Photographs – Do You Take Them Or Make Them?

The more common parlance in photography seems to be “take a photograph”. But personally I prefer to say I “make a photograph”.

Why?

A few reasons.

When we release the shutter, we’re creating something that didn’t exist before, whether on film or digitally.

The image will almost inevitably go through further development and processing, but already at this stage it has been created irrevocably.

Yes you could destroy the film or delete the digital image, but this doesn’t undo the fact that the image was made. Something that wasn’t there previously, has been given form.

Also, we’re making a moment more permanent. We’re creating visible evidence that at this precise point in time, this is how the world around us appeared.

It needn’t be just another unstable, unreliable memory in our minds, likely to dissolve and contort over the years. Because we’ve given it form, we’ve made it an unavoidable, unequivocal document.

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Perhaps the purpose and intention of the final image plays a part in whether we say “make” or “take”?

Do we only make a photograph when it’s created with some kind of artistic aim, and take a photograph when it’s “just” a snapshot of our family or something we see on holiday and want to remember?

Art must be made, snapshots are merely, casually, taken?

Maybe we more frequently hear people talking about taking photographs because it’s about taking a moment, snatching it from that mighty unstoppable invincible river we call “time” to make it ours?

Do we use the word “take” as part of the elaborate performance of self-delusion that promises by taking a photograph we are taking control of time, laughing in the face of that aforementioned relentless march that in fact no man, machine nor animal can halt?

But because we can’t face this truth, we say we take photographs, to further bury our denial of the helpless and inevitable decay and passing of us all?

How about you, what do you say? Do you take a photograph, or make a photograph?

Please let us know in the comments below, we’re curious to hear (and remember to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

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23 thoughts on “Photographs – Do You Take Them Or Make Them?”

  1. Hi Dan, first of all, a Happy New Year to you and all followers!

    You’ve raised an interesting question, especially for all non-nativ English speaking reader.
    With my rudimentary understanding of the English language I’d assume “make” might describe the more creative part better. But what about the millions of Selfies just made on New Year’s Eve? “Take” or “Make”?
    Does this perhaps express a different appreciation for photography?
    I’m eager to see the feedback from the English “natives” 😉

    This kind of posts make your blog stand out from the crowd of the zillions of other photo blogs, that’s really exciting to read. You’re making readers think!

    1. Thanks Alex, I would say one of my main intentions with 35hunter is to not be just another photo blog with reviews, but to make people think more about photography and the surrounding reasons why we do it, so I’m delighted to hear that’s what you get here.

      Yes I think in short, “make” implies you are creating something new that wasn’t there before. “Take” implies you are removing what already exists.

      Either works to some extent and it’s down to semantics.

      I just like thinking about why we use certain language in certain ways, and the underlying emotion and intention behind it.

  2. Hi Dan, Happy New Year!

    Regarding your question, I don’t take photographs. I take pictures because that’s the terminology I’ve used since childhood and non-photographers seem to know what I’m talking about. But photographs for me are physical prints (or slides), not images viewable only with some kind of electronic device, and I make prints (or have slides made for me).

    1. Happy New Year Doug!

      Very interesting, so you take pictures, and then with some of those, you make (physical) photographs from them.

      I think this is a very logical and robust approach!

      Out of interest, how would you view, say a blog like 35hunter? It only exists in digital form on screens (unless you physically printed out pages) but of course it does exist, it has a creator, and indeed co-creators or collaborators in the form of those like you who kindly read and comment. Do you see it as something we have made?

      1. I tend to use the terms ‘make/made/maker’ when talking about the creation of physical objects. I think of a blog post as something written and posted, not made. I think of the blog itself as something created, not made. (Interesting that you refer to yourself as 35hunter’s creator above.)

        I tend to use the term ‘picture’ when referring to an image (however realistic or abstract) of physical objects. So a picture can be one of my mother’s oils or watercolors, one of my father’s or my photographs, an illustration in a magazine, an image on a screen, or even a verbal description of the physical aspects of an object (a verbal picture). In contrast, a work by Jackson Pollock is a painting, and a work of art, but not a picture.

        I tend to use the term ‘taking a picture’ when talking either with non-photographers or with photographers who take themselves too seriously, talking about exposing a negative, creating an image, capturing a moment, etc.

        1. Doug, what about a book? Is that made, written, created? What about books that are available electronically and in hard print?

          (I think you write a book whatever form it is. Any act of creating words is writing.)

