Let's face it – with the rise of smartphones, everyone is a photographer in some form or another. In fact, there are photographers out there who are marketing themselves for hire and solely use their smart phones. Others purchase DSLRs, throw them on auto mode, and declare themselves open for business. With the barrier to entry for photography being so low, when do you know if you've become a true photographer enough to call yourself one?
I'll let you in on a little secret. There is no right answer. There is no benchmark that makes you a professional photographer, since there are so many ways to enter this space. There is no magic button or one-size-fits-all formula. There is no incredible, life changing transformation for you to undergo before you're allowed to officially carve a name for yourself in this great space. Here are some common myths that I've heard regarding when someone feels comfortable enough to declare themselves a "real" photographer:
When I have a website. Though I do believe websites are pretty important for your business and will help with everything from SEO to brand recognition, there are incredible photographers who don't have one. They rely on word of mouth, social media, and private messages. Even if you don't have a business website, you are still a photographer!
When I shoot fully on manual mode. I think many people will have mixed feelings about this one. I became comfortable with manual mode very quickly, and I truly do believe that it's the only way to shoot. Instead of saying that you're not a real photographer until you shoot fully manual, I would instead say that it's more important to understand the modes. Even though I do shoot fully on manual mode, I think there are situations that warrant the quick switch to auto or a priority mode in order to capture a perfect moment quickly. Be warned, though – that tiny camera screen can be deceiving, and sometimes you just don't know how much auto mode has failed you until you throw your photos in Lightroom. My advice: learn manual and how to use your camera, but by no means will you only be successful if you shoot fully in manual in every situation.
When I have a lot of social media followers. Some of the most beautiful Instagram accounts don't have huge followings, and vice versa. Having a lot of followers doesn't make you a real photographer, and some of the best ones I know don't have a massive social presence.
When my calendar is booked with paying clients. Here's another hard truth – photography is saturated. There, I said it. You can listen to whoever you want tell you otherwise, but the long and short of it is that there are many photographers out there with a variety of price points. Because of this, it might take awhile to get some traction. Does this devalue your artistic eye or your ability to call yourself a professional photographer? Absolutely not!
When I have a full frame camera. MYTH! Full frame cameras are great, and there is no doubt the versatility that they bring...but do not doubt your artistic abilities. You are capable of taking phenomenal photos on entry level gear, and you absolutely do not need to invest a ton of money in lenses or a full frame camera to gain clients and traction when you're starting out. Don't believe me? Check out this great article that shows just what entry level gear is capable of. Remember, it's not the machine as much as the person operating it! Is a breathtaking painting gorgeous because of the brush or the paint? No. It's the artist.
I want to know – when did you consider yourself a real photographer? Was there a pivotal moment for you?