For the purpose of today’s post, the terms snapshot and point and
shoot are synonyms.
From the age of six or seven, I realized that I reveled in viewing
great photography. Well, maybe at that age it’s better said, that I
liked great photos. I doubt I thought much about the act of creating
While I was still fairly young my parents and I planned a vacation to
points west, including Yellowstone N.P. . My mother dug out an old 620
format Kodak roll film camera for me to use on the trip. It was my
first foray into photography.
My very first pictures were that of a black bear. The images were made
from the backseat of the car. The bear was on its hind legs, leaning
against the front windshield whilst my mother screamed. I remember
wondering if I was getting both my mother, and the bear both fully in
the picture frame.
My second photos were of the famous Yellowstone Falls. I walked around
(within the viewing area) and checked out different perspectives from
which to make a nice image of the falls.
My first two pictures were not point and shoot, even though
eventually of course, I pointed and shot in order to make the
I am sure as the years wore on, I have made a few point and shoot
snapshots, but I can honestly say, very few.
After photography was invented in the 19th Century, huge 8×10 cameras
were hefted onto large, heavy wooden tripods. Large metal (later glass
then film) plates were inserted at the rear of the camera. The
photographer looked, framed, and focused. The subject was upside down
and backwards within the picture frame. The aperture and shutter speed
were set on the lens. He/she removed a dark slide from between camera
back and the lens, and he/she “snapped” the picture.
While it was impossible to simply point and shoot a snapshot, in the
way we think of it today, in the end, if all the photographer did was
go through all of that work, and then simply look through the lens and
shoot, he/she was taking a snapshot of sorts.
Almost everyone in the world today, from 5 years on, is a
photographer. There are more knowledgeable, thoughtful
photographer/artists than ever before, yet with the advent of the cell
phone camera, there are still far more point and shoot photographers
than premeditated artists.
Many of the hundreds of thousands of images I have made throughout my
life, were made in a professional way with lots of forethought, and I
am quire sure some were not.
My favorite thing to do these days, is randomly gather some of my old
images, and attempt to remember both the setup of the picture, and the
moment of conception. Mainly, to remember what was going through my
mind. I have found, that I often don’t remember making an image at
first, but when I begin to attempt to remember both the technical
decisions, and the artistic ones, it comes back to me. That includes,
often remembering all of those little things that say to me, these are
Of all the random groups of images I have shared on these pages, these
might be the most random of all. I “metaphorically” stood ten feet
away from a series of digital folders, and threw darts at files and
collected them for today’s article. One of these pictures began on
film, the rest were digital originals. The film shot was I believe the
moon picture from the 1990s. They are all old as all but one of the
others was made from 2004-2007, with the one being from 2008. If you
have been viewing my pictures for some time, then hopefully you will
know that today’s selection was no attempt at showing my best.
The forethought used to place a camera on the tripod or other support,
and focus and meter for exposure, even with auto focus and auto
exposure modes, requires enough thought to not be a total snapshot.
Yet, there is more, much more.
I have created and shared a huge number of sunrise/sunset landscape
photos on these pages. I am proud to boast that such images of mine
have been published in magazines, books and calendars, and on an
occasion, been sold in print form to hang on the walls of a home or
business. Yet often, I would photograph just plain skies. Point and
I love abstractions of reality, including sunrise/sunset skies. That
is especially so when no “hard evidence” of land, water, or man-made
objects is presented to the viewer. They make for wonderful images in
and of themselves.
The question becomes, did I put any thought or effort in to this? Was
it a snapshot?
I don’t remember anything about this 2007 photo but I can still assure
you, the camera was on a tripod, the scene was metered (likely from
the second brightest area of the scene, and then those light and dark
areas, as well as the clouds themselves, were composed. This was made
with a 300mm ( small section of sky) Nikon lens, and I did use multi
segmented metering rather than spot, with a minus of stop of light
The moment you include an object into a sky picture, you begin to
supersede the point and shoot mentality. Would anybody create an image
of a cool blue morning sky, and a quarter moon, and not compose the
moon within the scene? It’s counterintuitive for any image maker,
regardless of their experience and knowledge, to place that moon in a
spot without intent. It is simple images like this, that are often the
beginning of sparking the latent creative juices of what will be a
“former” snapshot photographer.
If composing a sky picture with one additional subject is good
practice, what about a sky with several dozen subjects?
Okay I confess, to call this shot of Snow Geese and a New Mexico sky a
careful composition would be a stretch. I mean, it’s not like those
birds were following my directions. Still, in almost every image there
is the possibility of intent.
I actually wanted an image with nothing but blue sky and geese, but I
wasn’t satisfied. I mean, I was at the edge of the Rocky Mts. A simple
change of my position, gave me a new perspective and spoke to my
location. Photographing Snow Geese at Bosque del Apache NWR is not
just about geese, it is about Bosque and New Mexico.
