Why Everyone is a Photographer

October 28, 2013 / Philosophy

Everyone is a photographer these days.

Why?

There is one reason but people think there are more reasons such as:

* Gear is so cheap these days
• Digital has made everything easier
• There are so many apps now
• Everyone has a nice mobile camera in their hands
• Software is cheap
• Education and learning is free
• Nothing is sacred anymore. There are no longer secrets.
• New photographers are hungry and will shoot for free.

The complaints go for miles. I hear them every day.

While some of these complaints are valid and true, I think there is one real reason why there are so many photographers these days:

People want to be liked. I want to be liked and you want to be liked.

But people have boring jobs or jobs that they’re not passionate about.

Waiters and waitresses, banktellers, doctors, pharmaceutical salespeople, teachers, even musicians…

I have friends with all of the above job descriptions who would rather be photographers.

Some of them make far more money than photographers.

So what’s the deal?

No one tells them “You really killed it today, waiting those tables.”

No one gets 1,000 likes for teaching a kindergarten class.

No doctor gets over 300 likes when he saves a life.

Sure, we all know that saving a life is more important than photography and teaching is an incredible profession.

But those doctors and teachers and waiters are just like you and me. They want to be known, seen and heard.

People come home from their jobs, post a photo to Instagram or Flickr and get validation by everyone. “Epic.” or “You’ve got a great eye!” or “You should really take this more seriously” or “OMG AMAZING!!!!” or an endless series of complimentary hashtags. On top of that, all our friends see those compliments. It’s the most uplifting ego boost possible, isn’t it?

Being a photographer is the new “rockstar” in an online, visual culture.

But do they get these compliments from their other jobs? Nope.

So they come home and buy a camera. They put the word “Photographer” on their Twitter bio. The first wedding comes along and now they’re officially a photographer.

The photo industry mocks and moans.

I say “Welcome. You’re just like me. I love photography and I too, want my voice to be heard and my images to be seen.”

We’re all in this together. Enough with the complaining.

48 comments
nannagramma1964
nannagramma1964

I hate to say it, but holy moly there are a lot of crappy photographers out there who think they are big hot shots. It's actually embarrassing to see them post their photos and brag about it. Everybody and their dog is a photographer and they are only doing themselves a disservice. 

Mbkphotos
Mbkphotos

As a professional....No we enter competitions to grow! To be better, to learn. To create beautiful images for our clients to cherish in their homes. My greatest reward is showing a beautiful image to a client and seeing their expression of joy! That is what it is truly about! Please understand that it took me many years of learning studying and gathering the money to finally open my studio in 2003. Today I struggle because of competition with hobbiests, as a professional and fellow American, I had a dream to have a studio where I would create beautiful works that will live in homes for many years. That is so difficult today for me. I have so many restless nights trying to figure out how to keep my studio and clients. I am sad by how many hobbiests do not take this profession serious and just give their work away or for a small amount. Yes we all start somewhere I understand that, but I paid my dues...I am not educated to be a nurses, doctor, lawyer etc.. Photography and running a business is all that I know.

Please we are not creating a war with hobbiest , we just want people to understand that it is our livlihood and an art and does require education to learn techniques, lighting, how to flatter someone's image, understanding the flow of a wedding day etc...I enter competition to stay on top not for likes...good grief that was kindergarten. I want to continue to grow learn and teach others. That is what I do now as a studio and travel photographer, I mentor new talent on trips to countries around the globe. I enjoy experiencing how much people learn from me.

Today, its difficult to even stay in business because some hobbiests are not legal...they don't have business licenses or insurance, they don't price according to their "cost of doing business" they have a full time job and do this on the side to make fun money. Do they see it from my point of view? I struggle to stay in business it is my livelihood. Please understand and if you want to be a professional please do it for the right reasons. But don't hurt your fellow Americans to lose everything they own...price your art correctly, learn the craft, be in business to do business, don't give your work away, care about your clients, get insurance, pay taxes, collect sales tax...just be legit! The reason we don't sell files is because they are works of art...no artists sells an original for 15.00 or free. Plus not selling the files keeps you in business to sell more to your client. Just be in business to stay in business and enter competition to grow! Join groups like the PPA. And help your fellow professional to regain their livelihood... Please...it is ruining my life. :(

You may not get 1000 likes for being a teacher etc...but I sure hope that you find your true reward was in helping to make someone else's life more full filing..that you truly make a difference!

