It seems like now-a-days everyone is picking up a digital camera and calling themselves a “photographer.” Since I’ve gone full time and moved to Jacksonville, when people ask what I do and I say, “I’m a photographer” the word “photographer” just doesn’t seem to carry any weight anymore.
People have come to think of themselves as photographers because they take cute photos of flowers, their kids, or a landscape scene or they think because they enjoy taking pictures that they are photographers. But what does it really mean to be a photographer? Do people who enjoy painting from time to time call themselves painters? Do people who enjoy singing who sing everyday call themselves singers?
Out of curiosity, I went to Wikipedia. Wikipedia specifically defines a photographer with this: “A photographer, from the Greek φωτός, “light” and γράφω, “I write”, is a person who takes photographs using a camera. A professional photographer uses photography to earn money whilst amateur photographers take photographs for pleasure and to record an event, emotion, place, or person.” The problem is that we all know wikipedia is written and edited by the general public. I was extremely dissatisfied with this definition.
So I went to the United States Department of Labor website and found this.
Photographers produce and preserve images that paint a picture, tell a story, or record an event. To create commercial-quality photographs, photographers need technical expertise, creativity, and the appropriate professional equipment. Producing a successful picture requires choosing and presenting a subject to achieve a particular effect, and selecting the right cameras and other photographic enhancing tools. For example, photographers may enhance the subject’s appearance with natural or artificial light, shoot the subject from an interesting angle, draw attention to a particular aspect of the subject by blurring the background, or use various lenses to produce desired levels of detail at various distances from the subject.
The point here is to show that the general public views photographers as basically anyone who takes pictures while what it actually is is a profession, not a hobbyist title, just like a stenographer is a profession and not a hobby.
Now that our profession has been degraded to anyone with a camera, how to we fix that? Do we keep on fighting to be called photographers? Do we change the name of our profession so it carries some weight? I shouldn’t have to stick the word “professional” in front of my profession for people to understand that it isn’t a hobby.
I’d love to hear thoughts and suggestions as to what, as a professional industry, we can do to take our profession back. With digital cameras and photo manipulation software readily available to the general public, how do we take back our industry? With Uncle Bob’s and other amateurs calling themselves professionals, how do we go back to creating a reputation for our industry that portrays us as the professionals we are and not the amateurs we are not? Will we ever get back or has the cat been out of the bag for too long to save our profession?