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What Makes a Photographer?

I got an interesting e-mail today… a promotion e-mail from an architectural photographer named Dan Poyourow (

Dan is based in Maryland, and his work is well worth looking at. At the bottom of his e-mail, he included this tidbit…

“Photography thought for the week:

Contrary to what some creatives may tell you; shooting digital and reading a book on Adobe Photoshop does not make someone a professional photographer. There is still no substitute for experience, proper lighting techniques, good composition and all the other skills pro photographers use/used when shooting film. Digital is simply a new way to record the image; not an end in itself.”

This simple statement really struck a cord with me. This year, I have lost freelance jobs to photographers with much less experience than I have. I lost the jobs based on my price, which I feel is quite reasonable. I’ve been shooting professionally for about 25 years now, and when a client tells me that they found someone to do the job cheaper, I simply smile and tell them that I hope they are happy with the results. I even wish them luck. I also tell them to keep me in mind if it doesn’t work out for them. This has worked out pretty well for me in the past, I seem to get the clients back somehow.

All experienced photographers are basically visual problem solvers. It takes varying years of practice and numerous failures along the way to get really good at imaging. I think it was terrific to learn the mindset of working with transparency film. I’m all for young photographers making their mark on the world, and I’ve mentored several who are working in the industry across the country. I wonder what the result will be of a generation of photographers shooting without the background of film and the many associated problems of working with it will be?

For working pros to lower their price in tough times is very tempting. So far, I’m resisting the urge. I think it hurts me in the long run to cut my price. OK, it hurts me in the short term not to cut my price, but at this point I can live with it. The digital era has made photography much more competitive. I think the best photographers will solve this era’s problems and keep on shooting.

Thanks, Dan, for the thought-provoking start to my rambling!