“Everybody is a photographer!” In this day and time of digital photography we hear it all the time. I hear many of my photographer friends say the phrase all the time and most times it is in a venomous tone because they’re angry. I too at one time was guilty of this opinion, but have really learned to just let it go because it truly is a “false” statement.
Sure today cameras are everywhere and everyone has a camera… it’s almost as if the younger generations are born with a mobile device in their hand that has a camera lol. But seriously if in fact “you are a photographer” you are a creative person working with a vision and a set of rules. Rules that you learned, concepts that you have crafted and skills you have honed to a razor’s edge. You know when to follow the rules, when to break the rules and at the end of the day you’re a “photographer.”
So what are the labels are there for all the other humans walking around with these soul capturing devices? Of course this is just my opinion, but let’s looks a little closer; I think it’s safe to say the majority of images on social media are “snapshots” or documentary style; they have no creativity attached to them in any way. Selfies, food shots, the dog or cat, the baby smiling, these are just aiming the camera and snapping the shutter. All the pictures of your vacation just document that you stood on that spot in the world on that day at that time. Now of course I know that statement will make a lot of “selfie” shooters angry because they spend hours perfecting their facial and butt selfies. Perfecting a facial selfie or butt shot is not creativity, all it does is say “hey I’m a millennial, I have an iPhone and a lot of time on my hands… oh an I love my own butt and you should too.” I have seen people in restaurants spending 10 minutes on a food shot of their beautiful meal, all the while the meal is getting cold. More “insane” then a photographer if you ask me. “Yes” I love to take a photo of a meal and share it on social media with family and friends; however I fall short of believing I just captured a work of art. So again, I think it is safe to say “most people are taking snapshots” and that is very similar to what people did in the 70’s with their little Kodak 110 Instamatics, but without the facial and butt shots lol. In the film days we had albums and shoe boxes full of senseless photos that nobody ever seen unless we wanted to torture them. With that said; those images are important on a personal level because they are our memories, but most times mean very little to anyone else.
Now we look at the guy/gal with the DSLR and we can’t be too critical here, because if in-fact you are a photographer you had to start somewhere, we all start somewhere. But there is a big difference here because this new “Millennial Digital Era” (as I like to call it) has spawned a genre of photos and the people who capture them to the likes of something we have never seen. I say “people who capture” rather than use the term “photographer” because this species is anything but a “photographer” although they are not taking snapshots. This species utilizes a DSLR or higher end point & shoot along with various software and social media to create (for lack of a better word) “crap” as in shitty garbage. I have heard Scott Kelby (along with many others) say “Instagram is for photographers” and while that may partially be true, I think it would be more appropriate to say “Instagram is for people want to be photographers.” The very nature of Instagram with its “one click” filters offers a feeling that the person uploading the image actually created something special… ok if you say so lol. Vimeo does a similar thing giving the ability to add effects to uploaded videos.
I think it is really fair to say that when people hear the word “photographer” it gives them a sense of someone who knows how to capture a good likeable image. If they hear the term “professional photographer” it most times conjures up the thought of someone who makes money with a camera. So why then are professional photographers venomous about this genre of “people with cameras?” I think it is because “people with cameras” sometimes steal paid work from the professionals. This is where I stand strong on who I am and my confidence as a photographer. Sure professional photography has changed immensely with the coming of the “digital age” and it has made what was not an easy craft a whole lot harder and that is life. A guy gets into a car accident and loses a leg or arm or both. Terrible situation without a doubt and he is now forced to face major decisions; do I give up on life or do I use what I have to keep going? Kind of a harsh metaphor I know, but life does not come with a guarantee, it never did and it never will. Nobody gave a film photographer back in the day a guarantee that “hey learn this craft, learn it well and things will always be ok.” So to be a successful professional photographer today you need to first make a choice of “is this what I want and if I want it, it will never be easy.” Like all businesses you need to keep up with technology, keep learning, learn to diversify as time changes the world around you and somehow keep it fun. Or go sit in the corner and boo hoo lol.
Thanks for reading.