If you were expecting a comment about Carnegie Hall and practice, practice, practice, you’ve come to the wrong blog. I’m a whole ‘nother class of wiseass.
You want to know how to become a first-class photographer?
Step one: buy or borrow a camera.
Step two: take lots of photos.
Step three: repeat step two, frequently and with furious enthusiasm.
Step… well, no, that’s it, really.
Gee, wasn’t that easy?
The ironic part is, I’m not exaggerating. It really is as simple as that, which means (to compound the irony) that it’s also actually as difficult as you want it to be, or maybe would rather it wasn’t. You can put all sorts of labels on it, take classes, get degrees, sit at the feet of some guru or other, and it’s all going to boil down to those three things.
All that you’ve learned doesn’t matter, and whatever else a teacher might teach you, her advice is still going to be to get out there and make photos (although, hopefully, with some instructions or caveats attached). It also doesn’t matter where you got the camera, much less what kind it is. I don’t care if you’re using a pinhole camera you’ve made out of a modified Altoids tin, a Pentax with a 2GB class 2 card and a lens you got for $7.50 at a garage sale, or a Hasselblad with a digital back and lenses for which you’ve mortgaged the house. Are you making photos? Good. You’re a photographer.
Let’s look at the other side of the same coin. You’ve got an expensive camera body, you’ve invested in enough glass to restock your local camera shop twice over, and you’ve got top-of-the-line everything? Well, good for you. Are you taking photos, or are you spending more time on various internet fora debating the merits of various doodads? Whatever else you may be, you’re not a photographer.
Now, I’m not talking about the distinction between a professional and an amateur photographer. That’s a post, or series of them, for another time; suffice to say for now that merely owning an expensive camera body and getting one good shot in a thousand doesn’t make you a professional, even if you got paid for that one good shot. But just being a photographer? That’s easy. If the camera’s out, and you’re using it to make photos instead of as a conversation piece (“Hey, is that a Canon 60D…?”), congratulations. You’re officially a photographer for the duration. Now quit worrying about whether you’re a photographer, and go photograph something, dammit!