For most people, photography would not be considered a business except when they need to have portraits done or hiring a wedding photographer, then it is just a necessary evil. Photography is an activity taken on by parents or grand parents snapping pictures of “special” occasions and usually cutting off the top of uncle Ralph’s head or having another member of the family cut off on the left side of the shot. I can remember my mother getting her photographs back from the drug store and seeing just those types of shots. In fact, I can go through all of the pictures that I have from my childhood and point out not only the people in them but who the culprit was that shot them. My Grandfather was an amateur photographer and he new all the tricks like composition and lighting and you could guarantee that aunt Gert wouldn’t have a tree branch growing out of her head.
Photography is one of those activities that falls into more than one category at any one time. From it’s initial inception, it has been hard to quantify. The “Camera Obscura” or Darkened Chamber””, has been around for centuries and can be traced back to Ancient Greece, Rome and even China. Used by French and Italian painters of the Renaissance to quickly sketch out a painting and achieving a correct perspective. It was basically just a parlor trick until British inventor, William Henry Fox Talbot began playing with ways to “capture” the image. At the same time in France, Joseph Nicephore Niepce was working on a different process but to the same end. Because of his partnership with Louis Daguerre the process would become known as the Daguerreotype. When both of these process became public a whole new industry was born. Over night “Professional” photographers began setting up shop. At this point, photography as a hobby was only for the very rich. It wasn’t until George Eastman developed the Kodak camera for the masses that photography became an “Every Man” activity.
Photography is the only “profession” I know of where anyone can buy a camera and instantly become a “Photographer”. I couldn’t buy a concert grand piano and instantly become a concert pianist. Or, just buy getting my hands on a scalpel, become a brain surgeon. I could go on listing a whole slew of “professions” but that would get to be a little tiring, you get my point, I hope.
The mere act of owning a camera does not make one a photographer, just an owner of a camera. Some people spend years going to school to be a “photographer” and even after all the time and money spent, are no farther along than when they first started. I am not an expert by any stretch of the imagination but I have been doing this a long time and I have seen thousands of photos in different formats from contact sheets to digital images and I know what it takes to “make” a great photograph, not that I always do either. Some times it takes me a couple hundred shots to make one good photograph and that is after hours even days of shooting. Ask any real Pro photographer and they will tell you the same thing.
In these times of people losing jobs and the unemployment rate rising I am seeing more and more people grabbing that camera they bought for vacation shots and going out trying to make a living as a photographer. I applaud their gumption but even in the best of times photography is a cut throat business. With the advent of Social Media such as Facebook, Twitter, Flicker and the myriad of those being added each day along with every phone having a camera it is getting harder for photographers to get the notice they deserve because of the glut of images out there. There is a difference between a pro photographer who has been honing their craft over many years and someone who just happens to have access to a camera. You can tell the difference in the way that the picture has been crafter or the subject has been posed and it comes across in that photo album that the bride has on her coffee table. The term “Caveat Emptor”, “Let the buyer beware” is appropriate when it comes time to hire a photographer to shoot your wedding or portraits of your family.