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Snapshot or Fine Art Photograph?

When deciding the subject matter for an image, consider that successful photography is the happy marriage of art (aesthetic concept of ideas or feelings) and craft (technical precision). Having a technically correct image lacking an emotional aspect will unavoidably produce a boring, but pretty picture. Conversely, an emotionally impactful photograph, missing intended technical information, will produce a lackluster image. Both qualities are essential to make a great image. However, there’s a lot of flexibility in assessing the effectiveness of each.

Aesthetic content. Some ideas for topics may contain; hope, love, youth, humor, sadness, nostalgia, renewal, reflection, joy, sorrow, fear, voyeurism, etc. Also consider the “decisive moment” as a concept for an image. The decisive moment is that split-second when a fleeting subject is captured at just the right time, such as a dragon fly landing on the edge of a leaf or a water droplet falling through space.  Imagery requires an emotional connection to be effective.

Technical. Technical decisions to consider include; lighting, perspective, composition, white balance, depth of field, focus, cropping, aperture and shutter speeds, etc. Also the graphic elements of line, shape, color, form, pattern, and texture play a technical role. Each one of these technical choices has significant impact to the final product.

Henri Cartier-Bresson, “The Puddle”, considered the original “decisive moment” image













Steve McCurry, National Geographic cover, 1985


Bryan Peterson, Iceland


Ansel Adams, The Tetons and the Snake River, 1942













Photography is visual communication made stronger with the attentive combination of art and craft.  Winning photographs require thoughtful consideration to both to produce a high-quality image.  Consider your application of art and craft the next time you want to pop the shutter!


  1. Manavi Singh wrote:

    Hi! Interesting topic of discussion. I’m a photography major so I found this post nice. I like that you bring out how we need to focus on both the evoking emotion as well as technical aspects. I agree with that because you really need to know how to handle a camera even if you have some serious subject matter. (vice versa)
    Are these award winning photographs?

    Tuesday, October 10, 2017 at 10:26 pm | Permalink
  2. Kathleen Larkin wrote:

    Thanks for your comment! Yes, all of these images were created by famous photographers.

    Wednesday, October 11, 2017 at 8:03 pm | Permalink
  3. Maryam Nozary wrote:

    Interesting topic! It’s something I’ve always thought about but it’s been hard to put into words. I’ve always felt that there’s a difference between a snap photo and actually taking a photograph that expresses emotion. On the side I enjoy photography and find it difficult at times to capture emotion and create a photograph that can speak to individuals.

    Friday, October 20, 2017 at 2:47 pm | Permalink