Real Versus Fake: What Does it Take to be a "Real" Anything?


As I try to break into the field of writing, I have thought a lot about the tools and experience I would need to be a "real writer."  Real writers seem to spend a lot of alone time.  Real writers have awesome cameras.

After seeing a call for submissions on a local magazine, I thought about writing a piece about Pacific Coast Highway - my boyfriend and I had driven down it the a few weeks ago on our way home from Santa Monica.  It's beautiful and would be a great subject for writing because of its familiarity and beautiful scenery, but I couldn't imagine the spread without some great pictures of the water and local tourist traps.

As I imagined myself driving down and taking some great pictures, I thought about the shots I could take, but for some reason, I felt limited by the camera I have.  It's a Canon Powershot, a digital, point-and-shoot camera.  I received it as a gift from my parents on Christmas a few years ago after I expressed the desire for a camera.  They bought it specifically because it takes great close-up shots - I was really into taking pictures of flowers at the time.  It takes really crisp, clean shots and is a great little camera, except for a couple of things.  It's a bit on the heavy side and I feel as though the lighting is off a lot of the time (which might or might not be a camera issue).

However, when I think of "real photographers," I think of people with DSLR cameras who know about shutter speed and aperture and lighting and Photoshop stuff.  One of the things I thought I needed to be a journalist was a good camera and maybe more photography experience.  I have always wanted to take a photography class, so I looked into taking a class at city college during the summer so I could get my bearings.  I even shopped Craigslist ads for DSLR cameras.  In my mind, to be a real photographer, I had to get a camera with a real shutter.

I called someone who was selling a Canon Rebel and talked to him about potentially interning for his event photography business.  It seemed sketchy - I called him about a camera, he started asking invasive questions about why I wanted the camera, and then he was directing me to a website about his business.  I still wanted to do it anyways.  It meant doing "real photography" and becoming more than an amateur.

My mom was really worried - not just because it seemed like a total stranger was looking to take advantage of my naiveté, but also because it seemed like I was jumping at any chance with some desperation.

"Just take it easy," she said.  "You have plenty of time to get where you want to be.  You don't have to resort to Craigslist."

And she was right.  In just the last two days, I've gotten the opportunity to take loads of pictures through my current internships.  And I've done just fine with the camera that I have.

In my last post, and even the one before that, I have talked about taking risks and slowing down. It's clearly not easy for me.  I still have that vision, that goal, and I am hell-bent on achieving it.  I'm desperate, even.  I'm slowly learning that It's not really about the tools that I have, but the experience that I am gaining.

So, I don't need a new camera - it would be great to get one.  But, my parents bought my camera for me to take pictures with because they knew I had an interest in taking pictures and they thought I had an eye for it.  Just this alone gives me the opportunity to be a real photographer.  I'm not going to say that I am a real photographer - I don't think I'm even close to it.  What I can do is take that belief that my parents had (and hopefully still have) in me and use it to add it into my life's work.

I've got a lot under my belt - I just took some pictures at a fancy charity event, and I've got the support of my family and friends.  I don't need to be a real journalist with a real camera and everything else.  It's actually more simple than I ever imagined.  I just need to do my job with the tools that I have.