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I'm a Cairns, far north Queensland, Australia professional photographer specialising in travel, editorial and environmental portraiture.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Are you a cameraman or a photographer?

In Japan they have about a hundred different words for seaweed. Which I guess shows how much they like seaweed. Which is pretty much irrelevant to this post but I thought it was interesting!

But what is interesting is that they also have a couple of different words for somebody who takes photos professionally. They call them either a cameraman or a photographer.

The cameraman is somebody who is technically very proficient at taking photographs. So is the photographer. The cameraman is someone who knows their f-stops, shutter speeds and rule of thirds guidelines off by heart. So is the photographer. So what's the difference?

The cameraman can follow a client's guidelines to the letter and produce a technically perfect image according to what the client says they want. The photographer can most likely do this as well but they're not expected to do just that. You see the cameraman is seen as somebody who is technically very proficient and the kind of person you can rely on to create your dream picture according to your specifications.

The photographer is the person you turn to when you want to be surprised and amazed. The photographer is skilled enough to produce an image to your exact specifications but their real talent only comes out when they're left to their own devices. To create photographs that come from their soul, not from the orders of others.

So which do you want to be? The cameraman who has the technical know-how to replicate any picture you see on Flickr or are asked to create by your clients? Or the photographer who can create something from the bottom of their hearts that will go beyond the wildest expectations of what anybody thought you were possible of imagining.

The real world of commercial travel photography dictates that to a certain extent you need to be able to create pictures that conform to a certain standard. And sometimes you might need to follow the layout or directions of a client. But if you stop there without going beyond and listening to your soul then you'll never get a chance to be a photographer. You'll always be stuck at cameraman. So you need to balance the two.

Just because you're currently really into blurry panning shots doesn't mean that you'll be able to come away from an assignment only shooting that. Or just HDR. Or just images using the wrong white balance. Or whatever your creative juices tell you you should try. But that doesn't mean that you shouldn't shoot that stuff as well. And show it as much as possible. Because chances are if it comes from your heart it will resonate with other people as well. And hopefully you'll get to the stage where people are calling you looking for your personal style. And when that happens you've graduated from cameraman to photographer.

Oh and the reason I posted this image? This was part of a shoot I did for the beautiful Mareeba Wetlands - a manmade haven for birds about an hour out of Cairns. And the client had ideas about the type of images they wanted - and we got those. But I also knew that I wanted a POV shot from one of the canoes because when I had done it for myself I thought it was the most magical thing ever. So during a break I took a canoe out and took this image and it was one of the client's favourites. Trust your instincts, shoot what you love and work towards saying good bye to Cameraman.


Metacowboy said...

can not agree to that as these are 2 fully different jobs Cameraman and Photographer . Mostly the Cameraman needs more imagination than the client have about his vision what they whant.

Paul Dymond said...

Hi Metacowboy,

I don't think there's really much to agree or disagree with. It's just the way the language is used to define two types of photographer. It's probably more a matter of perception than the actual contents of the work itself. Yes the cameraman needs a certain vision beyond expectations but is know more for his/her ability to execute instructions.