What makes a (professional) photographer? (long rant)

Joined
May 14, 2006
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192
Location
Netherlands
To start with.

When I started to have serious ambitious into photography in the late 70's, I (at that time obviously) started looking at the photographers around me to see what made them qualify for the job.

Roughly speaking you had the photojournalist types who through years of apprenticeship and/or minor jobs had learned the techniques, both shooting and darkroom, the ins and outs, and thus gathered the expertise and routine to profile themselves as a photographer.

Then at the other hand you had the art school trained types, more focussed on the artistics and esthetics of the pictures, but still, however grudgingy, trained at the technical aspects.

And then.

I very recently saw on a photograpic site here in the Netherlands how a young photographer got (I must admit rightly so) kind of massacred for the shockingly low quality pictures he posted for CC, especially considering he is profiling himself on his personal site as a what seems professional, or at least very experienced photographer with multiple years of experience, own studio, and professional equipment.

Digging deeper into his details I discovered the equipment he was boasting about are a EOS 1000D with 18-55 kitlens, a (what turned out o be partly broken down) chinese made studio flash set (three 120 WS heads, of which one completely broken, and one only usable at 'full' power) and his studio was a space he could use in a local sportsschool, barely deep enough for a three quartershot with a medium telelens (like the 18-55 at 55mm in the 1000D crop body).

His experience consisted of having bought the camera two years ago, and having followed a one day course some time after that.

Since I, as I must admit, am a bit of a sucker and something like a boyscout in that respect, I offered to help him with a series of shoots to give him a helping hand and try share of the experience and technical knowledge I (hope I) have gathered over the years after on one hand having succesfully finished the Royal Academy of Arts in The Hague in the Netherlands, and on the other hand having paid my dues in all kind of odd initially obsure and fortunately later more high profile and jobs shooting pictures locally and abroad ( I shoot fashion, so places like Paris, Dusseldorf and Milan over the years have become realistic places to visit and get working experience)

In his 'studio' I must admit I was shocked by his technical inexperience (no sense of light), lack of 'sense of history' ( as a 'modelphotographer' the only source for him for inspiration and point of reference were the pictures of other 'modelphotographers' on sites like modelmayhem and modelzone.nl), and lack of technical knowledge (only guiding line on eg how to expose was looking at the LCD of the camera, without even enlarging the picture to look at the details or shadows)

But as I intended to help him, I tried to be positive and constructive in my feedback, even though I made the complete set up, both photographically and model (make up, styling and posing) wise while he only stood there and (after much 'kicking and shouting' from my side) was hesitantly taking pictures.

And now

Turns out he, even I asked him to wait untill we completed the three sessions I was planning to do with him, now is already posting several of the (very average at best) pictures already on line, boasting how he and he alone took them, and at the same time marginalising my help and input (I'm only mentioned as some kind of attendant). And not that but also using them to entice young inexperienced models to shoot with him for his usual bad 'model' pictures, but also all kind of dodgy 'artistic' nude shots.

I'm quite furious with this.

To begin with, I think it's highly incorrect he almost completely denies my decisive input in it all and claims to have created the pictures, while in reality having not have done anything but do 'click' (often after I told him to do so) after having fully failed to give any kind of input or technical or artistic contribution. Secondly I'm quite furious how he abuses the experience to falsely boast his 'professional' profile and lure innocent or at least unknowing victims for his, what turn out now, questionable pictures.

Admitted, my personal grudges over his denial of my input, and paradoxically apparently still needing me to cover him photography wise by associating my name with him, are something I have to fight out with him and therefor not the subject of this post

But the above does raise the following question with me.

What is a photographer, or gives you the credibilty to profile yourself as such?

Are the old times criteria for having to maybe study for it or otherwise do the necessary footwork to gather necessary technical and other experience still valid?

Or does it suffice to buy a digital camera ('you can correct anything with photoshop!', some dodgy additional equipment on line, make a site (with logo!), and despite lack of technical knowledge or other skills, but with perhaps only some kind of sales or con skills wait for the famous PT Barnum saying of PT Barnum ' there's a s... born every minute' to fulfill itself ( as you sometimes can see in posts like 'Help I have booked my first wedding, what camera, lenses, settings?'), and thus justify oneself as a 'photographer'
 
Joined
Mar 25, 2005
Messages
12,515
Location
near Montreal, Canada
In my opinion it is all pretty simple:
A professional photographer is someone who practices photography to earn his living, or at least a substantial part of it.

Some do better than others. Some make a very good living at it while others barely scrape by. Some have great talent while others are unimpressive. Some have pretty basic gear and some have all of the latest and greatest. Some have the technical and artistic side mastered while others would not pass the most basic test.
But all of that that is secondary to the above, which to me remains the elementary definition.
 
Joined
Mar 25, 2011
Messages
3,253
Location
London
In my opinion it is all pretty simple:
A professional photographer is someone who practices photography to earn his living, or at least a substantial part of it.

Some do better than others. Some make a very good living at it while others barely scrape by. Some have great talent while others are unimpressive. Some have pretty basic gear and some have all of the latest and greatest. Some have the technical and artistic side mastered while others would not pass the most basic test.
But all of that that is secondary to the above, which to me remains the elementary definition.

+1
 
Joined
May 9, 2008
Messages
2,511
Location
houston tx
Every line of business has this type of person. I've seen Engineers try to be a mentor to younger engineers and then not be given credit for the advice.

