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What Makes a Photographer or Camera "Pro"? Picture This Podcast

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33 COMMENTS

  1. The word "professional" has more than one meaning which makes it confusing. I had job that involved many many full days in the darkroom, and the more you do, the better you get, usually. I think that if someone is so insecure that they are desperately trying to call themselves a pro it probably means that their knowledge has a lot of holes in it. The only reason that you are having this discussion is that a lot of people enjoy photography and look up to "pro" as being someone with advanced knowledge that they hope will lead to better images.

  2. I take pics, you give me money- That's what it means to be a professional photographer. Insofar as pro-gear goes, I think its at minimum an interchangeable lens camera with dual SD cards. Gotta have two cards, so you can CYA.

  3. I've made money from photographs. I don't do it full-time. I don't call myself professional. It took me a long time to even get comfortable with the idea of calling myself a photographer at all.

  4. I have been a "pro" shooter since the 1983, I have had photos published by USA Today, two newspapers, magazines,AP. books,all in all, I've been published over 2,000 times and I have a full time nurse job. I have had assignments that had me in planes, on top of trains, guns drawn on me at police scenes for shooting stills. I am always looking at the work of others even if they are "amateurs" I have never been troubled by the term "amateur" love your series.

  5. Problem is, Pro doesn’t indicate skill level and that is what everybody wants to mean. So, the term is meaningless if we actually use it for what it’s meant for. How about this, “Tony is a great photographer”, who does professional work. Problem solved.

  6. Nothing does, because photography is not a profession, nor are photographers professionals. If you disagree, go read the Wikipedia article, "Profession." If merely making a living was the only criteria, or even the chief criteria for being a professional, then EVERYONE would be a "professional" and there'd be no point to calling yourself a "professional" at all. A profession is a legally licensed occupation, having a legal requirement for an advanced education, an internship and continuing education, and most of all, a license to practice. There are no professional photographers, artists or any other creatives. There is absolutely no legal requirment for any education or training at all and there are no licensed photographers or artists. Making money has nothing to do with being a professional. If making an income makes one a "professional," then the pimple-faced kid who flipped your burger at McDonalds is a "pro." A ditch digger would be a "pro." Even criminals, assassins or serial killers would be "pros," because they made money from their work. EVERYONE who works is paid for what they are doing.

  7. Pro is just a concept we, humans, have made in our brains which has been repeatedly exploited by huge camera manufacturers. It doesn't exist. It's just you and your camera.

  8. Just like in any profession, you need to educate yourself in the field of photography, you need to build up a portfolio of work, and you need to be earning enough money to consider it a significant portion of your income (not necessarily exclusive nor primary, but significant). And you can be doing it professionally at several levels of expertise, as a hobby, apprentice in a photo studio to expert level.

    And just like with any field, photography has many niches, and the more advanced you are in a specific niche, you can probably compare it to a career/education path in science.

    You can do science just out of your own curiousity, or you can be a clerk in a patent office (looking at you, Einstein)

  9. Pros make money from photography. Amateurs do not do photography for money. This says nothing about skill level. An amateur could easily be a better photographer than a professional.

  10. My opinion is everybody start as amature with a consumer camera or top of the line camera already. Moving to intermediate is a few years of taking photos while self educating or photography school. Pros mastered camera usage and is well informed or well educated in the photography style you prefer. The next question would be if you make a living out of photography. Another way to determine amature vs pro/expert/advanced is to prove your photographs are popular or award winning which this is a big plus. Example
    Me: Went to photography school and obtain a certificate of professional photography, traveled and took many photos, made my own calendars for 2 years and gave them for free, used a 7 year old camera, joined a photography game/contest and obtain a level as "Expert" with some photos chosen for exhibition in a gallery. At this point Photography is still a hobby but planning to get paid in the future. So em I a professional? How about self educated photographer for 1 yr with the best equipments?
    I guess calling ourselves professional is easy, but a customer looking for a true professional takes a little more work.

  11. Pro "it just means competant enough to be paid for doing it, usually in modern times is backed up with a formal qualification and in even more recently you are part of the professional international body" that is all it is, a business word to claim some benefit from other businesses or clients.

  12. When does this matter? If it is uncomfortable just don't entertain the other person, as in competition. Unless you get a professional discount or professional courtesy how can the title benefit the person?

  13. I know I’m two years too late with this, I consider myself a novice photographer, I only have a D300 w/ 16-85mm lense. I make do with what I have to take the best possible photo I can.

  14. A pro photographer is someone who has their profession in photography, if they make enough money from photography to be considered an income then thats good enough for me.

  15. Maybe instead of calling yourself a "Pro" photographer you describe yourself rather as a skilled photographer and just let the photos speak for themselves. I've taken photos I just hate and wouldn't even consider them worth including in my portfolio but other people just absolutely marvel over how good they look, I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder?

  16. There are two meanings of "professional" aren't there? One is the dictionary meaning, that you make money at what you do. if you do, you're a pro. But implicit in the idea that you make money is the idea that you must be good at it . Pro therefore carries the perceived meaning of highly skilled and accomplished. You can be an amateur, and still take "pro" quality photographs. You shoot like a pro.

