For many, many years I’ve seen something going on in the photography industry that isn’t just mean, it’s plain wrong. Does this sound familiar?
“Just because you own a camera doesn’t make you a photographer!”
“These newbies buy a camera, start taking lots of photos, and think they’re photographers. They’re not!”
(side note: if you’re a newbie looking to buy a camera, we have a camera buying guide right here)
“Everyone and their dog thinks they’re a photographer nowadays. There should be rules and requirements and TESTS, yes, TESTS! You should have pass a test to be able to call yourself a photographer! That’s what we need!”
Here’s what the term “photographer” means…
*flips open dictionary*
Photographer (noun): Someone who takes photographs.
YES. THAT’S ALL IT MEANS!
(Don’t believe me? Behold, Wikipedia!)
Sure, some definitions like to add in that it’s “especially” in reference to someone who makes it their job. But not exclusively. This is the key, my friends. Not. Exclusively.
So all those folks taking photos on their camera phones? Guess what. They can call themselves photographers if they want! *gasp!*
Here’s the big, important lesson: just because someone with very little experience calls themselves a photographer (i.e. a person who takes photos) it does not, IN ANY WAY, lessen the work you’ve done to learn, practice, and develop your own photography skills. It makes you no less of a photographer. I think any reasonable person would understand that the term photographer can apply to an extremely broad range of skill and abilities.
I suspect some of the saltiness that comes about over this term is that there’s a big difference between an amateur photographer, and a full-time professional. A professional needs to handle all the challenging business tasks like licensing and marketing and client management and invest in insurance and backup equipment and so on. Though their gear may be the same, the pro has a lot more riding on a shoot, including not only their mortgage, but their reputation and ability to continue making a living as a photographer.
Anyone can call themselves a photographer. But to call yourself a professional, well, that takes a lot more work.
So I get it. I understand that if you identify as a professional photographer, and know how much work you put in to get to the point where you could proudly write it on your tax forms (because, dammit, you’re a full time PRO!) it rankles you to see someone using the same term as they walk around snapping with their camera phone.
But it’s accurate. So let’s stop the toddler-esque “Mine, mine, mine!” and start sharing the term.
If you take photos, and want to call yourself a photographer, do it up and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. They’re wrong. The dictionary agrees with you.
If you want to write photographer on your tax form, and call yourself a professional? Well, you’ve got a lot more work to do.
In the end, we should all be group hugging and sharing the love of photography. This industry should be more inclusive, welcoming newbies with open arms, instead of trying so hard to be exclusive and block them out. If more people in the world want to be photographers, that’s fantastic! You love it for a reason, don’t you? It’s creative, and inspiring, and can bring people closer together. It can help us understand another’s experience, share a different part of the world, tell a story, or make you think about something in a new way.
More people being photographers and doing all that nifty stuff = a good thing.