What Type of Photographer Are You?

What Type of Photographer Are You?


Have you discovered what type of photographer you are? Doing so will make a big difference to your photography, allowing you to improve faster. If you don’t know right now, read on and I’ll help you find out.

Okay so the first thing to understand is that Holistic Photography is both a Craft and an Art. The earliest photographers were often skilled in both painting and chemistry; an unlikely combination today.

We will see that you develop competency in craft and art separately. This understanding gives us the four Types of photographer which we’ll cover in this article.

Times have changed. Digital cameras do almost everything for you now. To take a photo on the iPad you simply press on your subject, then take the picture!

For a photographer who grew up developing film and making prints, this is amazing. Sepia-toning a photo to make it brown took ages; now there’s an Instagram filter which does it, well, instantly.

So realise that for most people, learning the craft of photography isn’t necessary to get started. Sometimes some very famous photographers know next to nothing about cameras or lighting; they just have a good ‘eye’ – and great assistants! What is this artistic ‘eye’? Simply put, it’s the ability to ‘see’ a picture that others might miss. Cartier-Bresson had it; so did Avedon.

A photographer with a good eye can make better photographs with a phone than an untrained person could with the best camera in the world.

There’s a hint in the last paragraph; I used the word ’untrained’. Yes, it’s possible to get this elusive ‘eye’ for yourself. How? Well the best place to start is with the principles of Aesthetics.

Of course Art also requires an oblique approach to learning, covering psychology, philosophy and heightened self-awareness; but this is beyond the scope of this article.


Unless they’ve developed themselves in different fields, most people begin at square one. This is our first type of photographer.

>The Untrained Photographer

The untrained photographer is someone who takes pictures. That’s all. They don’t really know what they’re doing or what they’re looking for. Of the billions of images of Facebook, most were taken by the untrained.

Of course there is no shame in this. Photography need not be part of anyone’s life. A camera can just be a useful tool to save and communicate life’s little attractions. And just by the law of averages, if they’re out and about and take enough pictures, maybe one or two will be great.

So how do we move on from this average state? We develop our technical skill, which we’ll deal with later, or we work on our Artistic ‘eye’.

Designers, painters and the fashion-conscious have a head start. I have a friend who finds no interest in sunsets or people’s faces. Don’t take your fascination for the world for granted; a lot of people don’t have it.

A large part of having a good ‘eye’ is colour consciousness. You can study which colours work well together. A combination of blue and yellow or red and green works well, for example.


It’s also very important to be aware of the world around you. The artist really looks at the world. They want to see what’s there, not what they think is there. Practice this.

As with most creative endeavours, experiencing what’s been done before is a catalyst for improvement. It therefore pays dividends to visit art galleries and study great artworks.

You may be doing all of these things already. Perhaps your childhood encouraged an artistic temperament. If you have a good eye already, well that’s half the battle won.

The Art Photographer

The artist doesn’t really know anything about photography, cameras, lenses or proper technique; but they do have a good eye. This takes them quite far, especially now with Instagram, Photoshop and the ever-improving ‘auto’ modes on digital cameras. They know what they’re looking for, but not how to get there.

It may be worth buying their finished work if the quality is good, but they’re unlikely to have enough consistency for you to consider commissioning them. They focus on the world too much and overlook the camera. Serendipity and clever dSLRs can only take you so far.

The Practical Photographer

Photography can be technically complicated, especially if you want the best image quality and need to use artificial lighting and post-processing. To develop a high degree of skill takes time and effort; so camera operators can be in demand.

Specialised equipment can also be prohibitively expensive, further limiting the supply of reliable image-makers. They’re a safe bet, but you can’t expect too much soul or originality.


Don’t assume because the subject is interesting that there’s much going on behind the camera. It’s perfectly possible to take uninspiring pictures of beautiful people or sublime landscapes if the focus is on niche techniques and maximising sharpness.

The Holistic Photographer

As in most things, a balance produces the best results. I’m talking about the balance between the Artistic ‘eye’ and technical mastery of photography. The Holistic Photographer knows what they want to create, and they understand how to control the camera to achieve it.


While very aware of the principles of aesthetics, they also have enough trust in themselves to break the rules when necessary. The camera becomes an extension of the mind’s eye, and the focus is on preserving moments or expressing ideas and feelings.

What To Do Next?

