Today is the day, you are so excited that you got a new camera and you are looking for every opportunity to use it. One of your friends just had a baby and they want you to take the photos of their new bundle of joy. AWESOME!! Your first opportunity to use your camera and maybe even make a few bucks.
So the question is: Are you a professional photographer ?
Full Time Career Professional
Full Time Photographer
This is a common experience that we are all faced with when we get paid for our work. The problem is it sounds like so many photographers are more driven to be claiming the “professional” title compared to making some money. But in reality, are you really a professional because you made some money taking photos?
Let’s apply this to a sport: If you were an amateur golfer in a professional event, the minute you accept prize money you are considered a professional. The same concept applies to all sports but does that standard apply to photography?
The Kenrockwell website did a great job of giving some definitions about what kinds of photographers there are. Based on these definitions, see where you line up. Statements/definitions are courtesy of kenrockwell
What type of photographer are you?
Full-Time Career Professional
- A Full-Time Career Professional Photographer is a person who has been a full-time photographer for their entire career.
- They work all day, every day, ever since he graduated college.
- These guys buy whatever gear they need, since the cost of gear is trivial compared to how much they use it. If something saves them 5 minutes a day or has a clearer viewfinder to peer through 12 hours a day, it doesn’t matter if it costs $8,000.
- A professional photographer is a photographer who earns 100% of his income from photography. This is the definition required for entrance into the secret Nikon and Canon factory support organizations.
- A full-time pro works the same as the Full-Time Career Professional Photographer, but failed at some other career and fell back on his hobby to try to make money.
- If he hasn’t been doing it very long, he may still worry about gear costs since he’s not sure how long it will be until he’ll get another real job. These worries come from back when he had a real job, and his boss tried to get cheap with the tools. The Career Pro doesn’t worry: if a new tool saves him more time over its life than the cost of ownership, it’s a no-brainer to buy it.
- People who earn less than 50% of their income from photography are amateurs.
- People who shoot weddings every single weekend while holding down another job aren’t professional photographers. People who sell prints at art fairs, but still have real jobs, are still amateurs.
The vast majority of photographers reading this article will usually fall in the amateur photographer or the full time photographer definition. In reality it is very hard to make 100% of your living from your photography which would make you a “professional photographer or a career full time pro”.
In reality what label you use to describe yourself is not what is important.
What is important is base around expectation management. What i’m referring to is the concept of intentionally or unintentionally misleading a client into believing that your abilities are more advanced then they are. After all, just because you can shoot a basketball doesn’t mean your a professional basketball player.
I would suggest that it will hurt you and the photography industry if you embellish your abilities because there is more to being a professional photographer than a label and some characteristics of income. Being a professional can assume that you know what you are doing and just because you are making some money taking photos doesn’t mean you know what you are doing. If you claim you are a professional and set the expectation that you can produce at a high level, you are hurting yourself and our industry if you fall short.
Remember, we want all photographers to have success and growth in their abilities. The problems is when using a label misleads a person or client into believing something that is not true or misleading.
At the end of the day it doesn’t matter what you call yourself, what matters is that the expectations you set need to be inline with you abilities. Think about it, if you tell a client that you are a professional but just got out of school and are just starting out, you are setting yourself up for failure. You are not setting up a failure in your ability to take photos but potentialy in the expectation and images that you are presenting to your client.
I hope this article got you thinking and reassured your thoughts on what you will say the next time someone asks you if you are a professional photographer. I hope you enjoyed reading this article and enjoyed this food for thought.
Comment below and let me know what characteristics you think define a professional photographer. Do you agree or disagree with the Kenrockwell definitions in the article?