What is a 'Pro' Photographer, really?

Started 10 months ago | Discussions
Tone Row
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Re: A Pro makes money...
In reply to Bill Robb, 10 months ago

Bill Robb wrote:

Tone Row wrote:

MysteryLemon wrote:

A professional photographer is someone who gets paid for taking photographs.

The word professional doesn't take into account what quality their work is. It just means that they get paid for it.

You could be an athlete in that you train daily and take part in events and competitions but you only become a professional athelete when someone sponsors you and you get paid for taking part in events and competitions.

The same goes for photographers.

I see shocking work from some people who I wouldn't even class as a photographer, but they are right to call themselves a professional photographer because someone out there is stupid enough to pay for their work.

Wow, didn't know the bar was so low into the world of "professional". Last weekend I grilled hot dogs for my daughter's school carnival and people paid money for them, which means I'm now a professional chef!!!!!!!

Are you paid to be stupid too? Or do you do that for fun?

No, I was making a point that getting paid for something does not itself make you a "professional". Were you too stupid to follow that line of reasoning?

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Laurentiu Todie
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Re: Why does it matter so much?
In reply to Mark_A, 10 months ago

Paid or not, a pro delivers consistently good results.
It helps if the pro also has a distinguishable style, particularly good knowledge of the technology and history of the trade, but that isn't mandatory.

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Mark_A
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Re: Why does it matter so much?
In reply to Laurentiu Todie, 10 months ago

Laurentiu Todie wrote:

Paid or not, a pro delivers consistently good results.
It helps if the pro also has a distinguishable style, particularly good knowledge of the technology and history of the trade, but that isn't mandatory.

Hi Laurentiu,

For me, a pro is someone who derives a significant proportion of their income from photography.

Mark

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rhlpetrus
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Unrelated to qualifications or results Re: Pro photographer - it's your occupation
In reply to Greg A A, 10 months ago

Greg A A wrote:

Professional literal definition: A person engaged in a specified activity as one's main paid occupation rather than as a pastime.

Pro photographer is nothing more than saying your occupation is a photographer. A professional wedding photographer is going to immediately know how to deal with a wedding and do a great job on the shots that their customers like. A pro that makes their money on stock is also likely to be an outstanding photographer.

Being a pro has nothing to with how good a photographer you are. However, most professional photographers are very good as well. An amateur photographer could very well be a better photographer than a pro, but probably not as a rule.

A profession is not just a community of people that survive from a common activity, it is something that evolved from communties, but at a certain point became more than that, has its own rules of conduct, possibly an union or association that represents the members (and charges for that accordingly), is recognized as such by labour legislation, etc.

Either one is a member of the profession or not. Someone that shoots the occasional wedding, even if charging, cannot be considered a professional photographer automatically. But if he or she registers as a part or full time photographer in such an association or union, then they become professional photogs.

Basically, one has poor, midlevel and excellent pro photographers, like in all professions, being a member of one is not a guarantee of quality. There are great, average and very poor teachers, all of them professional ones. It's not a good thing to equate "pro" with the quality of output, in any area. I know people like to use expressions like "he is a real pro" to mean the person is well-qualified and produces excellent quality results in all areas, but that is not a good way of using the word, in the real world of professions.

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jkoch2
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'Pro' Photographer, defined precisely
In reply to fredphotog, 10 months ago

A professional photographer is someone who earns a living by photography without relying on other jobs, revenues, family income, investments, or public relief.  Whether that business or occupation earns them as much as some other activity (such as waiting tables or laying drainpipe) is another matter.

Most often, this means someone who "does" weddings, graduations, anniversaries, reunions, corporate events, or documents for products or training.  Real estate and insurance make a lot of use of photography, but the workers spend most time on things besides photography.  More and more, anyone who survives in the journalism field has to be jack of all trades.  Retail photography service stores related to film developing or camera repairs, have been decimated by digital photography and phone cameras.

It's all about making a living and paying rent, not about attitude or the cameras owned.

