How Come...

Updated on December 07, 2011
R.D. asks from Richmond, VA
39 answers

...every person who owns a decent camera thinks they're a photographer?

Maybe I'm a little biased because my FIL is a world renowned photographer, but it is starting to get under my skin a little bit that everyone thinks that just because they have a good camera, they're a bona fide photographer.

Anyone can take a good picture with a good camera and editing software.

I take tons of pictures with my crappy, inexpensive camera... the shots that come out good, that's because I have an eye for it, not because my camera rocks. I still don't consider myself a photographer.

Does anyone else see the fine line between the talent that is true photography and just a normal person with a decent camera?

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So What Happened?

For the 2 ladies who said 'who cares', I care because it's a profession, it requires talent, it's not a learned trait. Trust me, I didn't think anything of it either until my FIL taught me a thing or two about the difference. I guess those who say 'who cares' just don't know themselves...

Does anyone remember when they had dark rooms, you actually had to develop your own photos, no editing, all that jazz? It takes TALENT.

Anyone can photoshop the heck out of a picture and make it look good, the talent lies within the knowledge of taking the shot on the first try and that's it, there's your photo...

ETA: had to giggle at some of the responses thinking I've got some underlying issue here... no, really, it's that simple and black and white, it drives me nuts when everyone with a camera thinks they're a photographer. And HUGE LOL @ whoever asked if FIL was hurting for work... the man's 70 and 'professionally retired' when he was induced into the VCU Visual Arts hall of fame...

Some people are just taking this the wrong way. I love looking at pictures, whether they're awesome or not; regardless, they tell a story. But when someone 'claims' to be a photographer and they're not... it just irks me. Can they compare to someone who's been hired by the US Army or by National Geopgraphic? Uh, no. There's the pros, and there are the amateurs.

Like one mom said, I can throw a baseball, but I'm not a baseball player ;)

Featured Answers


answers from Kalamazoo on

It's not because I have a decent's because MY kids are the MOST beautiful in the WORLD!!!!!!!


just messin with you.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Lakeland on

I guess since nowadays the computers do all the work. I took photography in HS and yes back then you did all the work. I prefer black and white photos, I always thought they came out nicer.
My uncle is a retired photographer he was one of a few that was certified in the state of NJ. (This is going back many years). It is a talent that not many have.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Utica on

I consider myself a lucky and fortunate 'photographer' because I have the best and most beautiful baby girl to photograph all the time. Its not hard to get an awesome shot of someone who is so damn adorable =)
But in all honesty, no I am not a photographer and I dont have an overly expensive camera. I do love snapping photos of my family though and I think just having the general knowledge of the camera that you are using and paying attention to lighting in the room and what not really helps to get that 'perfect' shot

1 mom found this helpful

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answers from San Francisco on

My FIL was a professional chef. He worked for over forty years at some of the best hotels and restaurants in San Francisco.
I know plenty of people who think they are excellent cooks, even though they are really just average.
Doesn't bother me at all.
Honestly why DO you care? So what if someone thinks they are a better photographer than they are? People are self deluded about all kinds of things, I wouldn't waste my precious energy thinking about it.
Sounds like you may be irked at someone in particular ;)

11 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

After reading your follow-up, I still don't understand why you have a bug up your butt about this. Is your FIL hurting for work?

Oh, and here are some pats on your back for knowing the difference. I wouldn't want you to break your arm self-congratulating your abilities.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

I am an artist. but I do not think saying I am better because I have the right pencils or paper, would be a fair statement, because I use inexpensive stuff when I do my work(and it still comes out in a professional quality)....I can not afford the nice stuff, and I DO this for a living.

I encourage anyone with any type of pencils or paper to still attempt. Professional or not, that is where some of the best work comes from...People who do not know what they are doing. EVEN if they are doing it with the expensive stuff.

