Let’s Talk About Snapshots

Often you will hear people saying “stop taking snapshots and start creating great shots”. What is snapshot? I wonder. In my opinion, the term “snapshot” brings a vague meaning, it can mean different thing for different people. It’s just like the definition of “pretty girl” for example, some may think Ms. A is pretty, some may disagree and say Ms. B is prettier. But when everyone starts to talk about “snapshot”, I can’t help but to think that there must be a baseline somewhere as a guide of standard for picture to be categorized as either snapshot or great shot.

There are of course, people who claimed how much visions and ideas had been put in for his shot, but ended up being classified by most as “snapshot”. And there are those pictures which really show nothing special but being classified as “great shot”. For example, I was never able to understand what Daido Moriyama is trying to shoot and convey in his pictures. To me they are all snapshots. But his “snapshots” had gained him a whole lot of fame and praises. Perhaps I wasn’t able to appreciate his work, which leads me to think about where the baseline really was.

What is snapshot?

Some pictures were classified as “great shots” the moment you look at them. I think there are various qualities that will shine through the pictures, such as great composition, clever use of colours, light and shadow are well played, striking stories in the picture itself and so on. Looking at the pictures, you can’t help but to think that the photographer must have put in some thoughts before pressing the shutter. So if this is the case, the opposite would have been a snapshot, that is, shot that gave you the impression that the photographer did not put much thought into it before pressing the shutter, or shots that lack of some “punch” in terms of content, composition, colours and etc.

However, sometimes some pictures are not great when viewed individually, but will present as great work when viewed as a series or collection of pictures. You can see a great body of works in places such as World Press Photo, where you might find that in a series of pictures, often there are some great shots and some “okay” shots in between. Those “okay” shots when viewed individually may end up as “snapshot”, but when they were pieced together, it formed a great body of work. Perhaps this is the case for Daido Moriyama’s pictures, perhaps.

End of the day, I think as a photographer, your vision is very important. You need to be able to identify pictures that are great on their own, and pictures that need to be in synced in order for them to work. That way, you will be able to present “your best” instead of showing works that could potentially ended up as “snapshots” to others. While this is rather important for professionals, but for hobbyist, does it really matter? I think I’ll leave it to yourself to be the judge. Everyone has different reason to pick up a camera, some just wanted to record their memories, some to create art. For me, I’ll try to create less snapshots and slowly improve my photography. Till then.

A Self Critique

Recently I have read some articles and books about critique of pictures, particularly on how to critique your own pictures and curate your photography work. Honestly, I have not put in so much thoughts into this until I read about it. They discussed about how to select a single picture and how to select a series of pictures (yes, they are different). They discussed about what is considered a good picture, and what is considered a good series of pictures and so on. There are still a lot going through my mind at the moment as I try to digest on them.

So what is shared? Well, perhaps I’m not the best person to advise this at the moment. But after reading through, I had become even more stringent in critiquing my own pictures. A lot of those pictures which were “pretty good” had been flushed down the drain by me after reevaluating them. But that really depends on whether you are evaluating them as a single picture or a series.

A single picture needs to be strong, or perhaps interesting. It can be an interesting story, composition or visual stimulation. It needs to be able to attract people to look into the picture and look further or deeper. Of course this is just a general guideline, it doesn’t mean this is the only way to get a good picture (argh, that’s why I said I’m not the best person to explain this). Anyway, my view has broaden a little. The way I perceive a picture has changed, hopefully it all changed for better. At least now I have set the bar higher for myself, and hopefully I really can learn, develop and improve further to reach that mark.