Re-thinking Photographers

How do we categorise photographers? I think one possible classification is professionals, amateur and non-photographers. The term “amateur” is not intended to do a disservice to anyone falling into that category. There are, in my opinion, as many outstanding amateur photographers and there are poor professional photographers.

This classification is relevant because, I feel, non-photographers hold a number of misconceptions regarding not only professional photographers but photography and photographers in general, perceptions that apply largely to both amateurs and professionals.

The first thing that is overlooked is the ability to “see” an image. Ansel Adams and David Bailey both allude to the ability to “see” an image accordingly:

Photography – like painting, is all about seeing. You have to keep looking until you see.” – David Bailey

You don’t take a good photograph, you make it.” – Ansel Adams

Photographers have an eye for an image, this is to a lesser or greater extent inherent and it is, perhaps, what draws people to practice photography in the first place. This ability to see an image becomes refined with experience and can be enhanced with training. Picking up a camera and using it to capture images might be photography in the most literal definition, but confers nothing about the quality of the images.

By definition, professional photographers earn revenue by taking photographs. So on this basis, arguably, anyone who can pick up a camera, use it to record an image and then sell that image can be classed as a “professional” photographer. Whether the images they produce meet the criteria needed for people to class the images as being of a professional standard is another question.

Furthermore, I feel non-photographers confuse the ability to recognise circumstances which will produce a good photograph when captured, with technology. Lay people appear greatly mistaken in assuming that it’s the equipment that produces the photographs, the better and more up to date the equipment, the better the photographs will be.

In my opinion, photography is not about equipment, it’s about light. The equipment is, to some extent, just a tool with which to record images. The photography is in “seeing” the light, understanding it, analysing it and having the technical knowledge to be able to use the equipment in order to accurately record the light.

An interesting point, though, is there such a thing as a “non-photographer” given the ubiquitous nature of the camera with many being built into mobile telephones and seemingly recording the minutiae of life?

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