The Art of the Snapshot

December 8, 2017


What defines a snapshot?  Why do I care?  As someone completely saturated in photography, I am constantly, sub-consciously, critiquing photos everywhere I go: composition, focus, technique, lighting, whatever.  It can be distracting.  And it's unnecessary.  What makes a photo, especially a portrait, meaningful?  Is it how sharp the focus is?  How perfectly saturated the colors are, or how the lighting is hitting the subject just right?  Sure, any or all of these things can separate an objectively good photo from an objectively bad photo.  But I believe it's the story a photo tells that elevates it to a 'snapshot'.


I'm sitting at my parent's dining room table.  Spread out on the table are small stacks of photos, some black & white, some newly printed, but all feature a common trait: the subject is my grandmother, who has recently passed away at the age of 91.  


Dozens of photo albums have been combed through by her 4 children and a formidable collection has been put together.  Grainy photos of her playing with her own siblings, photos with grandchildren and great-grandchildren, photos from a boat cruise, photos of shared meals and Christmas mornings.  Hundreds of photos, and none of them would win any photo contests, or make their way to any Pinterest boards.  But each one tells a story, and as we sift through the piles, we reminisce about the mom, grandmother, and great-grandmother that is no longer with us.  And I don't care if the composition is clunky, the lighting bad, the focus clumsy.  These photos are snapshots of the life of an amazing woman and the family that loves her.  I recognize a few pictures that I took of my grandmother with my own children, and I realize that for all my knowledge and worry over photographic technique, it's only the story in that frozen moment that matters.


So that's what I strive for.  Sure, I want to take amazingly crafted, technically perfect photos.  I want to take dramatic portraits with razor sharp focus, or striking landscapes with perfect composition and color. 


But above all, I want to tell the story.  I want the photos I take to stir up emotion, memories, laughter, tears, and all the rest.  I want to shoot the photos that end up in piles on a dining room table, connecting people to the past.

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