Really: Photography Is Not About Cameras

Image: Group of travelers in China traveling outdoors on a dark rainy day.


Photography is not about cameras, at least from my perspective. Most photographers take photos for one purpose: they enjoy it. For many, it is an indescribable passion. Often, when they share their photos with others, that joy is multiplied many times over as they watch others enjoy their work as well.

Cameras? They are the artist’s tools. Each photographer will tell you what their “must have” gear list is when they go out to shoot. Their list is as unique as they are. No one list is “right” or “wrong.” The end result will depend on the perspective of the photographer. :)

When you look at photos and they touch you in some way, I’m sure you’re not even thinking about the equipment that was used. You are admiring the subject and how that one click of the shutter froze time just for our pleasure.

What challenge we as photographers often run into is that the general viewer thinks that photographers just click a shutter (which just about anyone can do with the cell phone in their pocket these days) and then want to get paid.

They don’t often see the true value of the work. The general viewer in my experience does not appreciate the time, effort, travel, weather, and other factors a photographer has to deal with in order to take a fabulous shot. I honestly don’t think the average person is trying to devalue the work, they just truly have no idea what goes into a real work of art.

This post is to bring to the attention of the general public that what photography is really about is the perspective of the person behind the camera, the photographer. Every picture has a story behind it. The photographer is the story teller.

“You don’t take a photograph, you make it.”– Ansel Easton Adams, American Photographer and Environmentalist

Take a close look at the photo that I’ve attached to the top of this post for example. (Click the link, then click image for a larger image). This photo is telling a story. At first glance, you see that it’s an interesting photo, very unique. You may like it or maybe not. But, let’s take a look as the photographer tells the story behind the photo and see if your perspective changes at all —

My photo “Rain in Ancient Town” was shot in southern China- phoenix Town, which shows the scene of people traveling in the rain during the rainy season. Tripod was used for this picture and I used slow shutter on purpose to combine the static and dynamic status of tourists. On the background there are old residential buildings and an old stone bridge, this combination enabled a more spiritual atmosphere for the photo.

I live in the United States and I’ve never seen people travel this way. I also find the architecture very interesting. The photographer states they used a tripod to steady the camera and used slow shutter speed (tripod and shutter speed = pre-planning the shot, out in the rain).

The photographer was going for a “spiritual atmosphere.” Do you think they achieved their goals? Would you purchase this photo? Do you think this is an award-winning photo? What does it take to produce an award-winning photo?

According to the Professional Photographers of America (PPA), there are 12 elements that they use for the Gold Standard to judge a work of art to see if it is an award-winning photo:

  • Impact is the sense one gets upon viewing an image for the first time. Compelling images evoke laughter, sadness, anger, pride, wonder or another intense emotion. There can be impact in any of these twelve elements.
  • Creativity is the original, fresh, and external expression of the imagination of the maker by using the medium to convey an idea, message or thought.
  • Technical excellence is the print quality of the image itself as it is presented for viewing. Retouching, manipulation, sharpness, exposure, printing, mounting, and correct color are some items that speak to the qualities of the physical print.
  • Composition is important to the design of an image, bringing all of the visual elements together in concert to express the purpose of the image. Proper composition holds the viewer in the image and prompts the viewer to look where the creator intends. Effective composition can be pleasing or disturbing, depending on the intent of the image maker.
  • Lighting—the use and control of light—refers to how dimension, shape and roundness are defined in an image. Whether the light applied to an image is man-made or natural, proper use of it should enhance an image.
  • Style is defined in a number of ways as it applies to a creative image. It might be defined by a specific genre or simply be recognizable as the characteristics of how a specific artist applies light to a subject. It can impact an image in a positive manner when the subject matter and the style are appropriate for each other, or it can have a negative effect when they are at odds.
  • Print Presentation affects an image by giving it a finished look. The mats and borders used should support and enhance the image, not distract from it.
  • Center of Interest is the point or points on the image where the maker wants the viewer to stop as they view the image. There can be primary and secondary centers of interest. Occasionally there will be no specific center of interest, when the entire scene collectively serves as the center of interest.
  • Subject Matter should always be appropriate to the story being told in an image.
  • Color Balance supplies harmony to an image. An image in which the tones work together, effectively supporting the image, can enhance its emotional appeal. Color balance is not always harmonious and can be used to evoke diverse feelings for effect.
  • Technique is the approach used to create the image. Printing, lighting, posing, capture, presentation media, and more are part of the technique applied to an image.
  • Story Telling refers to the image’s ability to evoke imagination. One beautiful thing about art is that each viewer might collect his own message or read her own story in an image.
  • Their site goes on to state, “The use of these 12 elements connects the modern practice of photography and its photographers to the historical practice of photography begun nearly two centuries ago.”


