Creativity, Musings, Photography

Are you a Photographer?

A break from the Friesland canals to a chat about photography.

It has made me think and feel somewhat stunned when asked in person. That very question. I know I used to stumble around this and fumble out a half-hearted answer of how I just love capturing moments and scenes from a small part of our daily lives. I have a creative eye for composition.

My answers all sounded a bit corny and superficial.

It wasn’t until I  heard people say aloud to others that I’m a photographer that it got me thinking.  Am I a photographer? Am I good enough to call myself a photographer?  I don’t get paid to do it.  Though I have been asked by various people and companies if they could use my photographs.  I do receive compliments on my photography.  I do own a camera.

Enjoyment by myself is gained by giving both enormous amounts of time and effort to making sure each and every photo I display is, using my own standards as “good”. Design, creativity, angles, looking out from a not so square box is what makes me excited to snap a scene and a  small part of our lives.  I chose to stop, look around until I gain the “right” angle and light, then I click away.  Creative is one word I use quite often to describe myself and what I love.  Which is one word that is often overused regarding photography and the essence of this word is often underutilised.

When it comes to equipment, is big and expensive the only way to display that you are able to take a good photo?  For the last few years, I have only used my phone instead of my DSL camera.  Does all of this make me a photographer?  Or, does it make me a person who absolutely enjoys capturing our lives through the lens of a camera?

So, what is the difference, you may ask?


By using definitions, an artist requires them to exhibit their art with a certain degree of standards.  Usually governed by their peers and themselves.  A photographer is one who practices photography as a profession. By this, I mean that they have a high standard of skill and knowledge in their given area of photography.  Years ago, there was a difference in which people did not overstep, one took snapshots of moments in their lives, had their film processed it became a way of documenting their family history.  Most did not label or think themselves,  “A Photographer”.

This is where the art of photography has all changed.

For me, it’s like the similarity of someone who enjoys cooking to those that have spent years learning the craft of being a chef.  Each one of these professions takes time and learning.

Buying a DSL camera, clicking happily away and accumulating bucket loads of photos, by today’s standards you can now class yourself as a “Photographer”.  It is a term that is often misused to describe someone who owns a camera instead of spending the time to learn the craft of photography as a profession.

I have seen it written that to be a “Professional” at anything takes upward of 10,000 hours working at your trade, how many of us can say that we have achieved this in the instant gratification world we live in?

Then the next stage will be the loading of multiple photos which will be no doubt be over shared on the social media with a few photographs being of a reasonable standard.  Which in turn will receive compliments of, “You are an amazing photographer”.

This represents our lives. 

It also describes the bane of modern photography.

So, I will ask the same question again.

Am I a photographer?

With the answer being, no, I don’t think I can class myself as one.  I am a creative person who loves capturing moments with various types of cameras.

20170910_185111_edited_edited optimised

As for the photograph above, that was taken on a warm sultry late afternoon in Athens as we were wandering the backstreets.   The air had a gaiety about it, with the sound of music, and the chattering and laughter of cafe patrons.  Those ribbons represented what was going on at that precise moment the lenses shutter went click.

Should you put “Professional”, in front of “Photographer” to highlight those hard-working people who spend hours on end perfecting their trade?  Would it give them the honour that they so rightly deserve?

Professional Photographers I admire:

Julia Parks – uses seaweed to process old film

Jane Trotter – NZ Photographer – Abstract

Marti Friedlander – Acclaimed NZ Photographer for over 50 years

Ansel Adams – American Photographer, environmentalist and writer

Michael Kenna – English/American Photographer – Zen-like black and white Landscape Photograph

53 thoughts on “Are you a Photographer?”

  1. This totally sums up how I feel. I too get called a photographer occasionally, but I don’t class myself as one. My wife is a professional photographer so I have a yardstick to judge the difference in skill, knowledge, and indeed, the fact she earns a living from it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Kudos to your wife George, as I imagine it wouldn’t be easy to make a living as a photographer. Pleased the post resonated with you.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I asked exactly the same question about whether I was an author or a writer? The post was published before I published my first book, and the comments and answers I got back were very spilt.
    Although I only take photos on my iPhone, I still call myself a photographer because I have an interest in it and enjoy taking photos. If I were taking photos to make a living or any money, I’d be more likely to call myself a professional photographer.
    The same goes for blogger. I’m a blogger, but if I were making money from it I’d call myself a professional blogger.
    If we go back to the author question I raised, I can argue that I am an author because I have published a book. However, even if I did not have any published books under my belt, I’m still the author of the majority of posts I’ve published on my blog. So, I’m an author.

