What is a professional photographer? Is there an ‘official’ definition of professional photography?
Some very basic googling brought up this interesting discussion. http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview/id/383208.html
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “The first recorded occurrence of "professional" was circa 1420, and it did indeed refer to "pertaining or making entrance into a religious order." However, this usage of the word "professional" itself seems to have been rare; the next recorded occurrence of the word is in 1747 where it takes on a more modern meaning, "pertaining to, proper to, or connected with one's profession or calling." If we look at the entry for the root word "profess", the OED notes that "before 1500" the word was used "only in a religious sense," having the meaning "To have made one's profession in religion." Secular usage of the verb "profess" begins in about 1510, where it begins to take on the meaning "to make one's profession" in general. The noun "professional" takes on its current meaning of "one who makes a profession or business of any occupation" in the early 1800s (OED's first reference for that meaning is in 1811).
What I like about the above is the reference to the word ‘calling’ (“pertaining to, proper to, or connected with one's profession or calling”), something that comes from within, a passion. The path to becoming a pro photographer is filled with never ending adversities and I strongly believe passion (‘calling’ if you will) is the only force that can propel you past those.
So what is a professional photographer? To me a professional photographer is someone whose photography-generated income is the vast majority of their total income. I’d say at least 75%.
The way I see it, you can be very talented at taking pictures, master all the technical and creative aspects of photography (equipment, composition, lighting, editing and retouch, etc) and produce incredible images, but that doesn’t mean you can actually make a living through photography. On the flip side, I believe your images can be good enough (even if not really stellar) and yet allow you to run a very successful photography business.
I believe the business of photography rests on the following pillars and you need to master them ALL (or outsource some of them to other pros) in order to be able to compete in the photography arena.
Lighting and Composition
Editing and Retouch
Self Management (creativity, work-life balance, wellness, etc)
Business Management (marketing, client management, business development, accounting, etc)
At the end of the day, the amount of time you spend actually photographing is pretty small (10%-30%) compared to the total time you spend running your business, especially if you are not doing any outsourcing. In my own experience and the one of many other professionals in the industry, the areas that are very often neglected by photographers (especially those who might be very good at actually taking photos) are Business Management and Self Management. If it’s fair to say that those stand for 50%-70% of the total work you need to put in, it’s not so difficult to realize why so many talented photographers fail to run a successful business.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please share your experience with the community by commenting down below. If you enjoyed this information, please share it on your own channels.
Thank You and Happy Shooting!