« A Guess | Main | Eagerly Awaiting the New Camera »

Sunday, 22 January 2012


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

It's a way to make it sound like it's an incredible meaningful thing, or, to make you sound like you are a REAL PHOTOGRAPHER..."that's an excellent capture, you must have been locked in to have captured that." When people say "capture" to me, I say to them, "Don't say 'capture!" it makes you sound like someone I'd like to trip on the sidewalk."

All people with those safari vest photo jackets say this term...also some without, but mostly the safari vest guys. Get em in a room and it's capture, capture, capture until someone blinks the lights and they all go home and jump in bed wearing their NIKON PAJAMAS.

I don't know, does that violate TOP's rule about insulting others? I mean, all the guys with Nikon pajamas are going to be offended now.


"Capturing images" is the snooty way. I picture it in my mind that by saying it, the lips are pursed, the brow is furrowed and the whole head gives a little shake. "Takin pichers" is done with a big smile.

And add to that the older issue of taking versus making pictures.

Actually, I don't like either of these expressions. We don't take anything away, or capture anything. The subject is still there after we make a photograph, as it was before. I much prefer to state that I made an image.

I think it may have something to do with "image capture device". But I have yet to hear someone ask, "Can you capture an image of us by the bridge?"

I think the difference may have to do with the physically and mentally active process of photography as practiced with LF and film vs. the - seemingly- more passive process with small format digital, electronic and automatic functions.

Or just that digital seemingly requires its own language.

"Fasten your seat belts, it' going to be a bumpy night." -- Bette Davis

I think that capturing images reflects the greater immediacy of digital photography, whereas taking pictures relates to taking pictures (or memories) with you for later review (after developing, etc), somewhat like you were stuffing them away in your memory. This suggests that film photography is (was) a more psychic thing, whereas digital photography is more mechanical. Ironic that the more easily you can store or retrieve images mechanically (and the better the images are technically) the less meaningful psychically they may become.

Why do we drive on Parkways and park in Driveways?

I think the answer is (perhaps disappointingly) very pedestrian. Analog photography has been around for 100 years, and we built a vocabulary around the idea of image-making during its heyday. "Take pictures" comes from this era, and I don't think it has anything to do with the technology we use/used to take them.

Digital photography is a new technology, and as these things sometimes go, we have adopted a technical term for use outside of the lab. "Image capture" is, as far as I know, what a sensor designer would call the process.

If we had been photographing digitally for 100 years and had just invented film, we might be asking why we "take pictures" digitally but "expose film" in the analog process. Who knows!

For what it's worth, I take pictures with my digital cameras, and I don't think I'm the only one. Sometimes I like to think of myself as "making images", but that doesn't have a process connotation for me - in fact, when I use that phrase I'm trying to specifically eliminate the process from my thoughts and concentrate on seeing (I never say "make images" out loud, though - with this one exception - because I think it would sound fairly pretentious).

I don't "capture images" or "take pictures." I "make photos."

If one were to speak of images on film, I think one would not speak of "taking an image" on film any more than one does with digital.

Curiously, capture more suggests that something once taken can be lost, and indeed the internet will very soon take it away. A related implication is that something captured itself has agency enough to escape, whereas something taken is less animate, more the property of the person who has possession.

I might take a picture of a landscape, but I do not "take" pictures of people. One could capture someone in the moment without taking them, perhaps. It has come to seem to me that good street photographers and portraitists do not take, they open themselves in a place where something is given or ask for something to be given.

I doubt this says or guesses "what exactly" the distinction means, but the question is, as you say, "interesting...".

Film photographers are thieves; digital photographers are all part of the marauding hoards.

I prefer "shooting" myself, it's just so . . . masculine, don' you think?

Film is expensive: you _take time_ to (plan and compose to) "Take a picture"
Digital is cheap: you are not afraid of just "Capture (lots of) Images" that eventually result in a nice picture.


After you spend 2 hours a day for three years on fora discussing the quality of other people's sunsets and just bought your 5th dslr hoping it will make yours better, 'taking pictures' just doesn't do justice to the time and effort you have put into your art; artists capture images!