    It’s an interesting question, Suzanne, and one I think can have many correct answers.

    I’m over here from #seniorsalon where I found your post.

    Have a great weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Hugh, yes when I finished this post I kept thinking of all the questions it brought up than answered. Then there is the debate regarding people who blog are they all writers? Are all writers authors? Or do we leave it up to the individual to decide what they feel comfortable in labeling themselves? Are we reluctant to call ourselves something in case we are judged for doing so. At the end of the day as long as we enjoy what we do the label shouldn’t be that important. Thanks Hugh, for sharing your thoughts. Keep writing and taking photographs!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The age-old question Hugh and Suzanne. When I was young I read somewhere in Writer’s Digest that writers write. It didn’t say that writers publish, only that they write. The same with painters. They paint. It doesn’t mean they are being shown in some art gallery. So to that, I say photographers take photos. Not that they sell them (although, Suzanne, I think you can.)

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Hi Jennifer, thanks for the vote of confidence though I am not sure I want to go down that road. Yes, it is an age old question and after reviewing all the comments, it is very much an individual choice what to label themselves.


  3. I really enjoyed this post Suz, you made me stop and think. As you know I linked to this in my recent post about capturing Texture in photographs as it fitted with what I was trying to say. I agree with your statement “I don’t think I can class myself as one. I am a creative person who loves capturing moments” – I’m more than happy to have this as a description of my photography attempts too. On the other hand my sister and brother in law are seriously talented photographers and are continually learning and improving their skills. I am in a completely different league but I enjoy what I see and capture. I also like sharing and seeing the world through the eyes of others and I always enjoy your photos!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Deb and I love that we are able to still learn new skills the older we get. I have definitely learnt so much from blogging and meeting wonderful creative people, like yourself. Keep clicking 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Since I’m not a big fan on putting labels on people or things I also have a problem to put one on myself, and cringe regularly when people call me an artist although I guess they might be right. 😉 I just know that I need to be creative, that I actually feel miserable when I’m not and that there are so many ways how to express my creativity that I know I will be a life long learner. And that just makes me happy. 😊 As to the question if one could call oneself, or be callled, a professional even though one’s not earning any money with it, I have to say yes. It might not be correct in the dictionary sense but who says that it has to be? 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, who says that it has to be so. Very adapt Sarah. The most creative and intelligent people I know are self-taught and not gone through the usual channels in life shall we say. Which to be honest I have never taken the easy way or the “normal” route in life, and have no intention of doing so.

      My biggest wish is that more creative people in our society received more recognition or similar to our sporting heroes. Now wouldn’t that be grand 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That would indeed be grand, Suzanne! And I totally agree with what you’ve said about self-taught people being usually the most creative and intelligent. A ‘proper’ education in the arts for instance is no guarantee for exceptional art.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Interesting and thought provoking. I suppose it’s like any trade. It can take hours, months, even years to perfect a trade or skill. Do you think that also applies to writers. After all, what truly qualifies us as a professional writer?Or is there even such a thing? As far as being called a photographer, I think your photos are artistic and creative and tell a story so it’s really all in the interpretation.
    I enjoyed reading your post Suzanne.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Miriam I have really enjoyed the interaction with you all discussing it.

      Is when does anyone deserve to be recognised as a professional writer or photographer. Does it require successful recognition via jobs.

      A good example is yourself Miriam, you went from being a good blogger to being recognised and asked to contribute to a magazine, that has stepped you up from being a blogger to a writer. With years of writing and getting paid or not then you have a certain level of professional status.

      Many professional photographers in NZ do belong to an association NZIPP. Which requires a certain standard to be classed as a professional.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s interesting isn’t it? So many people think we need a certain degree of study or a certificate to verify our status. But in the end I guess it really is that experience, and yes to a certain degree m, exposure that makes a difference. Have a great weekend.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. It’s a really interesting question Suzanne; and one the arts in general struggles with. I started taking photos “seriously” when I wanted images to use in my early blogging days. Then I got involved in a charity art exhibition and produced photos for the website and social media because we had no money to pay a professional photographer. My skills improved, but I still thought of myself as a marketing person who takes photos until an artist I know (Fine Arts degree- educated, working arts practitioner who exhibits and sells internationally – so I do consider her “an artist”) introduced me to some people as a photographer. It was unhesitatingly, and amazing to me. I’m still processing how I see myself, but it is interesting how that label applied by someone “in the business” can change my perception.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I find it brilliant when someone finds themselves starting off learning a new skill and becomes a passion.

