The Photographers’ Adventure Club was having a spirited discussion on Facebook about the difference between a snapshot and a photograph.  This is a great question and not easily answered because so much of what we see  and enjoy photographically  is so subjective in nature and reallydefined by that old saying “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

As a professional photographer, I have to keep in mind that everyone else is a photographer, too.  The only requirement is a camera.  Thought is not a requirement to capture an image.  Face it, if the monkey in “Hangover II” can be taught to light up a cigarette, he can be taught to take a picture.   To be a professional means learning and working beyond the basics of picture taking and grasping and practicing those techniques that elevate our photographs above and beyond being a snapshot and into a higher realm of aesthetics and beauty.

When I was teaching photography, my introduction to the course was about how the class would be taking them on this journey from snapshot taker to photographer.  I don’t intend to try and cram a year’s worth of instruction in this tiny little blog, but I would like to share a couple of ideas that are a important for a photographer to keep in mind.

Composing and cropping.

One of the first rules I was taught was to compose the picture in the viewfinder.  Remember that with an SLR camera everything you see in the view finder will show up in the image.   I remember many of my students on their first shoot would be surprised that the person they whose picture they took was swallowed up by the admin building at school.

Composing in the view finder basically helps you get rid of all unnecessary and unwanted items in your image.  Getting rid of all that useless information helps emphasis the subject matter.  No distractions.  I often refer to it as “cropping in the view finder.”

This is not as easy as it sounds and takes constant practice and awareness to do this on a consistent basis.

Cropping in the view finder, however, does not mean that you have eliminated the need for cropping in post editing.   Cropping when editing is a legitimate way to get rid of unwanted information and space and to tighten up the composition of the picture.   But remember, every decision you or I make with our pictures are based on what our vision is for that particular image.  Here is a cropping that I did on my last wedding.

This is the original shot.  I know some photographers would have left this as is.  For me, there was too much wasted space in this picture that distracted from the lovely newlyweds.

This was my edit.  A much cleaner and tighter picture.  Emphasis where it should be.  The bride and groom are not competing with the bricks.

I hope this gives a bit of insight to my thought processes in regards to composing and cropping.

Just remember, that the more cropping and composing that is done in the view finder will mean less time editing.

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