What about concert photography? Fashion show photography? Paparazzi? Red carpet event photography? Or pretty much any circumstance where there are multiple photographers taking the same photos from the same location, in the same light, with the same gear, at the same settings, producing photos that look pretty much the same as every other game / concert / fashion show / celebrity photo ever taken?
Real Photography Is Branch of Visual Art Right?
When I started my career, I had a very hard time calling myself a photographer. In fact, I still do – because I still consider most of my photographs to be nothing more than pretty pictures.
Back then, it felt like I was more of a technician than a photographer.
I could point my camera at something and push the button. If the settings were right and the thing in front of me was interesting enough, the camera would snap a nice picture. If I took enough photos of the same thing, a few of them would eventually turn out better than the others.
If you think about it, that process is not that much different than how most photographers approach live sports and other event photography.
Stand where you’re allowed, take as many photos as you can, use the same gear, settings and light as all the other photographers standing beside you – and if you’re lucky you’ll be in the right place at the right time to snap a picture that is marginally better than the other guy’s.
If you’re even more lucky you will snap a picture of someone important doing some amazing feat that is marginally more amazing than all the other photos of nearly identical amazing feats ever taken.
I mean, if you choose a set of 10 photos from a random football game last weekend, they are going to look nearly identical to any set of photos from any other football game over the past 10 years.
So is this photography?
To me real photography has to have some form of artistic merit. A story, an emotion, something unique to the photo.
To Create Value A Photographer Must Have Artistic Vision – Not A Lucky Snapshot
The problem that arises when you are essentially relying on a lucky snapshot for your income, is that you have to rely on a system that restricts access to others who would otherwise take the same photos you are taking.
If you look at the work of successful sports photographers, concert photographers and even paparazzi, there is always something tangibly unique about their work that creates value – something that is different from everyone else taking the same photos.
As someone who does quite a bit of work within the realm of sports photography myself, this is something that I struggle with personally – it is even harder for live event photographers.
If you’re struggling with the same thing, here is a great clip from an old Scott Kelby Grid episode with sports photography legend Dave Black. Skip ahead to the 37:30 mark where Dave talks about the importance of ideas and artistic vision versus technical skill and the marketplace for visionary images.
One of the things that was a great aid for me throughout my career was raising the bar above where my competitors were either willing to go, or could afford to go.
Are You A Photographer or a Technician?
So, what do you think? Are you a photographer or a technician? Does live sports photography and other live event photography really qualify as photography?
Is there a threshold between when someone taking photographs evolves from being an interchangeable button pusher to a photographer?
Leave a comment and let us know what you think!
[Football photo “Handoff to Todd Newell” by US Air Force ID 071231-F-0558K-017 (CC) ]