In a day where the word DLSR is associated with talent, and photographic marketing skill dictates the level of ones professional status, what is the true meaning of being a photographer?
I am writing this in order to clarify and explain some photographic techniques that can only be cultivated by experience and time in the hope it will benefit you as a photographer and artist. If you are reading this in hopes for a short cut guide on how to take good pictures please stop now.
The first thing I would like you to do is look at your pictures. Take a look at the pictures you have taken that you personally consider your best. If you don’t have any pictures and are looking at this section while saving for that dream camera this section does not apply so feel free to skip to the next paragraph until you have some pictures taken. Now ask yourself, are you satisfied with these pictures? Do they envelop within you (and in extension others) a heightened sense of awareness of the subject? Do you feel that you take good pictures? If you answered yes then you are not a photographer. It’s easy to be “taken away” with your own photography. It’s not a personal fault or lack of humility on your part. It’s simply the personal attachment a person associates with their own creative design. Everyone experiences this, and in order to grow it must be overcome. Photography is an art. No matter how people try to see it, looking at the technical aspects or approaching it in a subjective manner, photography is an art just like any other. Artists must change, they are artists because they can create what others can’t. But not only that, they are innovators. Stagnation is the enemy of creativity, and if you’re too hung up on how great your current pictures (and in extension style of photography) is, experimentation will die. You will never grow.
The first question I ask whenever someone comes to me for photographic advice is “what camera do you shoot with”. I don’t do this to feel out their skill or level of commitment. I do it so I may understand the limitations in which they are shooting with. A photographer must have a love-hate relationship with their camera. They must understand the camera is a tool. Like a paintbrush, the quality of the brush and thickness of the bristles determine the style of picture and ease of operation. Many people who are not satisfied with their photography look at their favorite photographers and spend thousands to imitate their equipment. It’s easy to forget Photographers are not famous because of their cameras but because of their skill. If you are more obsessed with gear than pictures you may fall into the category of a person with “gear acquisition syndrome”. The easiest remedy to this, beside bankruptcy, is a form of photographic aestheticism. Sell all your cameras, and buy something you thought you’d never shoot with. While it doesn’t have to be that cheap something big and expensive is not preferable, just something you aren’t familiar with. Something you can take out as a normal camera and use as a camera, not as a fashion accessory. A photographer learns to appreciate their camera while understanding its limits. Once you are familiar with this camera, and by familiar I mean you know the camera inside out and can feel it in your hands as you sleep, you may again begin to buy more gear. If you do this correctly you will feel an obvious difference in the quality of your new equipment. You will be able to appreciate the ease in which a camera operates. And usually at this point you will no longer crave the same massive volume of gear you once did. This does not work for everyone, and some people naturally will want more and more no matter what they have, I suggest counseling. It’s also important to remember photographers have expensive equipment for a reason. I don’t lug around my mamiya because it’s cool. Each camera has a purpose, and understanding a few cameras uses will help you more than having every camera in the world.