      For me it does make a difference when a person who is a recognised artist calls you a photographer, as they know what is usually required than say your spouse who wants to encourage and support you. By the way you do take well thought out images.

      When a photograph creates an emotion in the viewer then it’s a wonderful image. Back to that struggle when do we call ourselves a photographer. It is a hard one and a very individual choice though I do feel if you doing it on a more “professional”, such as you have done or as a job then it seems more appropriate.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Such a great question, and one that I’ve thought about too. I have a friend who paints wonderful watercolors. I don’t think she sells them or has ever had an exhibit but I consider her an artist. I guess I would consider myself an amateur photographer… I love taking pictures and (often, but now always) put thought into subject, angle, lighting, etc. Certainly, at times I’m more successful then others. I do have two pet peeves though: one is the use of the word “amazing” when describing a rather mundane, photo that isn’t particularly well done. The other is over editing and thinking that adding a few filters and special effects makes a photograph better and the editor an “artist.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You have raised a few more questions Janis, the one about over the top comments on photos that are not well done is my pet peeve too. That goes for most things not just photographs.

      The use of filters and special effects is a concern that Nilla brought up and though I do use editing I hopefully don’t over do it. Please let me know if I do!!

      Isn’t it amazing how many creative talented people we know that don’t get recognised for that talent. Or, even worse don’t use their talent due to someone being overly critical of their work. I know a few that are amazing artists that are not doing any art work at all. I find that a waste as their work I am sure many would enjoy and love.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You don’t over-edit at all. I just think there is a difference between enhancing or bringing out the best in a photograph and tweaking it in such a way that just looks over-the-top. Filters can be fun if used sparingly. But, that’s just my opinion… it’s all in the eye of the beholder.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Neil. I have always been fascinated about what labels we put on ourselves. Especially those in the creative field. Appreciate your comment and I will always keep snapping away 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I know I’m not a photographer. I take photographs for the blog, but they’re not good and I don’t care enough and don’t have enough time to learn how to make them better. A friend of mine is a photographer. She takes amazing photographs, wins prizes for them and blogs about how to take good photographs.

    You’re a good photographer. I enjoy looking at your photographs and I don’t think I’ve seen any that aren’t good.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks April. Too be honest no one has enough time to excel in multiple creative pursuits and be good at all of them. Concentrating on what we enjoy is the main thing, isn’t it?
      I would love to improve my writing ten fold. One day perhaps I will, until then I will keep trying and never call myself a writer until I do! Though I have improved from my first blog post 🙂

      I admire your ability to retain so much information regarding history. Mind boggling 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Mr Fletche still struggles with calling himself a photographer, despite selling work and currently having three exhibitions in the works. Yet i see people who pop out a dozen shoddy Instagram posts a day and call themselves a photographer in their bio. I believe it is what you feel comfortable with – how else do you do describe someone who enjoys taking photographs? I like the earlier comparison with someone who cooks, and someone who is a chef – there are no words to describe the different levels of taking photographs.

    So if you are comfortable with the term photographer, go ahead and use it!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Good points Em. Is there are very few words to describe the “inbetween” instagrammer person and a person who has like your Mr Fletche who has put the time and dedication into their work. For that reason along I call myself a creative person as opposed to being a photographer. Maybe one day I will take the time to learn more skills of getting out of the auto mode 🙂 I used too! Thanks for commenting Em.

      Liked by 2 people

  10. I’ve always classed photography as a hobby I enjoy very much. Thinking about it, I wouldn’t call myself a photographer or perhaps at the very most an amateur one. I’ve considered going on courses, maybe one of these days I’ll get round to it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, photography for me will always be an interesting hobby and I do love viewing others including yours Cathy. I have been to a photography course, and not a fan of them. I had better not go down that track of thought and put it on here 🙂 Thanks Cathy for commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you, I enjoy your photos very much too and I’ll keep that in mind about courses. Something always stops me from taking it any further – perhaps that’s not a bad thing 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Ah that labelling dilemma I so understand. I write but at what point am I a writer or better an author? When I complete a work? Publish it? Have someone else publish it? Imposter Syndrome is very destructive.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Too be honest Geoff I hate labels they can be as destructive as being an imposter. Especially as a child, though that is another story!! I see you as a writer/author. Is it because I am not in that competitive author/writer environment as yourself?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Maybe. My cousin in law is a spectacularly good ‘amateur’ photographer who is exhibited etc. But because it’s not his job he gets that A label. He couldn’t be more professional in his dedication to getting the best result. To me that’s professionalism, not the ability or indeed inclination to make money out of it.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. It is a fine line between those like your cousin who put the time and dedication into his work and still classed as an amateur.

