What Kind of Photographer Are You?
We often think of ourselves as landscape photographers or wildlife photographers, or perhaps wedding or street photographers, based on our preference of subject matter. But we also tend to fall into categories based on how we approach this passion of ours. What kind of photographer are you?
I know some photographers who are still shooting with their first digital SLR camera, purchased well over a decade ago, and one with an even older fully manual film camera. Yes, film can be found for sale if you look for it. All of them seem perfectly happy with the arrangement. Some folks feel more comfortable with an old and trusted friend, I suppose. As long as they remain in good repair, it is true that the quality these older cameras are capable of remains as it ever was. For a certain kind of photographer, there's little reason to spend money on a new one when their old one is working just fine. I call these photographers the "comfortable" kind. Maybe they're set in their ways, but that's just fine in their book.
Other photographers want to get their hands on the newest gear as soon as it gets announced. They keep up on all the latest news and happily do their part to pay the salaries of employees at their favorite camera store. With the latest gear, they figure they automatically have the edge on the competition, even if that competition is themselves. Always on the hunt to eradicate whatever has been holding them back, they're willing to invest in buying the best equipment they can and in traveling to exotic locations where they can put it to use. These are the "seekers," photographers always looking for that magic answer that will make everything fall into place. Such a strategy can pay off if you work at it, but it's often the hard work that provides the most benefit, not merely shooting with the coolest lenses.
With or without new gear, some photographers are always striving to capture images of places and things they haven't shot yet, as if they're marking off items on their photography bucket list. Such "collector" photographers see little value in going places they've already visited. But they make it a point to stop at every roadside marker and visitors center, moving on to the next as quickly as they've finished their task at each. Quickly getting in and out becomes their best strategy for racking up as many trophies as possible. They're on a mission, and nothing gets in their way. There are only so many hours in the day, so it seems reasonable not to waste them.
other photographers obsess over capturing the perfect shot of just a few compositions. No matter how many images they have of a favorite subject, they return time and again, hoping to do a better job than last time. When visiting a location, they don't like to leave until they've worked that subject till all possibilities have been exhausted or they run out of battery power or available light. These are the "perfectionists."
Then there are Nikon shooters versus Canon shooters. Some believe that one brand is inherently better than the other, ignoring that both have professionally viable product lines with legions of adherents to vouch for the results each can produce. The truth is that an individual's brand of choice should have more to do with familiarity and availability than anything else. If you're the only Canon shooter in a circle of friends who all shoot Nikon, you'll have a hard time finding help. And you won't be able to test drive their lenses either.
As in any profession or avocation, some photographers think they know everything and gave up on learning. Others have a hard time learning, or jumping off beyond what they've been taught as they forge their own vision. There are all kinds of photographers.
I freely admit that each of these types is an exaggeration, painted larger than life to make a point. Few of us are so clearly in the extreme, but most of us probably can see at least an aspect of ourselves in one or more groupings. That's understandable. When we find an approach that seems to work for us, we stick with it and see how far it can take us. At various points along the way, I've tended toward more than one of these outlooks myself, so I speak from personal experience.
And even if I'm the only one that can relate to any of these descriptions, that's OK. It's still worth considering what kind of photographer you've become and what kind you'd like to be. A bit of self-reflection can help make sure you're headed in the right direction.