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Do You "Take" Photographs or "Make" Photographs?

CJ Chilvers
CJ Chilvers
1 min read

I use to default to writing “make” photographs, because of the endless rants I used to hear back in my darkroom days (the 90s). Of course, as photographers who took their craft seriously, we painstakingly “made” photographs, we didn’t just “take” them willy-nilly. It’s even in my book as “make.”

Now, I think that’s mostly false for a handful reasons:

  1. Photography is the “study of light.” We’re literally taking from the light and if we’re doing any editing (which as a group we’re not — the vast majority of photographers don’t edit), we’re usually just manipulating the light we’ve taken. A small fraction of a percentage of photographers will “make” something with their photos. Fine. They don’t get to determine the language used industry-wide.
  2. The truth is that snapshots are the most important photographs to us personally, which makes them the most important photographs. So the less pretentious and rule-following we can make photography seem, the more snapshots get their due respect. Snapshots are “taken.”
  3. 99.9% of photographers are amateurs and that’s the best thing about photography. Amateurs are risk-takers and rule-breakers. They don’t need to please clients. They’re the vast army of artists that pushes photography forward. Amateurs “take” photos. They are not just the heart of the photo industry, they are almost the entire industry.
  4. The most popular camera on Earth (the iPhone) is built for “taking” photos. It automates most of “making.” It’s made for snapshots.

I won’t be changing it in the book any time soon, because I really don’t think “make” vs. “take is that important. The important point is to lower the pretension around this form of art, get over ourselves, and invite more people in.