Even in an action scene like this, there’s a lot more to do than
merely point and shoot.
So in 2004, it’s autumn and I’m in the Nicolet National Forest in
northern Wisconsin looking for fall pictures, along with wildlife
images, flower pictures, dragonfly photos, abstracts, well, I was as
usual looking for anything and everything. I am hiking in a remote
area and it is about an hour after sunrise, and this scene jumps out
and slaps me in the face. I could photograph this a hundred different
ways and probably did. Still, it was the mirror effect that captured
my imagination, I worked with dozens if mirror images but kept coming
back to the 50/50 split. I actually used 1% spot metering from the red
trees rather than evaluative metering. Both the compositional and
technical decisions were made partially because I knew photography,
but mostly because I was not a snapshooter.
In October of 2005 I was around my homeland in southeast Wisconsin
once again, making fall pictures.
I admit I was more attracted to the trunk and bark of the old Birch
tree than I was the reddish leaves of the maple tree alongside it.
Well, the non-snapshooter says, what about contrast. I mean, without
contrast there is no photography.
I admit this is an odd composition, but compositional risks are what
always kept me invigorated. Starring big (a good distance from this
scene) and then working in closer and closer is a wonderful method for
The closer you get, the more you see.
Depth of field, or the amount of any given image that is covered in
focus, is a part of your composition.
By getting your camera back (film plane in yesteryear, censor today),
as parallel to your subject, especially up close, will make it easier
to have edge to edge sharpness in your image. If that’s what you want.
This Lupine leaf with dew was splayed almost flat, which made that
chore pretty easy.
It was impossible, to accomplish that feat with this Aster at sunrise.
Not only was the blossom curved from the center out, but as memory
serves there was a slight breeze. That required a shutter speed of
1/40th sec, and therefore for a proper exposure with an aperture of
only f14. My answer, as a photographer who is not simply a point and
shooter, was to say so what. I get my focus where it I necessary and
allow the rest of the flower to “drift off” into a state of fuzziness,
so to speak.
Is it bothersome to you to have the petals soft, when the heart of the
flower is crisp?
The point of course, is to make those decisions for yourself, not
because your camera tells you to.
The situation is slightly different with this Polyphemus Moth
caterpillar. I could not get the depth of field to cover it in focus.
A slight portion of the top area of the lower section of this beauty
would need to be soft. !00% focus here would have been great, but the
lack of crispness is over such a small area, that it was certainly
worth making the picture.
Point and shoot photographers, rarely concern themselves with such decisions.
This Barley grass was intentionally created with “only” enough depth
of field as to render sharp the very top layer of grass. I shot this
macro at f6.3. Any less dof and even the top grasses would not have
been covered. I used a shutter speed of 1/400th of a sec to arrive at
the proper exposure and the “shallow” dof that I desired.
I also used my depth of field preview lever for most of the pictures I
have shown today.
Only the curve of the grass at the far left, and the under turn of
that grass at the far right, are out of focus in this grass and dew
drops image. I would have gladly settled for only the dew drops in
Compelling imagery is often waiting right at the feet of the
Even wildlife portraits give image makers the opportunity to make big decisions.
This eastern Cottontail Rabbit was in mid-chew of a blade of grass.
The photo was made from inside my car, with my camera and 500mm f4
lens resting on my weathered but trusty old Walmart throw pillow. The
light was difficult, but still good enough to create a soft, gentle
What do you do when you (or the sun) are on the wrong side of your
subject, with little chance on getting to the front lit side without
scaring it? I shot anyway and expose for the sun and deepened the
shadows even farther.
This image is interesting but it misses the mark. If I could have gotten
down to rabbit level and shown rim light over the entire rabbit, well
that might have been pretty good. Also just the ears might have
worked. I have never found this image worth showing before, but the
photographer who is always thinking, will learn more about
photography, and create more art than the photographer who is just
happy to point and shoot, which is the point.
I made this colorful abstract in my back yard in 2008. What is it?
Does it matter?
That’s water from rain or dew on the subject not ice. So what is it??
Well…..I am not sure except I was photographing flowers at the time.
Is this nature made or plastic? Remember, this is my own backyard and
I don’t even know.
I guess that being a premeditated photographer does not always mean that you have
a good memory. I am only sorry that I did not make more images of this
I do know this, bad memory or not, this is not a snapshot.
We all point and shoot our way though life at times. Remaining open to
serendipity is good, but thoughtless living, is foolish. Caring
photographers are often caring people.
Now go out and point at and shoot some pictures, but do so only after
careful consideration, passion, and thoughtfulness.