So where are you at on the journey? If you’re reading this, chances are that you’re already more advanced than most people, who are untrained. But are you focussing on developing your Art, or your Craft

You can see that you will supercharge your own progress by balancing both. What do you need to concentrate on? Are more visits to exhibitions in order? Or would you benefit from a month spent shooting in Manual mode so you can master exposure? Why not have a look through your photographs with a friend and find out?

And the takeaway? You’ll get the best results by learning both the art and craft. Holistic Photography involves learning to See and communicating what you’ve seen effectively. It is having something to express, and understanding how to work with the realities of photography to create something tangible. Skilled artistic creation is worth striving for; you will find that it is its own reward.

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Ben Evans is a best-selling photography author of Photography: The Few Things You Need To Know *click here to get your copy now* and English photographer based between London and Barcelona. He specialises in fine art portraits, fashion and commercial photography. He teaches photography courses in Barcelona and Holistic Photography workshops in London and worldwide. He shoots Hasselblad, Nikon, Apple ;-P and those little waterproof film cameras with the plastic lenses.

Some Older Comments

  • Aundrea June 27, 2013 05:15 pm

    That is the thing, the only people that are giving negative feedback to this post are the ones that are "untrained'. There is NOTHING wrong with NOT knowing something. There is nothing WRONG with not being the best at something.
    If you don't know technique, this post is just being blunt. Just pick up a camera and learn. It's pretty easy. :) I like this article. It's not snobbish it's just the truth.
    It's saying there are those people that do it, the people that try, and the people that pretend.

  • Rob February 22, 2013 09:20 am

    Interesting article and thanks for posting.

    For my part, I've always felt that "Craft" is the combination of Science and Art. This is a wider view than for photography, but it applies. The "science" photographer is the one who is all about the kit and perfection in focus, exposure, lighting, white balance, grain, etc. The "art" photographer is the one who is all about the picture, the story, the perspective, the light (not lighting), etc.

    Craft is where the two meet. In the same way as in days gone by you'd have an apprentice (e.g. mason, carpenter, blacksmith) learning the ropes, getting comfortable with the tools, techniques and the medium of their trade. They'd progress and learn enough of the science and one day become a journeyman, then begin to gain a creative and artistic ability and insight as well. This is when they move on to becoming a craftsman, and even a master craftsman. A lot of this still rests on superb technical ability, of course, but it's not a Craft in my book unless you have elements of both.

    The Holistic Photographer here seems to be a step on from the "craft" photographer, where the moment, the juxtaposition, the 'power' in an image is seen and captured. It becomes almost an instinct to see the X-factor that makes the difference between a competent image and one that's worth looking at.

    Just my thoughts.

  • Allexia February 20, 2013 09:24 pm

    nice this one is really cool! http://www.seomaster.com.br

  • Wayne February 19, 2013 10:22 am

    Informative article. I guess I'm a cross between a practical photographer and a holistic photographer. After some experimentation with a borrowed Canon DSLR and a bag of lenses, I found it cumbersome to hike and carry gear, switch lenses, and the general maintenance of all that equipment. I opted for a megazoom camera. i work within the limitations of the camera, I use all the priority settings depending on what I'm photographing. When I'm not shooting, I go to galleries and study the works of others. I honestly believe because I have less technical gear, I am able to hike farther, concentrate more on lighting, composition, subject and perspective. With all due respect to the more technically advanced photographers out there, it's what you do with the camera more so than how much gear you own.

  • Vivian Bedoya February 17, 2013 01:37 pm

    "The artist doesn’t really know anything about photography, cameras, lenses or proper technique..." He'd have you believe we just point, shoot - in AUTO of all things - and hope for the best? LMAO! What an idiotic and offensive generalization made with such conviction. Most of the article as well as the labels bandied about so authoritatively is rubbish.

  • Justin Donie February 17, 2013 04:02 am

    Excellent. I've felt this way about photography for the longest time and you expressed it just right. I hope this article helps people both understand where they fit in to the overall spectrum of "photographer types" but also where they might go if their current manifestation isn't fulfilling to them.

    I started out as a very enthusiastic untrained photographer (about 11 years old), moved into artistic (during college) and finally, after taking the time to master personal vision, technology, technique, workflow and consistency, into holistic. It was and continues to be a incredibly fun journey. I think all photography teachers would benefit from introducing their new students to this spectrum of "photography types" so the newly initiated can understand the blend of skills required to really master photography. It's much harder to progress through the range of learning required to master photography if we don't know what's in front of us.

