Are you a snapper or a photographer?

I saw a heated debate on Reddit the other day about the nature of photography and how it applies to the Instagram generation. There was of course much to-and-fro on either side of the argument, but the general consensus seemed to be that if you took photos then you were a photographer. End of.

During the course of the debate, there was much pointing out of dictionary definitions by various people. Indeed if you look in pretty much any dictionary you’ll see this:

photographer: (noun) a person who takes photographs, especially one who practices photography professionally.

There were also further examples given, such as – anyone who drives is a driver and anyone who plays golf is a golfer. So sure, if we boil it down to simple etymological definitions – everyone is a photographer. But, dictionary definitions aside, I fundamentally disagree with the statement that anyone who takes photographs is a photographer – pro or otherwise. I’m not even sure that I qualify for the title of photographer.

Before I go on I would like to point out that I am not a photo snob. Not by any stretch of the imagination. I don’t care what camera you use, who made it, what lens it has and how much it cost or if it’s a smartphone, a compact point-and-shoot or a high-end DSLR that cost the same as a small family car. Photographers can and do use all of the above. But! Not everyone who uses a smartphone, compact point-and-shoot or a high-end DSLR is a photographer.

The smartphone has made it possible for anyone anywhere to take a photograph of anything at all. Moreover the arrival of applications like Hipstamatic and Instagram encouraged a new kind of photo-taking in which nothing was too dull to capture. My opinion is that the overwhelming majority of users of Instagram are not in any way, shape or form, photographers – they are  snappers. I don’t mean to denigrate anyone by calling them a snapper – I enjoy snapping too – I just strongly believe that there is a world of difference between your average Instagram-style shot and a proper photograph.

What’s the difference, you ask? I think it’s actually pretty simple – a snapper is someone who only really thinks about a photo after it has been taken.

© 2021 Andy Hutchinson
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