As my faithful reader knows, I enjoy capturing images, taking pictures, taking photos… etc. What is interesting is the fairly basic question, what is the difference between an image, a picture, and a photograph? The deﬁnitions are as follows (taken from the Apple Mac OSX Dictionary):
Image (noun) a representation of the external form of a person or thing in sculpture, painting, etc.
- a visible impression obtained by a camera, telescope, microscope, or other device, or displayed on a video screen.
- an optical appearance or counterpart produced by light or other radiation from an object reﬂected in a mirror or refracted through a lens.
Picture (noun) a painting or drawing : draw a picture of a tree.
- a photograph : we were warned not to take pictures.
- a portrait : have her picture painted.
Photograph (noun) a picture made using a camera, in which an image is focused ontoﬁlm or other light-sensitive material and then made visible and permanent by chemical treatment.
However I believe that there are different connotations to these annotations. A different value placed on each in relation to digital photography and drawing. To me an image is a drawing or illustrative picture. It is not meant to be art (emotional or visceral), it is meant to convey meaning or deﬁnition. An example of my concept of an image would be a screen capture that shows what is being discussed, this screen capture that highlights the problem I was having with Outlook would be an image
It could just as easily be an image of damage to a motorcycle such as this
It is for documenting and clinical to some degree.
A Picture on the other hand is something that is designed to help one remember, not just clinically but also the time that was being had while the picture was being taken. It can also be used to share an experience with others. This is not to say that a picture canʼt be dramatic, inspiring, or artistic it is just not a formal process to create the image it is often just taken quickly. An example would be a picture of a bunch of friends going tubing.
The picture took a little while to pose and frame, but not a whole lot of thought of composition, just a quick can everyone be seen? Yup, snap a couple and letʼs get back to having fun.
Now a Photograph is a little more difﬁcult, often times pictures can become photographs but in my deﬁnition a photograph is more precisely set up and composed than taking a picture. This does not mean that a dSLR has to be used, it can be an inexpensive point and shoot camera, or even a cell phone. What it does mean is that while looking through the viewﬁnder the “operator” is thinking about the composition, is projecting the way the ﬁnished image will look and preparing for that. It is more studied. It does not mean that it canʼt just be taken quickly, it just means that the “operator” is more carefully weighing the composition and meaning of the picture.
Some what arbitrary terms, but I use them for classifying my images, pictures, and photographs. A diagram (image) might help to explain my thoughts and connotations a little more.
The fact is that at times one might snap multiple captures (image) while trying to get the right photograph or picture, how should that be categorized? Are they photographs or pictures or images? I am not sure it really matters what they are called, typically one would delete the ones that donʼt work. I call them images.
Seems like an awful lot of parsing words but I believe that it is important to know the goal when taking action or considering something. An example would be a common question such as “What camera do you recommend?” My ﬁrst response, “What are you wanting to do with it?” I went through these thoughts when looking at books about Photoshop. Doing a search in Amazon there are quite a few options; 922 to be exact if one limits the search to Photoshop CS3 in Books. Here is a sample of titles, tell me which one is the right one to purchase:
- Adobe Photoshop CS3 Extended for 3D and Video
- Adobe Photoshop CS3 Extended: Retouching Motion Pictures
- Adobe Photoshop CS3 for Photographers: A Professional Image Editor’s Guide to the Creative use of Photoshop for the Macintosh and PC
- Adobe Photoshop CS3: Web Design (ILT Series) (Student Manual)
- Adobe Photoshop for Textile Design – for Adobe Photoshop CS3
- Adobe Photoshop for Underwater Photographers
- Believing Is Seeing: Lighting On A Laptop II: How to Light Like a Sunbeam
- Black and White in Photoshop CS3 and Photoshop Lightroom
- Creative Photoshop: Digital Illustration and Art Techniques (Digital Workﬂow)
- Digital Character Painting Using Photoshop CS3 (Graphics Series)
- How to Cheat in Photoshop CS3: The art of creating photorealistic montages
- Mastering Photoshop CS3 for Print Design and Production
- Nighttime Digital Photography with Adobe Photoshop CS3
- Photoshop CS3 for Forensics Professionals
- Photoshop CS3 for Nature Photographers
- Photoshop CS3 for Screen Printers
- Photoshop CS3 Portrait Retouching Techniques
- Photoshop CS3 Restoration and Retouching Bible
- Photoshop for Architects CS3 Extended Edition DVD-ROM
- Scientiﬁc Imaging With Photoshop Cs3
- The Adobe Photoshop CS3 Book for Digital Photographers
I could of course list them all, but ﬁgure that this list is a good enough illustration of why it is important to deﬁne things carefully. So that is why I decided that there are differences between images, pictures, and photographs.How would you deﬁne them? Do you always take photos? Are you just taking pictures and every so often get a photo in there? Are you just making images? It doesnʼt matter if it makes you happy.
Coming soon, my favorite image/picture/photograph of 2009…
Does this mean I have to stop using the phrase, “A picture is worth a thousand words”?