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Taking Pictures and Looking at the Past
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People take pictures for many reasons, ranging from sentimental motivations to eminently practical concerns. Taking pictures may be an art form, a family hobby or a historical responsibility. Similarly, looking at pictures puts us in touch with the past, keeps us informed of news events and allows us to appreciate artistry.

Taking Photos
Taking photos can be as easy as pointing the camera, clicking and hoping something turns out. Many people take pictures in this manner. However, this method may be inconsistent: sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.

Because pointing and shooting a camera is an unreliable method of taking pictures, professional photographers don't take photos in this way. Instead, a professional photographer, or an experienced amateur, takes the time to study his or her subject. Lighting, the angle of the shot and composition are all evaluated. If you follow the rules of basic photography composition, taking photos that consistently look good isn't a difficult skill to master.

The Art of Taking Pictures
Taking photos is an art form that often produces evocative and engaging photos. Looking at pictures taken by a good photographer is like looking at a painting: the photo evokes a certain mood and often carries a specific message.

Whether they focus on portraits, landscapes or wildlife, many photographers seek to make the practice of taking photos into a refined art. A framed photo can be just as artful as a painting or sculpture.

Family Albums
Another reason that people take photographs is for family memories. Looking at pictures of vacations, wedding, births and family events provides people with pleasure and memories.

Taking pictures for family albums is also an investment in the future: family albums often become cherished heirlooms and links to a family's past. While you're taking photos for the family album, ask yourself what future generations would want to see and what you would want them to know and understand about your family.

Pictures as History and News
Just as future generations will view our personal photos, we often use photos to connect with the past. Looking at pictures of the past provides us with an understanding of how previous generations lived, as well as details of past historical eras.

For example, the news media is well aware that looking at pictures has an impact that words alone cannot convey. While people may read about the horrors of World War II, the pictures of people at Auschwitz hold real, vivid and intense power that automatically evokes the viewer’s pathos.

Practical Picture Taking
Taking photos for practical purposes often relates to using pictures as documents to verify particular circumstances. A person might take pictures of personal property and store them in the event of a burglary or the need to file an insurance claim. Similarly, photos of car accidents and crimes scenes can be critical evidence in court. Due to the serious nature of criminal trials, taking accurate pictures of crime scenes is one of the police force’s responsibilities.

If you're taking photos for insurance or legal reasons, take a tip from the professionals: use film rather than digital cameras. Because film negatives are more difficult to alter than digital images, they generally carry more weight in court or with insurance companies.

Looking at Pictures Today
Digital photography is changing how people are taking photos. Because digital cameras don’t waste the time or money that traditional film development tends to consume, people are less hesitant about taking pictures with digital cameras. Similarly, cell phones also allow people to immediately take and share pictures over long distances.

Technology isn't just changing how we're taking photos. It’s also changing the ways we look at pictures. In previous generations, pictures were shared through prints and albums. Today, looking at pictures often means using a computer to view images. Modern photos are often stored on CD-ROM or uploaded to personal websites.

Even the photo frame is adapting to how people are looking at pictures. Digital frames display a slideshow of photos. Photos are also one of the most common email attachments, bringing family and friends together quickly over long distances (like pictures taken with cell phones).

In spite of advancing technology, looking at photos in an old album or from a recently developed roll of film still holds significance for many. Photos meant to create a mood of nostalgia often use black and white or sepia film, which doesn't look quite right on a computer screen. Additionally, the tangibility of the printed photo maintains a special weight and personal importance, especially for more private, special pictures.

Although digital images make taking and looking at pictures easy, they will probably never replace the special nature of albums and physical prints.
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