I don't think that a screenshot is a photograph, of course it is an image but that doesn't mean that it is a photograph. A photograph is taken by using light from some source from the environment outside. A screenshot uses the data that are displayed in the monitor. Am i correct?

  • An interesting question as @Lawrence's comment reveals. There is also the question of a PDF file which is an image, albeit an image which may be, solely, of word-processed text.
    – Nigel J
    May 30, 2018 at 18:24

3 Answers 3


A screenshot is a record of data (the image data of what was being sent to the screen at a particular moment). A photograph is made by capturing light in the real world. If you were to point a camera at a computer screen and take a photo, that would be a photograph. A screenshot never leaves the digital realm, while a photograph involves the “analog” medium of light


You are right. Both a screenshot and a photograph are images, that is visible impressions obtained by a device, or displayed on a computer or video screen.

But a photograph is always a picture made using a camera.

And a screenshot is an image of the data displayed on the screen of a computer or mobile device.

  • 1
    I like your answer and intuitively I think you're right, but I think the question is looking for more - viz the essence, if you like, of a camera. What is the difference between a recording of values representing the the light intensity of various colours on a DSLR sensor vs a recording of values representing the light intensity of various colours on a monitor? I'd like to see a deeper analysis of this difference. Perhaps it is light capture vs light generation. But then isn't the screenshot a form of 'capture'?
    – Lawrence
    May 30, 2018 at 11:57

Not correct many photographic images are made not using a camera, for instance: laying an object on a piece of photographic paper then exposing it to light, the silhouette of the image is captured on the paper. Man Ray experimented with this style along with many other early photographers/artists. Pin holes in walls making huge images on interior walls are not technically camera’s, there are many examples of photographic images being made not using a camera. I think a screenshot is as valid as these.

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    A screenshot is created using the raw data the computer uses to display the image. If you take a screenshot on a computer where the screen is physically turned off, you are creating an image of something that has no existence in the visible world at all. Jun 21, 2019 at 22:32
  • I think a photograph requires the concept of exposure.
    – Jim
    Jun 22, 2019 at 2:07

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