I Am A Photographer? Really?

If I make a paper airplane out of a magazine page … I don’t call myself a pilot. If I play a game of chess online with a random opponent … I don’t call myself a grandmaster. If I write a haiku about the weather … I don’t call myself a poet. If I sing along to a karaoke song … I don’t call myself a singer. If I heat up, in the microwave, a prepackaged mix of mac and cheese… I don’t call myself a chef. If I write a letter to my dearest grandmother about what is going on in my life… I don’t call myself a novelist. If I change the oil in my truck, I don’t call myself a mechanic. If I bang out Frere Jacque on a piano….I don’t call myself a concert pianist. If I watch a documentary about ancient Rome … I don’t call myself a historian. If I run a mile around the block … I don’t call myself an athlete. If I bake a cake from a box mix … I don’t call myself a baker. If I knit a scarf for my friend … I don’t call myself a designer.

Then, why on earth, when I take a smartphone photograph, spontaneously, most often without journalistic or artistic intention….do I repeatedly call myself a “photographer”?

Are we perhaps, in popular culture today, confusing the noun and verb phrase form of the word-photographer (noun), to take a photo (verb phrase) The noun is a title and the verb phrase is an action.

I don’t want to sound arrogant or like any sort of gatekeeper, but I’m getting a little fed up and tired with every consumer snapper today, calling themselves a “photographer”.

Everyone can and should take pictures. But not everyone who takes pictures is a “photographer”.

A photographer is someone who is skilled, intentional, experienced and takes photographs, either as a hobby or as a profession. A professional photographer is someone who makes all or part of their income from photography.

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against people who enjoy taking photos with their smartphones. In fact, I think it’s great that technology has made photography more accessible and convenient for everyone. There are many benefits of taking photos, such as capturing memories, expressing yourself, and sharing your perspective with others. Go for it. Do more of it. I celebrate with you. I honor your efforts and actions.

But there is more to photography than just pointing and shooting.

Photography, for many of us, is also an art form, a craft, and a discipline.

It requires skill, knowledge, and passion. It involves understanding the principles of light, composition, and exposure. It involves choosing the right equipment, settings, and techniques for different situations.

It involves editing, processing, and printing your images to achieve the desired effect.

It involves developing your own style, vision, and voice as an artist.

Photography, done well, and at a high level, is not something you can master overnight. It takes years of practice, study, and experimentation. It takes dedication, perseverance, and creativity. It takes feedback, criticism, and improvement. It takes inspiration, motivation, and curiosity.

Photography is not something you can do without passion. It takes love for the medium, the subject matter, and the art form.

It takes joy in creating something beautiful, meaningful, and original. It takes pride in your work, your achievements, and your contributions.

So please, don’t call yourself a “photographer: if you only take, casually and serendipitously, photos with your smartphone, or any camera for that matter.

Call yourself, instead, an enthusiast, a hobbyist, or an amateur. But leave the title of “photographer” to those who have earned it, who have worked hard for it, and who have respected it.

Because photography is not just taking photos. It’s much more than that.

Just saying.



Jack Hollingsworth