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21 Signs You’re a Real Photographer Now

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In a day and age when anyone with an iPhone or a Flickr account can call themselves a photographer, it can be a little difficult to figure out when you’ve separated yourself from the pack to become a real photographer. After all, beauty — in photographs as in all things — is in the eye of the beholder.

But here are 21 clues that you’ve crossed the threshold from pretender to contender:

1. Your friends have begun to hand you their cameras at social gatherings when they want a good picture taken.

2. You don’t run out of battery power because you are chimping less.

3. Your kids have stopped fussing about being photographed because you work faster.

4. The salesman at your favorite camera store lets you handle the merchandise usually kept locked in the shiny glass display cases.

5. You understand the difference between bokeh and a flower arrangement.

6. A gorgeous woman with a digital SLR brushes by you — and you only notice her camera and what kind of lens she has.

7. You concentrate on the lighting instead of the undergarment when you photograph backlit subjects.

8. You snicker at the folks in the back row at the concert shooting with an iPhone or a point-and-shoot.

9. Photo lab workers ask you to complete paperwork to verify that you own the copyright to the pictures you bring in.

10. Your in-law who’s a pro shares fewer and fewer tips with you.

11. Other photographers follow you to see where you’re shooting from.

12. Other photographers ask your opinion about gear when they see you at camera stores.

13. You realize how inaccurately Hollywood portrays the photographer’s job in the movies.

14. More and more engaged women want to be your friend.

15. You stop asking what aperture and shutter speed was used to take a picture.

16. Fewer people make fun of your torn, tattered but ubiquitous photo vest.

17. The subjects in your group pictures no longer resemble the hapless victims of a firing squad (everyone against the wall).

18. You are unashamed to carry a point-and-shoot — even at events crawling with other photographers.

19. Before you allow yourself to be impressed by that long telephoto, you want to know its widest aperture and whether it has image stabilization.

20. Your spouse stops asking what FedEx or UPS delivered.

21. You realize overexposure has to do with how you meter instead of how many Twitter followers you have.

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126 Comments (Open | Close)

126 Comments To "21 Signs You’re a Real Photographer Now"

#1 Comment By Toni Aull On June 21, 2011 @ 2:41 pm

So Spoken and True!!

#2 Comment By SGHOSH On June 21, 2011 @ 6:30 pm

Well, I just had some time and read thru the full list of comments. This is wonderful. I like when people post comments and make a fool of themselves. Somewhere I heard most photographers are GAY. No offence, but I feel most dont get humours and want to join WWF. Great work guys, with the comments.

#3 Comment By Mark On July 6, 2011 @ 5:44 pm

fun fun fun...the stuffy responses remind me of some intimidating times going into a photography store for the first time and asking questions, only to get scoffed at by the employees...like any other hobby/profession, there is a fair share of photo snobs out there and they do a great disservice to photography...lucky for me I wasn't deterred by the snobbishness and have pursued it with great passion and try to answer questions and help others ot enjoy it! peace!

#4 Comment By ALVIN MCNEALY On July 28, 2011 @ 2:17 am

Number 9 happen to me at a sam's club. I did a wedding gown setting for a bride, took it to sam's where I have all my processing done. Came to pick up my 18x20 photo and the lady asked me for the photographer's copyright information since it was a professional photo! Had to go back to my truck and get my d7000 and prove it was my work(smile)!

#5 Comment By Mike Jacobson On July 29, 2011 @ 4:52 am

July 28th,2011 at 11:49PM
With so many different opinnions come so many different comments.I'm an award winning photographer, been shooting for over 40 years. While sitting at a coffee bar,I was asked if I had been taking any photos' lately. During the conversation another gent spoke up. I have a little point and shoot and can take as good as picture as anyone! Befor I could say a word a friend spoke up,"You just keep taking your picture's, Mike here takes Photographs". There is a difference!

As for being real, I resemble #6. however, The phrase needs to be rewritten: You know your an OLD photographer when....

BOB K: Information you might be interested in.
Check out these guidlines - legal rights of Photographers [2]

#6 Comment By Dana King On August 5, 2011 @ 12:13 pm

6. A gorgeous woman with a digital SLR brushes by you — and you only notice her camera and what kind of lens she has.

Either your a photographer or have officially hit "middle-age" or both!

Sad thing is -- I do this. I never laughed so hard.

#7 Comment By Mike Jacobson On August 8, 2011 @ 9:50 am

#6. Dana,thanks for your comment, I believe the answere is, both!

#8 Comment By chromosone XX On September 7, 2011 @ 1:50 pm

I was going to re-post this piece until I read point number 6...How very presumptuously sexist and homophobic of the writer to assume that only heterosexual men are "real" photographers...get real!

