The Photographer’s Vernacular | It’s Time For A Boycott

Large icebergs create stunning formations and a beautiful reflection on the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon in Iceland.

Photography, like any other craft or art form, has it’s own language. These words and terms, while not always exclusive to photography, are, nonetheless, in common use and, as a consequence, largely accepted as appropriate and correct. I want to challenge that perception.

Terms such as shutter speed, ISO and aperture describe technical aspects associated with the craft of photography. Likewise, words such as luminous, ethereal and equivalence are employed to describe the more illusive, intangible aspects of the art form.  

Words Are Important, Powerful And Rich In Meaning

It’s for this reason that, despite being a part of the normal, everyday photographer’s vernacular, I avoid using the words take, shoot and capture in relation to my own photography. Here’s why.

Wonderfully modernistic structures at a geothermal power plant in rural Iceland.

I Don’t Take Photos, I Make Photos

I don’t take photos as, to me, that would suggest that I’m stealing something that either doesn’t belong to me or that I’m prohibited from experiencing and seeking to preserve.

Would you deny or close yourself off from the experience and the memory of beauty, friendship and love? I hope not.

So how is it that we allow the words take, capture and shoot to be such commonly used terms when referring to our own photography. Should that not bother you?

To my mind those words are as incompatible to photography as they are to notions of beauty, friendship and love.

Do You Capture Photos | Is That What You're Really About?

Likewise, I don’t capture anything. To do so suggests imprisonment and the removal of personal freedom.

Don’t confuse the word capture, in relation to photography, with the notion of preserving a memory for posterity. In that context, I believe that it’s a poor and inappropriate use of the word capture. 


An interior view of the dome at the magnificent Frederik's Church, also known as the Marble Church, in Copenhagen, Denmark.


Wouldn't You Want To Make Positive, Life Affirming Images?

I don’t shoot anything. That is not meant as a political statement. Nonetheless, the concept of shooting suggests harm or annihilation which goes completely against my philosophy of making positive, life affirming images.

The Creative Process | Why Not Start At The Beginning?

You see, of the three most important questions underpinning our creative endeavors - what, how and why - I’m convinced that why is the most important question.

Given that, it’s interesting that the question why is, if it’s asked at all, the last of the three questions we’re likely to ponder on our own creative path.

However, it’s my contention that the question why should be the first because, once you understand why it is you want to make photographs, you’re in a much better position to determine what it is you’re going to photograph and how you’re going to go about recording and processing that image.

So, when it comes to starting at the beginning, what I’m suggesting is that you start with the outcome in mind. Naturally, nothing is written in stone, and it’s completely reasonable that the outcome in question alters organically as the process proceeds.

That’s why it’s called a starting point. But, ultimately, it’s your choice as to whether to start with the why, the what or the how.

The face of innocence. A portrait of a young boy on St. Thomas Mount in Chennai, India.

The Outcome Is Determined By Your Approach  

I neither take, capture nor shoot photos.

When it comes to the art and the practice of photography, I choose to create and to make. It’s as simple as that.

What about you. Would you consider replacing the words take, capture and shoot with words like record, preserve or create. When you think about it, isn’t that really what you’re trying to do.

But does any of this really matter and will it make you a better photographer? Again, it gets back to the question why it is that you do what you do. If you’re really clear about that then you might also see the value in choosing more positive, life affirming words to describe the photography you spend so much time, effort and money pursuing.

This post is clearly opinion based. The opinions are my own and you’ll decide to take them or leave them. I just hope you’ve found what I’ve said to be interesting and, perhaps, thought provoking.

If you find that this post resonates with your own views or, at least, causes you to reconsider the use of the words take, capture and shoot in relation to your own photography you might also be interested in reading a short interview I participated in with the good folks over at Matte Image where some more of my views on photography are explored.

Matte Image is a high quality, service driven boutique printing business in Abbotsford, in inner city Melbourne. They are the lab I recommend to my clients in and around Melbourne, Australia and also the lab that I employed to print my last exhibition at Quadrant Gallery in Hawthorn. 

If you’re based in or around Melbourne and are looking for high quality photographic prints check Matte Image out. Ask for Matt or Ria and say strong as a mountain sent you.

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru