Sometime in high school I picked up my first camera that used 35mm film. It was a point and shoot with a really basic zoom.
Around 2000, right after I got married my wife and I moved on to a slightly nicer Olympus point and shoot which we just didn't use that much.
Emily mentioned that she might be interested in taking up photography so a couple years later, I bought her a Canon Rebel 2000 for Christmas. After using it to capture snapshots for 3 years or so, I picked up a Canon SD 900, digital point and shoot. These cameras really fit my need for capturing snapshots and moments in time.
Does all of this sound familiar to you? I've heard so many people talk about their camera history like this. A series of devices, not used to their potential and treated like an accessory primarily used for documenting events. In my photo albums, there are certainly day-to-day photos and events, but there are few images that were intentionally composed or intended to be thought of as art. It still surprises me how many people I run into that own nice DSLR cameras, but how few of them know how to do anything with them aside from point and shoot in automatic mode.
In 2007, I started using the iPhone and it replaced all of these cameras. Over time, the quality of images that the iPhone produces has grown and grown, but it isn't the device that changed my approach to photography.
Creating images everyday is what made me a photographer.
That may seem a little silly to you, but it really has made all the difference. I didn't start one day with a noble proclamation that I was going to use my camera everyday. In fact, when this started, I hardly ever used a "real" camera and most every image from that era is from my iPhone. No, I just started making an effort to make images, to capture true representations of things and places I had experienced.
Whether this resounds with you or not, what I find interesting is that all of this happened before I even owned a serious camera.
There has certainly been a lot of thought and debate about where cell phone cameras fit into the wider world of photography and I am pleased that they aren't viewed as simply a lowest common denominator camera for the masses. Many photographers who are known for their work with larger dedicated cameras are also prolific Instagrammers and many have whole sections of their website devoted to photos taken with an iPhone. Jorge is a great example. and so is Jeremy Cowart
I still post iPhone photos occasionally- some to Instagram and some on my site, but the camera choice is usually dictated by convenience, or the lack of need for more options. Sometimes I pull out my iPhone because the shot will be gone in the 20 seconds it will take to get the camera out and ready. Sometimes, I just know that the iPhone can get the job done- the lighting is good, the focal length is right, and the detail won't be as important. That said, I'd like to be more intentional with it, I just don't feel I have the creative energy left right now, while I'm learning so much about shooting with a camera.
So, I consider myself a photographer because I'm going out of my way to create images, not just snap photos. I don't know if that definition works for you, but I think this loose guideline helps me appreciate my own work, the work of others and the process.