  17. Here in the UK the term 'Professional' can have tax implications so it's defined by the Inland Revenue Department. They define it as what you make over 50% of your income in a tax year from.

    I don't consider myself in any way professional. I've sold a few pictures but more by serendipity than any intent. For example about 3 years ago I was staying in a hotel and took some pictures from my hotel window, and one of my room's bathroom, with my phone, just to post on Facebook, the hotel owner saw them and asked if they could use them. The following year the cover of their menu, their full-page ad in various magazines and the sign out front all have a background of three of my photos stacked one above the other. I should have asked for some money.

    The skill thing is really difficult for me. I find it really hard to tell if any of my pictures are any good, all I can see are the faults. Like those ones from the hotel window, to me they were just crapy snaps to put on Facebook, but apparently the owner liked them enough to centre their advertising for the following year around them.

  18. Great – but my take away from this is that some concepts have a degree of vagueness that can't be pinned down ( 'professional' but also eg 'art'); and the demand for clear definitions can be a mistake in general as interesting concepts like these can only be understood in relation to a constellation of other, relevant, issues and concepts. If you haven't encountered them, too, the definition on its own wont get you far.

  19. Referred to myself as semi-pro for some years. Why? I had a day job and was doing hired gun work for two different studios. I wasn't running my own business and it certainly wasn't my primary income. When I chaired and installed a juried photo show for a number of years, we restricted it to non-professionals as it was intended to promote photography. Our definition was one that many in our region of the country used: whether or not it was the primary source of income. We had to take someone's word on it, but those who entered aren't an enormous community. For the most part, they know who each other are, including the regional "professionals". Someone who's doing it for their primary living would get outed rather quickly before the judging was published. One other regional show had a "professional" entry category. That said, when I was doing it, the lines weren't quite as blurred as they might be today. One submission I had to that was hammered on by the judge claiming it was a "professional" portrait photo and should have been in that category. It was a grab shot in a studio using monolights and a backdrop – while the studio owner and I were playing with lighting and doing a completely different still-life photo his wife wanted. His young son walked in and got onto the "set". Saw the opportunity, grabbed my camera and grabbed the shot. Wasn't working for pay when I did it and what I was making on the side doing hired gun work for him was a tiny fraction of my total income from a completely different profession. Had an interesting discussion with the judge at the awards reception about professional vs amateur. That I had done it in studio with that kind of light control automatically made it "professional" in his mind. His idea of "amateur" required primarily available light use, or perhaps at most on-camera minimal power flash. The use of monolights or high power bracket mounted flash with lighting controls automatically pushed it into the "professional" realm for him – as the "amateur" wouldn't generally have that kind of gear.

  20. Pros no longer exist….Sorry.
    DSLR’s are dead. Just like Medium format film
    Remember Bronica, Hasselblad, Mamiya or Pentax? Nobody else does either
    Mirrorless is just the 8-track tape of vinyl…still born.
    Start reviewing iPhones or go the way of Kodak….

  21. Tony, well said. I agree that intention of making money from taking photographs, whether it be for other people's purposes or pleasure would constitute being a pro. Quality of work and type of equipment used does not factor into the description. However, I think there are 2 key elements missing from your argument:
    First, a pro makes the decisions that affect the outcome of the image. For example, How close should I get to my subject? Use a flash? Color or b/w? etc. These decisions matter, and if I have to make them, and if someone wants to buy/use the image and pays me, then I am a professional. If the person at the convenience store taking passport photos had the entire setup pre-planned and pre-constructed by someone else, and all he/she had to do was have the customer sit there and look at the camera while he/she pushed the button, I would be hesitant to call that person a pro photographer, even if they were being paid by the store to do it. Perhaps a better term would be a photo tech or photo assistant.
    Secondly, a pro acknowledges publicly that they made the decisions and takes responsibility for them. They take the credit for a shot that is praised for its excellence and they take discomfort of the criticism when it is panned.
    BTW, I disagree with your opinion that an amateur who takes pictures solely for his/her own pleasure and not for money is taking the more "noble" path. Sorry, that's a diss on all those aspiring artists who are willing to risk the slings and arrows of public rejection for the sake of self expression. There is nothing wrong with taking photos for your own pleasure. But if an artist submits photography to a show/gallery, etc., they run the risk of being rejected by the show, which I think takes more guts and stamina than someone who plays it safe by keeping the work private.

  22. Ok really late to this one, but have been questioning this for myself as of late. I consider myself an enthusiast photographer with pro photography skills. If I were to consider my definition, I think a pro works within the accepted limits and bounds of any given particular niche of photography with a substantial portion of their income coming from their photography work. That leaves me with the question: Are artists pros?

  23. Nikon, and anyone else who sponsored contests, used to make it simple. Like the Olympics still do. If you have earned any more for taking photos, you are now a pro. Maybe an inexperienced on, but that's from the Latin: an "amateur" does it for love. Once money changes hands, you're a pro. Any finer distinctions are up to the person asking you.

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