Who gets to be a photographer?

A Finnish photographer (long-time pro) just wrote a blog entry on who gets to be a pro photographer. It’s an issue that has been discussed in blogs and books all over. In Finland there have even been some discussions on regulating the use of the title based on education like doctors’ and nurses’ titles are regulated. However, in this case a clear stance isn’t taken on who gets to call themselves a photographer or not – but some qualities that a professional photographer should have are discussed.

In a slightly opposite corner we then have David duChemin who would rather we all called ourselves photographers. As someone who has official training for the field in which he works in, I can certainly relate to the benefits of formal education when pursuing a profession. But at the same time, IT (and specifically web development) has seen so many great talents rise without any formal education that I can certainly see how formal education is no guarantee of skill or lack of it.

I agree with Matti Sulanto’s – and I presume most others – view that a professional should be able to cope with several different fields of photography and have the skills needed to produce consistent results. But just as in web development, the craft requires constant learning and challenging of oneself. When walking by most pro studio windows these days I’m appalled by the lack of creativity shown by the portraits that the photographers use to showcase their work and skills.

I don’t consider myself a pro photographer and probably never will. But I do consider myself a photographer and would like to do more work for pay in the field. But at the same time I have enough knowledge in my own strengths as a photographer that I won’t even try to take work that I don’t have the skills for.

This is a question that has no easy answer. I know my opinion – anyone should be able to call themselves a photographer and it is ultimately up to the client to decide what kind of photographer they want to use.

Maybe what is really needed – instead of the bickering who is and isn’t a photographer – is a guideline for prospective clients on what they should look for when evaluating photographers. But in the meantime clients have to go by portfolios, references, and blogs. In fact, looking at a photographers blog can be quite revealing…

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