Wednesday, February 18, 2009

What does it mean to be a professional photographer?

People ask me if I'm a professional photographer. I always find that hard to answer, because I have not reached my own goals . . . yet.

These are common questions when determining whether one is "professional."

Does it mean that I have sold a photo?

Does it mean that I've been published and paid for the usage?

Does it mean that I've sold portraits?

Does it mean that I've been exhibited at a gallery or museum somewhere?

Does it mean that a certain percentage or the majority of my income comes from photography in a given year?

Do I work on photography in addition to a full time job - or is photography my only "job?"

Is my photography more a hobby that occasionally earns money?

Am I a member of professional organizations?

Am I consistent in making submissions? Do I get work back to clients in a timely fashion?

How much time and energy do I spend marketing my work?

Am I teaching other people how to do better photography? Am I being paid?

Yesterday I noted that I had had my first "pro" look at my new website. Then I realized that it was not a true statement. Why? Because I had friends at the Digital Image Cafe check my site over to catch the little things that I might miss - a critique. Several of the people who critiqued my website probably meet the most of the criteria of being professional - they sell their work, they are hired for portraits, they've been published, they're working their way up to being in the major leagues. So, yes, I've had pros looking at my work. There was a thread at the Cafe that talked about most of the participants being amateurs. While that may be true, there are many that fit the criteria of being professional as well - whether emerging professionals or full blown professionals. A professional photographer that does make his living at photography once told me the big difference between a professional and an amateur is NOT the quality of the photography - rather it is the amount of marketing (both themselves and their photography) that they do.

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