The digital revolution has made photography accessible to so many new people. I won’t lie, I’m one of them — I never shot film. But just because you have a camera, does this make you a photographer?
Personally, I would consider anybody who takes pictures for the sake of taking pictures, a photographer. You may disagree with me on this, and I welcome you to share your thoughts, but I still believe this to be true. I also believe that the question is not a simple one; there’s more to it than yes or no, black or white.
There are professional photographers among us, and I consider this group of people to be those who make a living of photography. But even here, there are shades of gray. My idea of a professional photographer (or a professional anything for that matter) is somebody who makes at least half their income from photography. So what am I a professional at? I’m a professional engineer — not in the strictest sense (a professional engineer actually requires a special certification), but I mean that I am an engineer by profession. That’s how I make my money.
If you’re not a professional photographer, where does that leave you? From here, I would divide the rest of us into two major groups: the casuals and the hobbyists. You might say that there are also photography students, but I would consider them to be a hobbyist who happens to be a student.
The casuals are the group of people who like to take pictures, but that’s about where their interest peaks. They have no ambition to get bigger-better camera and spend all their savings on photography equipment. They usually don’t care to edit photos, participate in photography communities, or learn the more advanced tricks and techniques associated with photography. They just like to take pictures. Nothing wrong with this. I know, and associate with, a lot of folks in this category — in fact, I married one. My wife could care less about the how or the why, but she probably takes as many pictures as I do.
Then there are the hobbyists. We love taking photos. Notice I said “photos” rather than “pictures”. I suppose the two are really interchangeable, but I consider a photo to be a thought out picture. We think about what we’re doing with the camera and how it affects the photo. We experiment, and we learn from it. We want to know more about photography in general, and we seek out sources of information such as books, websites, blogs, communities, and other photographers. We drool over that piece of equipment we can’t afford, and we find that we’re never quite satisfied with what we already have. All right — maybe not all hobbyists are exactly like me, but you know you can’t deny some of these things.
So am I totally off my rocker here? You tell me — who qualifies as a photographer?