What it means to be a real photographer

Computers, cell phones, televisions, and many other “tech toys” rely on the latest technology. Companies then over-market these technologies to the point that consumers fall into believing it is a must-have item. The average Joe falls into this marketing trick and thinks, “I need this. If I buy the latest gear with the best technology, my output will become substantially better. I have to have this to make a name for myself in my profession.”

This is simply not true; you do not need the most expensive device to be the best or become a professional.

The photography industry is no different.  Even with a collection worth more than $15,000 of gear, Christian David Turner, a photographer for V3 Magazine, claims that one of his favorite pictures is one that he took with an iPhone 4. But being a photographer requires more than just gear. On a daily basis, billions of photographs all around the world are taken. So what makes a good photographer?

To be a good photographer, we often think that everything relies on the technical side of shooting.

By reading the manual that came with your camera, you can figure out how to take a picture. So now you’re a photographer, right? Not quite. Doing so makes you a photographer just as much as me knowing how to use a hammer makes me a carpenter.

You are going to need to know important things about how an image is captured. Mastering aperture, shutter speed and ISO are all major components to taking a picture and it turning out well. These skills are best learned through a combination of trial and error. This will put you one step closer to becoming a real photographer.

However, it is only a matter of time before the technical side of photography will become obsolete with advances in technology. Current cameras already set the right exposure and focus automatically for you.

Technology can have its own approach to creating images. This can come in the form of an algorithm but now offers creative insight to the final outcome. All cameras would be using the same process and result in all images having that same feel and appeal to them.

Behind every great photo, the photographer had to make a series of decisions to arrive at the final production. Technology can’t replace this ability to make creative decisions. Choices range from what should be in focus to what composition and which angle should be used in a given situation. Also, what lighting is most appropriate, and which moment or expression best captures the situation.

The photographer is what drives these important decisions. Every photographer has a different vision and creative process. Only those who recognize that being a good photographer is about knowing the right decisions to make—in the physical world outside of the cameras’ equipment—will succeed.