With the COVID-19 “lockdown” continuing (atleast within the UK), I hope you remain safe.  It is in this is this time of self-isolation, I reflect on some fo the conversations I have had as a photographer – whilst looking forward to a time when the lock-down has been lifted.

Two of the incidents I have experienced over the years, still make me wonder about people’s perception of photography.  One of these incidents occurred when I was working in India – where I was asked if I had “a big lens”; and this was a question which could be taken literally rather than a pun…

As it happened, the lenses I had with me included a Nikon 80-200mm f2.8.  This lens may not be the “biggest” or latest of lenses, but when the inquirer saw I had it, his response was too enthusiastically declare that I must be “a professional photographer”.  To him, only “a professional photographer” would have “a big lens”.

The second incident was at a rally in Edinburgh – in support of Scottish Independence.  For me, when covering such events,  it is best to approach the event from a dynamic point-of-view.  A photographer may have formed an idea of the images which he or she may wish to capture prior to the event; but it is during the event, that the photographer must adapt to the situation at hand.

©David Yarrow

What bugged me the most during the rally concerned, was when a passer-by stopped me and informed me that I should move because a “real photographer” wanted to capture an image, and that I was in the way.  With these two events, I went from puzzlement to bewilderment.  

Even so, I remember the quotation from the 1993 film Sister Act 2.  During the film, the character played by Whoopi Goldberg says to another character “Don’t ask me about being a writer. If, when you wake up in the morning, you can think of nothing but writing…then you’re a writer”.  I would say the same about being a photographer – and I ask: Just what is it that makes one photographer “real” and another “fake”?

As with any profession, some people pursue their craft more aggressively than others.  Some photographers pursue their craft professionally, whereas others fall under the heading of “semi-pro” or “amateur”; but this does not make the photographer any less “real”.  The work of many “amateur” photographers can be as amazing; sometimes more so than “professional” photographers.  It can take years of practice and dedication.

I also say that it doesn’t matter what lenses you own, you can still be a professional – being in possession of “a big lens” (still no pun intended) does not in itself mean that you are a “professional”.  A telephoto lens maybe beneficial to photojournalism, wildlife and sports photography, but there are exceptions; such as the work undertaken by renowned Scottish Photographer David Yarrow who generally uses wideangle lenses.  

Wideangle lenses may also be beneficial for landscape and architectural photography, but there are occasions when the photographer may choose to use a telephoto zoom lens.  It is the photographer who chooses (through experience and practice) – not random passers-by.