Wednesday, March 7, 2007


This is about the different types of photographers. Not the types by the photography they do, but their audience, work, images and goals in their photography, along with other types that pass my consciousness in the discussion. It's not a definitive guide to anyone, but just my observations seeing the diversity in print, on the Web, at meetings and so on. Every photographer falls into each catagory and often overlap types of their work, but that's the reality of photography.

The first catagory is the obvious amateur, serious and professional. This is almost self-evident, and many photographers move through the types to become really good photographers, and some find the level they're comfortable with or have the time to commit to their photography. And as such, it's really a spectrum with arbitrary divisions because where they're in one type in one catagory, they may not be there in other catagories.

There rarely is anymore anyone called the complete photographer, capable of understanding and working in all aspects of photography, from the field to the production. Many photographers focus on one aspect, mostly the field work, and leave the rest to the other professionals for processing and production (printing and publishing), and providing guidence with their personal goals in their images. And when someone does do the complete work, from field to portfolio, you find it's a very time consuming job, often taking years for one or a few portfolios of images.

The second is the commercial and professional. This is often the catagory of confusion. They're not the same? Well, yes and no. The distinction is often where the income from the photography fits into the total income and work. A commercial photographer is obvious, they earn their income from their photography. Some are studio, wedding, or portrait photographers with their own business, and others are photojournalist (media), outdoor/nature photographers (eg. National Geographic), and independents working for companies or on assignments.

The professional, however, doesn't have to be a commercial photographer. They can simply focus their work on a few projects and types of photography around other professional and/or jobs. It's a passionate hobby they devote a good bit of their life becoming as good as they can. Some, like me, are less than professional, serious but like to focus on the few aspects I'm comfortable with and learn the rest as I go. It's a matter of small degrees of passion and motivation.

The third is those who photograph for themselves and/or for others. This is fairly straight-forward description. Most professionals photograph for others because they love photography, the work, the travel, and the subjects - ok, most of the time on the last item. Some spend most of their time working to have the money for their own photography, and some eventually move from assignments or jobs to their own photography. The rest of us photograph on our own dime because we love it.

The fourth is the gearheads, the composition, and the production. This is harder to describe because many overlap their interests in photography, but often tend to fall into one of the three types. The gearheads are the obvious with almost anything, the photographers who focus on the equipment. They're excellent for reviews and technical details and produce good images, just don't get into a discussion with them. You won't win. The composition are the one who use the equipment to focus on the image, the artistic and esthetics of photography and images. They're often critical of other's images, but also provides good ideas. The last type are those who focus on the production. They're the old-school darkroom folks for film processing and printing, and the new school folks for Photoshop and digital printing. They're cool for help, but often go overboard on the details and advice.

The fifth is the photographer's audience. For commercial or professional photographers, it's their customers, as expected, and for themselves on their time. But the key here is what level. Many professional shoot for recognition from other professionals, such as awards, as their art and craft as professional. But many shoot for the public for the subject or content to convey message or ideas, usually photojournalists, where the work is for newspapers, magazines or Websites. And many shoot for themselves as photographers or artist, for friends and family, or just to produce images.

The sixth is the field and office photographers. These are, those who like to work behind the camera, be where the photographs are, in the field, and those who like to take the images and then do the work in the computer and photo editor. True, any serious and professional photographers has to do both, and many do successfully, but many also are more talented and focused on one side or the other. For the latter, as long as the final image is ok, they're happy. For the former, it's in the original.

And I guess the photo above is an example. I took it on a fall afternoon in downtown Seattle. It's what I saw, and while I didn't do much in Photoshop, and could to, to improve it, I minimize my time in front of the computer. My goal is to capture what I see and present it as best I can.

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