          1. I agree that books are written – as long as they are primarily words. I’m not sure how I’d talk about the creation of a book that is almost all images – I’ve never done that. But writing a book is only the beginning. At first, it is just a manuscript or whatever a source document in computer memory is called. Then, if it is intended for print, it has to be printed and when it gets into the hands of the marketing department it can be said to be published. I haven’t had enough contact with electronic books to have a vocabulary for talking about them.

            (This has been a really interesting discussion. Thank you for making me think a little.)

  3. I do not know. I do know that last year I ‘shot’ 160 rolls of film. It would have been more but for some reason, I shot very little in August. Most of the shots I take are done just to practice, otherwise, when luck comes around I am not able to take advantage.

    1. Steven, thanks for your thoughts. That’s a fair amount of film!

      Do you think that a great photograph only comes from being lucky then?

      My view is more like we have to go and seek out the images already there waiting for us to discover them.

      1. Luck, good or bad, governs most of what we do. Yes, you can go and find a good image but that image may be made special by lighting which occurs at a particular moment or by other events that do not normally align or happen together that enhance the scene. You still have to be there and know how to use the camera. One could say Robert Frank’s capture of the woman running the elevator was skill and it was but having the scene unfold as it did would be called luck. Of course, he was not lucky and was not going to depend on luck with that scene. He set the scene up.

        1. I think what you say here – “You still have to be there and know how to use the camera” – I would perhaps called “making your own luck”, or at least increasing the probability of its occurrence significantly.

          Setting up scenes in my eyes is a whole other world of photography and not something I have tried or have any interest in.

  4. Hi, I have stumbled across your site via google. I have just bought my 2nd Canon 5D (I made a poor decision a year ago and sold alll my gear) and am waiting for my CARL ZEISS JENA 135MM F3.5 M42 fit tomorrow. I love buying old lens and tryi to create great photos with them. I read your post from July about the Carl Zeiss with interest and I hope I get some good results.

    I will follow your posts with interest in the future and hopefully talk all things photo with you and others in the future.

    Happy New Year!

    Mark

    1. Hi Mark, glad you’ve stumbled, and welcome!

      Yes the Zeiss 135/3.5 is a beauty, and pretty compact for a 135mm lens. Let us know how you get on with it.

  5. Hola Dan! Felicidades ante todo!! Muy buena pregunta, filosófica casi diría, nos hace pensar, que es lo que más me gusta de tu blog… Lo escribo en castellano porque no sé inglés (Perdón…) Pienso que “tomar” es, como su significado lo indica, es hacer propio, conseguir, apoderarse, adquirir, adueñarse de algo, y como tal, antes de abrir el obturador, no había ninguna fotografía que “tomar”, nada de lo que apoderarse o apropiarse, así que todas y cada una de las fotografías que fueron, son y seran, serán “hechas” , ya sea una vana “selfie” o la obra maestra más grande de todos los tiempos… Un saludo y gracias por seguir con tu blog, muy interesante!!!

    1. Pablo, thank you for your comments as always! Thanks to Google Translate I can understand and respond – my year 9 Spanish is rather rusty!

      I’m really glad you enjoy these “thinking” and philosophical posts. I do tend to think about many things myself, perhaps too much sometimes, so it’s always good to hear other people’s views and thoughts on the same subjects. And I believe it gives the subject of photography more depth, rather than just posting a series of predictable and unimaginative camera reviews.

      The fact that we can take a moment in time and make a photograph from it is at the very core of why I love photography and find it fascinating, almost magical. No, not even “almost” magical – I do think it is magic!

      Another dimension to this is that more than one person can capture the same moment at the same time, and the resultant image look different depending on their viewpoint, camera, lens, composition, focus, and a combination of other choices.

      Indeed a hundred, a thousand or more people could do the same, and though they each have their photograph of that same moment, it has no impact on the event itself, and time marches on regardless of how many of us photograph any one scene at any one time…

  6. Dan, I say “take” a photograph because many people said that when I was a child and learnt it that way and I have never heard anyone say I am going to “make” a photo except when one was processing a photo themselves xoxo susanJOY

    1. I’m sure many people have never given this a second thought. I just always have always been conscious of the two words having slightly different meanings, and noticed how different people use the two different words.

  7. Pablo and Dan, I have learnt something new. I didn’t know what to do about your reply Pablo as didn’t understand the language and then Dan mentioned Google translate and I went for a search and worked it out and got your message Pablo in English. what fun and your reply was very interesting and made me think more about the topic xoxo susanJOY

    1. Yes Google Translate might not be perfect but it’s certainly good enough to be able to converse with someone who speaks a completely different language.

  8. Hi Susan, hi Dan,
    just a hint…try Deepl instead of Google Translate. This translation engine is fabulous (and not only because they are residing in Cologne, my home town).
    Cheers

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