I was asked to take pictures of a local high school basketball team a couple of weeks ago. I, of course, accepted the offer and went to take portraits of all the team members. The pictures turned out pretty well, and the team and everyone affiliated were quite happy with the results.
Well just yesterday, the team gathered for a banquet at the end of the season and I was asked to take a group picture of everyone. So I brought in all my equipment and got set up while some of the moms arranged the kids just the way they wanted them. Lo and behold, another one of the moms came by who happened to be a “professional photographer.” So she took over and dictated the room and started yelling at the kids to get them where she wanted. She actually did pretty well too. So I just stood there hiding behind my camera and waited for her to be satisfied with the arrangement. When the kids were finally in order, I was able to do my thing with the camera, until… she grabbed my tripod and started moving it back. It was nice that she came to help arrange the shot, but touch my camera? Trust me, you don’t want to go there. I asked her what she was doing, and she said something about making more room for when the picture is cropped. “Cropped for what?” I asked. “I don’t know,” was the response. I didn’t say anything more, but what I was thinking was, “HELLO, I have a zoom lens for a reason. It’s this newfangled thing that allows you to not have to drag your tripod back and forth.” Needless to say, I stood there and pushed the little button on the camera. I was tempted to say, “Okay, here’s the remote. I’ve optimized the settings on the camera for the current light conditions. But since you took over the show, and you’re the ‘professional photographer,’ why don’t you just push the button.”
I’ve been asked before if I considered myself a professional photographer. But even if I was the best photographer in the world, quite honestly, I don’t think I would ever consider myself a professional. For one thing, there’s always so much more to learn. Each and every experience can be a learning experience, as well as humbling. But probably an even bigger reason is that…I simply don’t have a big enough mouth to be a “professional photographer.” Especially after my adventure yesterday it seems that, particularly for portrait photographers, they need to have the characteristics of a dictator and take charge and yell at everybody and all that good stuff. But that’s not me. I could probably manage one or two people, get to know them, interact with them, and make a natural looking portrait instead of dictating their every move. But what I find that works best for me is non-portrait stuff. Nature, macro, still, abstract, and so on. Things that I can be creative with, and put a part of myself into every picture (not literally). I even have fun taking pictures of people in natural settings, doing something other than standing and smiling at the camera. But for me, just photographer is fine without that other big fancy word.