainly do take it as an insult but should I?

Below is a repost of snippets from a blog by Robin Wong which goes further into the discussion.  I apologise I could not re-blog this for whatever technical reason but I would like to give credit to Robin Wong for these words below:

Title:  Snapshot vs Photograph –

“Recently I have stumbled upon an unusual online discussion of snapshot vs good photograph. I shall quote the excerpt of the discussion as follows”:

“Snapshots are personal. They record a personal history and are very important for that reason, but only to people who know the people and places in the photos. Technical quality is less important than capturing the people and place in time. Digital point and shoots are ideal for this purpose.

Good photos grab anyone’s attention without any personal or other history. They speak for themselves. Ideally they take an interesting subject and highlight what makes the subject interesting through selective focus, contrast, etc. I use this test: if you saw a particular photo in a gallery, without knowing anything else, would you want to buy it and put it in your house?”

The thoughts being put forth were rather contradictory to my own beliefs in taking good photographs. I strongly believe that a good photograph should have a story to tell. It must have an idea, or a message to get across to the viewer, and it has to be able to communicate openly. Therefore, I also believe in shooting images that capture my attention, and called out to me while I was hunting for photography subjects especially when I am doing my usual street shooting. Those subjects that I photograph are usually personal in nature, and only the photographer, being present at the place and time the photograph was taken, could fully understand the full meaning behind the whole picture. I attach a huge part of that “personal history” in my street photographs, they are the elements that enhanced the augmented the interest of the photography subject. Does this mean, all my photographs are actually snapshots? Oh dear !!

I sure would like to think that my photographs are not all just sadly snapshots at this point. I asked myself “would I buy and hang my own photographs on my wall at home?” Unfortunately, from many photographs I have taken, I could only pick a few”……….Robin Wong

Any thoughts would be appreciated.  I would like to open this topic up for discussion.

Categories: DiscussionsTags: , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. A highly interesting topic and one that I pondered about too! I doubt there are any dictionary definitions to distinguish a snapshot from a photograph. To me, snapshot is more personal (as your article mentions) and often its subject is quite silly (like a picture of one’s shoes, which I love to take and which I don’t call photos). A photo is more serious to me, more artistic. In practice, I post snapshots (and very occasionally photos) on my blog and on Instagram, but I try to post only photos on Flickr. If you like, you can have a look and see what I mean 😉 Hope to see an an interesting discussion spring up here!


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