Photo vs. Picture

I got a question from the Peanut Gallery today:

“What is the difference between using the words ‘photo’ and ‘picture’? It is confusing me most of the time.”

I would say that a photograph (photo for short) is a subset of the category “picture.” Hence, a photo is always a picture, but a picture is not always a photo.

Photos are images taken with a camera (or cell phone these days), whereas pictures can also be drawn by hand using pencil or crayon, painted, or even generated by computers using Microsoft Paint software, for example.

 They say “a picture is worth a thousand words,” but not if I’m generating it!
I can’t even take a decent photo, which would have come in handy in my prior job as a magazine editor. I’ll just have to stick to words as my tools for conveying information.

Fascinating Fact:
The word “photograph” first appeared in the English language in 1839, whereas the word “photo” didn’t come into fashion until 1860, according to Webster’s Ninth Edition dictionary. In 1839 Louis Daguerre invented the first practical process of photography, naming it after himself – the daguerreotype. It involved a sheet of silver-plated copper, polished and coated in iodine, creating a light-sensitive surface. The plate was placed in a camera and exposed for a few minutes, then bathed in a solution of silver chloride to form a lasting image that would not change if exposed to light.

Another Fun Fact:
Pinhole cameras date back to around 1000 A.D.
They were based on an observation made around 330 B.C by Aristotle, who noted that the sun made a circular image when it shined through a square hole.


6 Responses to “Photo vs. Picture”

  1. Thyce Colyn (@Thyce) Says:

    Thank you for your entertaining and informative article.

  2. 收購手機 Says:


    […]Photo vs. Picture « Technical Writing Tips for the Oil Patch[…]…

  3. kevin Says:

    A picture is some thing anyone can do. To me same as a snapshot. Point camera in direction of subject with no regard of light or composition and fire away. A photo or photograph is a well thought out composition that is followed through to the end process and is visually appealing. Well….that’s what the difference is to me anyway.

  4. Noureddine Says:

    What about image? I’d be grateful if you elaborate.

    • petrocomputing Says:

      Images include photgraphs, 2D or 3D scans, or even sculptures of something. Carved idols would be considered images.
      “I am Jehovah. That is my name; and to no one else shall I give my own glory, neither my praise to graven images.”
      (Isaiah 42:8)

  5. Anton Says:

    Thank you and very informative and good explanation!!

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