Saturday, 18 April 2015

Photography: what does it take?

What does it take nowadays to be a photographer? Is some special talent required to take great pictures, or can anyone with a good quality camera and basic editing software call themselves a photographer nowadays?

This question first came to me a few months back, when, for the first time in my life, I was in possession of a phone with a surprisingly decent camera. I love travelling and I love capturing moments which I find particularly beautiful, so you can imagine how overjoyed I was to have a reliable camera at my fingertips whenever I needed it. In the past my photos had mostly been grainy or too dark, and don't get me started on that one camera with which I always had to take duplicate photos in case the first came out blurry. I had resigned myself to buying postcards on my travels to make up for my poor photography, but it's just not the same.

So I finally got a posh new phone with a posh camera, and, of course, my photos got better. I would proudly display them on Facebook, even the arty ones that perhaps no one would care about. But all the same, I wasn't sure what to think when someone asked if I was a professional photographer. "They're just tourist photos" I replied, but it got me thinking. I had never intended to be a photographer. To me, a photographer is someone like my cousin, who takes beautiful photographs and went to college to learn how to use a camera properly. But I do enjoy taking photographs as a hobby. And if I ever had 500 quid to spend on a hobby I would certainly buy a posh Canon or Nikon, the sort with the huge lense and special features, and ask my cousin to show me how to use it. But here's the thing: is a decent camera all it takes? There are so many people calling themselves photographers these days. Most of the people I follow on Instagram post gorgeous, HD photos that I, even with my posh new camera phone, envy. I used to see the transition in people from amateur to professional. Now I see amazing photography everywhere, all it seems to take is the money to buy an expensive camera (or camera phone).

My own Instagram photos aren't that special, and the ability to take selfies seems to have eluded me since I turned twenty (perhaps I just need more make up and better lighting...?), but my "tourist photos", as I call them, have certainly improved. My host was pretty impressed. So, by the sound of it, was her photographer husband.

Perhaps it's social media, making it acceptable, even expected, for us to take photos of every single thing we do or see or buy. Perhaps it's the fact that digital cameras have given us the ability to take pictures of trivial and meaningless things without costing the earth. We've all been given the chance to hone our photography skills. This is a massive leap in the documentary of daily lives, but I wonder, where does that leave our talented, traditional photographers?

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