Week 4 -Rethinking Photographers

One of the tasks for Week 4 was to consider what we think non-photographers make of professional photographers – what are the conceptions and misconceptions?

For me, it is difficult to clearly define what is meant by a professional photographer. The simplest definition could be someone that solely works and earns money within the photography industry but then there are also photographers who are excellent at their craft who have an extremely “professional” approach to their photography and are highly knowledgeable and experienced but do it for the love of it perhaps alongside another career. There are many different ways to define a professional photographer and photography is somewhat unique as it can be a hobby for some that eventually turns in to a business.

The most common misconception that I have come across about “professional” photographers is that a photographer turns up for a job, points their camera and presses the shutter a few times and hey presto they have completed their work. These days everyone is a photographer and can take their own photographs easily with a point and shoot or mobile phone. A lot of non-photographers assume that the work of a photographer is similar to what they would do when taking a picture, i.e. just aim and click.

The reality, of course, is that there is a lot more work involved for professional photographers. For those working for clients, there is the marketing to gain business, the planning of a shoot that meets the client’s brief, the day of the shoot itself, editing of the work and the delivery of the final output in digital or print form. For those photographer’s working on personal projects, there are other elements of the work such as the planning and research required well before any photographs are taken.

Aside from the manual work involved, there is also a photographer’s personality, vision and sense of emotion which is something very unique to each and every photographer. This cannot be bought and sold, it is something that develops over time and is one way in which one photographer can be distinguished from another.

“The eye should learn to listen before it looks.”

Robert Frank

“It’s one thing to make a picture of what a person looks like, it’s another thing to make a portrait of who they are.”

Paul Caponigro

“Photography for me is not looking, it’s feeling. If you can’t feel what you’re looking at, then you’re never going to get others to feel anything when they look at your pictures.”

Don McCullin

“It is more important to click with people than to click the shutter.”

Alfred Eisenstaet

I have also come across people who assume that a professional must have the latest and greatest camera to be a professional. I often use a fuji camera as it is lightweight, compact and great to keep with you at all times rather than a full-frame. I did a shoot for an event last week and some non-photographers as well as some so-called professional photographers looked down on this as inferior equipment and a sign of an inferior photographer. I have seen some of the best photographs taken with some of the most basic cameras or mobile phones because it is not always about the camera but what the photographer sees and captures.

As a few others have commented, it also really bugs me when someone sees a photograph I have taken and says you must have a great camera….

As a follow up to my response a fellow student commented on the importance of the vision of a photographer and brought to my attention the work of David duChemin (a humanitarian photographer) who states that vision should be the focus of photographers. One for me to take a look at further. Apparently he has his own youtube channel called “vision is better”.

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