Above: Image by Gina Milicia
What kind of photographer are you? When I ask you this question, I don’t mean what genre you shoot, portrait, still life, documentary or landscape. I’m asking about how you execute your images and this is not to be confused with gear or your editing style, that’s your technique.
The way you execute your images will determine what kind of photographer you are and understanding the differences will help you to grow and evolve as a photographer.
There are five different kinds of photographer:
1. The Karaoke photographer
This is a great way to learn about great photography by impersonating the subjects, lighting and editing techniques of the photographers that inspire you.
It’s kind of like a painting by numbers approach to taking images. This is how every great artist starts out.
2. The accidental photographer
As the name suggests, this kind of photographer will stumble on good images rather than plan for them. Every accidental photographer will get lucky several times in their life because the photography Gods are generous and want all accidental photographers to experience the joy of capturing the perfect moment in time and preserving it forever.
3. The Technician
The technician is a more advanced kind of photographer that can work to a brief. This is how the majority of commercial photographers make a living. They are hired by a client to photograph a person or product to fit a specific brief.
Some clients will give a detailed brief that includes specific lighting, vibe and style of shot. The technician has the skill to produce an image that matches the vision of the client, designer or creative director.
4. The Visionary
The visionary is the type of photographer that every photographer wants to be when they grow up. The visionary’s images stand out from the pack because they are nothing like the work of other photographers.
The work of a visionary can’t be replicated because these photographers are sharing work based on their unique taste which is a culmination of everything the photographer has seen, felt, touched, heard or experienced in their lifetime.
A visionary doesn’t follow fashion or trends they create them.
The thing that sets a visionary apart from the other photographers is their ability to visualise the image before they take it. They know exactly what they want to say and how they want to say it. Their images are meticulously planned from the style of lighting, the type of model, the location and the post-production.
Master portrait photographer Gregory Heisler sums up the visionary perfectly in this quote:
“Style isn’t I use a beauty dish and a fill
Style isn’t I cross-process my film
Style isn’t I desaturate the colour in Lightroom, that’s a technique.
A technique is something that someone else could employ and come up with a similar result.
True style is a vision and that’s something that is as unique as your fingerprints it’s like your DNA.”
5. The Chameleon
The Chameleon is a combination of two or more styles. The Karaoke/accidental photographer learning to be a technician. The technician that moonlights as a visionary or the visionary that works as a technician to pay the bills!
So what type of photographer are you? Do you pre-visualise the images you want to create or are you more comfortable following a brief? I’d love to hear from you.