I am just a person trying to hold onto my difference and my job as an artist. Nothing more so please just understand and step back and look at your only means of income and where you would be if it all went away one day...also as a business owner when I am out of work...I cannot collect unemployment...keep that in mind and you may understand why professionals are scared.

kevin2584
kevin2584

It really doesn't have to take talent anymore to shoot a picture because of the digital era,  but that's okay with me because I am moving past the word photographer as of this past month;  Many of us are. It really doesn't matter if the person behind the device that took the picture had a clue on what they were doing, they are still the new generation of photography, and accepted by most. 


Many of us that have learned what photography used to be are just moving on. 


Not putting the camera and passion away by any means, but calling ourselves something different. 

http:/surrealimaging.com

Lisa92186
Lisa92186

@kevin2584 I have to say I don't agree with you at all. It does take talent to capture an amazing image. Because someone inexperienced won't be able to do it every time. They will spray and shoot and HOPE they capture something worthy. So yes, it takes talent to be able to do this and be consistent in your work. Otherwise, you will never make a career of it. The "rookie so called photographers" are making money taking snapshots and calling them professional photographs, but will never be able to sustain a living doing what they do. They lack the passion to master their skill, and their simply happy with what they can create now. That my friend, is what will separate a "I've got a camera now, so I'm a photographer" from the "Professional Photographer", every single time. 


There is no new generation of photography. Cameras have improved over the years. That's all. It doesn't mean that everyone who picks one up is the new generation. Heck, someone that has 30 years of experience in the industry doesn't pick one up and become the "new generation". They have no choice but to change as technology does. But that doesn't make them new again. They still have their talent, skill, eye, everything they have mastered over the years. So what you say there doesn't make sense to me.


And I don't think calling yourself something different is going to change anything either. What we as photographers must do is educate the client on everything and "show" them with great images, why price isn't the major factor. Because price is what it has come down to, time and time again. They want to get images for cheap. But if you show them what amazing images you can create, and set yourself apart, that price won't matter when you tell it to them. Because they want that image on their wall. And they will pay you for it. Because Miss. Jane Doe down the street that charges $25 a session, doesn't have the slightest clue how to reproduce that image.

Lisa92186
Lisa92186

@kevin2584 I have to say I don't agree with you at all. It does take talent to capture an amazing image. Because someone inexperienced won't be able to do it every time. They will spray and shoot and HOPE they capture something worthy. So yes, it takes talent to be able to do this and be consistent in your work. Otherwise, you will never make a career of it. The "rookie so called photographers" are making money taking snapshots and calling them professional photographs, but will never be able to sustain a living doing what they do. They lack the passion to master their skill, and their simply happy with what they can create now. That my friend, is what will separate a "I've got a camera now, so I'm a photographer" from the "Professional Photographer", every single time. 


There is no new generation of photography. Cameras have improved over the years. That's all. It doesn't mean that everyone who picks one up is the new generation. Heck, someone that has 30 years of experience in the industry doesn't pick one up and become the "new generation". They have no choice but to change as technology does. But that doesn't make them new again. They still have their talent, skill, eye, everything they have mastered over the years. So what you say there doesn't make sense to me.


And I don't think calling yourself something different is going to change anything either. What we as photographers must do is educate the client on everything and "show" them with great images, why price isn't the major factor. Because price is what it has come down to, time and time again. They want to get images for cheap. But if you show them what amazing images you can create, and set yourself apart, that price won't matter when you tell it to them. Because they want that image on their wall. And they will pay you for it. Because Miss. Jane Doe down the street that charges $25 a session, doesn't have the slightest clue how to reproduce that image.

kevin2584
kevin2584

@Lisa92186 @kevin2584  Lisa I think your delusional if you actually think people without a photography background can't make money taking pictures calling themselves a photographer in this digital age. Just as you said yourself, they can take hundreds of pictures at a time, delete bad ones and keep going. 

