A Picture or a Photograph?

Sunset from the Dock (31 of 42)By Ron Rosenberg

To be a photographer in the "olden days" you needed a camera and film. You took some pictures, sent the film off to a lab to be processed, and waited a few weeks until the negatives and prints were returned.

Over time, the concept of "one-hour photo" became reality, and you could simply drop off your film and pick up your final copies an hour later. There was also the option of "instant film" with Polaroid cameras where you could take a picture, and the camera would spit out the print that would be ready to view in a minute or so.

If you were a professional or a dedicated hobbyist, you would have access to a darkroom - a special room sealed off from outside light - where you could develop your own film, and, using a photo-enlarger (and some pretty nasty chemicals), turn the resulting negatives into final prints.

Hello Digital!

Beginning in late 1990s, digital cameras were introduced into the consumer market. Instead of using light-sensitive film to record the images, these cameras used electronic photoelectric sensors.

In the late 2000s, digital cameras were incorporated into mobile phones, making it easy and convenient for anyone to take pictures.

Professional photographers were slow to adopt this new technology, but ultimately embraced it for the ease of use and ability to be creative in what's called "post processing."

So Everyone's a Photographer Now?

Yes. And no. You see, there's more involved here than just technology. A good photograph has many different components, including composition, lighting, and technical accuracy.

None of this has changed with the transition from film to digital.

And what used to be done in terms of creative enhancement in the darkroom is now done digitally with programs like Lightroom and Photoshop.

Which brings us to the important question...

Is it a Picture or a Photograph?

Take out your smartphone and take a selfie. Great, you have a picture - a snapshot in time that captures some random event.

But does it convey a feeling? Does it tell a story? Does it evoke powerful emotions? Because these are the characteristics that turn a picture into a photograph.

And it has very little to do with the equipment being used - I've seen stunningly beautiful photos taken with iPhones, and equally disappointing pictures taken with $5,000 professional-grade cameras.

Is Your Life a Photograph?

The same distinction can be applied in your life. Are your days just a collection of random uninspired snapshots? Or do they create an album of deliberate, impactful, and thoughtfully composed images that affect other people's lives in a meaningful way?

If you look at your life with this distinction in mind, you will be able to add more value to everything you do.

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