In this age of social media and endless scrolling, there are some things that need to be sorted out and explained. These are simple things, but any photographer will appreciate it if these differences are kept in mind while talking to a photographer. Nothing complicated, but just simple clarifications and the correct terms.
( An abstract or a wasted shot with excessive blur? )
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 anyone’s photography skills. An amateur photographer may be extremely good and a master at his art, or may be bad. A professional photographer may also be a great one, or maybe just another run of the mill one trying to earn his/her bread. Though, usually, most professional photographers understand their equipment and photography, and get the maximum out of what they own. It makes financial sense after all.
Great Photographer vs Famous Photographer– Some of the advanced photographers and most of the artist-photographers are great photographers. (See this for my classification of our lot – We, The Photographers) Their works are beautiful. However, not all of them are famous. Some of them may not be interested in showcasing their work. Others are just overshadowed by some of the prominent names in the region. Nonetheless, these are great photographers. They are masters of their art. 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 and famous too.
Popular vs Great – This is another confusion. With the spread of social media, popularity is becoming an indicator of greatness. It is not so. A popular person is one who has good networking skills. Maybe charismatic too. Photographs posted by such a person garner 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.
Popular or Famous – 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.
This is best explained by an analogy – Nikon, Canon, Zeiss, Sigma, Sony – These are famous. People who don’t indulge in photography also know these brands. What about Vageeswari? I am sure that not even a single digit percentage of my readers recall this name. However, ask any large format photography enthusiast in India and the name will obviously put a smile on the face. Vageeswari is (or rather was) popular in a small group but it was never famous.
Me? I prefer to call myself a semi-professional and an unpopular photographer. Semi-professional since I earn a chunk of my livelihood from photography but not entirely from it. Unpopular since I have a very small social media following. As such, I detest social media. As far as my level of expertise or command over my art goes, I let my readers be my judge.
Next time, you talk to a photographer, do keep these terms in mind. Some are subtle differences, but to many these may make or break your image with the photographer.