Question: Do You Know The 6 Stages Of A Photographer’s Life?


We all have to start somewhere. I believe the modern, slightly derogatory term is Noob, but I prefer beginner or newcomer, bucking the current trend of reducing words to one syllable to save on Twitter characters. As a newcomer to photography, one of two things will happen.

  • You will either take thousands of photographs in the first week of getting your camera, then get bored and sell it on eBay,
  • Or, you will take thousands of photographs in the first week and find one or two that hook you like catnip.

If it's the latter you are in for a future of creativity, imagination, self-doubt, expense, regret but ultimately…satisfaction. Today, we are going to take a slightly wry look at the 6 stages of a photographer


We start with WOW.

Wow will be the one or two photos from the several thousand you took in the first week. Probably, wow will be a cat photo and really only wow to you but it will be the hook, the image that sucks you into the roller coasting monster called photography. A quick trawl through Flickr reveals a huge number of wow moments, mainly cats.

Wow comes from the fact you are new to photography. A pretty cat though. By Will Keightley


Woe comes a few months after wow. In those few months you have been out every day come rain or shine shooting everything that moves and much that doesn’t. One day you return to your PC, upload the seven hundred new images then start to look at them.

There is a sudden realisation that amongst those seven hundred, not one is really a wow shot. Mildly irritated you decide to look through all the photos you have taken in the last few months only to discover that there are around three “wow” shots. All of them cats.

Woe comes when you realize that the thousands of images you have taken are not that great.


To study is a seminal moment. It is the point where you accept that your photographic journey might take one of two paths. You can study this photography malarky and try to understand what all the buttons and dials do, or keep that big dial on P and become a mildly competent photographer of cats.

Choosing the former, your throw yourself into self-study, refresh the Lightstalking site every thirty seconds, you sit through YouTube ads just to get to the video tutorial. You ingest every bit of information ever printed about photography. Your postman sues you due to the sheer weight of books you have ordered from Amazon.

One day and with your head crammed full of knowledge you go out and take photos again. They are awful. You return to the books, websites and videos to discover that you had missed something called composition. With a few more months of study, your are ready. You have become smug.

You study so hard, you forget to walk the dog. By Matthew Blouir

If you're looking to get to grips with your camera craft, then check out this guide for beginners by Brent Mail on Essential Photography Skills: Beginner Digital SLR Training.


In case you are offended, not everyone becomes smug. A lot of us, including myself, however, go through smug. Its the “I am a photographer” moment. The point where you are competent enough to compete with your peers in competitions, to show your work the wider world and to tell everyone that will listen about your mastery of depth of field.

You brow beat your peers into a form of resigned acceptance to the fact that you are a good, if slightly annoying photographer. This makes you feel great right up to the day a very good photographer with a slight adenoidal voice asks you to explain the relationship between degrees Kelvin and the colour of your images. Welcome to doubt.


Doubt is the penultimate stage of the journey and one that we all go through. You have been taking photos for a long time now, including some very good ones of cats. The problem is that every day you sit at your Mac – a smug told you real photographers use Apple – looking through the thousands of photos you've taken, without being excited by them.

The difference from woe is that you have overloaded yourself with photography to the point you don’t see how good your shots are. You have also been brutally reminded by the man with adenoids that you don’t know everything and that you almost certainly never will.

The sensible option here is to take some time off photography, get some quality time with your cat before returning a few weeks later refreshed, armed with new knowledge from the Lightstalking site. Remember to embrace both types of criticism.

Doubt: Will I ever be as good as those guys? By U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region


When you return you will be a sage. A sage has great in-depth knowledge of photography but rather than beat that knowledge into everyone who might listen, they will demonstrate their abilities through their images.

They will always be open to new ideas but equally, they will be generous with their knowledge, giving time to photographers in all the previous stages. A true sage will have had their adenoids removed and will almost certainly own a cat.

One day you will become a sage: A photographer to look up to: By Robert Cooke

So there you have it, the six stages of a photographer's life. Let us know on Facebook where you stand currently…

Further Resources To Read

About Author

Jason has more than 35 years of experience as a professional photographer, videographer and stock shooter. You can get to know him better here.

Smug, I was never, having fun yes. If the finished product is appreciated by some one, fine, if not I survive. I shoot what I want, unless otherwise requested, I do not take live seriously, it can be too short, I break rules, was basically fired for that, but life goes on.
What I do not like are those who say that they have done something X number of times and that I will have to do as they say, not as they do.
If you do not like it, tough – everything that is judged is subjective – walk on by and make your comment(s), IF I like them, I might follow them, but by doing that, one, sometimes, gets put into a box. You need to be free.

Funny article from a wise man!
Currently at the Study phase and taking pictures of my dog, due to a cat allergy 🙂

Cat notwithstanding, mostly in agreement. Read somewhere that “you have to just discard your first 20,000 or so photos”, I’m just around that point. Better ideas about composition, still working on getting it right.

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