What does it mean to be a professional photographer? Photography Tip

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When can I call myself a professional photographer? What makes a photographer a professional? I have been asked these two questions a lot
recently and I have learned that MY answer tends to surprise people. So I think it’s time to sit down and have
a little talk about what it means to be a professional photographer. Stay tuned until the end and I’ll explain
what it should mean to you – if you want to become a successful professional photographer. Hey gang! Be honest… most of you would define a professional photographer
as someone who makes a living as a photographer. Unfortunately when I asked Google that same
question – Google seems to agree – they quote one of the most narrow minded hypesters on
the internet – and well it’s on the internet – so it must be true – right? It is a fair assumption that in order to make
money as a photographer you need to be working at a professional level. But let’s break this down. Instead of relying on Google and a widely
un-respected gear reviewer for a definition of professional – lets turn to the dictionary. First of all – if we look up the word photographer
– the first thing that Mirriam Webster tells is that a photographer is one who practices
photography. In other words – pretty much everyone is a
photographer in today’s world. Webster’s does go on to mention that photographers
are also people who make a business or profession of taking photographs – but they don’t make
any mention of the difference between full-time or part time or how MUCH of the income is
generated from photography. More importantly – let’s look up the word
professional. Webster’s says – relating to, or characteristic
of a profession – it goes on to tell us that a professional is characterized by or conforming
to the technical or ethical standards of a profession – more importantly – a person who
exhibits a courteous, conscientious, and generally businesslike manner in the workplace. And then yes – Webster’s goes on to mention
the idea of making money. One more thing that we should discuss before
I give you MY definition of a professional photographer – lets first talk about the elephant
in the room. The photographers capabilities and the quality
of their work. Not all photographers are created alike. Some have years of hard earned experienced. Some have very little. Some understand the science behind photography
and apply it effectively – others think that depth of field is simply shooting wide open
to get a blurry background. Some make it a point to practice and shoot
everyday while others pick up their cameras only when they are being paid to shoot. Some continually read and watch videos and
study their craft to expand their abilities and yet others keep their heads down and do
their own thing – with little awareness or regard for what others are doing. Some of those behaviors are counter intuitive
if you believe that photographers should have some kind of a degree or certification. Photography is not the same as brain surgery. It doesn’t and shouldn’t require going
to school. It doesn’t and shouldn’t require certification. In my opinion people and organizations that
promote that concept are simply looking out for their own financial gain – or wanting
others to invest the same amount of money and effort as they did – NONE of which insures
a better photographer or more professionalism. To be clear – I am in no way saying that schooling
is bad. But let’s be honest – for photography – NO
school can make you a photographer. Assuming you are in the best program available
– all they can do is give you opportunities to learn and gain experience – what you do
with that is up to you. There are MANY successful photographers who
are self taught and who have been entrepreneurial in creating their own learning experiences. At the end of the day – our clients don’t
care if we have a degree or certificate hanging on the wall – they care about the quality
of our work and what we will do for them. Professional has nothing to do with making
money. The fact that you make money does not make
you a professional photographer Just because someone has a website that says
they are a professional photographer, just because they have a business card that says
they are professional, just because they have tons of the latest, coolest, most expensive
gear, and just because they make their living with that website and business card and gear
– doesn’t mean they are professional. I have met hundreds of photographers in my
career who met all of these qualifications and they didn’t last very long. For some it was because their work simply
wasn’t that good. For others it was because they simply sucked
at running a business. Most who failed – failed because they didn’t
understand this… Professional is an attitude. Professional is a behavior. Professional is a standard. Being a professional – It is the way in which
you approach your work. It is the amount effort that you put into
educating yourself and knowing your gear like an athlete knows theirs. It is the amount of self motivated learning
that you do – not just in the beginning of your career, but throughout your entire career. It’s the amount of practice that you do
to sure up and improve your techniques. It is the amount of research that you put
in before you take the shot. It is the the quality standards that you maintain
before during and after the shoot. Its the follow-up that you do with your clients. It is definitely the relationships that you
build. And most importantly – being a professional
is how you treat your subjects and clients. If you are a professional – people matter. That’s what professional is. So instead of asking someone else when and
if you can call yourself a professional – go take a long look in the mirror and answer
the question yourself. and until you are ready to do that… go and
pick up that camera and shoot something – because your BEST shot is your NEXT shot so keep learning
, keep thinking and keep shooting – adios.

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