Digital photography: light --> electron jump --> amplification/decoding --> rendition to an observable photograph

Chemical photography: light --> electron jump --> photo-oxidation --> darkroom chemical conversion to stable 'grain'/'pigment' --> rendition to observable photograph (transparency) or unfinished template (negative film) --> print (observable photograph)

Perhaps we are subconsciously expressing the shorter process and the faster down-time for digital photography by the word 'capture', while 'taking' an analog photograph is a more deliberate process.

There is also a more philosophical aspect to this. Analog processes usually have more information, because they deal with continuous variables. Digital by contrast loses information through abstracting only parts of continuous functions. Thus, the initial digital "capture" is an abstraction, in which some information of the real object is always lost (not to confuse with information loss in further reproduction/duplication in analog systems). The word 'capture' tends to express the freezing of a fleeting event, usually incomplete (the 'capture' of a thief is the catching of a person who has stolen; 'taking the measure of' a man who has stolen might also include discovering that he was hungry)--in this sense, digital rendition does not carry the full spectrum of the reality but carries a reduced abstraction of it.

Enough philosophy for a Sunday morning!

my two cents… i first noticed 'capture' show up as a substitute for 'shot' and 'shooting' some time ago now as a more pc term to distance photography from gun and killing metaphors. I guess the current genaration prefers to bring home its trophies alive
(pc = politically correct)

I've observed this being mainly a generational divide rather than a medium divide. Old guys "take pictures" just as Kodak told us to do. Carpe pictures!

A parallel generational semantic divide is found between shoot and capture, with the oldsters using the more aggressive, hunter-gatherer "shoot" and youngsters using the gentler, more p.c. latter.

By 2050 kids will be "trapping" or "coercing" pictures. Good trap, dude!

I think "capture" came in to fashion as a noun, used to differentiate a digital picture from a "photograph," which relies on a permanently inscribed image, latent or processed, positive or negative, but still "there" on some light-sensetive surface. On a sensor, the capturists argued, where is the light-inscribed image after the file has been saved to the card? You may have a "capture", but you haven't "photographed" anything. I remember this discussion from about 10 years ago, "Capturing" as a verb probably grew from that.

In German, it's "make" a picture.

I find the whole 'capture' thing a bit irritating, but I think this comes down to something very simple:

We associate 'picture' strongly with an object. Film photos were usually printed, and film photography arrived in a time of drawn pictures so we 'took' 'pictures'.

Digital photography arrived in the era of the image: moving image, public image, image rights, image management. Digital images are predominantly _not_ associated with objects - not printed - and such transient, ephemeral things are 'captured', not taken - 'captured the moment', 'captured the feel', 'captured the mood', 'captured the essence', etc.

I'm pretty sure I have missed an opportunity to finally get a PhD by posting this here.

Having been in school during the transition, there was a great deal of pushback from photo magazine writers insisting that this newfangled "digital imagery" was not photography at all. That's the first place I heard the term, used in a disgustingly reactionary way.

'Capture' is one of those terms that drives me bonkers.

What exactly is getting 'captured' - photons, reality, time, emotion, thoughts?

Seems a very misleading way to think about photographs and making them.

Now I'm going to go back to making 'picturs'


I've always said I "make" a photograph, not "take" or"shoot," ever since Al Blaker convinced me the semantics mattered (didn't take much convincing).

pax / Ctein

I suspect "capture" came about because things digitally "captured" are not necessary done with cameras. You don't take a picture with a scanner, but you can get one; you don't take a picture when you grab a video image from a computer. Nor do you take a picture when you download an MP3, but it's still a digital "capture."

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

Generally I start by calling them pictures but once I see the final product on the WEB, or in a book, or as a REAL print, I'll start calling them photographs.

Why? I have no idea.

There is a chance some of those "taken" film pictures will be lost to the silver gods. With film there is always the next step of development. For many of us home b&w developers that included a risk factor of screwing something up. Plus users of old cameras, like me, have occasional equipment problems, like only 11 useable shots from my two latest 120 rolls shot on my 6x4.5 camera.

With digital and modern camera technology there's an overwhelming chance a decent image will result from pushing the shutter button. "Captured" is an apt word to use.

Just my reasoning from being on both sides. I still adore the silver process and its fickle gods.

In French it's the same dilemma, film or digital does not matter:

Faire (make) une photo

Prendre (take) une photo

Which is very pragmatic: the technological process is transient, while the photographic act is essentially unchanged.

