How Do You Know If You Are a Photographer?

Food for Thought

Last weekend, I borrowed a high-end digital camera to see how much digital imaging technologies have evolved. In some ways, the improvement is dramatic but in other ways, the difference is nonexistent. Because the resolution has increased significantly if you look at the photos at 100%, you’d see a dramatic difference, but when conformed to the final size for your audience, the difference becomes so minimal that I kept losing track of which photo was taken by which camera. From an artistic point of view, digital cameras have reached the point of diminishing returns. So, I’m surprised that photographers are still preoccupied with resolutions, sharpness, accuracy, and so on. Why don’t they move on? I suspect that it has to do with the need to differentiate themselves from the amateurs.

In music, “vintage” sound with decidedly lower fidelity, more noise, and narrower dynamic range, is widely embraced. Musicians do not have to worry about differentiating themselves because installing GarageBand on your phone and pressing a button does not produce your own song that you can brag about. The use of poor quality sounds does not threaten musicians’ identity.

Today, we all have high-quality digital cameras in our pockets. Because it costs nothing to shoot photos, it is estimated that ten percent of all photos ever taken were taken in the last twelve months. Everyone is at least an amateur photographer now, which encroaches on the identity of photographers.

Until about a few years ago, photographers used a shallow depth of field (throwing everything but the subject out of focus) to differentiate themselves, because smartphone cameras capture everything in focus. But, then the “portrait mode” was introduced a few years ago, which is blurring that identity line. In 5 years, smartphone cameras would be so good that there won’t be any obvious differentiating markers for photographers. What would that mean for those who want to be photographers? It simply means that there won’t be any objective way to qualify who is a photographer. If you think you are a photographer, you have to be comfortable with it even if nobody thinks you are. That’s where real photography begins.