Exactly when does a hobbyist morph into a professional photographer?
When I compiled a such a list for the Rising Black Star blog, I was quite surprised by the comments that it received.
It was, after all, written in fun.
It wasn’t like I woke up one morning and said to myself, “Let me see how many photographer’s cages I can rattle today.”
No one I know wakes up one day and becomes a professional photographer overnight.
Professional photography is not some country club where you pay your monthly dues and you automatically become a member.
I can only speak for someone with a background in newspapers. The closest you could come to some sort of nationwide club membership is if you work at a newspaper as a staff photographer and you would qualify to be a member of National Press Photographers Association.
Those pros who do illustration or studio work who honed their skills slogging long hours as an apprentice/assistant to an established photographer before heading out on their own might be members of Professional Photographers of America or American Society of Magazine Photographers.
Regardless of their backgrounds, most working pros today are self-employed because there are less and less staff photographer positions out there and the competition increases daily as digital photography becomes more and more accessible to the masses.
Those slow to embrace the transition to digital or too busy working to make the commitment for continuing education are understandably troubled by a new breed of competition.
The mamarazzis and hobbyists with their 1st digital SLRs have always been around even in the film days. It’s just that today, to the lay person they’re harder to spot because
- Out-of-focus, less than perfect images at web resolutions all look good to the less discerning eye since many buyers of photography base their decisions on websites and not on actual printed portfolios
- Anyone can register a domain name, throw a website together within a few hours, post some testimonials and viola they get instant legitimacy
- As Chad Perkins points out in his post, thanks to photoshop plug-ins and ever generous trainers like Scott Kelby, anyone can mimick a look when given step-by-step instructions–the equivalent of painting by numbers
There’s a photoshop filter or a plug-in for just about any type of effect you don’t know how to create in camera.
Never heard of shallow depth-of-field or bokeh? No problem. Make a selection around your subject. Under Filter, choose Gaussian blur.. Prefer a plug-in? Try FocalPoint.
Don’t know how to pan? Make a selection around your subject. Under Filter, choose Motion blur.
Like the Dave Hill look for portraits? Use the Topaz Adjust plug-in.
Heck if you don’t know how to light or own any lights, but want to fake it, try using (Filter>Render> Lens Flare). The picture above is from a previous post on photographing a belly dancer.
Change is hard. When I made the jump to digital, I’ll admit, I didn’t do it willingly. But I saw the handwriting on the wall and I embraced it.
Which brings me back to my list of 21 signs.
So every working professional out there was a wannabe at one time or another. I was.
While I can understand why some of those hard-working pros might be a little sensitive, I thought they must have forgotten not too long ago, they were on that very same road themselves.
Do all artists have to suffer for their art?
From my personal experience, I know that most artist have to sacrifice quite a bit.
Why is that? This medium which is totally dependent on light seldom presents you with breath-taking natural light at noon after you’ve had all your beauty sleep.
If you are a documentarian, you have to be there when things happen not when it’s convenient.
So you have to sacrifice mostly family time and personal time from your loved ones.
You can’t beat the price of free.
The biggest difference between a hobbyist and a professional is the latter derives their income wholly from their art.
The professional has made the commitment to making a living from their art. So, they have to run it as a business,their livelihood depends on it.
The hobbyist who has a full time job tends to have more gear than they know what to do with.
It is not uncommon for the hobbyist to “feel honored to be asked to shoot something.” It’s only natural.
It’s flattering to think someone actually likes your work. But your â€œtoysâ€ are not free.
Camera bodies don’t last indefinitely. You should be thinking about who will pay to replace them when they go off to that happy picture-hunting ground.
Because of that, be mindful when you’re starting out not to low ball your competitors just to get the job.
You ruin the marketplace for those professionals and ultimately yourself if you make that jump to pro yourself. Your clients won’t like the price increase when you realize you’re losing your shirt by low-balling your competitors.
Feeling honored and giving your time and work away is fine if it’s for a cause like a charity to raise money or awareness of some illness.
Even in that instance you can claim that work as a donation for tax purposes especially if the agency you’re working for has a non-profit status.
The time you put in has a value, after all.
So this begs the question, now that I no longer work as a staff photographer for a newspaper, what am I?
I’m a has been with a difference. I have some measure of influence since I’m teaching and you’re reading this.