“Photography” vs “photography”: A Big Difference

There’s a thought in our industry that gives me stress at times: especially when I go into meetings with manufacturers who try to push the idea of someone buying a camera and not at all pushing the idea of what they can do with light, lenses, a system and how to be an actual creative.

Something that I often talk about on this website is the idea of “photography” vs “Photography.” To quickly recap, lowercase p refers to casual photos being taken such as what people share on Snapchat, the biggest accounts on Instagram, etc. They’re very personal and self-serving. Capital P refers to creating with the intent of doing something artistic. It too can be self-serving; but generally when you create art you do it to show it off. This is true of any art format.

But the idea of Big P vs little p will help to define us as photographers in the coming years.

Photographers (notice the use of big P) will have to survive and make potential clients understand that Uncle Bob, their son, their friend or someone else really possibly can’t do a better job than they can because you’re doing more than pressing a shutter. There is a creative vision, a personal conversation with customer service, etc.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 70-200mm f4 OSS Eli Samuel portraits (2 of 2)ISO 32001-80 sec at f - 4.0

It’s one of the biggest things that I talk about when I pitch services from my headshot website. You’re not paying me to sit there just take a few photos. You’re paying me to bring out in you who you actually are, to create photos in a situation that defines you, pose you just right, get the perfect body language across, speak to you in the right way to play enough of a psychology game to bring out the important stuff, etc. I’m not going to talk about the rest; you can figure it all out when you’ve got your own idea of what a creative vision is and what your personal one is.

A creative vision; now that’s something I talk about a lot but it can pertain in some ways to more than just your specific idea that you had in your head that you specifically directed, carefully placed elements, etc. It can also include (though to a certain extent) the gift of foresight–being able to capture the wonderful expression in a parent’s face as their child graduates and knowing exactly when to look and when to press the shutter requires the ability to read people and have foresight.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Phottix Indra500TTL Images portraits with Amanda (6 of 11)ISO 1001-4000 sec at f - 1.6

Because let’s be honest: if you see the moment in your viewfinder or on your LCD screen then it’s probably gone already. And yes, there are cameras that can record a couple of seconds before you actually pretty the shutter–but it won’t give you the fullest editing abilities later on. It’s like receiving a print vs a negative.

To that end, the world doesn’t need another Peter Hurley, Zack Arias, Jeremy Cowart, Chase Jarvis, Sue Bryce, Bresson, Adams, etc. We’ve already had them, and they did (or still do) their own work and their own unique creative vision that they’ve done first and that someone else has tried to copy.

But copying is the problem. If you try to the go the exact same places that Adams went to to create the exact same image–then cool, that’s a personal goal I guess. But a million photographers have tried to do that. However, you can find a way to take his steps further. Trey Ratcliff did–and look where he is.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Little Miss Rollerhoops portraits (19 of 24)ISO 2501-6 sec at f - 8.0

Photographers (again with the big p) have a responsibility in the future to push this ideal. I genuinely don’t like saying that we have a responsibility, but we really do if we intend on being serious about our work for commercial reasons. To that end, we have to market this creative vision–not our gear or how well you can mimic the look of Peter Hurley’s work for cheaper (because you probably don’t have his people skills in the studio, let’s be real) we have to be unique.

And as an art form, and for general people to actually “get” photography as an art form in the same way that they “get” that painting, sculpting, etc is an art form, we need a genuine create and use our foresight or vision. We need to create work that makes jaws drop.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 50mm f1.4 Milvus food photography (1 of 5)ISO 2001-160 sec at f - 2.8

We need to make the common man realize that Photography as an art form is tough to do and requires a skill with years of work and honing a creative vision. But at the moment, as you peruse through Instagram account after 500px account after Flickr account, that’s kind of tough to do.

However, I never said that making your own unique creative vision was easy. You just need to get out there and do.

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.