What it Means to be a “Real” Photographer

Updated: Dec 31, 2019

Awhile back, someone was doing a photoshoot for Kayden and me, and the photographer said, “If someone doesn’t shoot manual, then I don’t think they are real photographers.” That statement has always bothered me. I don’t believe shooting on manual is necessary to being considered a real photographer. I think people tend to discredit themselves if they shoot on auto, when they shouldn’t. Regardless of what mode is being used, I think being a “real” photographer is about expression. What is it that you’re trying to express with your photos? What story are you trying to tell? What are you sacrificing?


Everyone wants people to understand them at a deeper level; to share the things important to them and to connect to others. Photography, or any art, is a reflection of who people are on the inside. Being vulnerable enough to show your inner self is never “unreal”- even if it the picture was taken on auto. A great artist is I am Jake.This is a great person to follow when you are looking for inspiration on unconventional lifestyles. His work is simple, often done with a GoPro, but it is expression in its realest form.


Photography is a wonderful way to tell a story, whether it’s your own or someone else’s. It doesn’t matter if the photography industry is considered over saturated, stories are worth documenting. Some of my heroes are the creators of The Orange Street News. This young girl and her sister began their photojournalism and publishing career at the age of eight! People told her she was too young to be running around the town taking pictures, filming and publishing. However, she is more successful than most adults. She doesn’t have fancy techniques, or equipment or experience; yet, her work is insightful, unbiased and truthful. She is the definitely what I would consider a “real” photographer.


Photography is about sacrificing everything to do what you love. Photographers sacrifice the illusion of safety to chase after their dreams; whether its tracking down wildlife, that lightning storm or documenting that story in the middle of social unrest. It’s about letting go of what people say, conventional ideals and norms. Perhaps the photographer does sacrifice the conventional income, the big house or the nice car. The famous James Barkmanbrings awareness to the fact that photography is a risk, it’s about working hard, setting your intentions and defining what your mission is.


Passion in the work is what makes someone a “real” photographer. Alfred Eisenstaedt says, “When I have my camera in my hand, I know no fear.” Forget about what mode you are shooting in and the idea of being perfect or experienced. Get out there and live your dreams. Express yourself. Tell a story. Your voice and opportunities will come in time. And above all else, just trust yourself.


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