No, it's not some new sci-fi movie, not even a documentary. It seems today everybody is a photographer and it's affecting our business. Whether it's in a good or bad way is for you to decide.
The other day, I asked a question on my Facebook page that went something along these lines: «What is your definition of a photographer?» The answers varied from the difference between a pro and amateur to the greek roots of the word. One person, however, said «A photographer is someone who can capture a story or an emotion into a still image». I personally believe this to be the beginning of what a photographer is or should be but I'll be coming back to this later in the post.
I've been thinking about this issue quite a bit lately because I find myself directly confronted to it. It is really difficult to make your client understand that no, he can not do it himself with his iPhone or point and shoot. And sure some other photographer will do it for free but ask yourself this: if that photographer is confident in his work, why is he offering it for free?
Anyway, earlier today, after my morning routine, I was reading different sources of news and came across a post by Atlanta based photographer, Zack Arias. Zack has a great blog where all he does is answer questions. And this morning, this was the question he was asked:
[blockquote]What can I do to get true paid work as a portrait photographer? […] I just mean from the prospective of a photographer truly trying to make a career out of this artform we love.[/blockquote]
Zack's answer is spot on, I couldn't have said it better. If you wish to read the full answer please head on to Zack's Q&A blog.
Here are a few snippets of things he says and totally resonate with me:
[box_info type="light"]You have to be able to communicate WHAT you do and HOW you do it and WHO you do it for and WHERE you do it and HOW MUCH it costs for you to do it. You know… like a prostitute. That theme pops up on this blog far too often lately. But it got me quoted on APhotoEditor this week so I’m going to keep running with it. :)[/box_info]
[box_info type="light"]A camera does not a photographer make… but there are enough folks out there thinking that it does and it’s whacking away at our business. So you have to be smarter than them. You have to be more agile. You have to be more skillful. You have to be more talented. You have to market better. You have to find different clients. You have to move up the food chain and get off the bottom.[/box_info]
[box_info type="light"]People just entering this industry haven’t a clue as to how deep this rabbit hole goes. They take some photos. They get the background out of focus for the first time. Their friends and family think they are OMG AWESOMEZ! They hate their day job. They are unfulfilled in some part of their life. They’ve always wanted to be “creative” but couldn’t draw or paint or play music…. but they can get some OMG BOKEH with their new camera![/box_info]
[box_info type="light"]You don’t need a license to be a photographer. You don’t need a degree. You don’t need anything really other than a half ass decent camera and a lens. So and so did it. That person did it. This person over here did it and has 50,000 followers on twitter. They’re famous. They must be rich. They travel the world. I bet they fart rainbows in the morning.[/box_info]
[box_info type="light"]It’s so much work. It’s hard. It takes a toll on you. I swear to you that “day jobs” are far, far, far easier than being a full time photographer in this market right now. Photography calls many and chooses few.[/box_info]
You get the idea, right?
Now back to my original question. I'd say a photographer is indeed a person who can tell a story or move the viewer with a single image. But a photographer is also a person who needs to constantly reinvent him or herself, move forward, learn, get better. And a photographer is also a business person doing marketing, accounting and networking. What they say is true: you spend most of your time behind your computer screen rather than shooting…
All I hope is that I can consider myself a photographer and that's what I work towards every single day.
Have a great weekend, josh