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Power of a Photograph: Uses, Effects, Advantages; Old and New

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Photography is a passion of mine. I love to look at old family photos as well as take opportunities to capture nature in all its glory.


Are you a photographer? Is that your profession, your passion, your interest? Do you take a camera – be it phone, iPad or specific – with you everywhere, just in case?

Or maybe you believe in the moment, in savouring a sight for its present emotions, its glory, without having to commit it to the archives.

I think you can do both, remembering to savour a special moment for what it is but also recording it for posterity if you have the chance or the time.

How do we Use a Photo?

Just look at anyone’s photo of anything. It might be of a person, a place, an event, an animal, an object. Ask yourself these three questions:

  • Who took the photo?
  • Why was it taken?
  • How do you react to it?

Does it appeal to you or do you pass on to something else? If it appeals, in what way?

Let’s say you’re looking at a family group photo depicting several generations. Facing you are great-grandparents, grandparents, parents and a child, maybe you. If it were me looking at this photo, I would look for differences in clothes, hairstyles, expressions. Was it a formal occasion, like a Christening, taken by a professional, or just a quick family snap-shot taken by a relative? What influences your opinions?

Our great-grandparents often look out at us with serious faces, though it’s difficult to see the eyes which could be more expressive. In those days, it was a new experience, you were choreographed by the professional photographer, it was expensive and therefore less frequent, and you wore your Sunday best.

The photographer probably had a bulky contraption on a tripod, with a black cloth extension to cover his head, and he would be holding a large flash-lamp necessary for distributing adequate lighting. When he pressed the shutter mechanism, the bright light would startle the group and leave them seeing stars!

These days cameras are much smaller, quality is amazing and technology advances at bullet speed. It is also a cheaper pastime for anyone to pursue. We have a camera function on our phones but might prefer to use a designated, maybe more sophisticated one.

An amateur would target an informal, unexpected moment, to capture a second's fun, or a person not seen often, maybe an old friend. The expressions would tell a story, reflect the interaction of those present, including the photographer.

Why a Photo?


  • the family album - old-fashioned? depends on values/interests
  • video
  • displays or galleries
  • family and friends
  • Facebook, Instagram etc. – today’s ‘thing’!


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  • a record of events/holiday/sequences
  • proof of damage, size, condition, of something bought, or for sale
  • proof of attendance
  • emphasising a point, illustration
  • comparison & persuasion


  • entertain
  • incite
  • frighten
  • expose
  • provoke
  • exact revenge

Photographer and Photographer-to-be!

Father and Daughter having a Chat

Father and Daughter having a Chat


Photos can be emotional or emotive. We feel sad to see photos of people who have passed out of our lives or those who have gone to distant lands or maybe just moved away. The same photo may bring back fond memories and make us smile.

We are moved by a photo of a child in difficulty or an animal in distress. An atmospheric picture can inspire or a spooky one frighten us. A clever use of effects or textures can induce admiration and a desire to try something ourselves.

The media use photos to inform or sometimes distort a particular piece of information. We have to be aware that sources might be unreliable. Research is the key.

There is also a personal side to photography, apart from taking shots of family and interests. The photographer feels ‘safe’ behind the lens, in control of what we decide to capture. We can distance ourselves from the world, escape from reality for a few seconds, capturing a moment in time, holding history in our hands, dictating who sees what and when.



There are often photographic competitions in magazines, on TV and online. Sending in entries is simple and can earn us money or other rewards or recognition in that field, maybe even a job. It might require photos on a theme or just your own favourite.

The three photos above are ones I'm particularly proud of, especially as I'm privileged to have seen these creatures appear before me.

If our work is good enough we might take part in photographic exhibitions or even sell our masterpieces!


Rare shot of Mum, Dad & Me, Christmas 1973

Rare shot of Mum, Dad & Me, Christmas 1973

Family Albums

Family photos can start the search to produce a family tree, creating a fascinating archive to pass down through generations.

My father was an avid amateur photographer, eventually becoming a member of the Royal Photographic Society. He had his own darkroom for developing and left hundreds of photo prints, slides and cine tapes, as well as audio tapes of family. My sister and I now have a wealth of visual family information. I have Dad's enthusiasm for photography and my sister has done hours of research into our family line. It's fascinating! We're so lucky to have all those photos.

Like my Dad did, I take a camera with me wherever I go, in case I miss a one-off opportunity to capture 'that moment'.

Another personal gain is that I am far more observant, more aware of my world – at my feet, way up high and all around – nature, people, animals and the elements. The interactions between all those are astounding, always different, always inspiring. I feel insignificant whilst privileged to be a part of it.

So what is the Power of a Photograph?

It can inform.

It can change our perspective.

It can change our emotions.

It can change our lives – from both sides of the lens.

© 2022 Ann Carr

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