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Digital Picture Basics Lesson 5 - Why Take Photos?

Whether a photo is taken for surveillance, as art, or to preserve a memories, the purpose of taking each photo can be placed into two categories.

1) Documentary - Pictures can be used to document life. This includes photographs taken as part of scientific experiments, police surveillance, or even your family vacation to Disneyland. The intention here is to offer proof of existence or events and to tell a story. I'm sure you've heard the saying "a picture is worth a thousand words". Most pictures are part of a greater story to be told.

2) Expression - The intention of taking an expressive photograph is to capture people and moments of life that will create thought and emotion in those who view it. This type of photograph is usually considered to be artistic as its purpose is to make viewers feel.

While these two purposes seem to be opposites by nature, it is very common to see elements of both in every picture. For example, artistic pictures can serve a documentary purpose in that they tell a story, while documentary pictures, if taken with care, can be thought provoking. The purpose that is dominant in the photo is decided by you, the photographer, when you choose how you would like to take the picture.