This morning I had a customer service agent ask me to send her a "screenshot" of a mailing label from a package that I had received erroneously.

My first impression was that she had misspoke, or she didn't understand the difference between a screenshot (capturing the digital rendering of an image by the same device that renders it) vs. a digital photo (capturing a live image in digital form).

Then it occurred to me that for someone who has only ever used a device with a digital view finder, that they may conceive of taking a digital photo as capturing the actual image that is displayed on the device's screen. Under that conception, I can see why a digital photo might be considered a "screenshot."

Now, I know that conception is wrong (since the image captured is (usually) of higher resolution that the resolution of the screen). And I'm not asking for the technical or dictionary meaning of "screenshot," since I can look that up myself. But the user experience is surprisingly similar. The devices will often make a clicking sound effect for snapshots and screenshots alike. So I can see how the meaning of "screenshot" may be morphing over time.

What I'm asking I this: Do children of today (mostly high school, college, or young adults) tend to use "screenshot" to refer to any kind of digital image? Or do most still distinguish between "screenshot" and digital images that were captured live?

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    I can't answer the question specifically as asked, but I can point out that my years of experience with people using computers have taught me that many many people never bother to learn the nuances of the words. Thus people refer to the wallpaper as the screensaver, or the lock screen as the screen saver, they refer to the tower that houses the computer as the hard drive, they call digital images with captions "memes", they refer to any animated picture as a "gif", etc. So this screenshot usage is completely in keeping with historical errors. – Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Sep 13 '16 at 14:20
  • That is certainly cringe-worthy. I hope it is an isolated instance. – Spehro Pefhany Sep 13 '16 at 15:19
  • I'm a bit old for the survey aspect but I've never heard this use among anyone I know of any age. – Chris H Sep 13 '16 at 15:39
  • I suspect that the customer service agent has a lot of cases where she talks to people about orders, invoices and delivery notes and other documents which appear mainly on line. She may or may not know the difference between a screenshot and a digital photo but I can easily believe that she was momentarily confused even if she does know the difference. – BoldBen Sep 13 '16 at 19:31
  • Oh, there are so many people who use language imprecisely. Just today I heard a state education associate describe a garden variety chart as a "flowchart". There was not a single diamond on the page. – aparente001 Sep 14 '16 at 4:14

No, I am in college and we do use the words screenshot and digital picture in accordance with what you have said: "screenshot (capturing the digital rendering of an image by the same device that renders it) vs. a digital photo (capturing a live image in digital form)". For example, we use the word screenshot only when we capture the image already in the screen of a smartphone by an internal option available in the device itself. Anything else captured via the camera is referred to as an image or a digital picture.


I can say that my kids (age 12 and 18) understand the difference between screenshot and image. (all screenshots are images, but not all images are screenshots!).

Then again, as a coder who would cringe at hearing the error that you describe - I have been fairly diligent on teaching them concepts and terminology so that a) we can communicate effectively when I give them tech support (often by text or phone), and b) so they don't sound like idiots when they are talking to others.

That said, I have never heard anyone else make the error you describe, so I'm betting that it isn't common. Screenshot. A shot (image) of what is on your screen. Pretty self-explanatory to most I would hope.

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