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Artists and Explorers – What Photographer Type Are You?

Artists and Explorers – What Photographer Type Are You?

What drives you to pull out your camera and take a picture? The answer to this question will help you understand your photographer type.

Does an image of a finished photo jump into your mind, and then you have to go out and make it? Perhaps you pick up your camera and walk out the door, not knowing where it will lead you.

Maybe you’re only compelled to photograph new places you’re traveling to, or your (grand) children as they grow up.

Understanding yourself as a photographer, and knowing what inspires you, is one of the best ways to grow. Once you know your photographer type, you can focus on the photography you love without feeling the pressure to be like other photographers.

“As a photographer, you need to develop a way of working that suits your personality.”

Tim Hetherington, Photojournalist

Let’s look at four photographer types; the traveler, the parent, the artist, and the explorer so that you can discover where you fit in and what your strengths are.

photographer type traveler
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I began my journey as the traveler type, mostly picking up my camera when I was on a road trip.

The traveler photographer type

You know you’re the traveler photographer type if you only pull out your camera when you go on a trip. You’re probably not concerned with being called a photographer and mainly want to take snapshots to capture places you travel to. But unlike typical tourists, you want those snapshots to look really good.

Here are some quick tips for the traveler photographer type:

  • Learn how your camera works, so you’re not distracted and miss the joy of traveling.
  • Master some useful composition elements to elevate your photos above sloppy snapshots.
  • Learn to see light and your photos will begin to look beautiful.
  • Practice new techniques on short day trips before you go on major travels.

The parent photographer type

You know you’re the parent photographer type if your baby or children inspired you to get a camera. Like the traveler photographer type, you might not be concerned with being called a photographer. You just want to take snapshots and capture special family memories.

But unlike most other parents or grandparents, you want those snapshots to look really good.

Here are some quick tips for the parent photographer type:

  • Learn how your camera works, so you’re not fumbling and missing moments.
  • Master some creative composition elements to elevate your photos above sloppy snapshots.
  • Learn to see light so that your photos will look beautiful.
  • Your daily family life will provide you with infinite opportunities to practice these techniques, and you’ll capture a lot of memories along the way.

It’s okay to just want good photos

If you’re the traveler or the parent photographer type, it’s okay to want good photos of your travels and your children without being totally obsessed with photography.

Learn the most powerful camera settings, the best compositional techniques, play with the light, and your photos will begin to transcend sloppy snapshots.

photographer type
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Perhaps you’re even a blend of the traveler and parent photographer types. Things become more exciting when you blend two types together.

The artist photographer type

How do you know you’re the artist photographer type?

Easy! If you talk about making art with your photography, then you’re the artist type. Artists have a vision of exactly how they want their photos to look. Their goal is to go out and make the photo they’ve envisioned.

As an artist, you begin with a vision or at least a basic concept. You work toward making it turn out, and then produce a finished product like a print or collection of photos for some purpose.

When showing their photographs, the artist often says, “look what I made.” Whereas the explorer type often says, “look what I discovered,” or “look what I saw.”

Artists usually take a higher degree of control over the moment and their images. They are happy to transcend the original photo, adding textures, film grains, or swapping backgrounds, etc. Nothing will stand in the way of your vision!

Here are a number of other things that characterize the artist photographer type:

  • Posing and direction in portraits
  • The use of advanced Photoshop techniques
  • Referring to their work as fine art
  • Specializing in one form of photography
  • Selling prints
  • Food photography
  • Fashion photography
  • Stylized shoots
  • Studio lighting
  • Sticking with things for a long time
photographer type artist
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I’ve always hesitated to call myself an artist because whenever I meet an artist photographer, I realize how unalike we are. We both have a camera, love photography, study light, and composition, but it seems like we have totally different goals for our work.

The explorer photographer type

If you’re the explorer photographer type then you don’t necessarily have much in mind when you pick up your camera. You wander off into the world and photograph new places, people, and things that you discover.

You might happen to travel the world, but you don’t have to travel far to be fulfilled as an explorer. Your own backyard or city likely keeps you busy.

When you photograph people, you’re not just making portraits, you’re exploring the people and relationships that you photograph.

Often enough, when you photograph an object, it’s more about the interesting light than the object itself.

You often find yourself telling others about what you discovered or learned while exploring.

This list characterizes many explorer type photographers:

exploring childhood
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Explorers are willing to go just a little bit further into the unknown. Just a little further into the murky places.

When it comes to photography, my mind is blank. I have no vision, no idea what I should do, not a clue about how my photos will turn out.

I’m more comfortable heading off into the unknown.

Throw me into a situation that I’m completely unprepared for and I’ll figure it out. That’s because I’m an explorer. I want to learn new things. I want to be thrown into situations that I’m not familiar with. And, for some strange reason, I want to do it with a camera in my hand.

“Taking pictures is like tiptoeing into the kitchen late at night and stealing Oreo cookies.”

Diane Arbus

How are the traveler and the explorer different from each other?

The traveler may only pick up the camera occasionally, and only during times of travel. The explorer is likely dedicated to daily or at least weekly uses of the camera.

The explorer can’t help but pick up the camera more often and is not limited to landscapes and new locations. They also explore relationships. Often, the explorer learns new techniques, not because the technique is necessary, but simply because they are compelled to learn new things.

art and exploration
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Even if we have different goals, the common link between artists and explorers is our creativity. When a photographer picks up their Fuji mirrorless to explore the streets, they’re no less interested in light, moment, and composition than the fashion photographer who reaches for their medium format camera.

Perhaps one is more interested in documenting and learning about human nature, while the other is creating art pieces. Photography is big enough for all sorts of intentions.

Exploration and artistry as a supertype

Just as the traveler and parent types can be merged to create a deeper type, so can the artist and the explorer.

If you’re the explorer type, you may find that you have a huge body of work that you’ve done nothing with. Perhaps it’s time to elevate your exploration toward something that approaches art.

Every now and then, an artist might do well to wander off into the world without intentions to create but to just see what they discover. Your art may reach a deeper level the more you explore your world.

photographer type exploring
Don’t be surprised if your type seems a little fuzzy at first, but pay attention and it will come into focus.

What photographer type are you?

4 photographer types

Are you the traveler, the parent, an artist or an explorer?

Let me know your photographer type in the comments and add a link to your photos if you can.

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Mat Coker
Mat Coker

is a family photographer from Ontario, Canada. He teaches photography to parents and families, showing them how to document their life and adventures. You can get his free photography ebook, and learn more about taking creative photos.

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