How to Define Yourself as a Photographer

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There comes a point in time when you will need to decide what type of photography you like and the specific genres you want to focus on. Most of us start out as generalists, shooting anything and everything that tickles our fancies. But there comes a time when you need to decide on what type of photographer you are or want to be.

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“Toronto at Front” captured by Tom Maslowski (Click Image to See More From Tom Maslowski)

Pretty soon after my journey into SLR photography I decided what I liked and what I wanted to focus on. The world of close-up and macro photography was passion. The worlds within worlds and the finer details of those worlds intrigued me. So I gradually bought the equipment that would help me create better close-ups. I began defining myself as a photographer.

Your photographs are a very personal thing as they reflect how you see the world and what interests you. So there are a few things you need to do in order to define yourself as a photographer. We are not talking professionals here but ordinary people.

1. A little introspection

You need to look inside yourself and examine who you are and what you like. What pushes your buttons and what inspires you to create photos. The better you know yourself the better photographer you will become. I am a detail man and so close-ups really make me come alive. Whatever makes you come alive will help define you as a photographer.

define your photography

“Carefree Afternoon” captured by Ji Yeon So (Click Image to See More From Ji Yeon So)

2. Shoot what you like

All of us have very clear likes and dislikes so many of us already know what things in life we like. So with this in mind identify all of your likes. Sit down with a piece of paper and jot down everything that you enjoy in life. Then work through this list and see if you would enjoy shooting photos of the likes. Cross out all the ones you don’t want to shoot and there you have your list.

3. Study the pros

This is as simple as going to a library or bookstore and looking at the type of books that interest you. If it’s wildlife photography then look at the photo books by great wildlife photographers. If it’s cars or trucks then study those books. See the angles, lighting and compositions they use and get an idea of how they have created their images. You will learn a huge amount from the pros.

4. Allow yourself to dream

Visualising what you like and what you want to shoot will help motivate and distil in your own mind the specifics you want to shoot. Vision, plan and set goals. This can be what type of images and perhaps what kind of equipment you want to own. Working towards a goal will really allow you to become what you want to and help define you as a photographer. Which of the pro photographers would you like to become? Knowing this will help clarify what type of photographer you define yourself as.

5. Define your audience

By defining your audience you will also define yourself. If you want your photographs to be appreciated by people, what type of audience should they be? As a car photographer the bulk of your audience will be men of a certain economic class who pride themselves in having a great car. A pet photographer will have a different audience to wildlife photographer and so it will go on.

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“Broadway” captured by Ray Devlin (Click Image to See More From Ray Devlin)

You may ask the question why it’s necessary to define yourself. It may not be essential for you to know this, but most photographers who are successful having an in depth understanding which is reflected in their images. If you don’t know your definition as a photographer it will be hard to concentrate on a genre and make a success of it.

About the Author:
Wayne Turner has been teaching photography for 25 years and has written three books on photography. He has producedĀ 21 Steps to Perfect Photos; a program of learner-based training using outcomes based education.

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2 Comments

  1. Matti says:

    Very very true, good article. The more you know yourself the more your photos will reflect the beauty you see.

  2. Graham says:

    Great article – I am at this crossroads in my career right now, and to make it even more confusing I shoot video too. Time to make that list…..

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