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René Schuster
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Re:
In reply to Bill Robb, 10 months ago

Bill Robb wrote:

canonpro wrote:

My opinion, René Schuster, that those types of schooling do not always give you Pro results,

Opinions are nice, even when they are meaningless. Pro comes down to money, nothing else.

Oh come on, Bill, usually you're smarter than that!

What might be true for Horace St or the US is not true for Germany! Why can't you simply accept that?

RS

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Zoofy
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Re: What is a 'Pro' Photographer, really?
In reply to fredphotog, 10 months ago

So TODAY, what makes a 'Pro'?

Ideal world = you make the main portion, or a reasonable portion, of your living from photography. 
You might not be as good as some amateurs, they often have more time to play and refine technique, but your work is decent and consistent.

real world = as above, but add in the elitist tosser waynker type of person - the art photographer and the celebrity photographer.
Quality is as above but the poser photographer's work is universally shiit, overblown, contrasty artified crap.

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Zoofy
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Re: It's your job (incl weekend wedding photogs), PERIOD!
In reply to Mike_PEAT, 10 months ago

Mike_PEAT wrote:

You make regular money from it, you're a pro....you don't, you're an amateur.

Not saying pro is better...I know many amateurs who are better and more serious about photography than most of the pros I have met.

They tend to have more time to experiment and their food is not tied to their photography.
"Pros' have to make it pay, have to work reasonably quickly, sometimes production-line style with school photos.

They need consistently good photos, not 10 meh and 1 wow! type.

I used to be proud to say I wasn't a pro...but I got a job offer I couldn't refuse so now it's my day job.

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bruxi
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Re: What is a 'Pro' Photographer, really?
In reply to Bill Robb, 10 months ago

fredphotog wrote:

We discuss it here, we see people say 'I am no Pro..', but these folks take darned good photos.

So what make a 'Pro' a 'Pro'?

It used to be if you made 50% or more of your income from a 'hobby' then you were considered a 'Pro'.

Some folks think if you are published then you are a 'Pro'.

I see people with $20,000 in equipment call themselves a 'Pro' but create crappy work.

So TODAY, what makes a 'Pro'?

If you earn 50% or more of your income from photography you are a pro photographer.
If you earn less than 50% of your income from photography you are an amateur photographer.

There is no need to complicate this stuff further than that.

Where does 50% come from? That makes zero sense.

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MoreorLess
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Re: Why does it matter so much?
In reply to Mark_A, 10 months ago

Mark_A wrote:

fredphotog, why does it matter so much?

There are amateurs and professionals producing very mixed work, some excellent some rubbish.

I had a period of paid photography so I could have claimed then that I was a pro.

I have been a photographer for about 14 years so I am no beginner, but I would also not yet claim to be expert.

If people want to call themselves pro, when you might think they are not, does it really matter?

Mark

I issue I spose is that you often see "I'm a pro" used to back up the qualify of someones work when in reality is that most pro's business has little to do with art.

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MoreorLess
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Re:
In reply to René Schuster, 10 months ago

René Schuster wrote:

MysteryLemon wrote:

That's how it should be.

I'm in the UK though and here, anyone can pick up a camera with no qualification or training and setup a studio or go and shoot a wedding. They are classed as a Professional because they get paid for doing that job.

I could imagine over here this would come to a very quick end as soon as the real "pro" on the other end of town would learn about it! All it would probably take is one phone call to the chamber of commerce, lol!

That doesn't mean I couldn't go and shoot the wedding of a good friend, just to do him a favour, but it would be against the law if I pretend being a pro (without being one), to make/and make money that way.

RS

Interesting, how far does this go?

I can see some logic in it when it comes to a pro offering a service where the results are obviously unknown to the customer when said service is booked.

Would it apply to say someone selling art prints? I see little need in that situations since the customer is paying for a finished piece of work.

