Tuesday, March 16, 2010

definition of a photographer?

You know i see photographs every day ... some good, some average & some just plain bad but all from people who call themselves "photographers", but how do we define a photographer?


–noun a person who takes photographs, esp. one who practices photography professionally.

& Wikipedia defines a photographer as "a person who takes photographs using a camera."

So keeping all this in mind wouldn't that suggest that anybody, & anybody who picks up a camera is a photographer? I have a degree in photography, i've spent many years "learning" the art & now i'm selling my work, does this make me ay more of a "photographer" than joe blogs next to me taking holiday snaps of his screaming kids?

Now i would never claim to be the next Ansel Adams or Richard Averdon, but i figure i know a little bit about taking pretty pictures & when i see people advertising themselves as a "photographer" when they're work is mediocre it frustrates me. Now i know it shouldn't but it does.

So now i want you to tell me what it is that makes someone a "photographer" ... & maybe i'll even throw in a prize for the best answer!


  1. Personally I think a photographer is someone who feels it in their bones. Someone who can't walk down the street, without seeing an image in front of their eyes or framing the everyday in their minds to create something wonderful.
    Your eyes capture millions of images everyday, but a photographer recognises those images and their value in the world and has a burning passion to share his/her vision with everyone around them.
    I can't comment whether qualifications make a photographer or a highly skilled tradesman. I am not qualified...but I class myself as an ammateur photographer. I am learning the skills necessary to master the technical skills, but have always felt like a photographer in my heart...and for me, thats where it counts and thats why I take my camera everywhere in hope of capturing a masterpiece...one day!

  2. I wrote a post about this before...also check out David duChemin's blog...he writes great posts on the matter.

    "Photographer" cannot be defined by only being excellent...doctors who commit malpractice are still doctors...every field has people who are great (a few), good (a lot) and terrible (a ton) and photography is not the exception. Where would the line be drawn? Many people love my work but maybe someone is out there who thinks I am "mediocre" and shouldn't be a photographer or call myself one? Would I then give up? No. Would they be right in saying I am not a photographer? No.

    I understand the frustration...we've all been there. Try to focus on making your work the best and carving yourself out and your path as a photographer and leave others to their chaos. Well, this is what I am trying to do. lol.

  3. definately agree with both of you ladies even if you argue different points & perspectives. maybe it's not something we can put a label on even though we do. & can we argue that there's a cut off point or is simple there are different "categories" of photographer? Maybe it's the snob in me asking this question.

  4. totally agreed with Trudy. Frankly Laura, I was attracted by the title of your blog but a little bit shocked by the content.. I add something more , you claim you "studied" photography mentioning then Ansel Adams .. so, as lot of masters of photography, Ansel was self-taught.. he invented. As I am french speake, I can mention Cartier-Bresson as self taught photographer.
    Nowaday on my area, I saw lot of young photographers from the school of Vevey or l'Ecal who say what ? who say nothing .. frankly a lot
    Please, I'm not talking about you .. your photographs are beautiful, aesthetical.. I would not follow you on twitter, if i didn't respect your work

  5. I think that a photographer is someone that not only takes photos but captures emotion and that "little something" that leaves the viewer thinking. Anyone can take a picture, but whether or not they "capture" something is another thing.

  6. I grew up watching my mom take beautiful photographs (it was a hobby she loved, not a profession) and that created within me a burning passion for photography. I would have photo shoots with my toy Smurfs camera & my stuffed animals. I started off with my first real camera when we vacationed each year up at the lakes region in New Hampshire, shooting pictures of everything from my teddy bear to my family to the beautiful sunsets. To this day, my mind is constantly thinking about the beautiful things we see all around us, and if I don't have a camera with me, I mentally go over how I'd frame the shot and whether it would look nicer in color or black & white. I'm always the one lagging behind when I travel with friends, because I'm stopping and taking photos of everything from every angle. The photographs I've taken throughout my life and my travels are my most prized possessions. The are invaluable. I am not a professional...I'd like to be someday. I took a few classes, learned from my mom and from admiring the work of others who have more skill and experience. I'm self taught but I have a good eye and, most importantly, the patience to practice until I can take a photograph that captures the beauty of everything around us, from a simple candle to a gorgeous historic building. In the end, art is very subjective, some will love it and some will hate it. But if it's beautiful to you, than it is a work of art. Etsy is a great forum for all of us to share our work with each other and with the world (which does take courage.) So yes, I would call myself a photographer. :)

  7. Great topic darling!
    Look, I'll give you an example out of photography- my dad is a true Hypochondriac, he always thinks his got something. But he's more than that, cause he actually believes he knows how to treat the illnesses he gets, and he even suggests treatments to others (if I have a cold, he will give me a list of vitamins, and meds, and the quantities by the milligram of how much to take of each!!). If you ask him he'll say that he's just about a doctor except he never actually went to school for that. And to be honest, a lot of the times he actually knows what he's talking about, cause he's read a lot! But he is no doctor, as "Doctor" is a profession, and you get a degree to be a doctor... Back to photographer- same thing, many people might have read how to operate a camera and do this & that trick, but if they haven't got a degree for it, they are not a "Photographer"

  8. And I'll add this- If you haven't got the talent, it won't help you whatever studies you take, you 'aint got it!

  9. love the ideas you all have ... it leads me to so many more questions!

    Juan ... i mention my degree in a context, i personally don't think having it makes me better than someone who was self taught but choice to study was because i needed to figure out the path i wanted to take. & as for Cartier-Bresson his work is stunning, i name Ansel Adams simple because i find his work inspiring. But there was a list of photographers i could have mentioned the majority of which were self taught or taught by others within the industry.

    Maybe all this is my questioning the industry i am a part of, as i try to make some kind of name for myself.

  10. Interesting thoughts Laura, and you're provoking conversation equally with your topic and 'personal rant' writing style. I understand what you mean, and in reality things probably won't change and the accessibility of creating photography will only grow. This is happening in the music business because of the same two things - technology in hardware and equipment, and the internet. An independent artist used to need to spend thousands on studio and mixing time to record an album, but now you need is a macbook and some extra gear. Same situation in photography. Good or Bad thing? I'd venture to say the good outweighs the bad.

    The upside: More and more independent artists can show their work, be seen, sell their work, have a career whereas they probably couldn't before. And because of the ease, the competition is higher even for the seasoned pros. So no one can coast, everyone needs to be on top of their game, learning from others, because the world now owns a camera. (Eventually we'll probably all have cell phones with 18 megapixel cameras and aperture settings. So just wait for the onslaught of photographers then) All the more reason to hone the craft and become better and better.

    The downside: everyone's a photographer. So yeah, I get it, kinda of sucks. But the real problem lies when mediocre photographers underwrite prices, acquire work and lower the overall value of photography in their area. That's where professionals or semi-pros should be defensive. More discussion on this can be found on my buddy David Bean's blog - http://blog.visualreserve.com/?p=497

    Overall, the same truth that defined a creative career still is even more true today. 10% inspiration, 90% perspiration. Its the truth in this industry whether we like it or not. I know plenty of talented artists from my art school days that will never be professionals because they don't want to work for the business, only create. No business can run on talent alone.

  11. Brandon ... the third paragraph about underwriting prices etc ... is kind of my feeling. Where i was attempting to head & failed to write. I love photography, i love working with people as they learn how to do it & i have no problem what so ever with competition. It's when said competition makes your job harder but for the wrong reasons that i get frustrated. Thank you for putting some of what i feel into words!

  12. Poor Laura...it is truly a question to which there is no one answer. A photographer comes in many guises. As artist, as documentor, as promoter, all these and more. It really is true that anyoen who takes a picture is a photographer. But I think what you are asking is a bigger question. And perhaps both the questions and the answers are harder to put into words. And instead of asking what makes a person a photographer...perhap we should be asking...what makes a good/successful photograph? If you can get a handle on that...then I would say the person whose photographers are more sucessfull than not...is a photographer.