Stop Calling Yourself a Real Photographer if You Suck

It has been about five years since I left my office job to make photos on a full-time basis.

Still, I feel quite uncomfortable calling myself a photographer.

Photo by Edward
Photo by Edward

Yes, my photos occasionally appear on glossy magazines covers; sometimes I see my photos on billboards in the center of the city, but still, am I a real photographer?

While this may sound like some sort of psychological disorder, and it definitely is, I find this constant self-analysis and self-questioning much more adequate than the attitude that many of today’s newcomers have. What is that attitude I am talking about?

1. The Underlying Conditions

Let’s face it: Not too many folks postpone identifying themselves as photography professionals–actually they do it right from the start.

It’s either these people are complete idiots, or they must have some reasons to think so.

Well, I came up with a couple of ideas of why young and old ladies and gentlemen are so sure about their work being superior:

a) They Think Equipment Matters

It really does. After 5-10 years of experience, when your customers really need that 50 megapixels image from your Hasselblad.

Otherwise, when I hear people saying that, “this camera makes really awesome photos,” I still want to believe that they are kidding.

But unfortunately they are not. And they end up buying a $6.000 camera with a $2.500 lens, shooting everything from dead flies on their worktable to portraits of their friends against a window, which “by artistic pursuit,” come out as bleak silhouettes only because the photographer, hmmm, camera owner has no idea about spot metering and exposure adjustment.

b) They Think Occasional Nice Photos Matter


Apes and elephants can draw nice pictures if you give them a paintbrush.

But would you order something from an ape? With a technical assignment and sketches and stuff?

It’s no revelation–photography amateurs sometimes take really great photos.

But the problem is they can’t reproduce them because they have no idea how that happened.

They cannot unfold all the details and see what is right and what is wrong.

c) They Think Age Matters

As they say–even if you have been driving for 20 years–it’s no problem. You can still become a good driver if you want to.

There are men and women out there who strongly believe that their age itself guarantees that they are highly experienced professionals and all the young fools must learn from them.

Too bad today’s teenagers are usually ten times more talented.

d) They think that nice comments mean their work is great

Though, there is a certain law which drives all like-and-comment activities on Facebook and different photo communities, which is (please print it and put it on your wall):

People say nice things if they do not want to offend you, and they say bad things if they want to, regardless of the quality of your work.

2. The Perfect Scenario

This is how it goes:

A 40-year-old guy, let’s call him Mike, who’s been shooting butterflies and street signs with his point-and-shoot for the last two years, decides to get a decent camera “to take his photography to the next level.”

So he buys a top-priced DSLR and starts to post snapshots of his offspring on Facebook.

All of his 315 friends from all over the world cannot just ignore these hundreds of uploaded photos in the fresh “Photography…My life… My passion” album and, being merely polite, drop an occasional comment: “That’s great, Mike! Keep up the good work!”

Wow! Our Mike thinks people LOVE my photos. I should not be doing this for free.

And the next thing you see is:

Professional photographer. Have 2 free days left till the end of the month–contact me for pricing and details!

3. Vertigo Success

In time, it gets worse.

A professional photographer starts to make professional photography projects.

With pro models, pro stylists and pro everything. Thank God there are tons of them on Modelmayhem.

The crazy photographer
Let’s make something unique, our Mike thinks. I want motion, I want emotion, I want expression and obsession! Yeah baby, let’s make it dirty! Yeaargh! Well this is how all the Vogue and Vanity Fair photo shoots are made, right?

And finally, they start this arrogant and vanguard photo shoot. The model is showered with water, she plays hard, she screams, she slouches, she tears her t-shirt with an evil grin–she’s a real rock ‘n’ roll baby!

The makeup is impudent, her pantyhose is all torn and she smokes and exhales into the camera.

But somehow, you can see that the lighting is awkward, water drops are indistinct and blurred and the backdrop is all dirty with footprints. The newbie model is trying hard to show that she is not shy, and you can see that her emotions are fake to say the least.

And there was no stylist on the shoot because the model said she can do it all by herself.

So the mascara is all over her cheeks, and the color of eye shadow does not correspond to anything in the frame.

And the photos are all black-and-white because decent color correction is for losers!

“Wow, this is amazing, Mike! This MUST be on a magazine cover!” a random friend comments.

Mike replies with an enigmatic, winking smiley ;).

What would that mean?

Well, he has probably already got a contract with Vogue, but he won’t disclose any information because it’s a serious business, you know.

4. Afterword

Unfortunately, this article is based on real events and personalities, maybe with a little exaggeration.

And what about you? Do you have the urge to spit in my face after reading this?

Hopefully you don’t know my home address, so your feedback in the comments section is welcome!

By George Bailey

George is a professional photographer who sells his photos online. He focuses on both studio and outdoor photography, and also runs a photography blog you should definitely check out at