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Photography DiscussionDiscussion: What makes a photographer?

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St3v3M
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Discussion: What makes a photographer?

Post by St3v3M » Fri Oct 20, 2017 5:02 pm

I came across this today and wondered what you would think.
- In the age when everyone is taking photos, what makes a photographer?

"This question has been on my mind a lot, and I never came up with a straightforward answer. I’m sure I’m a person some photographers would scoff at and say the phrase above. On the other hand, I think the same for some camera owners who present themselves as photographers. Everyone’s taking photos today, that’s for sure. But who, among all these people, can call themselves a photographer?"

Is it about the camera, the skill, or is there more? S-
"Take photographs, leave footprints, steal hearts"

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Post by Duck » Fri Oct 20, 2017 7:17 pm

For me, this one is an easy one and I've had this conversation with many in the past.

If you use a camera to take a picture, you are a photographer. It doesn't matter if it's a dSLR, a pocket sized point and shoot or a cell phone camera. The base definition of a photographer is anyone who uses a camera to record an image.

Where people have issues with the term isn't so much in the word photographer but the qualifiers people attach to them without voicing them. What level of competency? Are you a snap shooter or a professional image maker? What was the intent for that image? There are multiple levels and no one single answer to that one. For me, you are either a casual photographer (one who takes photos when the opportunity presents itself), a hobbyist photographer (who has a passion for creating images that garner praise) or a professional photographer (one who uses a camera to create something of value). I usually lump art photographers in with the pros in this case since they are creating something of value but utilizing it in a different end product.

Of course there are varying levels within these as well and it's based more on end use than on skill. A selfie photographer is an opportunistic photographer whose main subject is their self, while the family photographer likes to document their close relatives. The guy with a camera is a hobbyist who likely enjoys the act of taking photo more than the results while the serious hobbyist may want to earn a little side cash with it but doesn't place the same level of dedication or quality into the image making process.

As for the pros... we all are familiar with the various categories many of them fall into.
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Post by Charles Haacker » Fri Oct 20, 2017 8:00 pm

Oooohhh boy. We've all seen variations on this theme before. When we had our long discussion trying to define "street" I wondered, and still wonder if a strict definition is even necessary. Duck made a very strong argument that good definitions are necessary, and I expect when he weighs in on this one he will make a similar argument. And I will predictably waffle. :|

I am pretty conflicted. I came into photography as a trained, degreed professional. I knew optics. I knew physics as it applied to photography. I knew chemistry as it applied. I had algebraic formulas clogging my brain for determining arcane things like depth of field and depth of focus (two different things) and reciprocity failure and how to adjust development for deliberate overexposure and yada. Yada. Yada. I made a living selling my skills. For 16 years my wife and I supported ourselves entirely from the sale of my pictures in our studio (she did not shoot but without her the whole venture would have been impossible).

Anyhow, for me, then, I think I can absolutely define myself as a professional photographer. (Retired.) :D

BUT...

Have I earned the right to turn my nose up at lesser beings? For years I have worked very seriously with glorified point-and-shoots because I did my time in heck schlepping 50 pounds of gear on one shoulder. I see Uncle Myron out there at the Grand Canyon with his $10,000 full-frame investment breaking his back, and I watch as he makes shot after shot with a shoe-mount flash with a bounce diffuser on it. Myron has given himself away. Myron has more money than sense. But I gotta wonder what Myron thinks of me banging away with a pathetic little Nikon P7800? But I've always insisted that it ain't about cameras: it's about the 9 inches behind it. So is Myron a "photographer?" As a matter of personal opinion I tend to say, No. Myron would be better off with his iPhone!

What if I had never sold a single picture? I'd still have my degree, an Associate of Science in Photography (says so right cheer on my faux-sheepskin). I have literally forgotten more stuff than a lot of Masters of Fine Arts ever knew in the first place. I think I could still make the argument that I was a photographer, just maybe not a pro. I define professional by whether you get paid to do it. If no dough changes hands then you are an Amateur.

Amateur is not a bad thing. We probably all know that its root word is Latin for Love. Professionals do it for Money. Amateurs do it for Love.

