‘Everyone’s a photographer these days, aren’t they?’

So said a graphic designer at a recent networking event I attended – we were chatting, and I mentioned that I do photography, among other things. Should I have replied, “Well, what with Photoshop and InDesign and painting on tablets these days, everyone’s a graphic designer, right?”

It does beg the question.

The trend started with cameraphones. In days gone by, people wouldn’t have put a camera in their bag unless they fully intended to go out and shoot something. Granted, it could have been just a family gathering or a special night out with friends, but photography was more of a planned event rather than ad hoc occurrence. You’d need an actual camera to do it.

The advent of iPhoneography, and the quality you can achieve with it, has made the medium both extremely handy and easily accessible.

So, is everyone a photographer? In a sense, yes. They are interested in capturing a moment in time or a specific thing, using a technological piece of equipment to do it. However, I’d argue there is a lot more to it.

Photography is not about Tweeting your breakfast

Photography is not about shooting your breakfast plate and posting it on Twitter.

Photography is not a random shot of partygoers shouting ‘Yeeehaaahhhhh!’ and finding themselves the morning after, all over Facebook.

Photography is not blanket point-and-shooting of everything you see – including yourself.

I became more serious about photography when I got hold of my first analogue SLR 20 years ago. I’d had no formal training, simply jumped on a train to Brighton for a day’s shooting with a battered old Pentax and kit lens that I’d borrowed from a friend.

At dusk I shot the crumbling West Pier handheld – a dark crystal palace on stilts – while more seasoned eyes pursued the golden hour, vying for the best spot on the beach, all tripods, kit bags and wideangle lenses. Little did I know, but the black against gold still came out like a beautiful lantern.

I returned to London, got the film developed, and showed the prints to the friend who had lent me his SLR: “No… You’re kidding me! You’ve done this before, haven’t you?” I promised I hadn’t – the proof being the fact that I’d sat down with him beforehand to ask him how the camera worked.

In that first session, I’d demonstrated depth of field and exposure – all manually done – but to be honest, I didn’t truly know the tech stuff behind it. I’d simply adjusted the camera to get the shot I wanted, and it worked. It just felt natural.

Every image is unique

This is the crux of the journey in photography. Past a certain point, knowing the tech stuff is crucial to getting the shot. But there’s even more to it.

To be a really accomplished photographer you need to understand creative, artistic elements such as light and composition and above all, to have what togs call ‘a good eye’. It’s about honing your vision, seeing the world through a lens and translating it to something amazing and individual.

Every image is unique, even if the subject is the same – it’s what you bring to it that counts.

There is no substitute for a good eye. To some it comes easily. For others, it can be learned and developed; but eitherway, getting good shots is the result of dedicated practice and being open to critique as much as anything else. It’s only when you start to knuckle down and craft that you really become a photographer.

I’ve seen images from iPhones by pro togs and serious amateurs alike, and they’re impressive: the technology is there and it can produce great results, but it does depend on in whose hands that technology is. No one needs serious kit these days to produce fantastic pictures, but you do have to know what you’re doing.

If you’ve any doubt about what I’ve said, check out 500px. There you’ll find a mix of pro togs and serious amateurs producing beautiful work. Some of the images are from compact cameras, others from entry-level SLRs right up to high-end, budget-busting kit. Many of these images demonstrate ‘the eye’. Ultimately, that’s the difference.

By all means point your cameraphone at anything and everything and enjoy it – but first, just take a moment to really look at, and think about what you’re shooting. Then, take it from there.

You may not realise it, but your voyage as a photographer will have just begun.

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