In Praise of Snapshots
Snapshots. Ugh. The word makes photographers cringe. When I
searched the web for a definition, Miriam-Webster defined a snapshot as “a casual photograph made typically by an amateur with a small handheld camera”. Dictionary.com said “an informal photograph, especially one taken quickly by a handheld camera.”
Like most serious photographers, I’m always working to make my images better — sharper, better composed, better lit, with a unique impact that touches the heart and soul. I’m proud of the work that I put into my images and hope my passion for excellence never dies.
I know very well that the old photos in this article are not going to impress anyone. It’s a little scary for a "fine art photographer" to put such poor work out there into a readership of photographers. I'm constantly working to create better and better quality images, I’m quite exacting about it. Teaching and coaching about these things and being in a some regular critiquing groups have helped solidify my own learning.
However, I’ve also been reminding myself lately to take more snapshots.
When a birthday comes around, or a family gathering, those are precious memories in the making. We may not have the optimal conditions for creating artistic shots, but we can preserve those special moments with snapshots. And that matters!
Don’t get me wrong... I’m not suggesting that photographers ditch all their knowledge, technique, and experience in favour of just clicking away any old way. I’ll still think about composition, lighting, exposure, etc. How could I not? But I need to set aside my usual meticulous ways and be a bit more spontaneous. A lighter, more carefree approach. I might even shoot on Auto!
As I write this, I’m on an extended trip to Nova Scotia. I’m certainly hoping to make some wonderful images while I’m away, of a quality that I can enter in competitions and sell as prints. If I don’t wimp out from the cold and wind, and the stars line up just right, I just might be able to get some magical shots. But I sure don’t want to become so caught up in photography that I miss out on taking mindful moments to just experience things together with my beloved. Quick snapshots will help me preserve the precious memories we’ll be creating.
Where the Rubber Hits the Road
I was widowed twelve years ago. When my then husband, John, was suddenly admitted to hospital with inoperable, terminal cancer, I was devastated. I wanted to do everything I possibly could to ease his passage. So what did I do? I zipped home and whipped through photos to choose some to put up on the hospital room wall where he could see them.
How many “fine art” images do you think made the cull? That’s right... not one. The photos that enriched his last days on Earth were, for the most part, snapshots... the two of us in a candid moment on our wedding day, vacation snaps of funny signs, memorable picnic lunches, and him sitting on the step with our Great Pyrenees puppy. A couple of dozen snapshots to remind him of all the joy we shared over twenty-three years. And I took some snapshots during his final journey to preserve those painful yet precious times as well.
Changing My Ways
So folks, I don’t know about you, but I’m going to be more mindful about taking more snapshots. Yes, it’s a thrill to win competitions, sell images, teach workshops, and have images chosen for a magazine. But I want to keep things in perspective. When I’m lying on my death- bed, those are not the things I’ll be holding in my heart. I’ll want my snapshots, my memory shots, I’m sure.
So whether Merriam-Webster approves or not, with their “a casual photograph made typically by an amateur with a small handheld camera”, this gal intends to take off her "fine art photographer" hat get a bit more casual in certain situations.
Does that make me a less serious photographer? I don’t think so. It’s in my nature to strive for excellence. I don’t see that changing.
I’ve already let my new(ish) husband know that when I die, I want him to have prints of my very best work ready to give away to everyone who comes to my celebration of life. I want that beauty and all my hard work to live on. Of course I do. It's part of my legacy.
I’ll never stop trying to make better and better images. I’m just reminding myself -- and you -- not to miss the snapshots along the way. The image quality may not be golden, but the memories are.