Are You a Photographer?

Are You a Photographer?

It’s too easy to think about how photography has been democratized and how anyone today with a camera can call themselves a photographer. It’s an excuse in fact.

You’re currently reading Fstoppers, it’s a community-based publication that photographers visit regularly to stay updated with the latest tech, methods, and advice. But, it can also create anxiety.

Most of the photos published are of a very high quality and standard, taken by photographers who’ve spent their ten thousand hours working on improving their craft. Looking through someone else’s portfolio is one thing, but being drowned out by hundreds of people’s great work you might think of as better as yours can be demotivating and cause anxiety. So, how do you snap out of it? How do you get yourself up there where you want to be psychologically to go out and be your best photographer self?

I can classify good photographers to have three main characteristics, and it might not be the only ones, but it’s what I think differentiates us from people who aren’t as passionate about the art form as we are, even when they might have the latest gear, drones, state of the art lenses, or travel a lot.

Our family house I shot a couple of years ago when I was very interested in shooting architecture. I would shoot it much different today if I had the opportunity, but it was an experience of learning and pursuing what I thought would be a great job to have.

1. You’re Constantly Working on How You Work with Others

It’s one thing to pack your camera to shoot your every day occurrences, but it’s quite another to plan a shoot, to pick up the phone to ask a friend or acquaintance whether you could do a test shoot, or knock on the door of the house you think is well designed to ask if they can give you permission to shoot it.

When calling on these people,you could use excuses like wanting to try out a new lighting technique or lens, or that you want to try some close up portraits. It remains challenging for me personally, and it's something that's held me back in the past. But, in the end it’s all done for you to build your portfolio and to find the photography niche you feel speaks to you in some way when you’re first starting out. If there’s one thing I'd love to tell my younger self it would be to start making contact. Stylists, make up artists, models, architects, industrial designers, musicians, and artists are all in need of good images. It magical match if you can let them understand that what you’re pitching is something you'd love or would love doing, and will learn from.

2. You Like Solving Problems

Being able to thinks on your feet when the sun is too harsh when you don’t have someone to hold up a scrim is an acquired skill and comes with time. When a model arrives and you can sense he or she’s nervous and being able to make them feel comfortable without making it obvious will make a noticeable difference in your images. Receiving an email from a client asking you to remove the tree in the background and not knowing yet how to do it but being eager to learn and do it well is a skill that will take you much further than just your skills in photography. Become the guy who knows how to do or solve it. The "it" being whatever you want it to be. It’s your way of carving out your niche once again.

3. You Know How and When to Focus

Photography is not a nine to five job. The chances of you being employed as a photographer at a company one day is not the most common route for most. No boss is going to tell you to get to work, or to edit or to follow up on a lead for a job. It’s all in your hands, and therefore if you want to take your photography seriously, you’ll need to learn to focus. Sometimes your editing will take you through the night where other days will be for you and your family or loved ones to go hiking. It’s self discipline that will be the answer to your business success.


Maybe you don’t see yourself as having any of these characteristics, and that doesn’t mean you’re not or can’t be or see yourself as a photographer. It’s an opinion that I think will make the route to becoming a self-employed photographer easier to achieve.

What skills do you think we as photographers should have in our line of work? Did I miss anything? Let us know in the comments.

Wouter du Toit's picture

Wouter is a portrait and street photographer based in Paris, France. He's originally from Cape Town, South Africa. He does image retouching for clients in the beauty and fashion industry and enjoys how technology makes new ways of photography possible.

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Anyone who photographs is a photographer. Its very easy !!
Ansel Adams said “ Being a Photographer is Knowing Where to Stand “ . He could have added a few other things but he finished his wine then fall on the floor drunk as a skunk.
Cell Phone to Large Format .. Digital to Film .. They are all good.
Have a V 8 !!
Get Over It !!

LOL! I have my good days. Then there are those, "WTH were you thinking" days. Am I a photographer? After I'm gone, I'll leave that up to the viewers.

That's what I tell people when they say, "I like your art." :-) I tell them I'm a photographer and I use a camera because I have a hard time drawing a good stick figure. ;-)

I have a camera, I take pictures with it, therefore I'm a photographer.

