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Pro Photographer Or Not? The Difference.

Been wanting to do a quick writeup about this subject which came up a lot recently. I thought I would like to give my two cents of thoughts about it as well.

Growing up, I had a friend many years older than me, and he was a full-time professional photographer. Back in those days, he used film for his work, the benchmark or shall I say the 'investment' spent on your equipment to be a photographer was extremely high! We didn't have smartphone cameras back in those days and it takes a lot to own a SLR, you know the film kind Single-Reflex Camera before the digital era? That was back in the 90s. Not many people could even afford developing their photos yet to own a camera. At that point of time, it was easy to say that you are a Professional Photographer. It was a chicken and egg thing, if you wish to go into the industry as a pro photographer you simply need to invest in your equipment and they were extremely expensive. Usually, unless you are using them for work, not many people would think about getting a SLR camera. For me, I was kind of privileged as I was able to use the school's bought camera when I join the School Photographer Team. I remembered there were only three of us, the other two guys had their own equipment (i.e. rich kids) while I was the only one tapping on the school's resource.

Coming back to the current age of digital and social media. Everybody calls themselves a photographer, it has definitely got to do with the 'benchmark' of owning a camera is so easily attainable now. Of course, that added to been able to train yourself with any camera. In addition to that, we have the spree of Instagram photographers who mainly rely on their social media to get jobs. Might be a different kind of job as they get paid through various ways such as sponsorships, like-counts and collaborations as compared to the usual taking on a 'job' kind of work.

So, why am I rambling about all these suddenly? It was due to a recent conversation with a client on why they have been hiring me as their go-to photographer for the past few years. Two words kept coming up throughout the conversation. They were 'efficiency' and 'effective', I started to ponder a little deeper and realised that as a professional photographer, there are really a lot of differences with an amateur photographer. Well, here is an easy definition of a professional photographer I found. The Washington Post defined a professional photographer as "anyone who earns more than 50 percent of his or her annual income from photography.” This is a simple and clear definition but it doesn't really say much in terms of capability, efficiency and consistency. Don't get me wrong. I must first say that there are many talented photographers out there both during my line of work and social media style of photographers, there are really some amazing talents out there! But when a company hires a 'professional photographer' for the job, they do not just look at your socials.

I came up with a few of my own as I see some differences over the years. This was meant to be a short post so I will end with some comparisons and some food for thought.

For those who are thinking of doing more real-world kind of work. These are some of my thoughts.

What makes a difference between a pro photographer and an amateur photographer?

  1. A Pro Photographer must deliver! This is first and foremost what clients hire you for! When you are being hired for your craft, you better deliver it. What I used to always say, 'Where is the money shot?' and 'The show must go on!'

  2. A Pro Photographer must be consistent in their work I cannot stress this enough as an amateur photographer would not get this extremely critical point. You need to be consistent in the way you manage clients, your work and your delivery. We have to get over the creative part as you need to know what your clients want, not what you want. The artistic instinct has to go down many times.

  3. A Pro Photographer has to be effective This is hard to elaborate but an important point as well, A client hires you and you need to know what they need in their pictures. I am a portrait, event and product photographer so different genre I would need to be effective in what my clients get. For example: I need to bring out good expression and know the client's good side of their features, which to me is being effective. Another example such as during event, you need to look out for 'money shots' imagery which the client wants such as sponsor's logo, people beside banners, loads of shots of the VIPs, etc.

  4. A Pro Photographer has to be of worth Again, there must be something different that you have stood out which your client had hired you for. A few things which run through my mind would be the vibe you give out, your countenance, and your enthusiasm for the job itself. These are hidden trademarks which are extremely important. For example, I had a previous client who was working with me for their anniversary, He was a boss who wanted to take care of everything himself all the way even how the photography should be done for the event. Despite there were some hiccups and differences in opinion. He was impressed overall and in the end, he eventually tipped an amount equivalent to an additional hour of my time.

  5. A Pro Photographer needs to have the ability to make others feel comfortable Okay, this last point actually doesn't apply to just professional photographers. It has got to do with anybody's mindset and in dealing with people. According to one's authenticity, one should genuinely want to help another human being in this world. Presumingly, this last tip would be the most important as there were many times when I got out of roadblocks or unforeseen situations in which others needed to be comfortable enough with you to accomplish and salvage situations.

Okay, that's it. These are my five quick thoughts on this subject. Now, back to the grind!




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