I like to think that the process is photographing. Therefore, I photograph. "Capture" sounds awkward and incomplete. "Shoot" is just too aggressive and not really descriptive at all. Just my thoughts.

Irrespective of whether it is film or digital I say "I'm going to make a photograph" which is, in fact, what I'm doing. The exception to this is if I approach someone on the street, if I am in a "permission asking" mode I will say, "Hello, may I please take your photograph?" Some of that is that old habits die hard, but also I suspect there is a psychological or metaphysical aspect to it--by making a photograph of them am I "taking" something from them?

The OED's earliest cite for image capture is in 1968 and refers to "silver roll film" not digital.

I suspect there are earlier references in technical journals or reports of the 1960s relating to image capture on devices that didn't permanently record the image (vidicons and other electronic sensors etc) unlike film.


(account required for link)

image capture n. the creation of a record or representation of an image, now usually in digital form, by means of a device such as a scanner or camera.

1968 B. E. Holm How to manage Your Information xii. 203 Most image capture is on silver roll film using three basic camera types.
1992 MacUser Nov. 51/1 The image-capture part of Image Assistant provides the one-step scanning you'd expect.
2002 Petersen's Photogr. Oct. 56 If the firmware in the camera‥hasn't been optimized for image capture, the images won't be optimized.

When capture is used it's used in the sense of fixing something elusive or transitory a use that goes back to 1901 at least in print.


3. To represent, catch, or record (something elusive, as a quality) in speech, writing, etc. Esp. in literary and artistic contexts.

1901 G. B. Shaw Three Plays for Puritans p. xi. The authors had no problematic views: all they wanted was to capture some of the fascination of Ibsen.
1967 E. Short Embroidery & Fabric Collage iii. 57 They at the same time were able to convey the pose and to capture the muscular strength of the animal concerned.
1979 P. Roth Ghost Writer ii. 28 She wrote stories about the college which capture the place in a sentence.

As always English is a flexible language it evolves and changes. But most people still say "take a picture".

I am with Bryan above:

"I don't "capture images" or "take pictures." I "make photos."


While I don't like the term "take photos" I absolutely detest "capturing images" and even more so the comment: "great capture."

I like "making pictures". It's literally true. "Taking pictures" is OK but I don't like the metaphor of taking. I'm not taking anything from anyone, I'm using found views to create something new. "Capture" sounds pretentious. I think photo enthusiasts started using this term because picture taking is now trivially easy and they want to distinguish themselves from the hoi polloi who take flash pictures with digicams.

"Shooting" is also problematic, partly because of the weapons metaphor, partly because it seems to emphasize the equipment more than the work result, and partly because it suggests that pressing the button is the main activity. Pressing the button is but one step in a creative process beginning with selection of a subject, observation, making pictures, winnowing them, editing the picks and, finally, displaying or printing them.

It's essentially harmless, yet whenever I see it in use, my general opinion of the user suffers an immediate, probably unfair, negative re-estimation.

As an old timer who has been around for both film and digital I have heard both terms used for both mediums over the years. As for what is "captured"? The moment in time of course.

So people who like your "images" can say "Nice capture !"

I am not sure what that would be, but I guess it the same reason that differences why I love to shoot 8x10 and I like to shoot a Pentax 645D.

Anyone who captures images probably outputs them in giclee.

Photography is a thoughtful process of selection and exclusion at a point in time. Any terms that support that concept get my vote. Photographers don't "take" anything, and the only thing they capture is a moment in time and place. Making photos sounds good to me.

Damn Brian and Rick beat me to it.

"I make photos"

Literally, it's not A photo until the safe light is off and I'm examining the print.

I've always preferred "photographing," as in:

"I'm photographing this (river, person, etc)"

A bit of etymology:


a combining form meaning "light"

Origin: Greek

Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2012.



Word Origin & History:

1839, "picture obtained by photography," coined by Sir John Herschel from

photo- + -graph "instrument for recording."

It won out over other suggestions, such as photogene and heliograph.

The verb and photography also are first attested 1839, all from a paper read before the Royal Society on March 14, 1839.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper


Thus, "I'm photographing" (I'm recording light) can apply to both film and digital.


