Lately, I have been finding myself saying "I am a photographer" often to describe what I do. I recently have been meeting a lot of new people as I started dating again and the question comes up a lot. I caught myself wondering can I really identify with this and what goes on in the mind of another person when I say this? Does that really describe who I am and/or what I do? I wondered to myself, if someone who isn't a photographer heard that, what is it they think a photographer actually is? What do they visualize? A person clicking a button telling you to smile? A person with a bunch of camera gear?
One time, when I first started out, I remember seeing a guy shooting at a location I was at. And I swear I think he had 5 or 6 cameras strapped to him. I just couldn't help think to myself, really? Is that necessary? HAHAHA. I also remember feeling inadequate many times, because I had no idea about gear or lighting, or even how to pose someone. But ya have to start somewhere right? So I just jumped into it with all I had or knew (which wasn't much in hindsight).
Getting back to the "I am a photographer". The reason I bring this topic up, is because I can't help but wonder what other people think a photographer actually is. Today, we live in a world where everyone seems to have a camera, and a cell phone. Hey some cell phones can take capture a half decent picture. Then cell phones have editing apps so people even learn some basic edit skills. Does this make a person a photographer? I didn't come here to knock those folks or self starters, tho I do have to say "I own a hammer and I can hammer a nail, but it certainly doesn't make me a carpenter".
I am sure the word "photographer", like most words today, has different meanings to different people. So I wanted to share what goes on in my head when people ask me, "What do you do as a photographer"? As it really seems so vague these days.
To me, I am not just a photographer, but a visual artist.
For some shoots I have clients who come to me with their vision. Other times I have my own concepts that I would like to shoot. But even if a client comes to me with their vision, I still may help them realize their vision. Also, some clients have no concept in mind, they just would like me to capture their essencse and they have seen my work and style and want me to create the images for them.
A look into some creative shoots
I plan photoshoots, and location scout. This is a skill. You have to first visualize a concept, then you need to find the right location for the concept. It could take a day or weeks to find the right spot. Yes, I have done this. Then there are thoughts about how much space do I have at the location. (this can determine which lens i might use). Do I need to get a permit? Are there restrictions on shooting at this location? How far in is the shoot, do I have to walk a while? Do I need to carry all the gear to the location?
Then you have to think about which is the appropriate gear for the concept. Ambient lighting (time of day if outside), and off camera fill lighting. Do I need to overpower the sun? Do i want sharp contrasty light or soft light? What kind of light diffuser should I use? Which lens would work best. Should I add some color gel in the shoot? So I add some creative effects?
Then there is what kind of model or subject? Can I get the exact right model with the look I want for the shoot. What should they wear? Do they know how to pose, are they experienced? If not, its going to take more work to get them into a vision. Where would i get their clothing, or how do I get it? Do I need to make something costumey, do I need to bring props?
Can or do I need anyone to assist? Hold my lights? Do I need makeup artists to help? Will I be able to get someone to help me and collaborate or will I have to pay someone?
Then there are the elements and the shoot. A plethora of things can go wrong and things can break. Yes, I have learned that the hard way, since I can tend to be a clutz, as I am not really paying attention. But then actually emotionally, connecting with the people that I might be photographing. Seeing them the way I see them may be totally different than another.
Then there is editing. This is my least favorite part of the entire process. Tho I am decent at it, someone help please????? LOL.
After the shoot, are there prints involved? Do I want to display them? Do I want to get them into any kind of publication? If there are prints involved, collaborate with vendors for the right types of products. Also delivery of product either digital or prints to clients.
The above is really over simplifying a lot of what can take place in an artistic photographers realm (maybe not in all but in mine). There are other skills necessary to make this entire orchestrated event happen and smoothly. But the idea that I wanted to get across to people is, being a photographer, is not really about cameras and pushing buttons. A camera is a mere tool, as a paintbrush is to a painter. This is not to minimize the importance of knowing how to best use one's camera. Also, I have learned thru the years of experience and practice, that quality gear does matter.
With all that said, ultimately, each of us has our own perception and see things differently and within that is our own unique vision.
Note: A photographer who is great at editing their images, doesn't necessarily make them a great photographer either tho it can make them a great editor/artist. Images that are heavily edited evolves a photograph. Some photographers can be not so great in getting the image in camera but terrific in post process and editing.
I am....a visual artist/photographer.
"To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organization of forms which give that event its proper expression" — Henri Cartier-Bresson