#9 Comment By Jenny On September 8, 2011 @ 12:26 am

#22. You have to check in your gear at the airport as there are too many pieces to fit in your carry-on.

#10 Comment By Jenny On September 8, 2011 @ 12:26 am

#22. You have to check in your gear at the airport as there are too many pieces to fit in your carry-on.

#11 Comment By Autumn Azure On September 8, 2011 @ 3:39 pm

How about:

You know how to use the equipment you have. You know its strengths and weaknesses.

You have multiple cameras for different types of photography mediums (both film and digital)

You know how to use your editing tools to bring out the best in an image

You know when to take the camera out and when to leave it tucked away

And last but not least, you have an undying desire to be better and that includes shooting til you're dead and devouring others' work so you can appreciate what they bring to the photography world and to the world in general

#12 Comment By Miachelle DePiano On September 9, 2011 @ 2:16 pm

I'm glad I read your two posts. Fantastic, and as a woman, I'm far from offended. Thank you.

#13 Comment By Bill Skinner On September 15, 2011 @ 12:17 pm

Fantastic Peter! Do not let the haters get you down. These 21 and your followup 15 are great!

#14 Comment By John On September 17, 2011 @ 1:40 pm

I'm sorry for vocal-minority heterophobes and feminists who can't appreciate this! Nice list!

#15 Comment By G On November 15, 2011 @ 6:22 pm

Very funny! But it's slanted toward photographers who are married. Being photographers is a big reason many of us are single!

#16 Comment By lucy unsworth On February 17, 2012 @ 11:21 am

#20 so true!
And when he does,I get "Really" you need it?

#17 Comment By Kim Smith On March 15, 2012 @ 3:51 am

Very funny post!
I would have to add a couple to the list:
Your favorite work is at home because you only show the work your client would most like.
When someone asks you what gear you used, you can't remember because it was whatever you had in hand.
Majority of your profit comes from your business.
Your photo shoot has a few duds, instead of a few good ones.
You're never content with your work.

#18 Comment By Bernard Bleach On May 29, 2012 @ 6:08 pm

Another blog post that is really off the mark and a load of rubbish and a waste of time.Why people like you bother to post this is beyond me. It has absolutely nothing to do with the reality of pro photographers.Or maybe you believe that writing things like this create some sort of interest in your site and therefore will expose you to more hits/links etc.

#19 Comment By kurt dreas On May 29, 2012 @ 11:04 pm

Bernie Bleach: Calm down, go take your missed RX, and purchase a sense of humor, If you know what it looks like -- when you see one. Casual, photographic musings, garnered from years of work & observations. Not taking everything so serous, is one of the ways to live longer & enjoy yourself along the way. As far as "the reality of pro photographers": There are as many "pro-photog's" as there are people who have cameras. Whether using a Nikon, Canon, Yashica, Minolta, Hasselblad,
Mamiya, Deardorf, or a Brownie; the handler of the camera makes the pictures. If that's how they pay their bills, (75-100%) and that means they are professional.
Try to enjoy your craft, (presumably Photography) and take your self less serous, and your deliveries to clients, seriously. Very few careers are worth an ulcer, or general unhappiness with your work & life. I think we are all alloted one life, so please enjoy the trip and work for amusements and fulfullment; not just adding & subtracting arbitrary numbers representing a persons success or failure in their unending race to the "fade to black".

#20 Comment By Scene Stealer On June 6, 2012 @ 12:29 pm

A real honest to goodness photographer carries with him/her a remarkable sense of humor in the face of challenges and ridicule.

And yes to your #18. I am unashamed to carry a small point and shoot (actually a powerful micro 4/3) in events crawling with wannabe photographers lugging heavy DSLRS.

In my case, however, on my blogs and web portfolio, the only time my sense of humor runs out fast is when they compliment me on my images generously, and end it with a 'SIR'. (nostrils start dilating and fuming dragon smoke) 😀

Thank you, Peter. They should know by now that your last name actually spells Fun. 😀 (but you don't fly, do you?)

#21 Comment By Captured Journeys Photography On July 13, 2012 @ 3:45 pm

So funny yet true!!! Hilarious.
Love it.I guess I fall into the category ha ha ha.

#22 Comment By John Vass On November 5, 2012 @ 1:28 pm

#1 I hate it when people hand me their camera! You want a photo? Maybe I'll just e mail something because I'm not laying my camera down! If I like you I won't even charge you!

#2 I still chimp sometimes so I got bigger batteries, But over the years I know when I just got something good, stop chimping and just shoot to build on the moment! I chimp so I don't get 200 miles down the road and realize in my excitement I didn't change the settings! It happens! So what?

## The kids stopped fussing because they grew up, but it's okay though because they drop their kids off. The grandkids are a lot more fun and twice as cute as they ever were!

