Speaking of weddings, I am a wedding photographer. I am a portrait photographer. I am a photographer.
It has taken me a long time to actually say that.
I am a photographer.
For so long, when someone would ask me what I did, I would hesitate and beat around the bush. I didn’t feel like I could say, “I’m a photographer,” and when I did, I felt really stupid saying it. Like they would think, “oh a likely story,” or something similar. I didn’t write down anything for “occupation” on medical forms or anything else I had to fill out, either.
My “likely story” probably goes like all others: first camera (110 film) when I was six, always the one with the 35mm film camera in high school, first real SLR later followed by crappy digital camera after crappy digital camera until I could finally get my first dSLR. From there, “the rest is history” – learning and more learning, doing and more doing, and on until we get to the point where people started asking me to take pictures of their families, for pay, and I photographed my brother’s wedding in film.
But I wasn’t “a photographer.”
The story continues, people started asking me to photograph weddings and I did them, not really knowing what I was getting into, but loving it. First a friend of a friend, then a sister-in-law, another sister-in-law, and yet another sister-in-law… I recruited a friend for the last two to second shoot and things went well so we started a business… not knowing what we were doing. I trusted her and her “business degree” to take care of things on that end but boy, did I get screwed instead: three years later, I was guarding myself from being unjustifiably sued by her as I was only trying to get out of the “business.”
But I still wasn’t “a photographer.”
Even during that time when we had a business together, I felt strange telling people that was what I “did.” Something about it never felt right, even though “we” – I – had lots of work and at times were/was very busy. The professionalism just wasn’t there. People would make comments at times about my partner, both on technical and professional aspects and I just felt like that took me down as well.
After I left, I didn’t intend to start my own business right away, I felt like I had some business-learning to do. But in the time that I was already leaving my previous business, people were still soliciting me for work and I needed work. So I had to take a crash course in business.
Only now, doing the business end correctly and finally being able to find my own style and make my own decisions, do I feel like a “real” photographer.
I feel like a photographer when I look over my photos and feel like it’s a job well done.
I feel like a photographer when I discover something new (to me) and can learn and explore that all at my own pace without having to teach someone else who won’t really take it to heart or give me crap because I upgraded some equipment.
I feel like a photographer when a mother of the bride tells me that my photos brought her to tears.
I feel like a photographer when I can make my own business decisions for myself.
I feel like a photographer every time a bride and groom – some of whom I’d only met for the first time hours before – hug me as I give my good-byes before leaving the reception.
I feel like a photographer when a dad tells me “the photos were freaking awesome” and that he wants to purchase all of the high-res digital images.
This is what I do, this is who I am.
I am a photographer.