Ok so i’m aware its 2019 and you have to be very politically correct in what you say and there are people getting offended if their dog looks at them sideways however this is an interesting topic and one i have wanted to discuss for a long time. So here we go.
I’ll start with the question at hand: Can anyone be a photographer? Well, can they? Anyone can watch youtube tutorials yes? purchase some expensive camera gear and head somewhere to shoot, replicating what they saw in the video online and produce an image, agreed?
In short: Yes. Long answer: Eh, it ain’t that easy. I think it depends on what you define as a ‘photographer’. Is that the professional guy selling prints, doing workshops and tutorials online? (in a landscape scenario) or is it the guy who got a camera for Christmas and is just starting out?
So photography has become a sensation in recent years and it is fantastic. Great to see people embracing the landscape and enjoying themselves with camera in hand. There are millions of images posted online in places where people can reach them, interact with them ,study them and more than likely replicate them. And that is important! Of course you need to get inspiration from somewhere and see how others are doing it, possibly note the location and head there yourself to see what you can capture. That is all part and parcel of it (at the beginning of your photography journey of course, eventually you need to develop your own style and stop replicating everyone else, sorry if that is blunt but it’s the truth). But ask yourself this: What if there were no images online? and the only shots you saw were framed in a gallery. Would there be as many photographers?
I believe that there are so many people taking up photography now that it is becoming harder and harder to find that true raw talent. What i mean by raw talent is someone who can spot a composition and who can visualise a shot using that composition in conditions that are not anywhere near present at the time of visiting the location. Raw talent involves scouting, planning and capturing a different perspective in places that are heavily photographed. Raw talent is a deep understanding of how light can dramatically alter a scene and knowing what composition would look right depending on the conditions present at the time of shooting. Creativity is paramount. Don’t light the pitch forks yet, i have copied other compositions, i have replicated images and captured the same perspective of a scene that everyone else has but that was me learning and developing my own style and exploring my ability as a photographer in the beginning, which i do recommend. It helps with confidence and you learn a lot.
Many of of you will be familiar with the term “rote learning” or maybe not but i am a teacher so i have heard it a lot. I suspect you would have done it for an exam where you learn off paragraphs of text word for word, pray that the question comes up and if it does happy days spew it all out on the page during the exam word for word. Yes you may get on well but there is no understanding going on, you have simply learned it off by heart. The same can be applied to photography, someone can apply the principles of photography to achieve a desired look but they may not understand why the image is turning out that way, that is the difference between raw talent and someone with a camera taking an image. But that does not mean you cannot learn and understand, of course you can and there has never been as many resources available for you to do so!! (did i mention i have a youtube channel too? ;-) Ok that was cheeky, i apologise.)
A small part of me does think, however, that some people are just born with a natural talent and an eye for images that cannot be learned.
As a good friend of mine Mark O’ Brien said:
“you can teach anyone to drive a car but not everyone will become senna” powerful stuff and he’s a kerryman, i did not think kerry people had that insight!!
So if you have gotten this far and you are a photographer, you love to capture images in whatever genre then i encourage you: Learn to understand and explore your own unique style. It will be much more rewarding.
I hope to have provoked some thoughts, let me know what you think!