          I liken it to teaching. Some of the most dedicated and having the nature ability to engage children were people without the masters degrees and other such labelling. Sadly, the NZ Government passed a law that all who work with children need to have qualifications. I digress!! Once again.

          In the arts we as in the public seem to be more critical of those that want to go down that track than we are of how good our local MP is for example!

          Liked by 2 people

  12. Really enjoyed reading this post Suzanne! You probably can guess my views on this already…

    My understanding is that photographers are labelled as ‘professional’ after they’ve sold a piece. These days it seems that anyone can be a photographer, especially with mobile phones, which incidentally is a new photographic medium.

    Since I started taking photos at 10, the art of photography has changed/evolved so much with the ease of digital cameras and post-production software. I’m not sure I like a lot of the changes as photographers have become lazy and lean more to digital art – ‘creating’ their image with software instead of ‘taking’ a photo with their eyes.

    Digital art definitely does have it’s place in art as it is a relatively new medium, although I believe digital art and photography need to be separated as they are very different mediums.

    Not sure if I mentioned before, but these days when you enter a photography competition, you are marked down if you haven’t done post-production on your image. Do you think this is fair?
    Personally, I believe this is cr*p as I do the bare minimum PP or none at all.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Great comments, Nilla. Yes, I was waiting to see what your comments would be though yes I did have an inkling what they would be 🙂
      I do agree that photographers have become lazy in capturing images, that includes myself.

      As far as doing post-production on our image I really don’t see why that is a problem it is an artistic license to do what you will with your image. What I dislike is the over coloured and picture perfect ones which are just as bad as people putting out photos that are out of focus or overexposed. Though this discussion isn’t about being critical of others. For me it is interesting how people easily call themselves a photographer!!

      That is a real dilemma for you, Nilla, regarding the post-production of images as I know you enjoy photography competitions.

      Maybe their dilemma is working out who has done the post production opposed to the ones that haven’t?

      Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts, much appreciated. Ciao.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Agree with artistic license, I don’t agree when a photo has been manipulated so much that it’s digital art but still passed up as photography.

        Yes, it is an interesting point and I like your comparison with a cook and chef – but do we really need a label? For me it’s photography as an art and not necessarily the fact that I’m a “photographer” – if that makes sense…

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Agreed, I hate labels and being labelled. What has fascinated me for a while is that the arts are not recognised the same as other skills eg cook/chef etc

          I love that you see your photography as art, keep doing it as I am sure you will Nilla!

          Liked by 1 person

    2. Yes, photography has changed a lot but I think we are slow to grasp the opportunities. The old ideal of getting the perfect shot in the frame with the light just right first time was a necessity of the times. Now we have limitless ways to crop and balance and adjust our photos, and even change and improve them. We are limited only by our imaginations. Painters are not required to exactly reproduce what they see. They have always manipulated their images. If we want photography to be recognised as art, then we need to allow ourselves free reign. Otherwise we straight-jacket photography as a glorified mobile Xerox machine. There’s a spectum here with blurring boundaries.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Good points Ross. There are different schools of thought regarding manipulating photos. Not sure it has to be seen as “old”. It comes down to it being a personal choice.


        1. Sorry, my comment was meant to be a reply to Image Earth Travel. I was saying that those suggesting that manipulating photos is not photography are hampering the evolution of photography into a true art form. I am sure that in their time Monet and Dali were frowned upon as not being real painters.


  13. I agree Suzanne. I think it takes hours and hours of honing a craft before you can get the label. There is natural talent, some people have a gift, but I think this also needs to be trained, encouraged, practised to be made better. And it’s also great just to do something you enjoy, for the love of it, as a hobbyist.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Tracey, it has always fascinated me how easy people pick up the label of photographer as opposed to a being a chef due to their love of cooking. I think more creative professionals need to be seen as a real job. Thanks for your input into the discussion.

      Liked by 1 person

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