    Awesome article.

  • Marty P February 17, 2013 12:36 am

    I can't draw a straight line or paint, but I do appreciate art.
    I use my craft and learn Photography skills so I may express my unique view.
    I don't try to create as much as I try to capture.
    When I do a wedding, I don't try to just photograph people, but try to capture the story of that day. Special moments and events that makes that wedding so unique from other weddings.

  • Ben February 16, 2013 12:06 pm

    Thanks to everyone for taking the time to comment, really enjoying reading the responses!

  • Tom February 16, 2013 09:22 am

    I don't believe that you can categorise photographers by the emphasis that individuals adopt, and their stage of development. It's all a continuum and there are shifts over time. For instance, I spent quite some time learning the functions of my DSLR when I first bought one. Later I spent a lot of time on composition. Later again, I emphasised the light and tonality. So I constantly improve - first in one area - then in another. Let's not substitute labels for thinking.
    I kept waiting for the point of this article. Still waiting. Oh - don't worry about my spelling - I come from New Zealand.

  • Tod February 16, 2013 07:37 am

    In my mind, if you like taking pictures with a camera then you are a photographer. The only 2 groups remotely worth using are pro and amature but even those are no real indicator of skill or knowledge.
    Ive seen plenty of amatures who are brilliant and could make money if they wanted to but also plenty of pros who i souldnt pay to use. In the end if the photographer and in a pro case the client is happy with the results thats all that matters.

  • Sasha Gomes February 16, 2013 03:38 am

    I think I am a mixture between a pratical and art photographer however I believe I am moving away from that and exploring different options. Nice article, it made me think, keep it up! Don't let the negative comments about your article get to you. Some people just take things to personally. As photographers we need to be more open minded.

  • JacksonG February 15, 2013 11:45 pm

    We are photographers, we don't need additional labels.

  • Jason February 15, 2013 08:26 pm

    I've read some wonderful articles on DPS - but I have to tell you - THIS WAS NOT ONE OF THEM

    For one thing, the author comes off as a guy who thinks his farts don't really stink- Couple that with the fact that this entire concept is total BS - and you end up with the worst article I have ever read.

    I don't know if the author is testing out his latest ill-conceived concept on DPS as a testing ground to see if anyone will buy his total stupidity, but it sounds absurd.. really.. change your name and get a new identity.

    Its like one of those awful self help authors who sells people on new concepts to broaden their horizons and learn about paradigm shifts, thinking outside the box and six sigma - then sell books and tapes to those who need to hear it over and over to understand the concepts.

    I am not even going to bother arguing the finer points of why this was idiotic, because - well for one thing, you should never have a stupid argument with an idiot because he will drag you down and beat you with experience, and secondly - I have nothing to gain by it.

    DPS - like it was said earlier - do a better job at keeping this kind of atrocious nonsense out of your EXTREMELY GOOD newsletters. I hate to see the quality of your publication sink to this level.

    PS - no spellcheck on my response either - the article doesn't deserve proofreading on my part - it was that bad

  • Duke February 15, 2013 02:50 pm

    I'm in agreement with some who look at this post and go, "What the…?" I got my first crack at photography in Photo Journalism class in college where we shot it in black and white, we developed the film, and we created the prints. Sure, you could crop in post, and you could dodge and burn, but it was that training (oh yes, and the cost of film) that really made you think before you fired. Today, I've got a Nikon D300 that can be preprogrammed with 156 different settings in four banks of presets. Add to that the infinite post processing options. What is it we were doing? Ah, yes, capturing the decisive moments! But when it gets right down to it, I think most of us will admit that being in the right place at the most opportune moment is what really creates some magic moments and we're most thankful for. And that we had our camera with us at the time!

  • Alastair February 15, 2013 12:32 pm

    I'm still very perplexed about this "art photographer" you refer to. Are you talking about people who add Instagram filters to images shot on their mobile phones? Are you referring to fine art photographers? If so, saying they know little about photography and about cameras and proper technique is like saying a painter doesn't know how to use a paint brush! There's a chasm of difference between someone who converts their images to black and white in Instagram and a fine art photographer. You haven't made it at all clear as to who you're referring to and certainly describing the former as an "art photographer" doesn't do any justice to those who actually produce art with their cameras at all.

