When can you call yourself ‘a photographer?’
August 16, 2019
As a founding member of the SheClicks female-only Facebook group (set up by former AP Technical Editor Angela Nicholson), I am proud to see the community grow from a handful of people to over 4,000 at the time of writing. It’s grown in number and diversity, with members from across the world, with all skill levels and a variety of backgrounds.
What always catches my attention are the varied discussions about photography that pop up from time to time. One in particular struck a chord with me a few weeks back – it was discussing at what point are you entitled to call yourself ‘a photographer’. Many women are guilty of suffering from ‘imposter syndrome’, so it wasn’t surprising to see the issue spring up in the group, but it got me thinking…
Today, almost everyone (in the Western world) is equipped with a camera, but to call those in possession of a smartphone who happen to use it to take a picture ‘a photographer’ would be doing the art and craft of photography a disservice. But I feel that trying to define ‘photographer’ is not altogether cut and dried.
Somebody suggested it was the moment when they found themselves exclusively using manual mode that tipped them over from ‘somebody with a camera’ into a full-fledged photographer. Now it’s time for me to make a confession – and hopefully I won’t be collecting my P45 after I make it – but I almost never use manual mode. My mode of choice, generally, is aperture priority. I was never formally trained in photography, but I’ve been incredibly fortunate to make a decent living out of it.
I know how to use manual mode, but it’s much easier for me to stick the camera on aperture priority and worry more about composition, framing and capturing a moment than adjusting every single parameter before taking a shot. I tend to leave it on Auto ISO too. Shocking! Not a single person has ever commented on it or told me that I should have been using a different mode. Because frankly, if you get the job done, who cares?
The right way to use a camera?
Obviously having a camera is a necessity if you want to take a picture – but the camera is just a tool and it matters not what it is or how you use it. There’s no right way to use a camera, and there’s no right (or wrong) way to define what makes you a photographer, either. Approach it however you feel comfortable, and don’t worry about what others think about you.
I mentioned this discussion to a professional photographer friend who admitted that he uses a variety of modes depending on the situation: manual, aperture priority, shutter priority, plus Auto ISO. He’s aware of several photographers who work for esteemed picture agencies such as Reuters and Press Association who do the same. Would anybody dare suggest that they’re not ‘real photographers’? Seems unlikely.
Whether you have a basic camera (or smartphone) and you let it make all the technical decisions for you, or you have an encyclopaedic knowledge of every button, dial and setting on your top-of-the-line pro-level model, you are still more than entitled to call yourself a photographer – don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.
Amy Davies is Amateur Photographer’s co-features editor. If you’re a female photographer and would like more information about SheClicks, visit facebook.com/groups/sheclicksnet.
The views expressed in this column are not necessarily those of Amateur Photographer magazine or TI Media Limited