#4 We don't have a camera store, but there was a camera counter down at the old drug store. I would stop by and see "Andy" and he would show me all kinds of things! Andy asked to use a few of my prints to show other people what a certain camera could do, so I dropped some off! I figured why not, he had spent a lot of time pitching products to me that I rarely bought. A few months later I met "Andy" along a trail in the hills and stopped to talk to him! He acted like he didn't know me and I was going steal his "photography mojo" secrets! Anyway! They got bought out and closed. I don't think I'll be buying a camera at the new Walgreens!

#5 Bokeh? I remember the day I realized they had a word for it. I fell off my Big Wheel!

#6 I may be old(er) but I'm not dead! I notice the woman, the camera, and the lens and if she wearing a dress with heels and knows how to walk in them! I don't really care about the camera or lens. I approach her for a photo. A woman in a dress and heels is as rare as Bigfoot in these parts

#7 No matter what! It's always about the light!

#8 I haven't been to a concert in 30 years, but I do get a little giggle inside when someone shows me a photo of an elk they took!
"You see the brown spot? That's it!"
I always lie "That's awesome!"
I guess it would be the same thing at a concert.
"Yeah the blurry dot! It's Mick Jagger!"
"Awesome" (Two thumbs up) Why say anything else when everyone is a potential client!

#9 I don't use the local lab because they haven't invented a digital mimeograph!

#10 I have in-laws who do weddings. They have never offered tips and I have never asked! I do know that their parents have a least two of my photo books on their coffee table. I've never seen their work so what can I say?

#11 It's a free country but this happens! I tested it one time to see because it seemed to be happening a lot. I thought maybe I was crazy. I was taking photos at a bear jam in Olympic National Park one spring! A black bear was feeding in a meadow full of flowers. (Big black dot surrounded by little red dots! Awesome! Two thumbs up!) When I was done I walked across the road and snapped a few shots down towards some trees, shooting at nothing. I walked over to my truck and got in and watched two other people walk over to take the same shot of nothing! They looked back up the road at me wondering what the heck I was shooting at. They shot anyway in case they missed something! So Yeah it happens a lot in real life!

#12 Hey Peter! You seem to spend a lot of time in camera stores! I have helped people figure out what they think they need, but if what they have works for what they do. I'll tell them to learn what all the buttons do on the camera they have! It's hard to convince someone not to get more than they need!

#13 Hollywood makes murder, mayhem, and car chases look good too! You can do the wrong thing for the right reason no matter who gets killed! Yeah! They're full of crap!

#14 And this is a problem?

#15 I have never asked! Why? Good is good no matter what they did!

#16 They make those on purpose? I thought those were fishing vests! Don't wear those ether! But I'll be the first to say don't hate the vest!

# 17 Group shots! What can you say!
"Any last wishes?",
"Look here!",
"Don't blink!"
If you don't line them up against the wall then you have to deal with moving targets! Then it turns into trap shooting. Pull!

#18 Any camera is better than no camera!

#19 Before you allow yourself to be impressed by that long lens you need to know, for the money you could take a really, really long vacation to New Zealand and Australia instead. What are you going to remember when you get old? A lens or the day you shot The Twelve Apostles from the air? If you decide that you have to have the long lens while you are there? Rent one!

#22 I think the last one is pretty basic and I don't think you can be overexposed on Twitter. Overexposed is when someone on TV says your name with the words "film at eleven"!

I love this! The responses are proof that sometimes the strangest birds in the forest are the photographers! Ca-Caw! Ca- Caw!

#23 Comment By Ed.B On November 21, 2012 @ 1:53 pm

I still don't understand the angst every one seems to have with regards to chimping. Maybe I don't understand the term completely. However I would argue that depending on what you are shooting, looking at the back is sometimes a necessity.Maybe there is a maximum number of "peeks" at the back before it's considered chimping?? I challenge you guys to shoot a live music, where the light is constantly changing and the subjects are always moving and not look at the back of your camera. OK, so you don't look at the back of your camera because you are a "pro", go home with your 1200 images, and sit at the computer and start deleting, mean while, I have gone home with 150 images from the same event, I will spend how much much much less time at my computer deleting images??? and more time wondering if I should sell my vest or not!!!

#24 Comment By Neita Ashley On February 9, 2013 @ 7:23 pm

There's a song by Jerry Jeff Walker that I sing in my head when I see that kind of photo: "Up Against the Wall Redneck Mothers"

#25 Comment By Martin Bayhorse On February 15, 2013 @ 10:51 pm

Great list and some great comments Only thing I would address without singling anyone out Is on a comment. I have my doubts you were ever a "real" serious photog having your film done at wall mart unless your happy with the inconsistencies in developing often found with commercial consumer labs

#26 Comment By Tom Steenhuysen On February 27, 2013 @ 2:07 pm

when #9 happened ... that was a big-smile moment :)