The Tipping Point: “Person with a camera” to Photographer

Written by Sandra Gittlen: Journalist, Runner, Budding Photographer

I’m about to toe the line at my 11th marathon. Yet when someone asks me if I’m a runner, my involuntary reaction is to pause before saying, “I guess so.” After all, Shalane Flanagan is a runner. Desi Linden is a runner. Bill Rodgers is a runner. Me? I just run.

As I enter my second week with my new digital SLR camera, I feel that same daunting and diminishing feeling creeping in already. I have always loved and appreciated photography. My career as a reporter has taught me that the perfect photograph can enhance my story more than 500 more words ever could. My pastime as a volunteer at an animal shelter also has revealed to me the intense power of photography in the rescue world. Our dogs and cats rely on the eye of our volunteer photographers (including LensProToGo’s own Beth Oram) to capture their personality so potential adopters can fall in love. I don’t take the art of picture taking lightly and have such reverence for all who embrace it.

That’s why, after I did an impromptu photo shoot with a friend and her new golden retriever puppy, I was caught off-guard. I had posted on Facebook a few photos from the shoot, which was incredibly fun, and tagged my friend. A friend of hers commented:, “I need that photographer.” What photographer? Who was she talking about? There was no photographer there. Just me. What I wanted to write back: “You must be mistaken. I’m just someone with a camera.”

I’m not a runner. I’m just someone who runs.

It makes me wonder at what point does someone with a camera become a photographer? Does it have to do with putting your art out there? Does it have to do with the transactional nature of being a photographer — getting paid for your work? Is it simply a level of confidence in the professional nature of your work?

What is the bar?

At less than two weeks of SLR ownership, I am indeed just a person with a camera. I look forward, however, to the day that when someone asks who the photographer of a captivating photo is and I can raise my hand proudly and say, “Me! I’m the photographer.”

Hopefully, it won’t take the equivalent of 11 marathons to do so.

All photos in this post of Eddie the pup were taken by Sandy.


About the Author:

Sandra Gittlen is a longtime freelance writer and editor in the greater Boston area. She is the proud mom to rescue dogs and cats – her inspiration for starting in photography – and is on the board of Baypath Humane Society in Hopkinton, MA.


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