Can you be a Photographer without having it be your Profession, yes. If you own a camera, can take matter how they come out...You can still say you are a Photographer. Cause you are taking the photos. It would only be a false advertisement if that person was saying they were a professional and trying to sell themselves that way. In any other case, I guess what does it matter?? Cause it should be on the person getting the photos done and the person taking them, to have that relationship worked out.

I know alot of people that have nice camera's and Take OK photos. I still encourage them to keep shooting, cause every once in a while, there is a shot that turns out great.

My best friend, Bother in Law and cousin are three people with $500 plus camera set ups. None of them are pro's, you can tell in a lot of their work. My cousin has shot some photo's though that could be in a coffee table picture book.

The line is drawn when they start selling their talents as a Professional. Without actually having the credentials....Again though, I am an artist and I do not think there are too many credentials outside of just practicing the art until you have gotten really good at it.

I never went to College(other then 3 years in high school, Advanced Placement art) to get the title Children's book illustrator, I just doodled my way into meeting the right person. Who saw a talent in me and thought it was worth taking a risk. Had I not done those doodles and kept my talent in my head....I may not have had the chance to call my self an artist.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

In the scheme of life, why does this even matter.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

I get it.
Kind of like how everyone that has some Hallmark page layout software is suddenly a "graphic designer"! Same thing.
I have supervised photography departments, which employed professionally trained photographers since the days of developing film in-house--we always shot 4x5 negs and trust me, there IS a difference.
Sure, the average person can take a pic of their kid, layout and print out a Christmas card, but it's NOT "professional" photography by any stretch.
Nor is the half-hearted layout of newsletters, websites, flyers or brochures "designed" by wannabee designers. It's an art AND a science.
ETA: And to the trained eye--there IS such a thing as TOO MUCH Photoshop. Less is more. Also a rare talent that Joe Schmoe lacks! LOL

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answers from St. Louis on

I take a million pictures and a handful are great! Okay but my camera actually makes things look good, I have no idea how it does it but it does and I love the camera for it!!

I am definitely not a normal person with a decent camera!!! I think I have proven time and time again I am not normal!

:) Love ya!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Lake Charles on

Who cares? My husband has an okay camera and no editing software and he takes amazing pictures, he doesn't care what other people claim to be, and he refuses to call himself a photographer but doesn't hate on anyone that does and really shouldn't be calling themselves one. Live and let live, you know?

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

Who are you to judge some ones artistic intent? Just because you are related to a renowned photographer does not mean that you have a right to judge people who buy a good camera and editing software and assume that they are less talented then some one who buys a disposable camera and captures a great shot. If a person has a passion for and enjoys photography then in my opinion they are a photographer. There are many painters out there who will never have their names known, but they go out and buy canvas and paint...they are still creating art. Anything can be made into a profession...

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Iowa City on

If a person take pictures with a camera they are a photographer. Whether they are professional or amateur really comes down to whether they are paid for their work, not whether they have talent. Having said that, if you are elevating photography to an art form, then it is entirely subjective as to who has talent and who does not and thus who is a 'photographer' and who just has a good camera.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

I totally know what you're saying!!

It's kind of a running joke with me - every person I know who has bought a DSLR camera seems to try to launch a photography business & thinks they are better than they really are. Just because you buy a fancy gadget with lots of bells & whistles does not give you the talent to take a beautiful photo.

I do have one friend who uses an older style camera & she takes amazing photos, and I think she'd be able to take a good photo with the crappiest camera on the face of the planet, because she has the natural talent to do so.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Technically speaking, anybody who takes photos is a photographer, but they don't necessarily need to be a professional one. I fully appreciate that sometimes I just get lucky and take awesome photos. But unless someone is trying to sell me their product (photos) I don't care if it's dumb luck or an eye for composition. You've said before that you don't like how your FIL does family photos, so everyone has their talents and challenges. If you find yourself being critical of someone, maybe step back and ask why and if it really matters?

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Charleston on

Couldn't agree with you more! I think it's ridiculous that every Tom & Jane that own a Nikon Rebel think they can open a photography business. Most don't even have an education in photography or have never been taught or been a photography apprentice. I'm not saying that a select few don't have the natural eye and talent for it, but sadly the majority don't.