When our studio sank beneath us, taking everything with it, I hung up my guns and pretty much refused to pick up a camera for more than 10 years. But when my wife bought me a tiny digital P&S everything, everything changed! But with digital my wealth of largely-forgotten-anyway arcane knowledge of optics and physics and chemistry was, um, arcane and utterly obsolete. But I still understood the basics of light and shade and exposure and composition. I still grasped how to make a better-than-average picture. I was not just a guy with a camera, but a guy with a camera who knew how to use it. And use it I did. My Flickr currently says I have a little under 10,000 pictures posted since 2009, and I hasten to add that I never post everything I shoot: I pick carefully, and every single picture is edited. Nothing goes up that does not meet my current standards, and lately I have been going back in the archives and replacing pictures that were once up to standard but no longer are. I think that's pretty dedicated. I think that makes a dedicated amateur, one-time pro.

People will still ask, "What do you (did you) do?" which is by way of asking Who are you? I ended my working days as an 8-year expediter at the Home Despot and to this day will not enter an orange store, but when I get that question I unhesitatingly reply that I am a Retired Professional Photographer. That's who I am! :yay:
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(I prefer to present pictures in albums because I can put them in specific order.)

All the great photographers use cameras! No, really. :|

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Post by minniev » Fri Oct 20, 2017 8:05 pm

I'm with Duck on this one.

IMHO I am a photographer. So are all of you. I don't make money from it, or at least not much. But I love it, I work at it, I identify myself with it as a big part of who I am. I've heard arguments that only those who had a degree in fine arts/photography or only those who make their living with photography have a right to call themselves photographers. If there were licensures for photography I might agree, but currently that is not the case and photography to me seems more defined by tools, activities and intent, as it always has been. Perhaps one day there will be licensure but I doubt it, just as there are few licensures for the other fine arts, which at their best are expressions of our own vision of the world and its many parts.

Side story: Last week I stayed in a small inn in a village in Ontario. The innkeeper's 10 year old son played furiously on the piano morning and night. He played everything from his own interpretations of Leonard Cohen to the Pachelbel Canon, in addition to music he had composed, though he cannot read a note of music and takes no lessons. It was breathtakingly complicated and beautiful. He has never been paid a penny, nor is he forced by parents or pressured by friends. I believe he is a musician whose art arises from within as most art does.
"God gave me photography so that I could pray with my eyes" - Dewitt Jones

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Post by St3v3M » Fri Oct 20, 2017 9:33 pm

Charles Haacker wrote:... Have I earned the right to turn my nose up at lesser beings? ...

I laughed out loud when I read this like somehow our acquired knowledge makes us better than the rest.

Thank you for adding this! S-
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Post by St3v3M » Fri Oct 20, 2017 9:45 pm

minniev wrote:... whose art arises from within as most art does.

I think we are all photographers, but few let the artist within live out loud. S-
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Post by Charles Haacker » Sat Oct 21, 2017 12:51 am

St3v3M wrote:
Charles Haacker wrote:... Have I earned the right to turn my nose up at lesser beings? ...

I laughed out loud when I read this like somehow our acquired knowledge makes us better than the rest.

Thank you for adding this! S-

Wait, what... It doesn't? :rofl:
Friends call me Chuck. :photo: This link takes you to my Flickr albums. Please click on any album to scroll through it.
(I prefer to present pictures in albums because I can put them in specific order.)

All the great photographers use cameras! No, really. :|

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Post by St3v3M » Sat Oct 21, 2017 1:16 am

Charles Haacker wrote:
St3v3M wrote:
Charles Haacker wrote:... Have I earned the right to turn my nose up at lesser beings? ...

I laughed out loud when I read this like somehow our acquired knowledge makes us better than the rest.

Thank you for adding this! S-

Wait, what... It doesn't? :rofl:

You're the best! S-
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Post by Steven G Webb » Sat Oct 21, 2017 2:38 am

Anyone who makes photographs with a camera is a photographer. What separates them are the adjectives.
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Post by St3v3M » Sat Oct 21, 2017 2:49 am

Steven G Webb wrote:Anyone who makes photographs with a camera is a photographer. What separates them are the adjectives.

Easy and honest. S-
"Take photographs, leave footprints, steal hearts"

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