These two words seem very similar:

  • 拍照 (pāizhào) = "to take a picture" (dict.cn) or "take a photograph (pt took) (pp taken)" (Collins)
  • 照相 (zhàoxiàng) = "take a photograph" (dict.cn) or "take a picture (pt took) (pp taken)" (Collins)

Question: What's the difference between 拍照 and 照相?

Jukuu.com gives many example sentences for 拍照; here's some simple ones:

你不要动, 我给你拍照 (Nǐ bùyào dòng, wǒ gěi nǐ pāizhào)
爸爸为她拍照 (Bàba wèi tā pāizhào)
禁止拍照 (Jìnzhǐ pāizhào)
你喜欢拍照什么? (Nǐ xǐhuān pāizhào shénme?)

Judging from Baidu results, in the first two cases above, we can replace 拍照 with 照相, but not in the second two cases. So there seems to be some difference.

  • the relation between the 2 seems similar to that between "take a picture" and "take a photograph", consider all samples for both at jukuu
    – user6065
    Commented Sep 21, 2017 at 12:28

7 Answers 7


The two terms have the same meaning of "take photograph" in modern Chinese, they just describe the same action differently.

  • '照' in '照相' refers to 'reflect with mirror' and 相 is short for 相片 (portrait/ photograph). Taking photograph with early cameras required the subject to stand still for few minutes, facing the lens like facing a mirror; even with modern cameras, the subject still need to stand still in front of the camera lens to have his or her picture taken.

  • '拍' in '拍照' refers to the 'clicking' sound of the camera. and '照' is short for '照片' (photograph). when you push the camera button, the shutter would open and shut and make a 'clicking' sound.

(it might also refers to the loud flashing sound the early camera flashlight made)

照相 probably was coined before 拍照. In early days of cameras, the only way to take a photograph of yourself is go to 照相館-- We never heard of '拍照館' And taking picture of a person or a family was the sole function of 照相館.

Also, we have 禁止拍照 signs but not 禁止照相 signs. 禁止拍照 mainly targeted handheld cameras. With handheld cameras, we can take picture other than people, therefore, 拍照 can mean taking picture of people, scenery or object; While 照相 mainly means taking portrait of people.


In theory, both means the same thing and interchangeable. In my opinion, it's really a nitpick to distinguish these two words .

But some usage guideline from my experience:

People tend to use 照相 for a person, while 拍照 usually with a scenery. That's why people tend to put '禁止拍照', but '禁止照相' is also acceptable.

The last sentence 你喜欢拍照什么? is unnatural. It sounds like you have two targets for the verb 拍: 照 and 什么. So, you might have to remove one, and it will become 你喜欢拍什么? .

Update on another point:

When used as an attributive or modifier to a noun, 拍照 and 照相 are usually fixed in those phrases. For example, 拍照手机(not 照相手机), 照相机(not 拍照机),照相馆(not 拍照馆),and etc.

  • 2
    Could you instead say 你喜欢拍什么照? Commented Sep 21, 2017 at 14:28
  • 1
    I would also add 拍照 is more general, if you're off to take pictures of people and scenery you would often use 拍照 rather than 照相 Commented Sep 21, 2017 at 15:01
  • 1
    @PeterOlson, you could say 你喜欢拍什么照?, but it would be more clear to say 你喜欢拍什么样的照?, which is specific to 'what type of'.
    – dan
    Commented Sep 21, 2017 at 22:34
  • @ollie299792458, yeah, I think that would be the case.
    – dan
    Commented Sep 21, 2017 at 22:37

There's one subtle difference between them; when 照相 is used it tends to mean taking picture of sb, while 拍照 might be used for taking picture of people/scenery etc. For example, 照相馆 basically refers to photo studio taking picture for people, so we don't say 拍照馆, which sounds not making much sense.


In the first term "拍照", the character "拍" is the verb, means take and the character "照" is the noun means the picture. In the second term "照相", the character "照" now become the verb, and the character "相" is the noun indicates to the picture.

As you can see, they mean "take picture(s)". The previous one is a more casual way then the second one. (As indicated in one of another answer people say "照相館", but they will never say "拍照館" even they should have the same meaning theoretically).

  1. 拍照[pāi zhào] 摄影;照相。photograph: photography; photographic.
  2. 照相[zhào xiàng] 指相片。拍照。picture: taking pictures.
  3. 拍照又称为摄影、照相,一般指通过物体所反射的光线使感光介质曝光的过程。Photography, also known as photography and photography, generally refers to the process of exposure of a light-sensitive medium by the light reflected by an object.
  4. 照相,也称摄影,是使用照相机将物体、景物、人物拍摄下来进行保存的过程。Photography, also known as photography, is the process of using a camera to capture objects, and characters for preservation.

In fact.

The people age 40 ~ 80 will say "照相".

The people age 3 ~ 30 will say "拍照".

That's all.


In most cases, 照相and拍照, they can replace each other without any problems.

In my opinion, there are 4 tiny difference:

1.照相is a little older word than 拍照.Nowadays, 拍照is used more often than 照相.

2.Sometimes, 照相can be used as a noun, for instance,照相馆(photostudio),we never say 拍照馆.

3.I think that 照相emphasize the process of taking a photograph, but 拍照emphasize the instantaneous action of taking a photograph.

4.我去照个相 usually means I am going to take a photograph of myself by others. 我去拍个照means I am going to take a photograph by others or myself.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.