My husband is a graphic designer/art director and it kills him when clients come in and want their project to be this awesome creation, but only want to pay like $50 bucks. Or when they want photography in their project, but don't want to pay more than a couple of dollars for true, professional photography. They say, "oh so & so has a nice camera, we'll get him to take a picture for free." His mantra now is - if you want cheesy, cheap design, Kinko's is located on the corner of King and Coming Streets...You'll get what you pay for. ;)

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Hartford on

I've been an artist since I could pick up a crayon. I studied art as my major and minor in high school and I majored in painting in college. I am an artist in every sense of the word. I'm not world renowned. But I am educated and I have the materials and knowledge and skill. I have the natural skill as well as the learned skill. I guess I'm lucky.

But I would never begrudge someone for calling themselves a painter for picking up a brush, creating their own personal masterpiece, just because they may have only recently come into painting (or ceramics or any other artistry) and they haven't the official education for it. That seems so petty to me.

Practice makes perfect. And if it's fun for someone and someone else is willing to pay them for it, well, yay for living in a society that promotes free trade and capitalism.

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answers from Tampa on

LOL. I really DO get this. I have done photography for YEARS. (actually worked as a photographer, in a studio, and used to have to develop my own film, etc) I prefer not to do it anymore since so many people are calling themselves photographers now. One big difference I see is this................ a "real or good" photographger can capture a moment and get a great shot with ANY camera, even a crappy disposeable one. Yes, the expensive lenses, lighting, etc is a big help, but it's the eye, angle, and a bunch of other factors that really make it in the end.

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answers from Santa Barbara on

My mother is a sculptor and a painter...has absolute innate abilities although she did go to college and get a masters in fine arts to fine tune her skills, grow with colleagues and give her the ability to teach at a university. It is absolutely a profession AND can be learned (improved upon) as well, much like photography. She had students that were so afraid and didn't know they had talent or loved making art and she was able to bring this out in them.

Technology has certainly improved in all areas of life and what people consider beautiful or desirable is a personal decision. As far as developing pictures ourselves, I did that a long time ago but I have zero talent and no eye for it....but I'm old(er)!

I have to maintain that all professions can be improved upon by learning and growing, although you are doesn't make everybody a photographer. It's just technology, don't let it bug you. Heck, you even wanted to go to Sears the other day :)

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Salinas on

Strange question, it does sound a little like you are mad at a particular person. Maybe you've been listening to your FIL too much. The photography business has changed dramatically in the last few decades and older photographers are sorta bitter about it.
My husband has an expensive camera and a great eye. He takes some really good pictures. I on the other hand I can use the same expensive camera he does and I'm lucky not to cut off someone's head. He has taken a few classes back in the darkroom days, we both appreciate great photography, go to galleries and museums, we even own a couple original Weston's and lots of coffee table photo books. I think he is very talented and others must too as he gets tons of compliments and yes, people actually pay him to take photos.
So is the fact that he does this with a digital camera what bothers you? I bet that's what bothers your FIL. Technology just levelled the playing feild a little, you don't need a darkroom to produce really nice pictures anymore and while they may not be an Adams or a Weston they are much more professional looking than the pics in my families old albums. Why does that make you mad?

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answers from La Crosse on

It goes along with any other profession....

I can put a band-aid on my kids and use super glue to seal a cut. I know when they have ear infection or strep throat, the stomach flu, a bug.. what ever... but Im not a Dr.

I can make amzing food! But Im not a chef ( although I do cook for a bar and grill)

I can make awesome cakes! Decorating and all ( I made and decorated both of my wedding cakes and had people say how beautiful they were and where I got them)... but Im not a baker.

Then flip it around....

My husband can draw the most AMAZING pictures!! He has even sold some of those to people who have asked for certian things. IMO ( and many others!!) he is a very talented and amazing artist!!

