What REALLY Makes a Photographer?


My poor broken Canonet. RIP

“It’s not the camera that makes the photographer,” we say.

And yet here we are, buying the latest in technology, spending over thousands of dollars on lenses and camera bodies and speedlights and miscellaneous gear. We pay a membership fee so we can use Photoshop and Lightroom. We shoot in RAW so we can get the most out of our editing.

So, let’s dissect that little phrase, shall we?

“It’s not the camera that makes the photographer.”

Do we even know what that means anymore?

It means that a good composition comes from the heart–and the creative mind–and not from the lens. The work of art is what you saw BEFORE the shutter released.

black and white tree trio

Taken with my Instax Neo 90

Yes. Different lenses produce different results, and different bodies do different things, and it’s always nice to have a polarizing filter on a hazy day.

Yes. Different editing techniques produce different results, and the LR filters make things super easy, and the vast number of tools in PS can produce beautiful and surreal works of art.

Yes. Different cameras produce different results.

But are these the things that make a photographer great?

Does a person write better with a 50$ pen as opposed to one they got for a buck?


Then why do we look down on those who use “less worthy” cameras, like the ones attached to mobile phones? Why do we frown upon using “auto” on a DSLR, when those who are using instant film–something still widely accepted as badass–are essentially doing the same thing?

Processed with VSCO with b6 preset

Taken with an Android phone

Many photographers these days don’t deserve to say the line I keep quoting, because it’s obvious they no longer see photography as an art form. If they did, they would respect all cameras, and celebrate what each can do. I wonder if they snort when someone uses oil pastels instead of acrylics. Or if they snicker when someone chooses to sculpt with clay instead of carving something from marble.

No? That’s ridiculous? Completely snobby, you say?

Β© Lina Forrester

Taken with a Nikon D5300

*Eye-Roll* “She’s using her phone to take a picture of Stonehenge. She thinks she’s a photographer. How hard is it to point a phone?”

Says the same person who smiles at the guy with the Mark III.

They’re both taking a picture of Stonehenge. What makes one better than the other?

Truth is, neither are better than the other. They’re both great.

Because what you don’t know is that the guy with the Mark III is on vacation and is simply taking a few point-and-shoots of his family by the stones, photos he will later frame above his sofa and smile at every time he passes by.

And the girl pointing her mobile phone has set her ISO and her shutter speed and is shooting primarily in monochrome so she can see the jagged shadows created by the noon sun. And the photo she takes will later win a contest for Best Composition.

Taken with an iPhone 7

What makes a photographer? The “oh” moment that made you lift your camera to your eye. The “wow” grin you got when you saw something extraordinary. The doodle of the poses you made before your newborn shoot.

Perspective. That’s what makes a photographer great.

And kindness. That’s what makes a person great.

The rise in technology has definitely given us more to choose from. Many still use 35mm. Many still use Polaroids. Some use Instax and some use their iPhones. Some get the latest and greatest every time it comes out. And because of these advances in the photography world, creative expression is on the rise.

And who the hell could snub that?

Meet Ben Sasso: a photographer who captures beautiful mobile photography

Meet Brooke Shaden: a photographer who creates surreal and mood-evoking composites

Meet Tammy Schild: a photographer who takes stunning photos with her 135mm

Meet Irene Suchocki: a photographer who inspired me to become a freelenser


5 thoughts on “What REALLY Makes a Photographer?

    • To gain the photographer’s perspective? Or to get to the realization that a camera is merely a tool? I’d love to hear your opinion on the subject. I know you use both digital and film, but do you have one that you prefer over the other? I would probably use primarily film if I had the tools and the money (and the space) for a darkroom, but that’s merely personal preference. Film has the *look* I’m often going for. Though freelensing with digital definitely has its pros.

      I watched a documentary about street photography, and though most of them used film, they were very open to the digital world. One explained that it meant the “geniuses” were more likely to be discovered, and another said something along the lines of “A picture is a picture, who cares what medium you use to take it?”

      Liked by 1 person

  1. The second said exactly what written in this blogpost πŸ™‚ bur actually most of streettogs are using digital – one can be faster and take much more images with goal to filter the one that they need. About media that i use i always have in my bag two cameras and every one for a different purpose πŸ˜‰

    Liked by 1 person


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