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Are You a "Real" Photographer?

CJ Chilvers
CJ Chilvers
2 min read

An argument I hear all the time (from amateurs mind you, not professionals) is that being a "photographer" must mean more than just having the ability to make photographs. I disagree.

You can decide for yourself, but I've yet to hear a convincing argument opposing these definitions:

Objective Words:

  • Photographer: Someone who makes photographs.
  • Professional Photographer: Someone who makes the majority of their income from photography.
  • Amateur Photographer: Someone who does not make the majority of their income from photography.

Subjective Words:

  • Good Photographer: In the eyes of the beholder alone. The "rules" of photography that are used to judge the collected images of a photographer are almost entirely commerce-based and applicable only to professional photographers. You might as well just ask how much money the photographer makes. There's no objective way to measure whether a photographer is "good" or "bad."
  • Real Photographer: This one really stinks of arrogance. Some believe you're not a "real" photographer if you don't have a "real" camera (whatever that means). Some believe you're not a "real" photographer if you don't dedicate a certain amount of time to the craft. The truth is, 99% of photographers are amateurs and I'm guessing the vast majority of them have a camera phone as their primary tool. If you're looking for what's numerically "real," it's an amateur with a camera phone.
  • Serious Photographer: See the above two definitions.
  • Advanced Amateur Photographer: Amateurs who are embarrassed to be lumped in with those who don't use a "real" camera.


Craig Mod jumped into the fray this week with his articles, Goodbye, Cameras and Photography, hello. In doing so, he was also given a crash course in the ire of camera geeks.

A comic made the rounds taking the Experience First, Photo Second crowd to task. It does miss the point, though. The point is not HOW you experience something, but THAT you experience something. Of course, it's a comic, so straw men are pretty much mandatory.

If you're looking for a new year's resolution, Austin Kleon has one that's probably a perfect fit for you.


“Journalists' favorite topic is journalism. Bloggers' favorite topic is blogging. Readers' favorite topic is anything but those.” - Dave Pell

I'll keep this brief. Blogging is all about traffic these days. I don't care about traffic. I care about regular readers.

I really think this is the future of journalism; trusted individuals, not megablogs.

Honestly, I'm also tired of paying a heavier price (in time wasted mostly) for hosting a blog with occasional hit counts in the tens of thousands. That kind of short-term blog tourism bores me. I'd much rather have a few thousand regulars.

Step 1 was to create a newsletter. That newsletter is now 1321 subscribers strong and growing daily. Sign up here.

Step 2 was to post in a more fluid, natural way, with a longer outlook: what happened worth knowing this week, instead of what happened this hour. This will evolve with time and your input I'm sure.

Step 3 will be to sustain the growth by writing more books.

That's it. No one cares about this stuff really, but I figured I would write it out to refer back to in case I lose my way in the future.

Thanks for reading.