Photography is one of those things that attracts many different kinds of people and personality types. Actually, if you let go of the notion that the word “photographer” can only apply to professionals or those with some degree of expertise, you’ll agree that virtually everyone is a photographer. If you’ve got a camera, and you use it often enough for people to know you as someone who takes a lot of pictures, you’re probably a photographer in my book.
But what type of photographer are you? I’m guessing you might find yourself fitting into one or more of the categories below. I think a little introspection is sometimes good, and it can also help you to embrace who you are as a photographer. Do that, and you can happily go on making pictures as you like, with no apologies and no need to listen to those who tell you that you’re doing it wrong.
What type of photographer are you?
Creative and free-spirited, the photographer as Artist values self-expression, exploration, discovery, and new experiences. This type of photographer is more interested in producing images for themselves than for others, and often doesn’t even consider selling their work. In the true spirit of the amateur, the Artist might be in it for the pure love of photography and show little interest in things that many photographers would consider key to “good” photography. Of course some photographers producing art/craft are definitely interested in reaching a larger audience and making a little money, too.
The Seller is an entrepreneur and values the bottom line. Here, the camera takes a secondary role, whereas marketing, networking, cultivating a clientele, and up-selling are the primary focus and source of fulfillment. The photography is the product and service, and the photographer is the service provider. Rather than an artistic venture, the seller engages in a business where professionalism and the ability to reliably and consistently produce is key.
The Giver works for “free.” But really, somewhat like the seller, the giver is actually trading their photography for a valued currency, in this case it could be praise, acceptance, and/or inclusion. Because of the “something for my time” nature of this endeavor, the Giver might more aptly be called the Trader. Sometimes, the Giver has more practical motives which may include gaining on-the-job experience or access to a particular subject they would otherwise not have. If the Giver has no personal use for the photography they produce (other than to acquire more opportunities to provide free services), then the camera becomes more a vehicle for simply engaging with others.
Those fascinated by gear, specifications, measurements, and precision are often drawn to photography because it allows them to let their right- and left-brain compliment each other in such a fulfilling way. If you don’t find the Techie pixel-peeping or obsessing over monitor calibrations and color-matching, you might catch him reviewing the latest lens specs, purchasing said lens, and subsequently analyzing the results of his latest front-focus concern. Well, that’s the dark side, but the Techie also loves to learn how a new piece of lighting works, or how to reproduce a complicated effect. Some Techies also like to experiment with alternative processes, equipment, and materials. These are the go-to guys if you need to know how something works in photography.
The Floater likes taking photos but doesn’t quite know what to do about it. It’s likely the Floater is just at a point where they haven’t embraced the core of their relationship with photography. Perhaps they’re an Artist, or a Giver, who has been convinced that “going pro” is the next inevitable step toward validation as a serious photographer. The Floater might dabble in this or that, but have a hard time finding a suitable match for whatever interests brought them to photography in the first place. Rather than moving forward, the Floater is probably having a hard time growing. It’s possible, in some cases, that the Floater is really a Snapshooter (see below) who was encouraged to do more with their photography than they really wanted to.
At the bottom of the list, but not in our hearts, the Snapshooter might be the purest form of photographer there is. This person is happy to capture life as it happens, with few other motivations than to record and share simple moments. Unlike the Artist, the Snapshooter isn’t preoccupied with self-expression. Unlike the Seller or Giver, the Snapshooter isn’t looking to trade their work for something of value to them. The Snapshooter isn’t necessarily interested in the technical aspects nor concerned with how they should progress as photographers. The Snapshooter uses whatever is available (iPhone, Instax, DSLR) to take photos of whatever interests them, and isn’t the least bit concerned with copyright issues, payment, or the rule-of-thirds.
I think most photographers are going to find they’ve fit into one or more of these categories over time. Once in a while I think it helps to reflect on where you are, as well as where you might want to be.