So I've heard that someone is a "professional" when photography is the sole source of income. Yet, shouldn't the term "professional" be more directly related to skill. I don't mean to toot my own horn or anything but I'm a student, yet my sole source of income is through photography. I run my own wedding/portrait business and I contract with studios as well. I'd like to think my skill is equal to that or greater than many of the "professional" studios in my own town. So does that make me a "professional"? I'd like to think so. It just annoys me when I see all these categories of "professional" or "adv. amateur". I want to know what you guys think.
What makes someone a "Professional"?(117 posts) (61 voices)
The answer is simple… money. If your primary, not necessarily sole, source of income is from photography then you are by definition a “professional” photographer. The quality of your work is irrelevant as long as someone is willing to pay for it or your services. There are thousands of “professionals” who couldn’t take a decent photo without the new-age photo technology (camera and software). At the same time there are thousands of ‘amateurs” that could easily make a good living with their talent. A better question might be “ is the photographer an artist or technician?”
I disagree with Newfile. A professional photographer, in my book, is not necessarily one who makes a majority of their income from photography, but rather one who makes a majority of their photographic purchase decisions based on ROI.
>>It just annoys me when I see all these categories of "professional" or "adv. amateur". I want to know what you guys think.
This is about marketing, nothing else. It's a definition as to who is most likely to purchase such equipment and that is based almost solely on cost, although sometimes on complexity or other factors. It's used so that when someone is in the market for a camera, they know where to begin looking. And in the photography industry, I think the categorizations are reasonable, although (obviously) just because someone buys a D3x (at over $7000) doesn't make them a pro. Even in the recession, there are plenty of people with way too much money in their pockets who spend so they can say that they bought the "best", not realizing that the highest-end piece of equipment is not necessarily the most appropriate. In fact, these are the people you frequently see complaining that the camera doesn't give them the results they expected. (It's sort of like expecting to be a great musician just because you bought a really expensive classic Les Paul guitar or a Steinway piano.) When you see an old classic Lecia, Nikon rangefinder or old SLR, like a Nikon F in perfect condition with the original box and all packaging, you know it was bought by someone who bought it because it was the "best" but was obviously NOT a pro and never wound up using the camera much.
Back in the film days, an acquaintance of mine bought a new Nikon F4. I think it cost about $1800 at the time, which was quite expensive for a film body. This guy didn't know (and still doesn't know) the first thing about photography. This guy could not explain what an f-stop is. And because he spent so much on the body, he wound up buying the equivalent of a kit lens. He would have been much better off buying an N80 (or lower) and better lenses. But he had to have the "top of the line" at least as far as the body was concerned. Obviously, he wasn't a pro even though he was walking around with a pro camera. He came to his senses a little more when he went digital - he bought a D80.
In fact, a pro is sometimes less likely to buy the "top of the line" because someone in business will look at the acquisition from a return on investment perspective, as others have posted. Although sometimes it's the opposite: in any business, the way that you compete is to differentiate yourself from the competition (or from non-pros). One way to do that is to carry equipment that non-pros can't afford. Otherwise you're subject to the "well, my cousin's friend's uncle has a camera just like yours and he's willing to shoot the wedding for free" syndrome. But in that case, you're using the high-end equipment primarily as a marketing tool, not necessarily as a photography tool.
In many other industries, "professional" means absolutely nothing. I find it funny when I see shoddy products that have nothing professional about them labeled this way - like when you see a $50 DVD player marked "professional". Cracks me up every time.
The biggest difference between an amateur photographer and a pro photographer (to me, and disregarding incomes and kit) is an amateur photographer can go and take what they want when they want, but a pro has to take what other people want, when the other people want it; and deliver them results in a consistent and timely fashion.
zoetmb: Good points. While I never thought of it the way you explained it, I guess I've always sort of looked at it that way when making buying decisions. I could have gotten a D300 right from the get go. Instead I got a D40 with the two lens kit. Once I knew what I wanted from a DSLR, I then got the D300 and later got more professional lenses, lenses that suit my needs more. I saw, nor do I see at this point any reason for me to get a D3 or D3x just because it's "top of the line". For what I do, the D300 fits in just perfectly.