  • Georgia Martin Baker February 15, 2013 12:23 pm

    Perhaps you just said it wrong? about the art photographer. I have never ever heard that before! I call myself an art photographer. I was an artist first then fell in love with photography. You have named me as having one of the 100 best photographer's galleries. There are few photographers that I know that can take any image great or bad and make an artistic creative masterpieces out of them. Where did this notion come from? that an art photographer has no technical working knowledge.
    Labeling an art photographer like that just made me feel awful. And I am sure many others confused of this. I often call myself an art photographer. Lets look at it the other way around L.O.L. a photographer who does not know how to paint has called himself an art photographer who has had no traditional art training. There are many famous photographers that have great technical knowledge that have made amazing art works out of them. I just do not understand this?

  • Cheryl Pierce February 15, 2013 12:05 pm

    When I bought my first DSLR, I spent a year using Auto Mode and finding my "eye." I have spent the last 3 years learning the technical aspects of photography, while continuing to develop my style. I can now shoot in manual mode with skill and I'd like to think I've reached a place of balance between the craft and the art. There is still so much to learn, but that is what I love about photography!

  • Steven February 15, 2013 09:48 am

    I'd like to know how the description of an "art photographer" was arrived at... The way it's worded, the artist is basically equivalent to the untrained. Go to any gallery with photography and read the artist statements or description of the works, and most of them knew what they were doing and created their works with intent. I totally agree that photography is both an art and craft, but saying "the artist doesn't really know anything about photography..." probably isn't the best way to communicate the difference. If anything I'd say Art = Craft + Creativity.

  • Lori February 15, 2013 08:47 am

    I was a little surprised at this post! We hear so much in the photography industry about those who profess to be photographers, who have little knowledge and no professional equipment. The article says, "learning the craft of photography isn’t necessary to get started. Sometimes some very famous photographers know next to nothing about cameras or lighting; they just have a good ‘eye’ – and great assistants! Unfortunately, this is the attitude of so many... the camera will do it all. Well, I for one, can distinguish a sound technical composition. And a true professional is someone owns knowledge, and hungers to learn more.

  • John February 15, 2013 08:23 am

    After reading this areticle and another article about holistic photography, I am going to change my definition of of my photography to "holistic minimalist reality." Hmm, not sure about that wording, but it describes my photography.

  • Chris February 15, 2013 07:26 am

    Do not know how to put is nicelly, but I have never read so much bullshit about photographers in just one place before this article...

  • Carlos Pereira February 15, 2013 07:14 am

    I found the article interesting since it raises topics that one might pass through with noticing. I've been trying to get better with the craft. Maybe it is time to start thinking of art too.

  • Debbie February 15, 2013 06:50 am

    And sometime.... it's PURE LUCK - right time, place lighting.. ya know?

  • stranger February 14, 2013 09:00 am

    Well said Joseph . . !

  • Christine February 14, 2013 05:19 am

    I found this post rather unorganized & vague. And I agree with some of the others-- you might get lucky & get a great shot once, but to consistently get great shots, you need to understand how the camera technology works & that takes skill & practice.

  • Joseph February 14, 2013 03:42 am

    Why are photographers so easily upset by someone they think is questioning their ability? I'll tell you what. Photographers will pick my *stuff* apart day after day. My clients don't care about ANYTHING technical. They care about how I capture a mood or a person or a pose that reflects what it was that they were envisioning whether it be commercial real estate or an engagement shot.

    I base my 'eye' on what the client wants to see. I'm not doing this for fun. I do it so I can eat and pay my bills. Fortunately, I find a lot of fun in it. But the absolute last person I'm going to ask for advice on my work is another photographer. My clients tell me how I'm doing. A small group of artists and friends give me advice on where I might need improvement.

    That being said, this post is fine. It's only opinion, so relax. Another post some dude said that street photography "May only be black and white and can not include street performers". lol. Ok. Photography of any kind is what I make it. Period. Just go and shoot and love it.

  • Zain Abdullah February 13, 2013 02:01 pm

    Thank you for an enlightening article. Based on your categories I consider myself the holistic photographer. Because I love making images through photography and I know photography technically pretty well having started since film days.

    Perhaps you may want to visit my website to know my photographic works better at http://zain.zenfolio.com


  • Jim Woolsey February 13, 2013 08:00 am

    Great article! It makes me realize that I need to step out of my comfort zone sometimes.

  • Ben February 13, 2013 07:15 am

    Thanks - great to see so many talented photographers taking the time to comment.

