Are You A Professional Photographer ?

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Before I (& you) answer that question, let me explain a little bit about “professional photographer” term. Please take a note that some parts of this article are written based on my personal opinion so maybe you will have different opinion, that’s fine.

First, we can see some definitions of “professional photographer“.

Wikipedia version (link) :

The definitions of amateur and professional, in the context of photography, are not entirely categorical. A professional photographer is likely to take photographs to make money, through the display, sale or use of those photographs, while an amateur photographer may take photographs for pleasure and to record an event, emotion, place, as a person without a monetary motivation. However, much photography is preparatory to other activity, or forms a partial but significant part of a person’s job role; for example, a scene of crime detective, a ship’s photographer in the (Royal Navy), a reporter on a local paper or an estate agent, while an amateur may make considerable sums entering work for prize money or through occasional inclusion of their work in magazines or the archive of an agency. The term professional may also imply preparation, for example, by academic study, of the photographer in pursuit of photographic skills. There is no compulsory registration requirement for professional photographer status, so ambivalent or overlapping concepts apply here as they do in other areas of unregulated artistic activity, such as painting or writing.

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KenRockwell version (link):

Interesting that he defines that “photography is not a profession”, you can see this link for more detail.

He said different people and organizations define a “professional” photographer very differently. Anyone can call themselves a professional photographer, and charge you for it.

He also separate some terminologies related to professional photographer:

Full-Time Career Pro: A Full-Time Career Professional Photographer is a person who has been a full-time photographer for his entire career.

Full-Time Photographer: 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.

Professional Photographer: A professional photographer is a photographer who earns 100% of his income from photography.

Amateur Photographer: People who earn less than 50% of their income from photography are amateurs.

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Digital Photography School (article written by Elizabeth Halford, link):

So to make this clear: you’re a professional at something when it’s your profession. And a profession in the loosest sense of the word is “a vocation or business”. Although in the photographic world, the word profession may have a more strict definition and that’s open for debate. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as, say, being a doctor or a therapist or even a farmer. Because photography is unique in that it is a hobby or passion which can turn into a very nice business. For some, it’s part-time, for others full-time. When do you cross that line from hobbyist to professional?

In addition she also write: When people love what you do and recognize you as a ‘photographer’, when you make any amount of money or business out of photography, then you are a ‘professional’.

Some comments in that article also interesting to be read 🙂

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After read some definitions of “professional photographer”, I think everyone has different opinion about it so I also try to write my personal opinion here.

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In my opinion, professional photographer is photographer who earn money for living from photography.

Note that it’s not related to skill, hobby(interest), experience. 

A skillful and experienced photographer doesn’t mean he is a professional photographer. To be a professional photographer is a choice – not every skillful & experienced photographer want to make photography as a profession / job. Some photographers are enjoy to make photography as an hobby/interest (instead of profession/job).

Some people who follow my blog or visit my blog maybe know that I like shooting model (portrait). Shooting model for me is an hobby/interest (let’s say just for fun 🙂 ) – I don’t want to make this hobby (shooting model) become a profession. Some friends asking me “why you shoot a lot of models? do you get money from doing that? how many prints have you sold? how much money have you spent for shooting model (buy camera and pay model fee)?” It’s really true story 🙂

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On the other side (not many people know, except my colleagues or close friends), my main job/profession is shooting material measurement photos (you can call it product photography if you like, just kidding LOL). It’s kind of engineering photography (maybe). I don’t think photography skill is required for shooting this kind of photograph (most people can shoot this kind of photograph). Do I have interest for shooting this material measurement? Surely no, I only shoot this material measurement photos because I got paid for doing that.

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Some people also think that to be a professional photographer you need expensive gear. I know that gear is important for photographer, I even write article about “your gear does matter” – you can check here. But I am not agree with “expensive gear” – I would say you need “proper gear” to be a professional photographer. Nikon L29 is a proper gear for shooting material measurement photo (IMHO), it is small, light, and compact.

Gear: Canon 5D Mark II + EF 200mm f/2L IS (hobby/interest)

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Gear: Nikon Coolpix L29 (job/profession)

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So far I have made portrait (model) photography as my hobby/interest and material measurement (engineering) photography as my job/profession. Besides, I also shoot apartment, pre-wedding, wedding, and event as side job.

It’s good if you can do your job as your hobby at the same time – but not everyone have this opportunity. Sometimes you need to sacrifice one of them – you need to make a choice. That’s why in the beginning I said “To be a professional photographer is a choice”.

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Now we back to main question, if someone asking me “Are you a professional photographer?” I would say that I am a photographer (IMHO when you got paid from doing something for living you won’t think about professional term anymore, for example: an artist instead of professional artist, a doctor instead of professional doctor, a singer instead of professional singer).

How about you? Are you a professional photographer? Answers are open to you…..

Thanks for visiting my blog & reading this article, your comments are welcome.

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