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FrancoD
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Re: What is a 'Pro' Photographer, really?
In reply to fredphotog, 10 months ago

The way I see it is that some confuse "pro" (professional) with "like a pro"

"like a pro" is a very common expression used to describe for example someone that sings well, well  enough to be a pro , but the very fact that the singing is described as "like" it means that it isn't...(I sing in my bathtub "like a pro"...)

The same with someone taking occasionally ,or even always, great photos that looks like a "pro" photo, however in the end pro still just describes what you do for a living, again nothing at all to do with quality.

You could be a Real Estate photographer taking same-same photos all the time and not of a particular high standard either, but if you are paid to do just that, well you are a pro photographer.

(passport entry : Profession : photographer , never asks you how good you are at it)

The same as you can be a lousy yet professional accountant. It describes you profession not your proficiency.

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bosjohn21
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Re: What is a 'Pro' Photographer, really?
In reply to fredphotog, 10 months ago

a pro photographer is one who makes a significant or all his income making images. The vast majority of pro photographers are employed by scientific and medical labs, news outlets, as adjuncts to sight seeing tours, wedding etc, not really the glamorous jobs by enlarge. product photography and advertising photography is a big employer as well.

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Mark_A
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Re: Why does it matter so much?
In reply to MoreorLess, 10 months ago

MoreorLess wrote:

Mark_A wrote:

fredphotog, why does it matter so much?

There are amateurs and professionals producing very mixed work, some excellent some rubbish.

I had a period of paid photography so I could have claimed then that I was a pro.

I have been a photographer for about 14 years so I am no beginner, but I would also not yet claim to be expert.

If people want to call themselves pro, when you might think they are not, does it really matter?

Mark

I issue I spose is that you often see "I'm a pro" used to back up the qualify of someones work when in reality is that most pro's business has little to do with art.

I tend to look at the images, if I like them then I judge the photographer accordingly.

Mark

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CharlesB58
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Re: Why does it matter so much?
In reply to Mark_A, 10 months ago

Mark_A wrote:

fredphotog wrote:

We discuss it here, we see people say 'I am no Pro..', but these folks take darned good photos.

So what make a 'Pro' a 'Pro'?

It used to be if you made 50% or more of your income from a 'hobby' then you were considered a 'Pro'.

Some folks think if you are published then you are a 'Pro'.

I see people with $20,000 in equipment call themselves a 'Pro' but create crappy work.

So TODAY, what makes a 'Pro'?

To me, I think if you put thought into your exact equipment, you plan your shot(s), you take care in framing, exposure, color, background, and you spend time in PP coming up with a good photograph, then you are a 'Pro', after all, normal people just take a P-A-S and 'go click' without regard to anything about the camera or subject matter.

It used to be a 'Pro' had that title tied to money, but I see a lot of 'Pros' publish good work for little or no money, so that doesn't fit in the discussions we have here once in awhile.

I see a lot of folks premise a picture with 'I'm no Pro', but these folks are doing awesome work - some of it better than a lot of the 'Pros' I know that make a living at it.

Thoughts?

fredphotog, why does it matter so much?

There are amateurs and professionals producing very mixed work, some excellent some rubbish.

I had a period of paid photography so I could have claimed then that I was a pro.

I have been a photographer for about 14 years so I am no beginner, but I would also not yet claim to be expert.

If people want to call themselves pro, when you might think they are not, does it really matter?

Mark

Perhaps because photography has an odd circumstance in which many people assume that if they have "pro gear" it means they are going to produce better photos than those with "amateur gear"? Or maybe it has to do with the narcissism and competitiveness of many people who use cameras, who often resort to trying to bolster their arguments for or against certain gear by saying "Pros demand..."?

Technically, a person in the Wal-Mart photo studio is a pro because she/he earns her/his living taking photos. Last one I spoke to basically only knew how to set up the camera and lights and had memorized the pose page.

So yeah, for me it really is a "So what?" since by definition I'm not a pro, but I am a "working photographer" who provides/sells images for clients.

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Glenn NK
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Re: It's your job and it might be part time.
In reply to JTC111, 10 months ago

JTC111 wrote:

Glenn NK wrote:

Mike_PEAT wrote:

You make regular money from it, you're a pro....you don't, you're an amateur.