Now that we have real standards to use, how do you think this photographer did? Was this photo just as good as a point and shoot project? Just a click of the shutter and the photographer had an award-winning shot? Not in this case.

Congratulations to the photographer by the way, Chen Li from China. They were the winner of the “Open Travel” category of the 2014 Sony World Photography Awards.

I hope that maybe, just maybe, next time you see fine art or other photography for sale, you’ll stop and ask yourself, “I wonder what the story is behind that photo?” And if you really love it, you won’t mind paying for it! Thanks for reading and sharing.

Beauty can be seen in all things, seeing and composing the beauty is what separates the snapshot from the photograph.” – Matt Hardy, UK Photographer

This entry was posted in architecture, clouds, fine art, human urban voyeurism, photography, photos, sky and tagged , , , , , , , , .


  1. Nathaniel Kidd November 9, 2014 at 1:27 PM #

    What a beautiful photo and I can only imagine the hard work that went into it. From the naked eye we often do not understand the craft of others. We easily take for granted when we see something so beautiful as this.

    I for one never really realized how much goes into such a work of art but I surely have an appreciation now. Thank you so much for sharing.
    Nathaniel Kidd recently posted…Haircare Tips to Save You MoneyMy Profile

    • Deborah November 9, 2014 at 4:51 PM #

      Hello Nathaniel:

      I am so glad you see that you now have a bit more understanding than you did previously about artists and their work in general. Sometimes, we photographers plan a shot for many days, travel long distances, and deal with many factors that we can’t control.

      Thanks for commenting and sharing your new perspective!

      Deborah recently posted…Your Mission Statement. How To Capture The Essence Of Your BusinessMy Profile

  2. Theresa Wilkins November 2, 2014 at 2:59 PM #

    Photography is absolutely a form of art! I paint and I also love photography! Someday I’d like to do both more seriously! :-)
    Theresa Wilkins recently posted…Always On!My Profile

    • Deborah November 2, 2014 at 9:18 PM #

      Oh Theresa,

      You truly get it! :) I hope that you will be able to work towards that goal, to have the time to enjoy both.

      Thank you for sharing your passion with me!

      Deborah recently posted…Why? For The Love Of Photography!My Profile

  3. Miriam Slozberg September 24, 2014 at 8:50 PM #

    That is truly an amazing photo and I can only imagine how much work you need to put in in order to create such a spectacular background. I know photography is a great way to express anything you feel you need to without saying anything as well, which can create some very interesting photos. Thanks for sharing. Fascinating to learn.

    • Deborah September 25, 2014 at 2:40 PM #

      Hello Miriam, welcome!

      So glad you can see and appreciate this type of art. Not everyone can. :)

      Best wishes for your success, Miriam!

      Deborah recently posted…Branding Your New BusinessMy Profile

  4. Elise Cohen Ho September 21, 2014 at 5:55 PM #

    I happen to adore the photo. For me, a great photo is all about how the photographer pulls you into the scene and evokes emotion in you.

    • Deborah September 22, 2014 at 7:54 AM #

      Welcome Elise:

      You have it exactly right! Some people understand this, allow it to take them somewhere deep, and others just can’t see it.

      Part of the fun for the photographer is the journey along the way and then the ultimate reward is having others “see” what you created and they have an appreciation on some level.

      Thank you!


