Recently I came across some really old photographers who were cribbing about the surge of digital cameras, mobile phone cameras and so on. In their opinion this had really brought down the overall quality of photographs created. They were not ‘real’ photographers in their opinion. I agree to some extent. There are lots and lots of people with easy access to good cameras, but this is not a bad thing. Large amount of sales translates to good profit for the camera companies and in turn this leads to reduction in prices of otherwise expensive pieces of equipment. More sales also lead to investments in research and development and therefore progress in technology. The bad thing is that when these buyers of photography equipment do not want to learn to use their new acquisitions and churn out hoards of average looking snapshots. Snapshots, which could have been better with just a little bit of awareness. Another sad thing is when these camera users or mobile phone users try to capture images of people without any kind of permission or create disturbance or even nuisance while doing so.
(Picture of a chameleon clicked by a ‘then beginner’ photographer on Nikon D60 using Nikkor 55-200mm lens that used to come as a part of extended kit. The photographer has come a long way since then.)
In my opinion, there are no bad photographers. There are photographers who have stopped learning or those who have not even started learning. The other day, I was talking to a wedding photographer who seemed to consider himself at the zenith of wedding photography. His photographs were indeed above average but could have been far better with just a little bit of effort. I did not have the heart to burst his bubble. He had stopped learning. If someone insists that there are good photographers and bad photographers, then he was an example of a bad photographer.
Another incident when I was at a photography shop (yes, a brick and mortar store selling photography equipment), I saw a photographer playing around with the background of a portrait on an image editing program. The results were weird. He was trying to place the person in front of a psychedelic splurge of colors. It pained me to see such derogatory use of image editing program but the photographer was pleased with his skills and the final result. Another example of a photographer who had stopped learning.
Who is an amateur and who is a professional photographer?
Professional photographer is simply the one whose primary source of income is photography. It has nothing to do with skills, quality of photography, artistic inclination etc. Amateurs indulge in photography without earning their daily bread from it.
I am a semi-professional. I have started doing photography to earn my livelihood but there are times when my income from photography is less than my other sources. Sometimes I just do photography for days just out of the pleasure I derive from it. My photographic skills are above average. I am trying to improve myself everyday. Sometimes the learning happens when I observe other photographs, artists, painters or just when I stand and observe the world around me.
Who is a photographer then?
With easy availability and low prices, everyone seems to buying cameras. Is everyone with a camera a photographer? Buying a camera makes one a purchaser, a consumer and to an extent poorer by some amount.
Another fact which people fail to understand- When a person owns expensive camera, it does not reflect on the wealth of that person. Instead it reflects on the wealth of the company that successfully sold the camera to that individual and made profit. As per dictionary, photographer is anyone who uses a camera. However in the common usage photographer has come to indicate someone who creates above average images. I consider anyone who can use a camera reasonably well a photographer and others who own a camera but do mediocre photography as simply consumers. Consumers of expensive photography equipment! Remember, this is my opinion and not a definition from dictionary.
My advice to all the consumers is to become photographers. Start learning. Start enjoying photography. Learn to visualize the world in a different way and learn to express yourself. To those who have somewhere stopped learning, it is never too late to start again. Everyone can learn to be a good photographer and create wonderful images.