A camera is a tool, it controls light around the subject. A tool just like a multi speed drill. To know ones camera as an extention of ones hand is the way to capture that light. Know the cameras capibilities and how your eye and your light painting tool work together with all the settings and functions and you will be on the road to being a photograher. Your vision and shutter finger work together.

I'm not trying to troll or be difficult here but I'm pretty sure that camera does not "control light around the subject". Camera can register the light around the subject. In fact all it does is registering light.

I'm not a player I just crush a lot

I've been taking pictures for decades and I'm sometime professional.
If you pick up a camera and look through a viewfinder and snap the shutter, you're a photographer. It's as simple as that.
I find that the new generation of cellphone photographers are sometimes surprisingly good. It's not too hard to figure out why. They grew up looking at photography, being effected by photography, and being constantly exposed to photography from some of the greatest photographers in the world. Day after day, images shape their outlook on life and the world. These young photographers are very sensitive to how a photography communicates and the photos that they take shows it.




so lacking in originality as to be obvious and boring.

Thanks for the demonstration! 😀

Did you think of that ever so droll response on your own?

That's the most disappointing comeback I've seen in a long time. As I look for the silver lining on your cloud, at least you're showing consistency in your offerings...

Maybe you can enlighten us with regard to how being a "photographer" makes you special and how your work matters.

You poor bastard.

At least that comment doesn't fit the description of "banal", unlike your first two comments. Whilst it certainly meets the "lacking in originality" and "boring" criteria, its irrelevance fails it in the "obvious" criteria.

So I'd count it as a slight improvement. Hope you continue on the upward trajectory... fingers crossed for your next offering...

All evidence would suggest you are not even a photographer. Clearly you were too obtuse to detect the slight.

As an aside, your attempts to insult me are more than a little dull.

However, I wished to test my previous inference that you are just a poor insecure bastard, whose only contribution to this site is a string of desperate attempts at self-validation at the expense of others; so, I see that you have no photos, no "about", and over 90% of your comments are attacking other people. You really are pathetic.

All three points strongly apply to professional photographers and it feels like the author of this write up is trying to convince us that only the professionals can be called photographers. Other folks who take pictures, even thousands of them and for many years are merely wanabees. Im sorry but that's what I'm reading in between the lines.

I created an account just so I could comment on this. No, not everyone is a photographer. That's like saying because I cook at home, I'm a chef, or because I drive a car, I'm a racecar driver, or my favorite, anyone can do business analysis (can you guess my day job? And yes, people have said that to me.). I can give so many more examples, but you get the point.

The camera is the tool, and yes, everyone these days can use it. That doesn't make them a photographer. Being a photographer means that you have learned (or are learning) what it takes to make a quality picture, you make an effort to get out there and practice the craft, and you hone it (10,000 hrs???), and you take that picture with purpose, meaning and intent so that the next person who may see it feels an emotional response. Yes, some people know how to take a good random picture(s), but that still doesn't make them a photographer.

When I use my cell phone to capture a family moment while we're playing around, I'm not a photographer. When I use my cell phone (or my DSLR) and position the camera, consider the light and composition, make adjustments, and then take a picture, I'm a photographer.

I once called over the radio while descending off-road through a steep canyon to ask if another driver's dad, who was riding with him, could drive my stick shift Jeep so I could video the descent from outside. All I got back was laughter. I asked what that was about. "My dad is a race car driver; of course he can drive a stick." I learned a couple days later, he's also a two-time winner at the 24 Hours of Daytona.

Personally, I'm always hesitant to call myself a photographer. I take it most seriously, and certainly for a long time now--over a half century. But, I'm retired and prefer to describe myself that way. I find that photography has led me to something I enjoy just as much: Storytelling. Which shouldn't bring into question the veracity of the race car driver story. It is one hundred percent true.

For my next trick, I guess I'll not recognize some great photographer and question their credentials to capture a difficult shot. ;-)

I guess the act of pushing the buttons on time machines that captures light and stops time from the looking glass be it by anologe or digital make shift box is a photographer. But there are two types of photographers one that makes money and one that doesn’t. Both in factual since practice over and over to perfect ones artistic style.