    Good point @Alistair - should have been more specific with my definitions. I'd define Avedon and Cartier-Bresson as Holistic Photographers as they've quite evidently mastered both craft and art. That said, knowing how to operate a large format camera isn't necessarily tantamount to being a Holistic Photographer, great achievement though it doubtlessly is.

    @Richard - absolutely, the great painters have a huge amount to teach photographers. And rest assured that they would have spent considerable amounts of time working on their craft as well as their art!

    @Grady - Thank you for your comment - really appreciated. This sort of unstaged photography is inevitably serendipitous but I think this one worked. Probably only create a handful of photographs a year that do. A lot of the impact is lost when viewed small online - very glad that you enjoyed it.

    @William - Yes, you'll certainly find your experience of sketching and painting is transferable to photography. It's easy to take lots more photos but sometimes it's fruitful to aim for one successful photograph per session/subject/season.

  • William February 13, 2013 02:14 am

    I'm still trying to figure out what type of photographer I am. Before doing photography, I use to sketch and paint a great deal. Now, I'm focus on photography and I enjoy it greatly. Sometimes I find myself being my hardest critic, not achieving what I envision. Reading the article provide me with some more details and things to consider and try to realize about myself while photographing.

  • GradyPhilpott February 12, 2013 04:40 pm

    That last photo is one of the most compelling and thought provoking photos I've ever seen, considering the simplicity of the scene.

  • Richard Keeling February 12, 2013 06:56 am

    Balance is crucial. Craft plus aesthetic sense plus a willingness to think creatively. I have learned as much about how to compose a good photograph from painters as from any photographer. I have learned that taking the trouble to understand the technical control of my camera is crucial to getting the effect I am looking for. I have also learned that I will never stop learning.

  • Mei Teng February 12, 2013 02:09 am

    Photography involves a balance of both art and science.

  • Rob Brant February 12, 2013 01:31 am

    This was a great article and made me realize that I am an untrained photographer who is looking to do headshots and shoot music videos, however, it would have been nice if the flow chart in the beginning provided some recommendations on training that would take me to the next block. Thanks.

  • Daniela Giannangeli February 11, 2013 11:35 pm

    Very useful and extremely well written article, helpful and encouraging!
    Ben...I suppose I must be a kind of Art Photographer :-) ... but after my photography lessons with you I think I can now understand what an Holistic Photographer is, so that now I am aware of which direction to take in order to improve! Thanks to you, your patience in teaching, and your skillness! Daniela

  • Paul Moyer February 11, 2013 11:04 pm

    Wonderful article! Showed me that I definitely have to work on improving my artistic eye. Thanks for the advice.

  • Tod February 11, 2013 07:26 pm

    I totally agree that there are different types of photographers, i dont agree to these types or that any type is less valid than the other. Ive recieved a lot of good training from a dear friend who is an awesome artist, she knows how to get a great shot but doesnt really get bogged down in technical jargon. On the other hand im a tech head and i think about the technology first then what i can do with it. Both very different approaches but both have produced some great shots and lively debate when we work together.

  • Alastair February 11, 2013 03:50 pm

    I find this a really quite bizarre post.

    "The artist/art photographer doesn't really know anything about photography, cameras, lenses or proper technique"?

    What? I'm sorry but that is absolute rubbish. A photography forum I use (largeformatphotography.info) is full to the brim with fine art photographers and they're some of the most knowledgable photographers I've ever had the pleasure of meeting. I would suspect that they're far from the exception rather than the rule.

    And are you implying Cartier-Bresson and Avedon knew nothing about cameras or lighting? I think you definitely need to backup that assertion.

    I'm curious as to whether anyone reviews some of the posts on this blog because how this post ever got past the editor is anyone's guess.

  • Scottc February 11, 2013 07:40 am

    Not sure what to make of this article, but whatever these photographs represent they represent the kind of photographer I am.


  • Steve Rubelmann February 11, 2013 06:02 am

    I guess I am in the "Untrained" group, although I think I take good photographs. I seemed to find the attitude of this author quite snobbish and condescending, although that may just be my view. However, as a trained computer technician I might point out the author's keyboard needs to be replaced, or he needs to be trained in how to use it. (An over-abundance of question marks)

  • Guigphotography February 11, 2013 04:03 am

    Still working that one out, so probably an "aspirational" photographer! Finding out is fun though...

  • Mridula February 11, 2013 01:35 am

    I have to admit it that before reading this article I have been focused on craft! Thanks for giving me another angle to think about!