Over on Photography Stack Exchange, people often describe themselves as "beginners" or "newbies". Nothing at all wrong with that — in fact, it's great. Both of these terms have the implication of starting at a low level now, but with the general expectation of gaining knowledge.

I want to distinguish this from someone who doesn't really want to begin at all. In photography, they may just want to take a decent picture for social media but don't actually want to learn anything or, heaven forbid, practice. But I also don't (always) mean this negatively: if that's not your interest, you're just needing to do this thing in the course of something you do care about, why should you become an actual beginner?

The same could apply to computers — I may be not very skilled at spreadsheets, but, also I don't consider myself a beginner, because I have no intention of getting better. I just sometimes find myself needing to edit them and send them around to people for my job.

Is there a word for this concept? I was thinking "tourist" — but, hopefully something less metaphorical. Sometimes people say "not a professional" or "just an amateur" with this kind of meaning, but particularly in photography that's really not the right distinction — an amateur may in fact be an expert.

This also isn't the same as "dilettante" — which does seem a perfect match for the full text of the question What word means someone who’s satisfied with superficial knowledge?, because that has a) an implication of showiness I don't mean to imply and b) doesn't apply very well at all to the case of someone just wanting a basic question answered so they can get a different job done. A dilettante has — or feigns — interest in a topic (and even may pretend expertise), but doesn't really have the will to learn. I'm looking for a word for someone who doesn't even have the interest or pretense of one.

In usage: "I just want a camera that will do everything for me — I don't want this as a hobby... I'm just a _____".


6 Answers 6


Dabbler: a person who follows a pursuit without attaining proficiency or professional status.


dilettante: a person whose interest in an art or in an area of knowledge is not very deep or serious

Dabbler is similar.

  • 1
    Dilettante is pretty good, although it has a sense of showiness or even braggadocio that I don't really want. Dabbler might be better.
    – mattdm
    Commented Apr 13, 2016 at 20:54
  • 1
    Yeah, I'd be careful applying dilettante to other people, since it has a negative connotation (though I always thought of it as 'flaky' and 'uncommitted' rather than showy or bragging). Applying it to yourself is Ok, especially if the comment is meant to be self-deprecating anyway.
    – Solocutor
    Commented Apr 13, 2016 at 20:57

You are probably looking for amateur:

  • One who engages in an art, science, study, or athletic activity as a pastime rather than as a profession.


  • 3
    I am certainly not looking for "amateur", as already noted in the question — and I've edited it to make that stronger. As the word root itself ("love") implies, many amateurs are deeply skilled. In fact, it is often the case that amateurs are more engaged in growing knowledge than professionals, for whom the activity may be just a day job, after all.
    – mattdm
    Commented Apr 16, 2016 at 13:48

The only phrase I’m able to come up with which specifically describes a base-level practitioner and which seems to have any currency is non-skilled user. It isn’t particularly pejorative, but does risk sounding as if it could easily be used with negative connotations. Also, it doesn’t trip of the tongue very readily as a way to describe one’s self, especially outside of a work environment. It falls short on the element of conveying that the practitioner has no aim or desire to increase their skills as well.
What I think English speakers generally do, at least in British English, is to specify the limits of their need in some way; so rather than saying “I don't want this as a hobby... I'm just a _____", you might say “I don’t want this as a hobby, it’s just a means to an end” or “I just need the rudiments”. If specific to photography you might say ‘I’m strictly point-and-shoot’, but these are all quite colloquial, I don’t believe there is any standard form.


He's just a mark one mod zero user. From Wordwizard

This phrase comes from the military, but it is widely used, in my experience.

Following World War II the nomenclature ‘MARK I MOD ZERO came to be used as the earliest most basic version or model of something (usually, a weapon). An infantryman with no special skills was a Mark I, Mod Zero soldier. In ‘Rogue Warrior’ (1992) by Marcinko, the author refers to himself as a ‘Mark I, Mod Zero sailor.’

See also Military Terminology, Jargon and Slang

"Mark one, mod zero midshipman" would refer to the typical or common midshipman.

What comes up first in a search for mark one mod zero is Wikipedia, Visual Inspection

Experts in pattern recognition maintain that the "eyeball" technique is still the most effective procedure for searching arbitrary, possibly unknown structures in data.

In the military, applying this sort of search to real-world terrain is often referred to as "using the Mark I Eyeball" (or "Mark 0", "Mark 0 Mod[el]") device, the U.S. military adopting it in 1950s

Thus, one need not apologize for being a mark one mod zero user or using a mark one mod zero device. It may be not only be adequate, but preferable in some cases. But the phrase usually is uncomplimentary, with a strong implication of no future improvement -- the mark 2 is an different device or a different person.


What if "... I'm just a _____." became "I'm just happy to take snapshots."

The overall sense and context of your phrase request is not altered and there are no loaded words.

See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snapshot_(photography) and perhaps the 'see also' link on that page for vernacular photography.

Vernacular photographer might also fit but introduces a term that may not be familiar.

Edit: In a more general sense, away from photography, is "my level of expertise meets my own needs" the idea you are looking for? Sufficient or sufficiency have the right meanings although I cannot come up with a single word or phrase right now.

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