My husband also has and an amazing voice and taught himself to play the guitar. He has opened for famous bands before. He plays in clubs now in a band and draws a large crowd. IMO ( as well as others) he is a talented musician!

In his opinion... those are his hobbies, things he loves to do. But he doesn't think that even with his success he is an artist or musician. He is Cody. That's it.

What it boils down to is... its all in the eye of the beholder!

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answers from Pittsburgh on


I have a nice camera that I sold items on ebay until I had enough money to buy it for myself. A treat for me. I love to take photos. And I love to edit them. And I love to look at what I've done. But I'm NOT a photographer.

People (obviously not photographers, just lay people who really know nothing about photography) will tell me that I should 'become a photographer' and I laugh, and think to myself, 'sure, just like every other person with a decent camera, and free photo editing software you don't even have to download to use!'

I like my photos. That's what's important to me. And I enjoy photographing my son, and soon to be, my children, and I'm glad that I can take what I feel are really nice, pseudo-professional looking photos for ME. Would I put them up to a 'real' photographers photos? Heck no. Would I put them up against the 1 million and counting pseudo-professionals' photos? Heck yes. But again, that doesn't make me a photographer.

I totally feel ya. And I find it annoying, too. If I had a dime for every person I know who got a nice camera and called herself a professional...

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answers from New York on

Hahahaha!! Most people suck at photography. I can take a good pic but it's one of 100 ok ones. Pure luck!

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answers from Washington DC on

ooh no!! Not me!!! I don't care that I have a good camera - I know my pics are for ebay!! :) Don't put people in front of my camera - I take pics of THINGS...give me something to sell? YEPPERS!! Great!!

Give me trees, rooms, etc. I'm good. But people? Nope. I'm OKAY. As you see on my FB wall and albums - many of my people pics are humorous...that's about it...doing something - but definitely NOT perfect!!!

ETA: I DO know how to remove my film from a camera in a dark room and develop pictures...did that in high school and college...but I do NOT consider myself a "photographer".

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answers from Cleveland on

I totally see it!
My dad is a photographer too.
I was taught at a young age how to do it, took classes etc, And I happen to have an eye for it too.
No matter what camera I have.
I know a lot of people that take pictures, claiming to be a photographer and all I see are a bunch of mistakes lol
Then again, I am the same way with Tattoos. I design them, Was on my way to being a tattoo artist. (darn kids hehe) and grew up around some of the GREATEST out there.
So whenever I see other peoples tattoos I am overly critical. I can't help it lol

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answers from Phoenix on

I own a decent camera because I like to take pictures, not because I think I'm a photographer...just sayin'!

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answers from Washington DC on

I am the best photographer there is :). For my kiddo's. I don't take pictures for other people and don't honestly call myself a photographer.

I have a good camera and my shots are a lot better than they used to be, thank you Nikon.

I think once people take a few good shots and people tell them they are good, they start a business! Ugh! Annoying...but I just don't use them :).

I want to take classes and learn to use the software, but still just for my personal little family...not for the whole world to see.

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answers from Kansas City on

As someone who spent hours with my grandfather in his darkroom, developing film, after film and getting just a few good shots out of hours of hard work. I see what you're saying. I love to think I can take great shots, with my camera(s), I love photgraphing. Do I call myself a photographer...HA NO WAY! I am no where near as talented as my grandfather was. But he would not have called himself a photographer either. We do it for fun.

I believe a camera can help you take better pictures, I believe classes can help you take better photos, but I believe mostly in the fact that you have to have an eye for the shot.

I can throw a mean fast ball...but I'm not a professional baseball player!

I think it's great when people can turn their hobbies/talents into a profession.

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answers from Harrisburg on

LOL I know, RIGHT?!

Ok, I only laugh at this because I have a few friends who are actual photographers (some for business, some for themselves, others for fun) and this is only because I used to work in a photo center and developed their photos.

While working there I also learned about many cameras as I had to sell them. I was amazed at how much people 'knew' about everything related to photography.