  5. Jacs Henderson September 21, 2014 at 10:34 AM #

    I was certainly intrigued by the photo you chose here on the left Deborah. I noticed the contrast between the chinese buildings and the 20th century people and am in awe of them crossing the river this way! The umbrella’s focus the attention on the rain and the light from the stormy sky, causing the shades of grey effect which makes the few colours stand out more. It is very atmospheric.
    I have felt that one of the skills of photography is capturing a stunning shot when a ‘photograph’ is seen in a shot of life, and this is done by instinct…
    I appreciate the work that goes behind the crafted photos, my grandfather enjoyed photography in his day!
    Your last quote…
    “Beauty can be seen in all things, seeing and composing the beauty is what separates the snapshot from the photograph.”
    Now I see that the actual process of composing the photo is what photographers enjoy.
    Love your post, and your blog :)

    • Deborah September 22, 2014 at 7:52 AM #

      Wow, Jacs! You really connected with the photo the way I did! You actually “saw” it! I love that!

      I chose that quote because I know there’s a difference between a photograph versus a snapshot. Two entirely different things! This is a photograph, a work of art, planned, captured. It’s so nice to hear that people may have a little bit of awakening when looking at art.

      Thank you so much for your comments and insight!


  6. Monna Ellithorpe September 19, 2014 at 8:28 AM #

    Hi Deborah,

    Wow, what an eye opener. I have never thought of all of the background preparation when it comes to photos. I just know if I like them or not. I do believe I will be looking at photos a lot differently from now on.

    Thanks for sharing your information.

    • Deborah September 19, 2014 at 11:44 AM #

      Monna, so glad you understood my post!

      It’s one thing to find a beautiful view, flower, or bird — but to truly capture an amazing image of it, with just the right lighting, just the right colors and shadows, with just enough contrast to make a really unforgettable composition — that’s art!

      Enjoy your weekend Monna!

      Deborah recently posted…Branding Your New BusinessMy Profile

  7. WILLIAM O'TOOLE September 8, 2014 at 1:56 PM #

    They say a single picture speaks ‘1000 words’ and your pictures speak more than that.. They are incredibly images… How you been doing this long?

    WILLIAM O’TOOLE recently posted…Aching Back? Tips For Dealing With Back Pain.My Profile

    • Deborah September 10, 2014 at 10:08 PM #

      Hello William!

      I was reading a post by you the other day! We have something in common… PASSION!

      I’ve been in photography since high school. From there, I worked for a local newspaper. Then real estate listings, was Marketing Director for several companies and so on. For the most part, I’ve been helping others live their dreams and make money. Now, my focus is on what I want!

      So glad you enjoyed your visit. There will be more to come as I build this site! :)


  8. Dawn Golden September 7, 2014 at 5:25 PM #

    Our younger son has been bit by the shutter bug! I will have to share this awesome site with him. Thanks for the inspiration!
    Dawn Golden recently posted…USP: 4 Steps to DifferentiationMy Profile

    • Deborah September 7, 2014 at 6:22 PM #


      So glad you enjoyed it! Another generation in love with photography…

      If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask.


  9. Liz Delaney September 4, 2014 at 4:02 PM #

    What a wonderful photo, Deborah. I love it. Seems to blend the past with the present. I love old buildings and anything natural, so this has combined it all – for me anyway.
    Thanks so much for sharing. It has brightened my day.

    • Deborah September 6, 2014 at 9:34 AM #

      I’m glad you liked the post Liz. I thought this particular photo was intriguing. Yes, the old architecture blending with modern life. With the rain and ominous clouds, it lends an air of drama, too.

      I appreciate you leaving your comments. :)


  10. Sue Bride August 31, 2014 at 1:47 PM #

    What an amazing photo. It stands out for me because it’s so unique. it tells a story which I wanted to know more about. The rain is captured so well and despite the dark day the splashes of color are a highlight. The rain also adds texture making it like a painting rather than photo. The part hidden buildings and scenery tempt me to find out more about the location.

    To an untrained photographer’s eye it ticks all the boxes.

    • Deborah August 31, 2014 at 3:20 PM #

      Sue, so glad you liked it! I had so many to choose from for my example but I chose this one by Chen Li because it was a great example for my point. And, you got it!

      You may have an “untrained eye” but you do know an award-winning photo when you see one. You picked up on something within this photograph; it is pretty monochrome so the color that there is tends to be just the right amount of color and in the right places.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting! :)


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