PASM – Everyone is a photographer until they hit M. Or not?

Being a photographer carries a coolness factor of well, a lot. So, everyone wants to be a photographer, right? Er… no? Read on!

There is something about photography that gives it an air of ubercool, way to the right of the coolness spectrum. Maybe it’s the gear (white long lenses and all), maybe the notion that photographers “see” things where others see nothing in particular, maybe the idea that they spend too much time socializing with top fashion models (not true in my case…), but at any rate, it is something that people would like to be associated with.

With digital photography and even more so with smartphone cameras, photography has been popularized beyond imagination. There are billions of images being uploaded on a number of media and certainly if one takes pictures and post them they can lay a claim to the title “photographer”. 

This left photographers high and dry so they came up with the everyone-is-a-photographer-until-they-hit-M concept. The dreaded Manual Mode…. The long lost older sibling to P, A and S…

Is there truth to the claim? Does it matter anyway? Should you care? Are you a photographer? Is anyone a photographer? Let’s see…

Is there truth to the claim… Well, yes, absolutely! The Manual Mode is hard to master. One has to really understand the exposure triangle of Aperture-Shutter Speed-ISO. Back in the day of film photography (yes, I distinctly remember that day, read the about, don’t let me digress) one had to master the Aperture-Shutter Speed relationship since ISO was pretty much given, as rolls of film came in specific ISO. You bought a roll of film of 100 ASA / 21 DIN (ISO 100 in todayspeak) and unless you decided to push it, i.e. shoot it like it was a 400 for example, you did not have to worry about that for the exposure, as it was a given. With digital photography, ISO is something you can change from one shot to the next, so it plays a major roll to the whole exposure concept. So, when on manual mode, you are on your own; you have to know what you want to achieve and how to twist the little knobs and rings to do it. It’s not rocket science, but it does take a little bit of reading and a whole lot of practice.

Does it matter anyway… Well, no, not really! If all you want to do is capture a moment that is beautiful or meaningful to you and your loved ones, or want to “frame” a part of the world to save for posterity, it really doesn’t matter. You don’t have to ever hit M and fiddle with the settings. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t, just that you don’t have to. You can still claim that you are a photographer, in the sense that you take photographs. Hell, you can even claim you are a photographer without any qualifiers, who cares really? In Greece, there is a popular saying that “you are whatever you declare you are”. There is some truth to that for better or for worse.

Should you care… You should only if you really want to master the art of photography. You shouldn’t if all you want to do is snap pics every now and then; who knows some of them will turn out nice and if this is your goal, no one’s the wiser. If however, you belong to the former category, you should indeed care. You have a whole new world to explore and see how things turn out. If you see photography as a meaningful hobby that you don’t mind investing time in, experimenting with different settings can be very rewarding (and very frustrating, like all experimentation). Look at the bright side; with digital cameras, you can see what you shot, try and try again until you get it right. Back in the old days of 36 exposure rolls, that shutter button was pretty heavy to push and you didn’t get to see the results until after you paid to have it developed and printed. Yikes!

Are you a photographer…. You tell me. Or don’t. Just go out and shoot. In Manual mode, in Program mode (or Professional mode as Ken Rockwell calls it), in Aperture priority mode or in Shutter Speed priority mode, just take your camera and make images. It may not turn you into a photographer (no top models with start running around you) but at the least you will have fun and in the process you will have the chance to record what is important or interesting or beautiful to you. To you. Let me say this again: To you. That’s what matters. You and how you feel when you are taking pictures and sharing them with your friends, your family, your social media buddies, the world.

Is anyone a photographer… Yes. There are many of them, extremely talented and hard working artists that create stunning images. Are you one of them? You could be.