I have a bone to pick. I am a emerging professional photographer, so photography is the focus of both my present and my future. The thing is, there’s a problem: wannabe photographers who think that just because they have a professional-looking camera, they are automatically professional photographers who can blow the world away with their vast Auto Mode skills and at-best mediocre pictures. Take it one step further, and you have the people who charge for these second-rate photos. What are you doing?
I’m just going to start by saying that it’s awesome that people are interested in photography and want to improve their skills. The reality is that if you think you need a DSLR to take better pictures or fit in, you probably don’t. When you’ve reached the absolute max of the camera you’re currently working with and need the flexibility and professionalism that a DSLR provides, then by all means look into buying one. Don’t go out to buy one if you don’t know how your more simple camera works, because DSLRs are a lot more complicated. Having a nice camera will not magically make your pictures better; that is something you have to learn. Even then, you can only learn so much. What makes the pros good is a natural eye for photography.
Having a nice camera does not make you a photographer. Taking selfies in a mirror with that nice camera does not make you a photographer. Randomly taking pictures for your friends does not make you a photographer. Those things make you an amateur photographer, a hobbyist. When you start actively pursuing photography as a profession or as more than a hobby, then you are an “actual photographer”. I didn’t start calling myself a photographer until I started my own business and began selling my work. Up until that point, I just said I was into photography.
The biggest problem I have with wannabe photographers is that they hurt professional photographers. If someone is offering portrait shoots for $50 and giving “clients” 100 unedited, badly done pictures and calling that a photo business, that person is teaching people that photography is cheap. Good photography is not cheap. When people come across photographers such as a friend of mine whose packages start at $500, they call it a rip-off. The truth is that the person selling crappy $50 photos is a rip off. They shouldn’t be charging anything because they aren’t actual photographers. I didn’t start charging until I felt I was at a place where the work I created was good enough for people to pay for and people wanted to pay for it. The other part of why good photography is expensive is because of the hours put into editing. Photography is 20% shooting and 80% editing, and that 80% amounts to hours. Nothing that comes straight from the camera is perfect; any pro can tell you that.
That being said, pursue photography. But bear this in mind: before you call yourself a photographer, think of what it is you’re trying to accomplish. Are you looking at this as more than a hobby, rather a career? Are you at a level where your photos are good enough to be published or charged for? Are you willing to put yourself in a position to compete with thousands of professional photographers who have been doing this for years? Do you know the ins and outs of Lightroom, Photoshop, or both? If not, then avoid the label “photographer”. In the end, you will make the lives of actual photographers easier and validate their work as well as your own. We’re all out to help each other in the photo community, just don’t overestimate your ability or forget reality.