Making or taking it?

This week I’ve been watching the free photo workshops at as it is their creativeLIVE Photo Week. A few basic technique sessions, a newborn photography workshop, a wedding photography workshop and half a rock photography lecture. (Half only because it was middle of the night my time and I had to get up early for work in the morning. Didn’t want to fall asleep while driving to work…) There’s still a few workshops I’ll definitely tune in on – it’s a fantastic opportunity.

I don’t know if newborn photography will ever be my thing, but during the workshop Julia Kelleher, the photographer giving the lecture, mentioned that there are two kinds of photographers. Those who make a photo and those who take a photo. That got me thinking.

Which am I? So far, mostly a photo taker. I’m usually not staging my shots. I’m capturing them as I see them. I suppose it’s rather obvious because I do a fair bit of landscape and nature photography. I guess composing landscape shots in a certain way, using a lot of negative space for instance, is not “making” a shot, but still falls into the category of taking one.

A sunrise I captured - took the shot, didn't make it.

A sunrise I captured – took the shot, didn’t make it.

I’m also not in the position to “make” a rock shot in the sense that I would stage one. Gig photography is capturing fleeting moments. The band on the stage will do what they will and I’m there to adjust to that and capture what I can under the circumstances. It would be a very different matter, if I was shooting promo shots. But I’m not. Yet, anyway.

I know a few people who are excellent at taking photos, seeing an interesting moment and just capturing it. Especially on the streets. I am a bit envious of their skills because I really don’t do street photography that well. I feel very insecure about it, insecure about capturing candid shots in public, facing people. I see shots, sure, but will I be able to take them? Most of the time, nope. Too shy. Or something. I don’t know. In other words, I may be a photo taker, but not on the street, not with strangers.

Saw this, had time to take it, made it in editing?

Saw this, had time to take it – a very rare occasion!

But will street photography ever be my thing anyway? Probably not. I admire the talent and skills of those who can capture street shots so that the images actually have something to say of the world around us, but it’s definitely not my forte. The image above is a very rare example of me doing street photography. It’s also quite important to me because turned out it had a very powerful story in it for a friend of mine.  She really connected with the image. That’s super cool, but I’m still not convinced I will ever do more than the occasional street shot. Even though I’m a photo taker. (Never should say never, though.)

An even more rare shot - the people are actually facing me!

An even more rare shot – the people are actually facing me!

Should I try to become more of a photo maker? Probably. I would want to, in any case. Because making photographs requires skills I don’t yet have. I’m fully aware of the fact that I know piteously little about studio lighting and equally little about directing models. About the only shots I “make” these days are self-portraits. Using only natural light I’m testing poses, reflector effects and edits on myself, since I’m the only model I have easily available. But it would be wonderful to learn more, get more into the portrait photography and promotional photography (the day a band boasts an official promo shot by me on their website is going to be a party day for me!) and other areas of photography that require the skills of making the shot happen.

An image I made. Of myself. Because I was available for the shoot.

An image I made. Of myself. Because I was available for the shoot.

I’m going to, hopefully, have a few opportunities to practice making shots in the near future. A photo shoot with a model arranged by the local camera club I’m a member of and a maternity shoot with my brother’s family. Making some memories for them, of the baby bump, that’s going to be a very positive challenge for me. And it’s definitely going to be making the shot, not just taking it.

One reason I enjoy photography so much, is that it’s such a steep learning curve for me. I think that taking shots is a good place to start, but to be a better photographer, I need to be able to develop my skills to the point where I can be as comfortable making a shot, too.

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4 Responses to Making or taking it?

  1. ae.i says:

    I think there is nothing wrong with taking a photo when it comes to showing a moment as it is, especially in landscape and nature photography. I am rarely using a flash or reflectors, never replace dull gray skies with a vivid version and I am still reluctant to adopt techniques like HDR. I also don’t like spending hours in front of my PC to work on making a single shot perfect.

    My point is, when you’re good in “taking” photos, don’t you also “make” them somehow? For example your first photo in this post (which I really like a lot): you decided which composition to use, how to crop the frame; you have to find the correct white balance etc. As soon as you think about a shot and what you want to show, to my understanding you’re making it.

    • Johanna Ahonen says:

      You know, Anja, I just discussed this over at my FB photo page with a fellow photographer, who had (before she even knew I had just posted about the same thing) written an entry about being a maker of photos. Turns out we’re probably quite a bit alike, even though I think I’m more a taker than a maker and she considers herself more a maker than a taker. But we interpreted the terms a bit differently. And I do agree with you – I am, of course, trying to think about my shots when I’m taking them, but my interpretation of “making” a shot was more about posing, perhaps moving items within your frame to make the frame look like you want to. And I don’t usually do that.

      But what an interesting difference in interpretations – and what a great topic to be thinking about! I think we all do need to be more aware of what we’re shooting, not just winging it – and therefore always also making a shot.

      • ae.i says:

        Alright, got you. Every photo with models and every image composed in a studio is surely a different kind of making a photo – it’s “making 2.0″…

        In landscape and nature photography this might be harder to do. For example, you can’t influence the weather / light and you can’t disroot things you don’t want in your frame. So it’s really more about composition, getting closer / further away, waiting for the good daylight.

        I look forward to read about your coming maternity shoot and what you learned!

  2. abbey7224 says:

    I was watching too! Such a blessing! Love the pic!

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