Its all about SEO, marketing, and quantity if you want to succeed online. It has nothing to do with who is more qualified or has the "real photography"

Having a real life storefront is a different story, but most people buy online nowadays.

I also think you didn't understand my post.

Best

JimSMith24
JimSMith24

@Lisa92186 @kevin2584 nope, its simple and takes very little skill anymore.  That is what happens when technology advances.  It essentially puts someone out of work.  It will happen to Mcdonalds workers, assemblers, etc.  There are a number of vulnerable jobs out there.  Photography is essentially a nothing game anymore.  Anyone with a few grand can buy a camera and take a million shots and one of them will be good.  It doesn't cost them a cent more than your timing of the perfect shot.  

DarrenFleming
DarrenFleming

@JimSMith24 You show a total lack of understanding of photography and the process. I dare say you you can't tell the difference between a snap shot and a beautifully crafted image. Regardless of the technology in hand it takes skill and creativity to capture great images all the time. Pray and spray is for idiots.

You are clearly clueless and your comments are frankly insulting. Surely you are just a troll and don't believe what you are saying?

JoseAlvarado
JoseAlvarado

Who doesn't want to get paid by taking a picture? I sure do! www.twentyfiveimages.com


RickyLugo
RickyLugo

Well said. The best thing is that the media portrayed photography as a dying profession but as anyone can see it's bigger than ever. From the iPhone to the Canon. Keep shooting everyone.

billshootspeopl
billshootspeopl

Lisa is right and said it well. Talent, Skill, knowledge (and experience) builds a photographer. Not just the camera.


Over the years I have heard this rhetoric coming in from several kids who thought the same. And frankly, as one that has been there, I just assumed its immaturity and the lack of understanding what is real art? Seriously some are just not able to comprehend what makes a good image better and what is a "snapshot."  I've done it all, covered foreign nationals, wars, people and so on. All it takes is a connection.  In my day, you went to a school learned the factors that make up a great image, and if you were lucky, you could find an assistant position somewhere in your own city. Now there are literally agencies offering images from I-phones with reasonable image quality.  I went to a Hassleblad conference last month and 3 out of the 6 pro shooters were selling most of the equipment from their studios. It might be true as you noted that being a photographer is the new "rockstar" visual culture. But its not one they can live from.  Personally, I have to say why is it that kids your of your generation try to envision that you are all alike, and "just like you."  You might be a lover of photography, but you haven't eaten, slept or pissed pixels or silver bromide like I have the last 35 years. You are of the opinion that a three course meal is a happy meal at McDonalds, and not served at one's leisure. 


You want it now.... and the "art is gone,' so how can you even think you could be like me or half of the guys before me? 




JimAnderson1
JimAnderson1

@billshootspeopl  those words seem so very old and tinged with some bitterness. When reading your reply, I can't help but be reminded of the critics of Andy Warhol... "That isn't art, that's just plain copying" and that sort of thing. @jeremycowart's post seems more in line with Warhol's stance on art. I mean, there are even those that thing photography couldn't possibly be art because all a photographer is doing is making a permanent image of something that already exists. You know those arguments I'm sure. Personally, I love photography and spend a ton of my time shooting people, places, things, stories, emotions, lights, darks, lives, loves, etc, and I totally agree with Jeremy's post.

I think if you were to step back a bit, you might be able to re-think your initial statement and maybe see that we are all quite a like - and that is a wonderful thing - but that we also have our differences - and that's what makes our art distinct and uniquely beautiful. Art (and skill) after all, is in the eye of the beholder.


Oh, and hey... come see (and like) my non-talented works here:

http://www.facebook.com/um.and.photography

and here:

http://photography.unmannedship.com/


Lisa92186
Lisa92186

You can want to be liked all day long but it doesn't change the fact that everyone IS NOT a photographer! It takes talent, skill, knowledge, and having "the eye" to be a "Photographer". Not a fancy camera! I see people taking pictures all the time and posting them with claims of being a photographer. And they suck. Plain and simple. But they get clients left and right for it. Why? Because todays generation doesn't know the art of a real photograph when they see it. Sad really. It's up to the "Professional Photographers" these days to change that and stop griping about it all the time.  

