May I consider myself a photographer at all if I have no patience for learning ISO and aperture, f-stop and shutter speed? Can a person be an artist if they don’t study art or know the best uses of their tools?
Anyone who writes may call themselves a writer whether or not they are published. But photography seems different somehow. Why?
Some would say that writers study their craft, published or not. To that I say, I also study the craft, just not the technical parts of it. I study composition and lighting and transmitting moods and ideas.
Let’s just say that I’ve taken some beautiful pictures over the years; yet, I couldn’t tell you how I did it. It’s not that I just pressed a button and it was beautifully perfect. No. I messed with my camera, adjusting things– twisting this way and that; I pressed buttons and changed settings; I corrected my angle ad nauseam. And at last, the shot came, that perfect convergence of all things.
If you asked me how to replicate it, I couldn’t tell you. I’d have no idea what the ISO was, or the shutter speed, or the zoom, or the focus. No, if my camera had been reset, I’d have to pick it up my camera and try everything all over again. So am I really a photographer?
I’ll be going to Thailand soon enough, and one of my most looked-for pleasures will be taking pictures (photographs sounds more sophisticated. I tried variation in word choice, but it doesn’t work here. My apologies to the word ‘pictures’ but he sounds a bit on the wrong side of the tracks). I will not be bringing my Canon Rebel T3i. I will have my cellphone, and that’s good enough for me. So am I really a photographer or a faker?
I have a good eyeball for details; the little things. And I know what feels right for others and me. I can’t do that with music, which I love. I’m never confident being in charge of music for my friends. I start changing songs midway through, thinking everyone hates my choice. And I spend the next song panicking over my next choice. There is no relaxing.
Not so with photography. I’m confident in my vision.
May I be called a photographer when photography forums make me feel dizzy, like when I talk about health insurance plans and troubleshooting?
Maybe that’s why I’m so drawn to old snapshots of couples on vacation or candid shots of women on their travels. The photographer (or photo taker) had a vision and didn’t think of technicalities. There was a glow that they were trying to capture and it shows regardless of ISO.
I’ve sometimes heard those who only have a phone to take pictures referred to by “real photographers” as wannabes. There’s a laugh and a shrugging off. “Everyone can take pictures now and everyone thinks themselves a photographer,” they say. There is an air of condescension. True. Not everyone who takes pictures with their phone is a photographer. Not everyone should claim the title. But who delineates? What of those who can’t afford a fancy camera with various lenses, some the size of my head. Of course, I want the fancy lenses. I long for them. Still, I feel too big for my britches when I want to call myself a photographer.
Of course, as my disclaimer I must confess that I am incredibly jealous of those who have the mind to absorb it all and perfect it all. You of you who can may not realize it, but that is a gift.
Then there’s editing. And I love the editing process. I love fiddling with 3 things in my life: my writing, decorating my home, and photography. Oh, cropping and adjusting and bouncing back and forth between two images that are seemingly identical to the untrained eye until one of them rises above the other… It’s magical. I haven’t got Photoshop or Lightroom. Just an old Mac with an old version of iPhoto. It keeps me occupied for hours.
In truth, time is my real enemy. I need time to figure things out. Given time, I can produce great things.
So yes, I’m a photographer. Not a master. Not a teacher. I just believe in learning as I go… and forgetting it all immediately after the photo is taken.
If anyone knows of any good essays/posts about this subject, I’d love if you could send me a link in the comments. And please leave a comment. I wonder if there’s any point of contention that I may have missed. Curious.