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answers from Medford on

I gave my grand daughter some Motrin last night and her fever came down. But Im not a Dr.
I made spaghetti last night that was delicious.
But Im not a chef.
I built a planter box from wood once and flowers actually grew in it.
But Im not a carpenter.
I drove over the speed limit a few times.
But Im not a professional race car driver.
I have taken a lot of gorgeous pictures that were worth framing.
But Im not a photographer.
My dad was a photographer and a darn good one. As a High School student he took every photograph that went into his schools year book, from senior portraits to sports shots. I love taking pictures but I certainly dont have the eye for it like he did and would never call myself a photographer. I remember his stories about dark rooms and knew people who had them and knew what they were doing. I barely know how to turn on my digital camera. But I still love taking pictures. And I do get lucky now and then and one in 100 will turn out wonderful! I agree with you R., not everyone who can push the button and capture something on their camera is a photographer. They are just people who take pictures. Usually lousy ones at that,,lol

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answers from Houston on

I'm curious as to whom you are referring. I've never heard anyone say "I'm a photographer" who didn't do it for a living. Did that mean they were good at it? Not necessarily, but that's how they earned their living, so, that makes them "a photographer."

I do know people who go out and purchase expensive equipment and say their hobby is photography, but I've never heard anyone claim to "be a photographer" unless that's how they earned their living.

Oh, and by the way, it also takes TALENT and an eye for it to do the digital editing... don't diminish that in your frustration over amatuers calling themselves photographers.

It doesn't actually take talent to make someone a photographer or a baseball player or anything else - it just takes dedication and the balls to make that your full time job where you earn the majority of your income. There are plenty of so-so baseball players in the minors who would never dream of doing anything else. Would you say they're not baseball players because they'll never be inducted into the hall of fame?

I think you are a bit more than "a bit biased."

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answers from Detroit on

It's ridiculous. Like with any profession or trade, there is a great deal that goes into learning and, eventually, mastering it. The people who I feel most sorry for are those who buy these pics and don't realize it has broken neck syndrome, etc. However, it's the choice they made to buy from an amatuer. I'm assuming this is a fad that will pass. After all, people will realize it takes real work to successfully run a business and create a decent income from it.

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answers from Providence on

I am told that I have a good eye, and good composition. I agree it doesn't matter what camera you use. I miss having my manual camera. It retired about two years ago. I miss film and developing too. It's too easy these days. I always liked the anticipation of waiting to see what my picture looked like. Now I know within seconds!

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answers from Minneapolis on

I can't even take good point and shoot pics. It doesn't matter if I use my daughters spendier camera with all the fancy lenses or not. Poor kid..this means I barely have pictures of her as a kid!

I did manage to get some decent outdoor snowmobiling action shots in the mountains with pals over the years....purely by accident but I went with it! LOL

My daughter, on the other hand...she has that eye you speak of. She can take a picture of the snowy black chain link fence line and its pure art with whats in focus and whats not, or a close up profile shot of our bratty kitty cat. She just sees things differently. She uses no software, no auto focus, etc. Just looks, diddles with the focus, moves around and shoots. Then moves on. She rarely takes a second shot even. Its the overall artist in her I assume. I envy it! And to her its just the way it is, no biggie. She shoots when she feels like it (which is rarely as shes so busy..and lazy the rest of the time...HA!)

We got her the nicer camera several years ago (a digital SLR..I forget what kind but for a preteen at the time it was about a grand+ all together)...but the reason really was for documenting her art work for portfolio purposes. Then she started messing around with it in the back yard, etc and looking at things from unusual angles and things. I think she prefers to NOT take pictures of people....LOL!

So I truly believe in the "eye".

