The world has changed. With the dawn of (truly) accessible digital photography and camera phone advancements, everyone and their robot vacuum cleaner can claim to be a photographer, but are they? What makes a photographer? What's the difference between the "Pros" and these emboldened upstarts trying to lay claim to the throne? Let's dig into the argument and see who comes out on top.
Photography for many years had been the casual past time of the many and the career/obsession of the few, but times have changed and so have the lines that where once clear between the "pros" and the point and shoot posse. A Google search can quickly pull up the hidden animosity lurking within the photography community towards the current culture of "everyone being a photographer" but is this really fair? Is there really a difference?
Technology has allowed a far larger audience than ever before to access the joys of taking pictures (let's be honest, that's all photography in its purest form is) and quite frankly I think that's the best thing to happen to this industry in years.
People across the world can pick up their smart phone and take some truly breathtaking photos. However, this is where it seems some of the bitterness/criticism from the "professional" (and some of the amateur) community has arisen. Smart phones are exactly that.... smart! They let you point the camera at what you want and take a great photo. The phone adjusts everything for you automatically in milliseconds and *poof* there's a great picture to put on your instagram or show your friends. It's basically magic and don't try to argue otherwise.
"BUT WHERE'S THE SKILL IN THAT?!?!" I hear the cries from certain groups in the professional community. As a professional photographer myself, I understand some of this frustration. Many of us have spent years learning the ins and outs of our tools. The ways to manually adjust to any situation and still come out with the photo we wanted. Studying our contemporaries and practicing composition/lighting/timing for thousands of hours. Paying for studio spaces and hiring models, make up artists, and setting up lighting rigs (the picture above is an example of this) just to have someone take a picture of their meal on their phone and receive 100's/1000's of likes and adulation (might be exaggerating a touch here). I actually have an Instagram that I dabble in once in awhile and I personally never get more than 60 odd likes for a post but truth be told it doesn't bother me and this is what we need to see past. We (professionals) may have the gear and practice to call ourselves "photographers" but maybe we are misinterpreting the point.
Photography really isn't about skill, technique, or some set of rules for composition. Photography is about how we each interrupt the world around us and what we want to make note of. Technology has allowed more people than ever before to try out new things that they otherwise might have left behind due to the complexities involved. Some may argue you should be passionate about taking pictures but to me that seems too grandiose. It's about enjoyment of a moment. Being able to share that moment with others gives it meaning and weight. I see photos from people every day that inspire me in my work and a large chunk of those photos are taken on phones. Other photos I see may not inspire me but create an emotional response instead. WE MUST EMBRACE THIS. Every professional was once a beginner and with positive motivation and constructive criticism from the professional community these beginners may well become the professionals of the future taking photography to even greater heights.
Professional photographers will always be needed and the time and practice often elevates an image from mediocre to consistently fantastic (that's what we're paid to do) but we all take photos without realising it. We take mental pictures of everything we see and technology is allowing everyone to share their own personal vision and history of the world. Photography is freedom of expression and as long as we don't lose the sentiment and enjoyment behind each picture then from this professional, I say there isn't really an argument to be had. Everyone is a photographer (except robot vacuums).