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With photography becoming increasingly democratic, the line between professionals and amateurs seems to get thinner and thinner. The digital revolution has brought a great contribution to this process and, to be fair, it has brought to light incredible talents that may have otherwise remained unknown. All that is due to the quick learning process that is different from the old film days and this is the reason why an increasing number of people are considering starting a career in professional photography. Professional quality gear is a lot more affordable than it was twenty years ago and that makes it partially easy to understand.
However, as we have talked before, it’s not entirely the gear that separates a pro from an amateur or a hobbyist. While photography may not be rocket science, it still requires a high level of skill and a certain amount of talent.
Here is a list of traits that separate the professional photographer from the camera owner.
While both amateurs and professionals may posses a high level of skill when it comes to actual shooting, photography is nevertheless a business like any other. Successful professional photographers are successful business people. That means marketing skills, negotiation abilities, people skills, occasional accounting, etc. A great part of a professional’s time is spent gaining visibility, acquiring new clients and having an overall interest for expanding business. Having a lot of likes on Facebook won’t cut it.
A clear pricing method
There are many amateurs who have occasional photography gigs, but most of the times they come up with a cost of production based more on emotional needs rather than having a rational method of calculating costs and fee. A pro will always have a clear pricing list, based on how much it costs him or her to run business daily, how much investment has been made, what props or accessories are necessary, the right of use for the images and so on. It is basically a business plan like any other, but with the specifics of the field.
A pro always makes sacrifices
Running a successful photography business means making sacrifices, and not just financial ones. Growing as a professional takes time and many photographers have to sacrifice time spent with their families and stay up long hours coming up with successful marketing strategies or developing new editing styles that set them apart from the competition. Amateurs find it convenient to own high end cameras to use on holidays and on weekends, and many even take very good photographs that are testament to their skill and talent. However, it’s not enough. If you want people to take you seriously as a photographer, you have to advertise yourself that way. Having a day job could be a lot more convenient for many people, but for those who want to pursue photography as a business, be advised, it is very different lifestyle.
Pros know what to invest in. Amateurs buy the neat, new stuff
The gear debate seems to be an ongoing one. Many professionals are frustrated by the fact that aspiring shooters own the latest digital equipment and often have no full control of it. A seasoned photographer will always make the right investments. Why? Because he knows exactly what he needs to perform his art and make his business competitive. Amateurs believe they need the latest body, the most megapixels and the most expensive glass to have a chance in the market. Professionals know that what they are being hired for is themselves and what they have to offer in terms of vision and craft, and not for the contents of their bag. It is one of the clearest differences. The best gear in the world will not make you a better photographer if you don’t have what it takes. And that is vision, a commitment to constantly evolve, excellent control of light and editing abilities. A seasoned pro could get the job done with a lesser camera if the situation demanded it. Professional cameras only makes thing easier, but demand the same level of skills, if not a higher one.
A professional photographer doesn’t have a day job. This is his job
Amateurs pursue photography because they enjoy it, because it brings them some sort of fulfillment, but they are not financially challenged by it. A professional still enjoys it and has passion at the root of everything he does, but at the end of the day he has to take photos to put food on the table. That means photographing a lot of things he normally wouldn’t if it was up to him. Amateurs have the freedom to choose their subjects and are in no way confided by client demands.
The professional photographer is a service provider and because he works with people, his ability to make customers happy is crucial. It is often a lot of pressure and amateurs experience none of it. Even if they are asked by a relative to photograph a wedding, it is still not as demanding as shooting a wedding for a client. It is determining for the success of business to provide satisfactory customer service on top of professional level quality in photography.
The professional is aware of competition and tries to stay one step ahead
It is very challenging to stay in business when you have as much competition as you do in the photography business. With high quality education being available just a click away, many pros struggle to stay on top and maintain existing clients while searching for new ones. None of these worries are familiar to the amateur. Pricing is also an issue as many newcomers try to enter the market by charging less than established photographers.
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