TaraPun
TaraPun

Well said! i totally agree that as a photographer we all want our works to be seen. Talking about social media and site to post photographs, tallenge.com is running their global photography contest, participating on which can help  photographers to share their works, compete and win cash prizes.  We all want our works to be seen and liked. Don't we? And getting a chance to win a cash prize is like a cherry on the cake.  :)

davevaughn
davevaughn

I think it only bothers me on a very personal level, because it's contrary to how I think now. I started photographing when I was 15, and I began taking money for senior photos and such in my small rural town when I was 17. I thought that I totally knew what I was doing. I had a fancy DSLR and an 85mm. Photography is easy, and I don't like anyone who criticizes me or my work because I have everything figured out.

 

Then I got to college and I went through an emotional and mental transition.. I realized that my skills are lacking and that I really don't know what I'm doing. So when I look at others who appear to have that same mentality that I had when I was 17, it kind of irks me, because I know it's not my place to say anything, but I really want to. And it makes me sound and feel so jaded. 

 

I want more people to get into photography, because that means that there are more people I can relate to and work with but...I can't shake these feelings that so many people are delusional about the extent of their skills...

 

It's almost an autonomous when I see someone marketing themselves as incredible and wonderful, when I think they're not.

 

I don't actively want dislike some photographers, but it's really hard breaking through that jaded shell. Hopefully, when I mature some more, it will become easier.

mnoir21
mnoir21

Yes maybe, and what about the desire of authentication, I would say, yes everybody wants to take photos, so why wouldn't you like mine?  http://www.mathieunoir.com

Angel Gonzales
Angel Gonzales

People want to be liked. i like that and it's really true. We all want to be liked and appreciated. We love to do some things and we want people to appreciate them, to like them. I guess, that can be the reason why people nowadays want to be a photographer and another reason is, let's face it, it's fun taking photos and posting them.

 

 http://www.bluewaterstudiosllc.com/

FrankSamuelRodriguez
FrankSamuelRodriguez

Oh. I thought you were about to write some negative comment about us like all the other professional photographers out there. And yes you hit the nail right on the head. The reason I take pictures and edit them and post them is because I love it, even if I do it for free.

OutpostMagazine
OutpostMagazine

Interesting article here, and while I agree that "Digital has made everything easier," I still find that the best photographers have a strong grasp on core principles and can jump into manual mode to get the settings and shots they need.

ChrisDanielsPhoto
ChrisDanielsPhoto

 @jeremycowart 

I wrote something long and philosophical. I'm not typing it again, but to some it up... I agree... Video games make great life comparisons... I love the photo community... Thanks...

NateNRebekahAlbaugh
NateNRebekahAlbaugh

I agree with most of this. :) Jeremy, Do you every speak at conferences and if so what would it take to get you to speak at ours? I can send more information if your answer is yes but I don't want to waste either of our time if you are unattainable. Bex

RhondaYoungKonicki
RhondaYoungKonicki

Interesting observation Jeremy.  

 

I'm one of those people who has a regular day job.  Photography has been a creative outlet for me for many years, before FB.  I don't have a particularly large following on FB, and I've certainly never deluded myself into believing any of my photos would have a viral response.  

 

What FB has done for me and my photography, is the opportunity to grow in clientele, I now have a couple of regular customers, and grow an art form into a small part time business.  

 

Best regards, Rhonda Y Konicki

MosaicArchive
MosaicArchive

 @jeremycowart  Love what you do but I am not sure I agree with this article. I don't think many people get the admiration / pat on the back that you do. I see many of my friends who start out liking photography, posting to 500px or G+ and hearing crickets for feedback. No +1s. No shares. No retweets. 

 

Honestly, there are a ton of good / great photos and we are overwhelmed by them. I think people take up photography because it is an art where people can express themselves and get feedback almost instantly. As an example, I tried to learn to play the guitar. It took me months to get to the point where I sounded half decent playing to my family while they were drunk... I picked up a camera and took many bad photos but a couple good ones. It was enough to keep me interested and gave me a creative outlet. I got more serious.. took more good photos and now I get props but it didn't get me into photography. 