One should always evaluate their needs. I saved a friend of mine from himself a while back. He wanted to get a DSLR camera having never owned one before. He was considering the D300 and even the D700. After talking some sense into him he got a D90. Now he's glad he spoke with me first because he realizes that the D90 is enough for him and what he does and that the D300 or D700 would have overkill on more than one level.
IMHO a "Professional" is someone who lives out of his job, no matter what equipment she/he has. As zoetmb wrote, I've also seen a lot of people caring a top of the line body (d700, d3, d300) with a kit lens from d60. Some of You will probably disagree with this, and say how come I'm not a professional when I have a professional level camera. If You belong to one of them than please define what makes Your camera a professional one. Is it the IQ? If that is Your answer, than sorry... but almost all of current DSLR's on the market produce the same IQ on base ISO, doesn't matter if Your camera has a $600 or $7000 price tag. As Sean wrote, pros has to take what other ppl want and they need to deliver and meet expectations. Sure they can use d60 (and if they really know their job, You wouldn't see a difference) but they have other tools. d300/d700/d3 are better cameras not because they cost more, but because they allow to save time, produce consistent results and have a greater reliability - sure You pay for this, but once You make Your living out of this that's not a big deal anymore.
What about semi-pro? Is this someone who might get paid, if they really wanted to, but for now it is enough just to be happy to shoot the job..realy, is there such a thing?
A professional has professional equipment and is always upgrading their equipment and technical skills. Oh, might as well ad - is a bit hungry most of the time.
I own new, modern, top of the line cameras - a D3x and two D3s. I own over a dozen professional caliber lenses from fisheyes to super telephotos. I've studied photojournalism in college and over the last 30 years, have been paid for my photographic work. My work has periodically been published in newspapers and magazines and copies of my landscapes and other editorial photos hang on the walls of corporate offices and other businesses. I AM NOT A PROFESSIONAL.
I have never made a living from my photography. I've always had a full time job unrelated to photography. Any income from my photographs have been supplementary. My skills are good and I know enough and have been doing long enough to get some good shots, but I don't have the ability to do it at the level of a professional and on a consistent basis. I'm lucky that I can afford some high end equipment, but it doesn't make me a better photographer. It may sometimes helps cover up some of my shortcomings, but it's not going to make me a David Hume Kennerly, an Ansel Adams or even as qualified as some wedding and portrait photographer that has a little studio in some small town in middle America. (Thank God for digital...how many Kodachrome slides have I thrown away because of flaws, bad exposures and bad compositions! Am I saving money with just having to press my delete button!)
I equate being a professional photographer like being a professional chef. It doesn't matter what knives, pots and pans you use, if you don't have good cooking skills, your going to burn the food! A true chef has the knowledge and experience to work in any kitchen, with any equipment and with any produce, protein and spices and create consistently good food. I'm not an Iron Chef!
I looked up "semi" in the dictionary and it defines the term as "...like or having some of the characteristics of..." I guess I might qualify for "semi-professional", but only during stretches where I am doing a number of jobs in a row and my skills are exercised. Most of the time, I'm a qualified "serious amateur" with some neat gear! Photography is a hobby for me. I enjoy it, and sometimes I make money from it.
To be honest, I don't think the real professionals are worrying about the definitions.
Another point: although I personally still consider someone a professional who makes at least part of their living from photography, one of the things that's happened across many types of media is that websites have been created for writing, music, photography, video and other media and people post videos on sites such as YouTube with absolutely no expectation of revenue, yet in many cases, the results are quite professional in nature.
In decades past, there was generally an equivalency between "professional" and "quality" or at least expected quality, but I think that is no longer the case. There are many so-called pros, who do earn a living from their trade, who produce garbage (admittedly subjective opinion) and there are people (formerly called "artists") who earn little or nothing but produce great work.
Search around the web and along with garbage you'll find great writing, photography, music and video from people who will never make a living at it.
