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Author Topic: What's your definition of "Pro"?  (Read 31364 times)


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What's your definition of "Pro"?
« on: February 06, 2013, 11:48:14 PM »
I'm curious. What does it mean to be a professional photographer?

I don't exactly consider myself a pro, but I'm not a fan of referring to photography as just my "hobby".
I've invested quite a bit of money (for me) in photography equipment- bodies, lenses, strobes and other studio equipment. But I know the gear I have doesn't make me a professional.

I'm not super technical in my photography, but I consider myself knowing more than just the basics. I spent 5 years working as an assistant at a photography studio. I learned a lot and got some great experience. I also spent those 5 years in the back room retouching and post-producing photos. I consider myself technically intermediate and enjoy learning and trying new techniques from others.

I don't make my living off of my photography, but occasionally I will do small paid jobs.

I consider myself an amateur- not in the sense that I'm new or inexperienced, but in the sense that for now, I do photography because I love it.

So what exactly does it mean to be professional in your opinion? We know it's not the gear alone. Is it the making money off of your skill? Paid jobs? Making a living? Is it simply having skill and experience? What do you all think?

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What's your definition of "Pro"?
« on: February 06, 2013, 11:48:14 PM »


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Re: What's your definition of "Pro"?
« Reply #1 on: February 06, 2013, 11:54:12 PM »
Typically if you can get paid routinely for several small outfits, and they like your work and you continually get hired, I'd say your a pro.  For instance I never thought of myself as a pro, b/c it's not my primary source of income, but I do shoot for a university, a newspaper, and an athletic conference.  I get paid sufficiently well and they continue to hire me for many jobs.  Does this make me a pro?  I don't know, maybe.  I guess you'd better be good and know what you're doing.  I think to really be a pro you have to be confident in every shooting situation you enter and know what to do to get the shot done.  This particular profession is quite subjective as there are no benchmarks or exams, etc. to become a professional.
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Re: What's your definition of "Pro"?
« Reply #2 on: February 07, 2013, 01:24:44 AM »
I'm an unbelievably good cook & barista, (so my family & friends tell me) but enjoy my amateur status. I wouldn't get too hung up on definitions. You know your own skill level. A professional is a person who is paid to undertake a specialized set of tasks and to complete them for a fee. If that's what you do with your photography, then by definition you are a professional photographer.

From Wikipedia & the Oxford Dictionary:

Or the controversial Ken Rockwell's definition:

And from that great website, Black Star Rising:

And another thread with the same question:

But really, how important are labels? In the end it's what you can do that really counts.



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Re: What's your definition of "Pro"?
« Reply #3 on: February 07, 2013, 01:35:03 AM »
I enjoy photography as a "hobby" too. I doubt I would be enjoy it if this my main job, unless base salary starts at $200K/year ;)

Friends of mines are Pro-wedding shooters, they spend 12-14hrs a day at studio to re-touch wedding pictures. Did I mention - there are no weekends for them :-[

Their family pictures are not even up to date :-\

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Re: What's your definition of "Pro"?
« Reply #4 on: February 07, 2013, 01:53:26 AM »
I would define a pro photographer as someone who makes all their income from photography.
That said there are photographers who take crappy photos.

Therefore the "pro" means (to me at least)
1: that photography is his/hers income (at least main income)
2: when using the word pro it also describes that you are very skillfull in photography and competitive in your area where you live.

If i was a pro skater it would mean that i make my money sk8ting and that ofcourse means that i attend demanding competitions.. Other wise i would not be pro enough to make money of it.

Sure you can be pro and be bad at photography.. Everyone has their opinion of who is good or not but i would imagine that if you have customers coming in for 45 years your pictures should look somewhat "pro" to keep them happy.


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Re: What's your definition of "Pro"?
« Reply #5 on: February 07, 2013, 02:00:41 AM »
Pro = Buisness cards, Sweet Logo, website with rates, a Facebook page... BAM, Bob's Your Uncle !!! Insta-Pro.

You'll find there are no hardlines drawn to define a "pro". Seems like anyone that can afford a camera and takes photos for a few days is considering themselves "pro".

« Last Edit: February 07, 2013, 02:48:29 AM by ChilledXpress »


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Re: What's your definition of "Pro"?
« Reply #6 on: February 07, 2013, 02:25:46 AM »
I think we can use a certain kind of POV from the sports angle where if you accept a certain amount of money, you lose amateur status(like with High School Athelete Missy Franklin).

I'm not saying if you charge $300 for portraits you become a "pro", but I think it would mean that your photography is professional as a business, a brand, and in skill enough for you to seriously charge people the value of your time/effort.

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Re: What's your definition of "Pro"?
« Reply #6 on: February 07, 2013, 02:25:46 AM »


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Re: What's your definition of "Pro"?
« Reply #7 on: February 07, 2013, 03:32:54 AM »
A pro is a person who can deliver the results that their client is paying for. Most importantly, a pro has the experience, knowledge and temperament to deal with adverse conditions and unforseen problems, can work with a diverse range of clients (and their expectations) and understands the logistical requirements for a succesful shoot.

Money doesn't automatically come into my definition.  But I suspect that you couldn't develop the expertise to be a pro unless you were doing it as your full time occupation.  It would take several years to reach the required level.


Your clients are raising their eyebrows at things you say or do;
Your clients are offering suggestions (and their suggestions work and are better than your ideas);
You don't get a lot of repeat jobs or referrals;
You regularly get the impression people aren't happy with your work;
You turn up late;
You regularly lose files, forget to bill clients, don't have back up equipment, always rely on the sun as your source of lighting, think your 35-80 produces the pinnacle of image quality, turn up with a Nikon, don't preplan but expect to get it right on the day, forget important pieces of kit, miss the kiss, run out of memory cards...

