Can anyone pick up a camera and be considered a photographer?

With high-quality cameras readily available on the market, we ask – is it possible for anyone with an SLR to be considered a photographer despite length of experience and qualifications?

NO says Sean McEwan, Photographer and Owner,

SeanMcEwan“Before I even bought my first SLR years ago, I had swamped myself with books and magazines and did not look up from them for a long time”

If you think picking up a camera makes you a photographer then you might want to consider a reality check.

I can’t argue that it isn’t one of the many steps you’ll need to take on the very long journey that will lead to you becoming a photographer, but you must understand that a Digital SLR is just a tool that takes time to learn, very much like learning a language with new jargon. More importantly you must learn an understanding of ever-changing lighting conditions. Light is everything in photography, without wanting to state the obvious, without it there would be no photography (or even people). Using a camera with the intimate knowledge of how it works will allow you to work in unison with light, later on, when you have your own flash lights particularly, you really do need to understand how the two relate together.

Before I even bought my first SLR years ago, I had swamped myself with books and magazines and did not look up from them for a long time. I had what I call ‘The Bug’, it’s an addictive all consuming need to use and translate your visual perception – how you translate what you see into photos. It’s easy to spot a potentially great photographer – they’re the ones who will harass you with a million questions. That insatiable need for knowledge is very powerful and over rules some random need for a nice camera, which in many cases is just another show of materialistic gadget-ism.

I have seen many people over the years getting too heavily involved over the brand of camera that they use – usually either Nikon or Canon. Just make the choice then please move on, these days most SLR’s seem to be equally good. I use Nikon because all the controls on their system are second nature for me to find now and I’m a loyal customer.

For me, a proficient photographer must be able to have an all round ability to analyse varied environments/scenarios/subjects you want to photograph as well as have an understanding of how to translate it via your camera(set to manual) into the photograph you want. These skills don’t come over night the moment you buy a camera.

YES, say Alin Constantin, Photographer

Alin“A passion for photography is what drives good photographers and it’s that passion that makes us exceptional at our work”

Anyone can be a photographer, with the right drive and mentality. I picked up my first DSLR camera around three years ago, while I was working for a content agency at a large music concert in Dubai. The photography bug grew in me straight away, and I was instantly addicted to being behind the camera (which made perfect sense as I hate being in front of it). The key to excellent photography is practice, not infinite industry experience or qualifications.

Learning photography on the job, and learning by doing is how great photographers hone their craft. I remember thinking to myself, upon buying my first mid-range DSLR, a Canon 60D; How difficult could this photography business really be? It’s just point and shoot, right? And while I realise now how wrong I was to just try leaving the camera in Auto and hoping for the best, my experience gained through this ‘trial by fire’ attitude has gotten me where I am today. The more photographs you take and the better you understand your camera, they better you become – take this from someone who now has experience!

There are many things that I wish someone had taught me when I first picked up a camera, things like:

  • Learn to shoot in Manual Mode
  • Shoot in raw, not JPEG
  • Photography Is an expensive profession
  • Mastering photography won’t happen overnight

You will note that none of these points involve putting as many fancy titles or qualifications on a CV as possible. They simply require time, patience and a few practical skills. A passion for photography is what drives good photographers and it’s that passion that makes us exceptional at our work.

Making contacts is always a good thing in this industry – my first real big break was working for a private yacht party at the Abu Dhabi Formula 1, where I made a lot of contacts, resulting in being asked to do events for various promoters. Since then, I’ve worked with brands like Alshaya, Adidas, Top Shop and Miss Selfridges. And all of this work came from being passionate about my work and having my skills recognised. Yes, experience does help, but experience is not a replacement for an eye for photography or the willingness to work hard to hone your skills.

My own photography has continued to go from strength-to-strength, leading to my own business, Dubai Event Photography, which I started in January 2015. I’m still learning new techniques and ways to shoot every single day, and because of this, I’m still getting better. In the relatively short three years it’s been since I first decided to become a photographer, my lack of qualifications is not something that has hindered me, and is definitely not something I regret.

2 replies
  1. Arnab Ghosh
    Arnab Ghosh says:

    An excellent topic of discussion. I believe it takes passion to fuel any venture; be it photography or anything else. Ultimately, that passion and enthusiasm will show in the work one produces. Technical know-how and skills will develop over time. Someone with passion will look for ways and means to develop the acquire the skill set anyway. Who would you rather appoint: a passionate individual with a thirst for knowledge and development, or a skilled professional with plenty of firepower but no fire within?

  2. sean mcewan
    sean mcewan says:

    I do agree with Alin on alot of what he says (apart from name dropping and pure self promotion)
    Without INSPIRATION,which is the catalyst for passion.. you can work your way through the technical need know that needs learning, you can put up with some of the failures of your experimented shots…. when you feel it can always be better. I have been in the industry for 15 years now,experience is great but always treat something like you have never experienced it before, try new things and then rely on a bit of knowledge to recreate your vision where you can.

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