It's unfortunately (for them) simple: The people who learn from others, talk to other more experienced leaders, and do not mind telling "these people have been a really big help" -- those people enjoy the work better, grow in the trade better, and have more satisfied clients. The people who try to hog the credit and never admit the need to improve -- they don't grow in the trade as well, will look back on their career with sorrow over lost opportunities, and possibly will not remain in the field.

That photographer has just alienated a mentor. He got lesson 1 but missed on being able to get lessons 2-300. His customers will eventually go to people who DID get lessons 2+.
 
Joined
Jan 26, 2005
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15,253
Location
Marysville, WA
Part of being a professional is acting like a professional. Something it seems he is not.

By whose definition? Therein lies the rub, doesn't it?

We have a codified, well-developed definition to be a Medical Doctor, generally recognized world wide.

Some countries/provinces/states have a codified, well-developed definition of Registered Engineers.

In the US we have licensing for many different types of professions.

Until there is some codified set of "standards", the arguments will never end, and the term "professional" photographer will continue to be a discussion of various peoples definitions.

I'll give you an example. Google for Cindy Sherman and her picture that sold at auction for over 3 million dollars.

If the person talked about in this thread has enough people paying him to take what others consider sub-standard images to the extent he can pay his rent, then does that alone make him a "professional"?

I see the rant complaining about his ethics. Just last year I watched a very well known nature photographer do some very unethical things while photographing grizzly bears. Does that now make him less of a professional?

While a good rant, this is an argument and debate that will, in my opinion, never have a conclusion. And that in and of itself may be a very good thing, except for those who complain that their livelihood is being eroded by all the jerks with digital cameras.
 
Joined
Jan 18, 2012
Messages
195
Location
UK
I always read that a professional photographer is someone who makes money from photography.

I asked myself a similar question when I got into it, I never wanted to be a "professional" as I have a well paid day job with steady income but people liked my photos and offered to pay me to take some. I compared myself to other local photographers who had been set up for years and I knew I could offer the same if not better quality than them so I decided to turn it into a small business on the side to help fund my hobby. Friends and family praise my photos, I get lots of likes on facebook however do I think im good? Not really, I consider myself average which is probably why I'll never make a big business of it unless I get better at it as I refuse to market myself at a level I dont feel im at. (which is probably where I differ from the subject of the OP). However do I consider myself a professional... yes

That being said, there's people in my area offering to do your wedding with 20 years experience behind them who still don't know how to bounce a flash, but people still pay them (a lot!) and love them so I guess that makes them professionals, and they certainly sell themselves as such....

To sum up my response though, I guess in the eyes of the general public, if they like your images enough to pay for them, your a professional as you will earn the money.
In the eyes of yourself and other photographers. . . . It's all subjective.

(PS. dont knock the chinese gear, ive got lots of it :tongue:)
 
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Joined
Jan 2, 2009
Messages
7,012
Location
Alaska
Real Name
Dan
The very definition of the term professional implies that one earns ones livelihood from the activity. Unless it is a licensed profession like doctors, lawyers, etc. then whether trained in the best schools or self taught is not relevant as long as the market is willing to pay for the professional services. I see a lot of photography posted on this and other forums that is much higher quality than that of many professional photographers.

While it may chafe at someone who has spent a lifetime in pursuit of their tradecraft/profession to see others become successful by pursuing a different path, such is life. As to the behavior described by the OP, in my experience the chickens eventually come home to roost. There is something to the far east concept of karma.
 
Joined
Sep 21, 2008
Messages
6,374
Location
Alabama
I run into photographers like this from time to time. One guy advertised he is very experienced, talks about the several thousand dollars of equipment he has, and how he is up on the latest techniques.

He was complaining his 50 mm 1.8 I recommend him to get didn't look any better than his kit lens 18-55. I asked if he used it at 1.8 because you would be able to tell a difference. He didn't know how to get to 1.8.

These kind of guys will fool people for a while, give cheap rates that undercut real pros, and then fade away. Unfortunately, there will two more to take their place.
 
Joined
Jul 28, 2006
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Paris, France
Everyone is a professional photographer nowadays obviously, it's so easy. :wink:
 
Joined
Jan 28, 2011
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canada
And here I am thinking there was a website of this guys portfolio included in the original post. :smile:
 
Joined
Jul 21, 2007
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NJ
Everyone is a professional photographer nowadays obviously, it's so easy. :wink:

Well if it were that easy you'd have a lot of pro's complaining that amateurs are undercutting their wo...

ooooh, you're being sarcastic, aren't you?
 
Joined
Jul 29, 2009
Messages
447
Location
Tulsa Oklahoma
I see it ALOT here in the Tulsa market, lots of girls out there with P&S cameras starting a biz, and then there are the people who actually have the right equipment, but can't expose anything correctly (one example, turning a Marine's Dress Blues uniform grey)... I think as a 'pro' you should have some basic concept of how to expose an important moment without hesitation.
 
Joined
Jan 18, 2012
Messages
195
Location
UK
I've got to try that "P-mode" on my camera tomorrow and see if the images look more professional. :biggrin:

Nikon owners are at a disadvantage to Canon as we dont have a "P"rofessional mode. However, all is not lost as we do have "A"wesome, "S"pectacular and "M"agnificent :biggrin: :biggrin:
 
Joined
Jun 22, 2007
Messages
1,520
Location
Edgartown, MA
Nikon owners are at a disadvantage to Canon as we dont have a "P"rofessional mode. However, all is not lost as we do have "A"wesome, "S"pectacular and "M"agnificent :biggrin: :biggrin:

So that's what those mean! Mostly I'm awesome. However, when shooting soccer I'm spectacular. I'm very rarely magnificent. :tongue:
 

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