...then you might not be at pro level yet.  But if you are getting most of the above right, you probably are a pro.
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Re: What's your definition of "Pro"?
« Reply #8 on: February 07, 2013, 04:10:25 AM »
Professional means making a living out of what ever you do. Amateur means doing it for fun, or for the love of it.

I consider myself a part time pro. I get 10-20 % of my income from paid shoots or photos sold. I could live with going up to 50% photography but the step from there to 100% is huge and would require me to do a lot of shoots that I would not want to do, just to make money. My ordinary job is great and more fun than doing shoots for clients that I dont´like. However the photography I enjoy is much more fun than work. It´s a balance for me.


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Re: What's your definition of "Pro"?
« Reply #9 on: February 07, 2013, 04:25:00 AM »
Definitions are never easy for this one, but for me...

I earn my living through photography
I run a photography related business (UK Ltd company and VAT registered)
I sometimes do photographic work which has no intrinsic interest to me - my job is to produce images the client wants whether I feel like it or not. It's about what the client wants (even when they don't know)

Foremost is that I run a business - it just happens to involve some work that I really enjoy ;-)

Oh, and it's a business that does well enough that I can choose -not- to do some types of work (weddings/portraits/pets)

I'm strongly of the opinion that it has nothing to do with letters after your name, or membership of any particular organisation (although I know some derive personal satisfaction from this)


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Re: What's your definition of "Pro"?
« Reply #10 on: February 07, 2013, 04:37:01 AM »
can produce good quality repeatable results over and over...


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Re: What's your definition of "Pro"?
« Reply #11 on: February 07, 2013, 07:34:40 AM »
I had point and shoot film cameras from an early age. I worked from 18 as a studio assistant, learnt the ropes with regards to lighting and re-touching. I spent lots of time in the dark loading 5x4 film into slides, I spent lots of time with an enlarger making prints, I spent lots of time with lighting, exposure meters and polaroids making sure exposures were correct (and they were to within a quarter of a stop, I might add). In my spare time I shot bands (with a mamiya 645). When the studio mover over to digital, I basically taught the boss to use digital cameras and photoshop. his main photographer left the company, I became the number 1 in the studio. He retired when I was 22 so I went to uni and studied graphic design & photography, I have a 2:1. I left there, started to work in a watch design studio in the graphics department. I started a photography studio with 5 bowens lights, a canon 1Ds mk3 and a G4 mac... The first year I saved the company 80K on photography... now god only knows how much I do. most of the watch advertising in magazines, on the internet and in brochures that you'll see is done by me (only the good stuff). I wanted a home set up, I bought a camera and some lights. then I bout another camera. and another. and more lights. and more crap. and more lenses. After enjoying shooing models and promo shots for bands I thought I'd have a go at wedding photography 2 years ago. I've just done my 11th last weekend. I'm pretty pleased with it. I aim to create the best pictures I can using the bet lighting I can get out of a situation, the sun, a reflector, a window, a strobe, 3 strobes, big lights, big lights + strobes...

I'd never consider myself a pro.

I earn just enough money to live by running the studio here at work, not for myself but for someone else but I'd never charge for anything I shoot outside of work. most photographers i know go mental because I'll do a 14 hour wedding and all the post-production for free (only for friends & friends of friends) If someone contacted me to do a wedding and it wasn't a friend or through a friend I'd turn them down.

I make sure all my equipment is maintained appropriately and I always have a back up for bodies and lenses (which included me spending £800 on a 5Dii last week just for this wedding)

when I've shot 100 weddings and I'm happy with all 100 of them, then I might consider thinking I'm on my way to being half almost decent. but not a pro.

When you've worked with a real pro who knows what to do in any given situation as things are constantly changing then it really puts you in your place.

you may have a real sweet set up and make some money from your stock images but there has to be more about you to be considered a pro. It's hard to pin down. they are out there, somewhere, and it's something to aspire to, not just a label that you give yourself because you over charge for your crappy pictures or because you'll have a pop at me for not charging.
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Re: What's your definition of "Pro"?
« Reply #12 on: February 07, 2013, 08:36:33 AM »
Pro for me is somebody who is standing out of the photography crowd. Just earning money with photography doesnt mean they are pro photographers but rather..."pro workers"  imho. Like not every chef is a pro i think. They can all cook the same perhaps, but the star chef somehow makes it taste more awesome.

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Re: What's your definition of "Pro"?
« Reply #12 on: February 07, 2013, 08:36:33 AM »


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Re: What's your definition of "Pro"?
« Reply #13 on: February 07, 2013, 08:39:16 AM »
Pro - You make a living at what you do.  Everyone is a pro at something.
Semi-pro - You make some money at it.  Could be Weddings/Events or image sales online or at art/craft shows.
Amateur - you do it for fun and/or show.

I don't think these terms have anything to do with skill other than you need to have more skill to make more money at something.  An amateur can certainly have the same skills as a pro they just make a living at something else.


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Re: What's your definition of "Pro"?
« Reply #14 on: February 07, 2013, 09:24:15 AM »
Would you rather go to bed with a seasoned pro, or a passionate amateur?

My point is that people attach too many positive feelings towards the "professional" tag. To me, it only means that one makes a living doing a particular thing. There are other words to describe skill if that is what you want to.


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Re: What's your definition of "Pro"?
« Reply #14 on: February 07, 2013, 09:24:15 AM »