This is me trying to be clever with my post title. Also, I am doing this new thing called “just writing a post”, instead of posting photos and writing about them, or giving you an update on things. I wanted to share my thoughts with you all on what it means to be a Photographer.
When I first started selling my photos at street fairs/craft fairs, I was only selling photos I took with the Hipstamatic app on my iPhone. I had also never previously considered myself a “photographer”, because I had always only taken photos for my own personal enjoyment, so I was pretty insecure in my validity as a “photographer”. People would always ask me how I took the photos, what I used, etc. I was very hesitant to tell people I took them on my phone, for fear they would think less of me. Most didn’t seem to care, and thought it was cool, but some did in fact think less of me.
The one I always remember, and the one responsible for my introspection and self-realization (thank you, sir), was an older man. He said something along the lines of, “so anyone with an iPhone could take photos like these.” It really bothered me at the time; I probably said something agreeing with him, but it didn’t help me feel like a photographer.
So I spent a lot of time thinking about that. I’m not sure how long it took, but at some point, I realized that, along his line of reasoning, anyone that just buys fancy photography equipment can take the same photos as a professional photographer. As I’m sure you all know, that is completely ridiculous and not true. It helped me to understand, however, that equipment a photographer makes not – as Yoda might say. A Photographer is someone that has that extra special touch – an eye for composition, lighting, anything that makes a photo “good”. It has absolutely nothing to do with the equipment, although with progressively better equipment, you should be able to get progressively better quality photos, or be able to do some cool things, etc. People that can’t take good photos with nice equipment also won’t be able to take good photos with iPhones – at least not consistently, and vice versa. Good photography has very little to do with the equipment and much more to do with all those things that cameras can’t do themselves, and need a person to do.
I have also heard of/from people that use old equipment – such as fancy film camera set-ups and develop their own film – that they look down on people that use digital cameras and probably especially iPhones, and think it isn’t real photography. This goes along completely with my previous paragraph…if the equipment is what is important, then you yourself are not really a photographer. If you have to have a certain type of equipment, and you can’t take photos with any other type of camera, then your equipment is doing all the work for you. If you prefer a certain process, that’s great, but you shouldn’t look down on anyone that prefers something else. The only thing that defines a photographer is their ability to capture a good shot, no matter what they use. And if someone fancies himself/herself a photographer because they take millions of photos on Instagram, but they aren’t actually good, they’re still not a photographer. Yes, there is way more access for people to take photos now, but there is still a level of skill that makes someone a good photographer, and it doesn’t matter if they are using Instagram or not.
For me, I finally decided I was a Photographer because enough people told me that they liked my photos, and that I had a good eye. I don’t know where the actual line is, or how to define it, but it is certainly not equipment.