This is the one where all I want to do is write about learning how to use my new camera, but I have to ask some tough questions about photography. More on that in a bit, though. We'll start with the fun stuff.I upgraded my camera over the weekend. I had been using a very compact point and shoot camera that works perfectly fine, but I wanted something with a few more options. Months went into my search for a replacement and I really had to try out the cameras to get an idea of what I wanted. You see, I wear a prosthesis on my right arm (I was born with half of my right arm...for those just joining the party) and it's tough to find a camera that works well for me. They don't make left-handed cameras, if you hadn't noticed. I've always gone with very small point and shoot cameras so that I can reach all of the buttons with my left hand, but recently I've been seeing cameras that offer small bodies (read: I can still shoot left-handed) with greater shooting capabilities.

After testing out several cameras at Ritz Camera Store here in Sacramento, I went with the Nikon CoolPix P7100.

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Photos from here.

So far, so good. It's a little overwhelming for someone who often sets the camera to auto and goes to town. This baby has settings and options I've never messed with before, but after some quality time with the reference manual and instruction booklet I was feeling a bit more comfortable. Luckily, Ritz Camera Store hooks you up with three photography classes when you buy from them. Oh, and did I mention they price matched? I found this camera for less online and they honored it. Gotta love that.

Here are a few shots from the backyard. They're right off the camera...no edits.

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Not bad, huh? Obviously, I'll be using my three free classes at Ritz as I'm sure I have much to learn. The good thing is that I love learning how to be better at this. Even the manual was interesting! You see, taking photographs is an incredibly satisfying hobby. Let me repeat: hobby.

I'm trying to make this distinction, not because I really think people out there are going to mistake me for a professional, but because of the level of animosity I'm sensing out there in the photography world. Those who are trained and make a living as photographers seem to be having a hard time coming to terms with the uh...shall we say...accessibility of digital photography in today's world. I can't say I blame them. It's hard to see average Joes taking passable pictures then claiming photography... especially after going into debt to get that degree. Let's not forget they probably went even further into debt to buy equipment and start their business. There are some amazing photographers out there who are well-trained, create beautiful work and are worth every penny.

On the other hand, there are people who went out and bought that DSLR, practiced until they were blue in the face and finally decided to take their hobby to the next level. They probably charge less than highly trained photographers and they may have limited capabilities, but does that make their work any less artistic and beautiful? I don't think it so. I've seen fabulous photographs taken by self-taught photographers.

So where does one draw the line between hobby and profession? The minute you get paid for your time/product, do you cross that line? Are you a 'photographer' at that point? Is it a sliding scale? Low-to-no training all the way up to highly-trained-degree-in-hand? Is there such a thing as a sorta-kinda photographer?

What qualifies a taker of photographs to start charging for their work? A huge portfolio? Reputation? A degree?

So many of the great musicians, architects, designers, craftsmen, photographers and artists who came before us were self-taught creatives. Is that no longer of value? Or is it just worth less money?

I'm curious what others out there have to say about this since I've been seeing great work and hearing rants from both sides of the argument.

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Once again, let me be clear: I'm not a photographer.

Or am I?

Nah... I like my hobby status juuust fine, thank you very much.

And my husband is getting my old point and shoot, in case you were wondering. He really only takes pictures when we get a mangled UPS or Fed Ex delivery. He's really good, though. You should see his work.

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