I think there are a lot of good ideas already, but let me share mine:

When talking about a digital shot, there isn't a physical "thing" like a negative, but only a digital...capture

When I was a teenager, my favorite band ever was The Eels; except their official name was just Eels, without the The. On the Eels message board, occasionally a newcomer would say something like, "The latest album from The Eels is the least accessible yet." Before anyone else could respond, diehard fans would jump on them for saying the name of the band incorrectly, and arguments would immediately erupt.

Ctein and Ansel Adams say "make a photograph". I say "take a picture". Others say "capture an image".


I often use the word "crafted" to suggest that the 'taker' or 'capturer' actually put some thought and artistic effort into producing the image. So I say "Beautifully crafted" rather than "Good capture". My wife, who does not have English as her first language, says "Good take". To each their own.

Wasn't "capture the moment" a Kodak slogan?

Anyway, before the Kodak thing occurred to me (just now), I'd assumed that "capture" was adopted from video, most probably from the early days of digital production and editing for analog video. Of course, that doesn't explain how the word went mainstream.

At any rate, framing with a live image on a screen, a la digicams, always felt to me like I was working with a video camera and saving frames from a video. A very different feeling somehow from exposing a frame of film.

An image is only such when viewed on a monitor; it has NO physical existence, except on the monitor or on the recording chip.
Sort of like a phart, once there now gone forever, thankfully in most cases

Film is what you can physically hold, with the picture upon it.

Only when the image is printed on to a receptive material is when it becomes a picture/photograph whatever.

That's my take.

having read all the comments, it's a very educating tomatoes vs tomatoes subject...

Converting something to digital is often "capture." Whether it's video capture, motion capture, screen capture, or image capture.

So as far as I can tell, in the digital world, you capture data and translate it into something useful.

Never really noticed this. I live somewhere that has its fair share of tourists, so I get asked to take people's photos a lot. No one has ever asked me to "capture" their photo. Possibly it's just an idiom within certain online demographics.

"Leave nothing but footprints, kill nothing but time, take nothing but photographs" - I've always liked the pun. The third item is I believe a late addition to this well-known wilderness code of conduct.

"Capturing/making images" sounds obnoxiously grandiose :). I take/shoot pictures/photos and am done with it.

Glad some other people are annoyed by "capture".

There is a photo site elsewhere which invites comments about submitted shots and almost every second post is , "great capture, Bert".

It must imply the commenter is "in the know" and is substituting "capture" for a more appreciative critical analysis, if only he knew what that was and how to express it.

Or perhaps it's the urge to over-dramatise the simplest and feeblest of muscular actions (pressing a button); similar to "hitting the gas", or, " chucking a righty" (turning right), or, "firing up the rig" (turning on a transceiver).

Heroic feats ain't dead yet, they're just a shutter press away..

...worked for an old timer doing industrial photography for a while, and he always said: "...make a few views...", as he charged "by the view"...always liked that...

BTW, I always say: "...take a few snaps...", photographers, out of practically anyone else I deal with, are ridiculously pompous for their station in life, it's like the paperboy thinking he's an intern, so I try and short circuit that when I'm working!

@Dave van de Mark

For the same reason our feet smell and our noses run....

Now I thought making a picture was what Paramount and MGM did....

Personally I take photo(graph)s. I don't go around to people saying "can I capture your image?" It sounds mildly sinister, like I may hold it to ransom or something!

Nor do I say "can I make your photo" because that's meaningless - whereas "can I make a photo of you" sounds like I am doing more work than I really am (perhaps more appropriate in a darkroom).

Nope, "I want to photograph that", or "I want to take your photo" seems a lot simpler to me.

@Crabby: Oh yes, "take a snap" is good too.

I think, with digital, we are increasingly aware of living in a land of "image": the photograph (if print is ever an option) is sharp, not because of a feature in the scene it contains, but because of local pixel contrast differences, etc. The more technical post-processing techniques serve to reinforce this - enfuse, the radius control in HDR, etc.

I've given up trying to remember what a photograph was, yet still identify primarily as a photographer...

Take-v-Make is the élitist argument; a photo has aspects of both, representing what you find and your choice of what to do with it, respectively.

The comments to this entry are closed.



Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 06/2007