“I am an Amateur Photographer.”
“I am just an Amateur Photographer with an expensive camera.”
While those sentences may sound strange to read on this blog, they are the very thoughts that have gone through my mind when talking to people about my photography. So much so, I made it very clear in my Instagram bio that I considered myself an amateur photographer. Here is the proof 🙂
Following on from the ‘relative’ success of my recent “pride” blog post and Instagram shot, my sister took exception that very word in my bio…. ‘Amateur‘. She, perhaps rightly, questioned whether I could claim to be an amateur. After lots of discussion (arguing) I decided to pay heed and I removed the offending word from my bio. the conversation got me thinking, when do you move from a gifted amateur to experienced photographer, and then on to a full ‘professional photographer’?
I’ll be honest and say that this question has been on my mind for some time now. So too has the question of where I might go next. I can say with certainty that I want to make photography and ‘creativity’ more of a central part of my professional future and yet, while I know that’s 100% what I want, I’ve always been wary of saying that out loud. Instead, those persistent fears of ‘I am not good enough‘ creep in, and when they did, I drew comfort from holding on to that ‘amateur’ title in my bio.
Looking back, I am glad to say that my little sister won the argument and I that I can now simply say I’m a photographer, neither amateur nor professional. But what does it mean to be professional and when can I call myself a professional photographer?
Is it when I sell a picture? (done that!) Is it when a photo wins an award? (done that! My insta-friends will relish me using this reference). Is it when my picture is published? (done that too). Or is it simply when you can earn a living from it?
With almost perfect timing, I happened to be reading an article about ‘Vertorama’ photos (blog post on the way about that!) and I accidentally came across a YouTube video on an account known as ‘Professional Photography Tips‘ (theres that word again!). The video is present by an American photographer known as Joshua Cripps. In it, he departs certain ‘life lessons’ he has picked up throughout his time as a professional photographer.
While the video itself is shot quite strangely and the music has more of a home in a pornography video than a photography one, it was worth a watch. I will put the video itself below you can watch it for yourself, but with all these questions on my mind, some of the messages in the video just made me stop and think. Here some of the particular quotes from it resonated with me.
“Go Big or Go Home – Whatever you are doing, do it as well and as completely as you possibly can. In short – do it right. If its something that represents you personally or professionally then don’t half ass it and don’t quit if you know it can be done better.”
“Why not just settle for ‘Good Enough?’. The reason is when you care enough about something to do it right, to try as hard as you possibly can to make it, not just good enough, but well and truly good, thats when you push your own limits.”
“I had visions for shots that I wanted but it might be difficult or uncomfortable or expensive to pull off. I told myself when I am a professional, THEN I will get that shot. When I am a professional, THEN I will stand in that freezing cold stream to get that composition I really want. When I am a professional I will start hiking at 3 am to get to the top of that mountain by sunrise. When I am a professional, THEN I’ll pay for that helicopter to fly me around the top of the glacier at sunset. For now, I’ll settle for where I’m standing. After all, its good enough.”
“It took a few years but ultimately I realised I had that sentiment backwards. Its not as if someone bestows upon you the title of professional photographer and all of a sudden you are endowed with magical abilities to scale mountains and stand in icy streams… rather its the opposite. Its your commitment to your craft, that’s what makes you a professional. Its your dedication to the image…. its your drive to get up early to get the shot you want…. its your willingness to go the extra mile to get that shot, that’s what makes you professional. “
You have to admit that his comments make sense, and they certainly resonated with me. I stopped, and looked over my Instragram feed and realised that, if I was honest with myself, I hadn’t pushed myself. My shots were good enough, but not well and truly GOOD! I simply wasn’t pushing myself as hard or as far as I could, and it was a wake up call.
I now believe that those persistent fears of ‘I am not good enough‘ were born out of knowing that I hadn’t pushed myself for those truly ‘great’ shots and as a result I clung onto, and drew comfort from, that ‘amateur’ title in my bio.
I can now say that I am not an amateur photographer.
I can also now say with certainty that IF I want to make photography and ‘creativity’ more of a central part of my professional future then it’s time for me to “GO BIG or go home“.
Watch this space.
Here is Joshua Cripps Video: