I am not a photographer. That was my go-to response when asked about my "success" as a photographer on Instagram. How could I be? I am just a guy with an iPhone who likes taking pictures.
My father was an avid photographer, he had the coolest cameras, lenses, heck he even had a fancy bag just for all his gear. I was pretty sure he was professional, but he wasn't. My closest friend, went to school for 4 years to study photography. He worked for years as a fashion photographer and now is responsible for every product shot for one of the biggest outdoor retailers in Canada. In my mind he's a professional photographer, I am no where near that.
While I still don't really feel like I deserve the title of photographer, I am warming up to the idea. I plan my weekends around taking photos in places near Vancouver I haven’t been, I take photo-centric vacations driving the route with the most exciting viewpoints, I certainly take a lot of pictures and people are very supportive of my work. I have been mentioned in some pretty big publications as someone to follow if one is interested in photography, so why not adopt the title and try to live up to my own expectations of what that means.
The transition from being a 100% mobile photographer, to purchasing my first "fancy" camera took over 2 years which is honestly a lot longer than it probably should have. I finally made the jump late last year and have been bringing my fancy camera along with me on photo adventures and slowly learning the craft and working on getting to the point where I feel as comfortable shooting with it as I do with my iPhone. Aperture, ISO and bracketing are now things I consider, where as before I concentrated mostly on composition and let the software do the rest. This is both exciting and frustrating, but I love the process and have embraced it fully.
Trust me, I grasp just how backwards learning the craft after the fact sounds, especially since I am now getting paid regularly for my photography, but that is the position I find myself in, and I know I'm not alone. One of my first gigs specifically asked for DSLR images to use for their blog, as well as mobile shots posted to their Instagram. Companies are clamouring to work with people like me, this new breed of social media advertising that is Instagram, and they expecting quality for their investment.
Being a commercial photographer is not my goal, nor will it ever will be. I don't have the training, or the experience to compete with established professionals. I believe I am part of a photography movement that is based on capturing experiences, experiences from a viewpoint of someone that isn’t a traditional commercial or editorial photographer. Clients aren't providing me with a set shot list, but rather giving me the freedom to capture the moments as I see them from behind my lens, both mobile and DSLR. I see value in the ability to offer a client both tools to suit their needs, access to my audience and vision through my mobile device, as well as the more versatile, larger image size of my DSLR work.
Seeing this value is partially what led me to purchasing my first camera and is currently a target goal for all my future work. The struggle up to this point hasn’t been creating the content, only learning to treat opportunities professionally and how to value the time and effort that I put into image creation thus ensuring that my clients also value the unique perspective that I can offer them.
So where does that leave me in a world that loves its titles. If I had a business card would it say commercial photographer? Fashion photographer? Editorial photographer? I don't feel I fit into any of those categories. How about photographer, maybe I do like the sound of that.