Photograph vs Picture

iPhoto IconIt seems like I use the terms photograph and picture interchangeably, and with little thought. Today I was really pondering the difference between these words, and whether there is a simple explanation between the two, or if it’s much deeper… much like the difference between house and home.

Technically, a photograph is “an image created by light falling on a light-sensitive surface, usually photographic film or an electronic image such as a CCD or a CMOS chip.” We usually associate photograph creation with cameras, either analog film or digital files. But using the above Wiki definition extends beyond cameras. Can we not also take photos with our light-sensitive eyes (and minds)? What if a very skilled individual created an extremely realistic digital illustration? Would we call that a photo or a picture? I would assume we could only go off the information we were given. I would call that a picture – knowing that the original creator drew it. Consumers would likely interpret it as a photo.

Beyond that, does the quality or content of the image allow us more freedom in our use of photo or picture? To me, where actual photographs are involved, it seems like I tend to use photo for high-end images, or images where the content is extremely rich, and picture for images that are so-so, or don’t really deserve the term photo. That may seem strange, but it’s almost like I am putting photo on a higher level than picture. Am I crazy, or are others doing that as well?

And while we’re at it, let me touch on another (possibly sensitive) subject. A camera does not make a photographer – at least a good one. A really great photographer is capturing photographs, while everybody else is taking pictures. Maybe this is the root of my photo vs picture conundrum. I dunno. Don’t kill me.

This has been today’s Clarified Butter.