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answers from Norfolk on

Can a no talent bum with lousy equipment get lucky once in awhile?
There are some amazing amateur photos out there and it was due to random luck, being at the right place at the right time.
My husband took photography as an elective in college.
They told him you have to be willing to burn film (take lots and lots and lots of pictures) and a few will turn out perfect.
As you progress with the hobby, you learn a bit about composition, lighting, etc and you can get better shots while wasting a bit less film.
Film is getting harder to find - digital is taking over slowly but surely, but burning disk space amounts to the same thing.
(Have you actually used Photoshop for anything? It's not an easy tool to use. I prefer Paint Shop Pro myself.)
Taking a picture / creating a picture - both can involve a whole lot of talent and a whole lot of work.
Pixar and other animation studios - MAN - the things they do to render hair / fur - it's absolutely AMAZING!
Now, are all professional photographers talented?
Sorry - I don't think so.
Some are truly gifted but others are just hacks who are paying their bills.
Talent without the drive to use it and apply it amounts to nothing.
I think expensive equipment/cameras/lenses can help make the most of more opportunities to get a good picture, but you've got to learn how to use the tools of the trade.
No one is born knowing how to be a good carpenter.
It takes time, training, and a lot of hard work to get good with your tools and materials you work with.
A photographer is no different.
(And some would say photography is too easy / too much a short cut - if you're not willing to paint like Rembrandt or Da Vinci or Michael Angelo, why bother? :-) )

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answers from Allentown on

R., I am with you. Similar peeve -- just because you know how to do fancy tricks on a computer, doesn't mean you are a designer. You can buy equipment but you can't buy good taste. Unfortunately not everyone recognizes or cares about good taste anyway:(


R., I am with you. Similar peeve -- just because you know how to do fancy tricks on a computer, doesn't mean you are a designer. You can buy equipment but you can't buy good taste. Unfortunately not everyone recognizes or cares about good taste anyway:(


answers from Asheville on

I am a photographer. Plain and simple. I was trained. College, Art degree, specializing in photography and ceramics (pottery for those that think ceramics is the painting of those premade white things my grandma did)
I learned on a manual Pentax K1000, developed my B&W film, enlarged my prints on an enlarger in the darkroom, dodged and burned where necessary, then started taking color slides, developing them, printing pictures etc. Even worked as the darkroom assistant for two semesters. I am a photographer, but not a working one, and have no idea how to photoshop, etc.
I work as a public school art teacher/specialist. I had the 'eye' for it, but if you don't use it, you loose it and have to work to get it back.
I agree with most of what you say. It does bother me when someone calls themselves a photographer just because they have a fancy automatic camera. I do like my digital camera for snapshots of my childrens birthdays and such, but my old metal body manual will always hold a special place in my heart, even if I can't afford to take 'real' pictures and have them developed. You just about have to find a specialty lab or be able to outfit your own darkroom anymore.



answers from Anchorage on

Honestly with todays equipment a novices can take photos just as well as a professional. Someone may have "an eye for it", but that is actually true of a ton of people, most of who did not go to school for photography. In the old days when you had to have real skill to even develop your shots it was a different game. I understand that some who went to school to earn the title "professional" are annoyed by the hobbyist photographer, but honestly if they can do just as well (many can) for less $$$, I am going with them.



answers from Cleveland on

I haven't really ran in to that. WIth the exception of my sister's ex said he would video our wedding because my cousin had an awesome video camera. He said he had done it so many times, and with this awesome camera it would be a snap.....

It SUCKS!!!! Half the footage there's no volume, it's shaky, and for our dance he had on night we are green!!!
Oh I guess I should add that the photographer we paid a couple grand for pretty much sucked too. I was really disappointed. ANd I viewd his work ahead of time, so it was a surprise.

So I guess just because you have a photography studio, you're not automatically a photographer either lol


answers from Erie on

I think it's strange that certain professions claim ownership of a "title" simply because some people get paid to do it and others don't. I've never been published by a major company, but I consider myself a poet and a writer. Phooey on you if you don't like it. An "amateur" is not necessarily someone without talent, it just means they don't get paid for it.
And yes, I remember dark rooms. And yes, some people have more talent than others. But to not want them to call themselves Photographer simply because they don't toe your line about it? And those of us who don't find this to be an important topic "just don't know themselves"? Really? Aren't there starving children in the world somewhere you should be feeding? lol.

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