 

Respectfully, @gerard_murphy3 / @mosaicarchive 

kimberlylynnloomis
kimberlylynnloomis

This made me reflect and then realize that knowing there are so many people with DSLRs who call themselves photographers really only bothers me when deep down I know I'm not doing MY best.  I need to use it as a catalyst to do better work, try new things, trust my instincts and shoot as often as possible. When is see facebook pages full of technically terrible or obviously amateur images that have double or triple the amount of 'likes' I do I need to realize that perspective is not truth, and I was new once--I have photos with my name on them that I'm embarrassed about because I took them when I was first figuring out what I was doing.  I'm no better than anyone else, just in a different place on the journey.  Cheesy, yes...helpful for changing my attitude? Yes!

MattBlum
MattBlum

Jeremy Cowart is just like you. He puts his pants on one leg at a time, except when he does, he makes gold records. Er... photos.

bayek
bayek

Well said indeed, Jeremy! Similarly, just like starting a band when you're young so that girls like you more. I am sure that the only difference beetween all the photographers is that those who eventually succeed or deliver amazing work are doing it mainly because photography is their passion, their true love. And not because they want someone to "Like" their photo on facebook.

Brudaddy
Brudaddy

Fantastic perspective. Thanks for keeping mine in check. 

TonyDAmico
TonyDAmico

I appreciate your thoughts on this Jeremy, so many people look at people entering a "creative" field as competitors, but in all honesty, it makes us hone in our craft, gives us the ability to teach others  (+build them up), and let great art exist in the world.

fotomac
fotomac

I agree Jeremy---just like musicians, photographers have to practice their craft and look to those who have better "chops" than they do and strive to improve.  I've always welcomed new photographers and I am an educator who teaches High School photography.  I want to help people who have my passion like those who helped me when I first started.

GabrielDoty
GabrielDoty

I honestly hadn't really thought about that aspect of this conversation until you brought it up, but I think you are right on the money.. What I am most impressed by though, is that you didn't bash that reasoning at all, but instead embraced it... Great thoughts!

thehuhman
thehuhman

I like what Aarography said above: "nowadays everyone is a photographer, but (thankfully for the pros) everyone also happens to be a mediocre photographer."  

 

I often add encouraging comments to my followers photos on Instagram. But in truth, out of a couple hundred followers, I would only consider 2-3 of them to be exceptionally creative and talented.

OlhaPrytula
OlhaPrytula

Well, I would say that not only we are visual people, but we want to capture the memory, we want to capture the moment while we were happy, we saw something beautiful, we want the happiness to stand still and grab it with our devices. we want to go through all those happy moments later and brush on the picture perfect image of what it is to be in a moment! That is why i would say everyone is a photographer! 

jeremycowart
jeremycowart moderator

 @OlhaPrytula Sure, that plays a part too. We all simply want to capture and remember. It's as equally human as wanting to be seen and heard.

jeronmoore
jeronmoore

Love it. Great open minded post Jeremy, and I couldn't agree more (coming from a hobbyist). :) On that note, go send some validation my way on IG @jeronmoore. Haha. ;D

ShannonGray
ShannonGray

Agree with you completely!  Thank you for writing this! :)

Aarography
Aarography

I never really understood why other photographers complained about the influx of amateurs becoming photographers. Sure, nowadays everyone is a photographer, but (thankfully for the pros) everyone also happens to be a mediocre photographer. Help the newbies practice their hobby--they look up to you, they're not stealing your business, and everyone wins. I think you (Jeremy) are an awesome example of this. I was one of those mediocre photographers once too, and it's time to pay it forward.

BkMastershooterHart
BkMastershooterHart

@Aarography The complaint isn't so much about there being so many newbies flooding the market...it's more about the fact that they do mediocre work and do it for free. The majority of what used to be prospective clients will now settle for mediocre if they don't have to pay for it, as opposed to getting professional results from professional shooters. Just like every other market that gets saturated with BS, the photography and videography business is screwed! Thanks a lot,!

Jim Denham
Jim Denham

Indeed! Who doesn't want to get patted on the back every now and then? Who doesn't want their work to be appreciated? Good eye Jeremy!

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