With all the good to bad quality points that have been popping up in this thread, I seriously doubt that this has changed much in a long, long time...
With the high speed internet, and associated 'modern' distribution methods, I feel that we just can see more of it and a lot quicker. From a personal viewpoint, when I was starting to take photographs, there was only the monthly photography magazine that the local newsagents had, the local camera club, and the old guy next door as the resources I had available to me. So, the only 'poor quality' stuff I saw was on a local level, because the magazine only used to show 'good stuff'.
Now, with the modern way of distribution, I don't think that the level of quality has changed, just the level of being able to access the lower quality stuff that is out there. Instead of a trip round the world of photography once a month, I can do it any time I want, by sitting in front of my computer, and firing up a web browser... And I can also go down the seedy side streets that I never got chance to see back when it was just the magazine.
Ow. My brain hurts from reading all this. To paraphrase a former Supreme Court Justice, I know a professional when I see one, but can't define one adequately.
In the technical sense, I would define a professional as anyone who gets paid to shoot. % of income isn't that important. After all, you may be independently wealthy and have a stock portfolio that gives you returns that Annie Lebowitz couldn't make in a year (OK probably not).
On this thread, professional has a different meaning. When we talk about professional gear, you are talking about gear that is made to withstand the rigors of professional use. This generally means metal bodies, weather sealing, high FPS (or short recharge times for lighting) etc. Pros, of course, don't really need pro gear, and having pro gear certainly doesn't make you a pro.
Why all get hung up over a "Title" - just get out there and enjoy the art of photography!!!
I dunno, but I like having a metal body. I obviously am not pro, and am not going to shoot in the rainforest. But what's wrong for asking for a metal body?
ok how about new one Artist (photography artist if you wish)
or if you wish Pro vs Artist
Nau - I like that idea. But now we have a new dilemna. What makes one an artist and someone else just a snapshot person? Again, equipment does not make one an artist, just as a D# does not make one a professional.
Its all to do with semantics and the domain its used in. There are at least 3 different domains where pro and amature are used in the above discussions. They all have slightly different meanings in each domain. I am too sleepy to clarify further ..:-) sorry... Off to bed now.. lol...
I would also submit that owning a D3X makes you a defacto professional because you fall into one of the following categories:
1. You are a professional photographer who needs the resolution of the D3X to remain competitive with your piers.
2. You are a business professional (Doctor\Lawyer\Corporate Big Shot) who can afford to spend $8K on a camera.
3. You are a professional Poker player who just won the World Series of Poker.
I kid, I kid.
the 2nd was good willis
But Willis what about the drug dealer who buys a D3x or an amateur who buys a stolen D3x for $2,000US? Are they now professionals too? This thread is really getting deep!
Niko - any contacts for this $2k d3x :)
Professional is when someone else pays you, someone else art-directs you, someone else critiques your work, tells you when to work, you know, kinda like a job, you have to shoot whether the muse is with you or not. You have to have "muse" on command. Really lucky professionals can shoot what they want and sell from stock. Other lucky professionals can support themselves with sales of art (they usually have trust funds).
Nothing to do with equipment. My brother-in-law dentist has more and better gear than any pro I know. The most successful pro I've known makes a bundle on baby pictures with cameras that are just barely adequate by today's standards, so...
It just simply boils down to whether there is money involved.
I would define a professional photographer as someone who:
A - Has/Is/Will receive money for photography "services" (having someone pay you for a random photo after the fact is not professional unless you actively work to sell photos).
B - Make a decent amount of money, or more. (At least the cost of his primary camera/lens combo in a year)
C - Have a business plan for your photography. (The how you plan to make money and support a profit from your photography activities).
If you can't reach all three of the above then say "professional" is a bit of a stretch. That said I see myself as "part-time" professional because I do shoot for money when I can, but I'm not actively trying to make it my primary source of income.
For me it is very simple and straightforward.
Professional is a person who buys his equipment from money earned by using it.
In my book there is no such thing as semipro, it is just a term invented by marketing department to convince amateurs willing to spend more money they are more serous.
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