Not saying pro is better...I know many amateurs who are better and more serious about photography than most of the pros I have met.

I used to be proud to say I wasn't a pro...but I got a job offer I couldn't refuse so now it's my day job.

What if you do photography and make regular money from it but have another part time job from which you earn more money?

I'm not picking an argument with you - rather I suggest that we could discuss this topic forever and never come to a definition or conclusion. In short, the time would be better spent doing anything else - particularly photography even if we didn't earn any money from it. There are so many lame topics on photo forums (not just this one) that it makes my head spin and my eyes water.

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Glenn NK

I don't think there is a definitive definition for this, but in response to your question, I'd argue people can have more than one profession. Someone might be an engineer during the week but a wedding photographer on the weekends. That person is certainly a professional photographer, as far as I'm concerned.
Using my own life as another example, I'm a high school teacher but I'm also a singer/songwriter whose music has appeared on a number of television shows for which I get a royalty check every 3 months. It's not a lot of money but it satisfies the IRS in that I can claim music gear and instruments as business deductions on my tax return. So I'm a professional musician ...something I really never thought would happen.

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Jim Caputo
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After reading all the posts, many of which are at odds with each other, it's becoming apparent that your statement is correct - there is no strict definition.

BTW, this has been discussed on various forums many times with the same result - bandwidth used up with no conclusion - this thread will have the same result as it must inevitably have.

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Aberaeron
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Re: What is a 'Pro' Photographer, really?
In reply to fredphotog, 10 months ago

A photographer who prostitutes themselves.

That's it, in plain and simple terms.

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Aberaeron
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Re: What is a 'Pro' Photographer, really?
In reply to FrancoD, 10 months ago

FrancoD wrote:

If you just use the full word ,professional, you then get the definition.

So ,anyone makes a living out of photography, is a "pro".

Nothing to do with personal ability. many amateur photographers can take better photos than some pro but they do it for fun or occasionally for some re numeration but not as a profession.

I can cook but I am not a Chef.

I disagree. It is not necessarily the case that a professional can make enough money from their profession to make a living [wage].

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Aberaeron
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Re: 'Pro' Photographer, defined precisely
In reply to jkoch2, 10 months ago

jkoch2 wrote:

A professional photographer is someone who earns a living by photography without relying on other jobs, revenues, family income, investments, or public relief. Whether that business or occupation earns them as much as some other activity (such as waiting tables or laying drainpipe) is another matter.

Most often, this means someone who "does" weddings, graduations, anniversaries, reunions, corporate events, or documents for products or training. Real estate and insurance make a lot of use of photography, but the workers spend most time on things besides photography. More and more, anyone who survives in the journalism field has to be jack of all trades. Retail photography service stores related to film developing or camera repairs, have been decimated by digital photography and phone cameras.

It's all about making a living and paying rent, not about attitude or the cameras owned.

While I agree with your basic premise, a 'professional' need not be financially successful at it. Indeed, like any freelance professional, it might well be a struggle to pay the rent  at times I imagine. The aim would certainly be to pay the rent, but a professional could well be a professional in several distinct businesses at the same time, to pay that rent. They could be employed or be self employed or a mixture of both.

I don't believe that you can lump all people into some distinct category. Life has more colours than black and white or any shade thereof.

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Aberaeron
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Re: What is a 'Pro' Photographer, really?
In reply to bosjohn21, 10 months ago

bosjohn21 wrote:

a pro photographer is one who makes a significant or all his income making images. The vast majority of pro photographers are employed by scientific and medical labs, news outlets, as adjuncts to sight seeing tours, wedding etc, not really the glamorous jobs by enlarge. product photography and advertising photography is a big employer as well.

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John aka bosjohn21

Are you really a professional photographer if you are just doing photography for a wage per hour? Or are you just another employee who happens to work with a camera?

Do you see the difficulty of, and with, categorising people?

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