Are You Taking Or Are You Making?

by | Photography Quotes, Photography Inspiration | 12 comments

ansel adams quote, photography quote, Copyright Karin van Mierlo at Photography Playground. Photo: Florence, Italy

Ansel Adams Quote

So, a funny thing happens every time I write about photography which is like on a daily basis. I make it a point to write Make Photographs and not Take Photographs because well, that’s what it actually is. A photo is made.

But the spelling checker on my laptop keeps highlighting the word Make wanting me to correct it to Take. It annoys me because it’s wrong on so many levels and I always ignore the suggestion.

Apparently, in the English language, it is ingrained that we Take a Photograph and not Make it. 

That’s why this month’s quote is the famous Ansel Adams Quote because, as always, he had it right. 

“You Don’t Take A Photograph, You Make It.”

-Ansel Adams

Who was Ansel Adams?

Ansel Adams was a landscape photographer famous for his majestic images of the American West. He lived from 1902 till 1984. Adams developed the Zone system, an elaborate system to expose black and white negatives for the widest tonal range in his landscape photography.

This is the second Ansel Adams Quote I’m discussing. You can find the first one here: Do You Think We See The Same?

ansel adams quote, photography quotes, photo quote | Photo: Florence, Italy © Karin van Mierlo, Photography Playground

Change from Taking to Making

Photography is and should always be a creative act. That is if you want a little more than a simple registration of an occurrence. Since you’re on this page I’m going to assume that that’s what you want for your photographs. You want them to be more than a form of registering the events of your life.

To me, my camera is my ally in transforming what I see and feel into compelling and strong images. There’s no better feeling than seeing my photographs reflect what I wanted to capture. And I could never do that by Taking Photos. 

When you change from Taking to Making you transform the way you Make photos. 

Taking a Photo is unintentional, it’s thoughtless and careless. 

Making a Photo is the exact opposite. It’s intentional, deliberate and full of attention and awareness. 

Taking Photos is snapping away without any consideration for what you’re actually photographing. 

Making Photos is being fully present in the moment. Asking yourself what you see and how it makes you feel. And only after that thought process trying to convey that in a photograph. 

Composition plays a big part in conveying what you see and how it makes you feel. Click here if you wanna read more about the essential principles of composition in photography

ansel adams quote, photography quotes, photo quote | Photo: Sardinia, Italy © Karin van Mierlo, Photography Playground

Be Ready To Receive It

That’s one level. The creation part of making photographs. But there’s another level to this quote that I feel is just as important. 

I’ve always felt I do not Take a Photo, it is given to me. 

Of course, I work hard to make the photo I’m striving for. I decide on my settings, my point of view, the moment I press the shutter, and how I interact with what I’m photographing. Let’s say all the things I have a certain level of control over. 

And then there is whatever is happening in front of me. These are the things I have no control over whatsoever. I can only observe and anticipate. Open myself up for the magic of the moment and be ready for what’s coming next. 

To me, photography is a dance between control and letting go. A wonderful dance. It is during this dance I feel a photo is given to me. The photographer’s biggest job is to be ready to receive it. And when I am it’s the best feeling in the world.

Delete the Word!

You know what? Words matter! From this moment on say, “Today I’m gonna Make photos”, instead of “Let me Take some pics”. I’m sure your intentions will change. 

So, let’s be radical!

Let’s delete the word Taking Photographs out of our vocabulary.

It’s a small thing you can do to become a more intentional photographer.

Try it!

You might surprise yourself.

Are you Taking or are you Making? Tell me in the comments!

You can find more information on Ansel Adams here

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  1. Christine Long


    I used to think it was all about taking a photo but I am learning that you can make a photo.

    • Karin van Mierlo

      Hi Chritine, that’s great to hear…keep making!

  2. Javier Alonso

    I MAKE photographs. Even if it looks like a snapshot, it’s me behind the viewfinder, it’s me framing and composing, it’s me choosing exposition modes, etc, etc. Taking photographs is like Xerox copying…

    • Karin van Mierlo

      Hi Javier, So good to hear 🙂

  3. Kevin

    I start taking photos, but I’m learning to see the best way to make a picture.
    Like checking the background, and moving around a bit to see if looking better from that angle, Sometime I go back later if the light or weather is not suitable.
    Mostly just planning ahead if I’m after a certain shot that I’m looking for with the right kit. I’m always open to any else that may be there.
    I’ve learned that it pays to take a few shots in diff settings.
    Always learn from your mistake if it doe not turns out right.

    • Karin van Mierlo

      Hi Kevin, that’s great and you’re so right. It really pays off to go beyond the first shots!

  4. Janis

    That was a great question! wow, I take photos, but I also try and make good photos. Now I will be more cognizant of this each time

    • Karin van Mierlo

      Thank you Janis! Keep Making 🙂

    • Vince Higbee

      I certainly feel make is better than take, however I take it a step further and say what I do is “create images”. Maybe too much of a play on words, but this allows me to include post processing as part of the entire activity.

      My favourite Ansel Adams quote comes from his response to a reporter one time when asked what was the most important component in his photography – his response supposably was the 12″ behind the viewfinder!

      • Karin van Mierlo

        That is an awesome quote and so true! Thank you for sharing 🙂

  5. Richard Venneman

    I find myself taking photos…trying to get in as many as I can. Then when I read or see something on composition I find myself thinking more about that than what I am seeing. I’m a mess. ?

    • Karin van Mierlo

      Haha, sounds like you’re all over the place. Did you join the workshops series I’m hosting? It starts tomorrow!


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