We, the photographers, exist in various forms. There are different levels and types. From beginner hobbyists to the names that the world recognizes, from serious hobbyists to plain professionals, photographers who click only wildlife to ones who capture water droplets… we are a diverse lot.
Types of Photographers
From my perspective, there are a few main levels of expertise and involvement with photography, that we photographers have. I classify the photographers as –
Happy Snapshooters – They are the most common type of photographers. Give them a camera and they are happy shooting anything. From family gatherings to sceneries, while traveling in a vehicle, anything works. They don’t think twice about the various settings. If the photographs come out terrible, it is the fault of the camera. If the photographs are great, they are the best photographers out there. This was the same breed of photographers that touted the 35mm film-based compact cameras and tried clicking photographs of the moon since they could see it beautifully, only to be saddened by the prints later on. All said and done, these happy snapshooters are the ones that have created most of the albums that each household has. After decades pass-by, these family snaps are what people love to see rather than the sceneries or macros that most others click.
Beginners – The fresh crop of photographers! These are new to this world and still exploring the various methods to achieve what other advanced photographers achieve. Experiments with motion-blurs, macro, various rules of compositions, mimicking works of other photographers… are some of the ways, they try to learn. Browsing through books, pouring over user manuals, beginners are the most curious lot.
Gadgeteer – Misled by ‘Great Cameras create Great Photographs’, this breed of photographers believes that its the gear that only matters. Usually evolving from the above level, these photographers believe that buying an advanced camera is all that is required for creating great photographers. In fact, these are the ones that are fueling most of the photography economy. The maximum number of DSLRs and lenses get sold to the gadgeteers. If you happen to see one of our species, touting a big camera, but using the ‘Auto’ mode constantly, it’s most probably a gadgeteer.
Social Journalist – Reminds me of an anecdote I heard sometime back – Father brings home a family pizza overflowing with cheese for dinner. The young kid in the household, with his dirty hands and without saying a grace, grabs a piece out of it, only to be slapped hard by the mother. She says, ‘how many times I have to tell you to take a photograph of the food before grabbing a bite?’
Social journalist are the ones who click photographs for sharing on messaging apps and social media sites. These are the ones who prefer to buy a mobile phone for photography rather than a good camera. Every photograph undergoes tonnes of filters and then gets shared. Lack of ‘oohs’ and ‘ahs’ (read as likes) is the single most demotivating factor.
XYZ Photography (copyrighted) – This is a recent crop of photographers. With the ease of sharing photos, these friends of ours, have a dedicated page for photography. Usually, it is their own name suffixed by the word photography. XYZ photography (substitute XYZ by the name of your photographer friend) along with a prominent watermark on photographs, is their hallmark. The photographs are usually average to look at and sometimes with prominent distractions. However, the likes and comments by followers is a huge boost for their ego. Most such photographers end up with stagnancy in their skill.
Photoshoppers – No, these are not shopping for photos. These are the ones who rely on photo-editing programs to enhance whatever they… ahem… click. Photoshop is one of the most commonly misused tools for this, this breed of ours is called photoshoppers. If you happen to see photographs with ghastly bright colors, dark obvious vignettes, selective coloring, or weird vintage effects like sepia, then these are the photoshoppers. (Photography getting lost to Photo-editing)
Richie Rich(s) – Photography equipment is expensive. Not everyone can afford them. (I have been longing for a Leica rangefinder for the last 20 years or so and yet have not been able to save enough for it… am I a gear-head?) There are people with really deep pockets who own some of the best photography equipment in the world. These are not usually great at photography but definitely have the equipment to be envious of. A colleague of mine uses a very expensive medium format camera to capture his family gatherings while keeping the camera always on ‘full auto’ mode. By the way, his sitting room is larger than my whole house!
Postcarders – These click the photographs most likely to be seen on the postcards. The photographs are beautiful, full of color and impact. Technical errors are few. Their photographs earn the maximum wows and likes from friends and family. Postcarders are always considered ‘photographers who somehow could not become famous’. Every great photographer passes through this phase.
Advanced Photographers – With knowledge comes power. Advanced photographers understand their equipment and know its limits. They may be professional or not, but their grasp of the medium is at par with some of the best ones. The photographs they create are similar to the ones that get printed in coffee-table books, calendars and magazines.
Artists – These are the ones among us, who have perfected their use of the medium. The photographs speak out and express emotions. These are not just good to look us but they want us to keep on looking, exploring, all the while playing with our feelings. As humans, our emotions are easily brought out by other human elements showing poverty, suffering, compassion, happiness etc, but the artists are those who bring out our emotions using landscapes, candid moments, portraits and various other genres. The artists find ways to express themselves in a variety of situations and locations. No place is devoid of interest for them. Sadly, a lot of these photographs do not win any applauds or get printed in magazines and books. However, artists understand their work. Most of the artists I have met have their best creations hidden away from the public and quite frequently these photographers are the least active on social media or other popular platforms.
Understand the difference!
There are a few more terms that I feel should be clarified –
Great vs Famous – Some of the advanced photographers and most of the artists are great photographers. Their works are beautiful. However not all of them are famous. Some of them may not be interested in show-casing their work. Others are just overshadowed by some of the famous names in the region. None the less, these are great photographers. Famous photographers, on the other hand, are the ones who are well known by others. To me, great and famous are two different words. Some of the photographers I know are famous but not great. Some other iconic photographers like Ansel Adams (Ansel Adams – His Influence), Henri Cartier Bresson, Robert Capa were great as well as famous.
Popular vs Great – This is another confusion. With the spread of social media, popularity is becoming an indicator of great. It is not so. A popular person is one who has good networking skills. Maybe charismatic too. Photographs posted by such a person garners a large number of likes (due to a large number of followers and social skills), but this does not give any indication of photography skills. A great photographer may not be popular at all. Also, popular is not the same as famous. A person with many followers or friends is popular but may not be known by anyone outside that circle. A famous person is well known by most in the field and even outside of it.
Amateur vs Professional – This is the biggest confusion, people have about us photographers. These two words classify us into how we earn our living and have nothing to do with our skill level. Amateur does photography as a hobby but earns a livelihood by other means. Professional photographer earns money by way of photography. That’s it. Period. Never ever be prejudiced by these terms and label our photography skills.
(Barnacles on a branch – photographed at low tide)
Diseases that affect us –
GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) – This is an advanced stage of the disease that gadgeteers suffer from. We feel like buying more and more lenses, cameras and accessories. May be it is that missing item that is keeping our photography level low? Upgraditis is another version of this disease, where we long to upgrade our existing equipment.
Buyer’s regret – Similar to all others, we photographers, also face buyer’s regret from time to time. After buying a piece of expensive equipment, when the initial excitement dies down, we question ourselves if buying was the right decision? Sometimes the regret comes to haunt us in another way – maybe the other option that we were considering was after all better?
Photographer’s Block – Like the writer’s block, this affects us photographers. Do read this – Photographer’s Block
The literary addiction – The urge to browse forums and popular question-answer sites! The so-called ‘arm-chair photographers’ are the ones who are seriously affected by this disease.
Many of us may fit into multiple categories at times. Do you or your friends fit into what I feel about us, the photographers?
Playing with Words