I sold some pictures to Roughguide, the Guidebook; therefore, in a round about way, I can say I am professional, because I have been paid for photos.
Normally, the common photographer definition is this, if you call yourself a photographer, then you are a photographer, it requires no skill.
Ho, Ghana West Africa --- Wednesday, December 15, 2010
I have taken about 20,000 digital photos in my 12 plus years of travel. With this much experience you do learn many practical or common sense things. I am a good common sense photographer; however, I am not a good photographer of people, I do not feel or call myself a photographer… normally.
Playing the Odds Photographer of People
I tend to play the odds; I know if I take enough people photos, one will come out better than normal. If I purchased the 1500-5000 Dollar Canon camera, the true professional grade camera, I would have the machine gun option. The ability to take multiple photos very fast is probably the most important feature needed to take the best possible photos by accident.
When stopping to take the photo of this girl, she is only going to allow me a few seconds to photograph her, after that she ruins the photos by doing something, normally turning away.
The best photographers can catch the soul and essence of a person with one photo; they see the shot and take it fast. I am slowly developing this talent, but it is more about being tricky, I can maneuver the person into the correct look, and then take the photos. The number of photos you need to delete tells a big story of skill.
Models are great, there are some people who are photogenic, and almost every photo of the person comes out right. Models appear to me to have good mouths, their teeth are correct, the size of their lips is special, and the cheekbones are squared in a way to help the photos.
I have become observant of these people features, it becomes a small addiction, when I happen upon a person who has physical features that are beautiful, I then want to take a photo. This happened when I saw the sexy Ghana girl in the Tro Tro, I was mentally preoccupied with trying to take an essence photo, only one with the braid hanging down came close, but it was fun to try, this is the sport of photography for me, to chase the essence of people.
The girl above had nice eyes, but the shade of the hat masked them, I could see them, but I am not sure readers can see them. I suppose I could take a graphics program and highlight them; however, I take photos for fun and sport, not to doctor up to make people happy. There is something unnatural about doctoring photos, this is not my style.
I try to review photos quickly on a large computer screen, to get feedback; I want to know if I achieved my goal.
Photos are about 80 percent camera, and 20 percent skill, a great camera will take great photos, there is no doubt a camera can make a photographer.
You are a Photographer if you Take Good Photos of People
You have big balls when it comes to photographing people, you step up to the plate and shoot -- no questions asked, no hesitation. This is the intuitive action that makes a photographer. Setting up photos and bla, blah, blah are nonsense skills that anybody can learn, but the intuition of when to take a photo and not hesitating before doing so -- and the ability to see a story in photographs -- are the true talents of photography.
I have known many people who have studied photography in university, and so much of what they learn is based in setting up pictures, having models, making sure the lighting is right, and tons of other nonsense that the cultural, travel, or documentary photographer is not at liberty to do.
If you look at all the great looking photographs of people in the travel mags, it is obvious that most of them were from set up photo shoots -- the "photographer" comes into a town and hires models, dresses them up in funny clothes, reveals a breast or two, and then shoots. This is only one aspect of photography, and, in my opinion does not mean too much (but this is not really the goal, I suppose).
It is my impression that you are a documentary photographer -- you document a place and a point in time with photographs -- and your photos tell a real story, or help to tell a story.