Five shocking truths about professional photography

Professionals are not always what they seem…

Don’t be fooled photography is not the easy option for a job. Everyone thinks it is a hobby. Like any job there is the fun side. But amateurs often have the better deal…

1. Photography is a glamorous job…

It can be. But most of the time it is not. You meet some great people. You meet some people who are in the greatness league but are unmentionably irritating and bad tempered. Nothing worse than a Diva when you are trying to get the job done under the hot studio lights and your subject is giving you hassle. Nothing glamorous about that. You have to be there, you have to keep a smile on your face and you have to be enthusiastic about your job. Otherwise the images will be terrible. Some people do not make it easy for you. As an amateur you can walk away from all that.

2. Amateurs produce better pictures than Professionals

Shock horror! If you are a professional you must be good, isn’t that true? No, some images by professionals are surpassed by amateurs. The definition of amateur is someone who loves what they do and are doing it because they love it. A lot of the work that professionals get is not particularly lovable work. However, the professional will provide consistently good images when they do the work they don’t like. Amateurs will not do it or will find it especially challenging to do because it is outside of their comfort zone. An amateur can experiment and spend all afternoon working to get one picture right. A professional has to do a good-to-great image, reset and move on, sometimes in minutes. They do not have the time, or the patience of their subjects, to work and rework an image.

3. Professionals get paid well

Sure, like any profession, top photographers get paid well. But they have worked for it. For the majority of photographers the competition is very heavy. The work is thin on the ground and we are being undercut by would-be photographers who charge very low rates. The latter do not realise they are devaluing the world of photography and they are also giving a bad name to keen amateurs who have great skill.

5. Professionalism is about…

Photography professionals demonstrate…

  • Consistency,
  • Responsible behaviour,
  • Work to a brief,
  • Great customer relations,
  • Good and great images,
  • The ability to help the customer achieve their goals,
  • The ability to make money and produce pictures,
  • They can work fast,
  • Adaptability to the changing needs of clients,
  • They have the right equipment for the job,
  • They can make great images in good OR challenging situations,
  • Creative ideas under pressure,
  • Enjoying the work, the pressure and the creativity,
  • They can work to a brief provided by the client,
  • They can work comfortably with anyone.
  • Sadly a lot of ‘professional’ photographers have never been trained in these things. There are a lot of people out there who do not match these standards. When you are looking for someone to do your photography for you… make sure these standards are on your list of priorities.

    5. The line between amateur and professional does not exist

    Professional and amateur photography overlap. Some amateurs are highly talented and produce some exceptional images. They thrive on the creative side of photography. On the other hand professionals do not have the time or the budget to work at the highest artistic standards on commercial projects. Instead they work at the best possible standard for the situation they are in. The balance between what is achievable by an amateur or a professional is different. To understand the professional position consider the pressures and time constraints they are under when working. Most amateurs are pretty shocked at their first commercial shoot. It’s lots of preparation, hard graft, blisteringly fast shot rates, high hit-rates are expected and long hours are spent in post production. Amateurs are generally not prepared for that.

    Have you any pet hates or interesting observations about professional photography?
    Why not leave a comment below?

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    By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

    Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

    Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

    Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photographers.
    See also: Editors ‘Bio’.

    6 responses to “Five shocking truths about professional photography

    1. Jose A De Leon

      It’s not that I wouldn’t like to give a shot or be one. But if you have any experience with someone my age (56) who has started out and has become one late in his life, I’d love to see some examples you may have that might encourage me to pursue something like this. It would be very stimulating to know about such people. Who knows? Maybe I’ll surprise you someday 🙂

      Best regards,

      • There are lots of people in that position Jose. The more successful ones tend to concentrate on fine art photography. That gives them more time to develop the skills in an area of photography they are interested in and to work toward successfully selling their work.

        I had a conversation with a young man this morning who had bought a camera with the hope of becoming professional. After a very short period of time he gave up. He recognised that there is a lot of work involved and you need to put a lot of time in before you are successfully running a business. Yes, professionals really only grow from those people who are prepared to persevere.

        Many amateurs are at least as talented as professional photogs. However, what makes or breaks a photographer is the ability to make money. That requires an entrepreneurial understanding and a head for figures. Most photographers have several revenue streams to keep them afloat as well. I teach photography and sell equipment and pictures. I also take photographic commissions and do commercial product work. I build websites too. After 15 years of online image work, writing websites and working with image libraries and other computing I have access to multiple revenue streams.

        These days most photographers cannot survive on just taking pictures – in the UK at least.

        By the way, I would love you to surprise me. I will feel good. As a teacher if you succeed, I will have succeeded too. After all I hope that I have helped at least a little bit toward that goal by writing these pages. Aspire to your goals, work toward them, and one day you will get what you seek.


    2. Jose A De Leon

      I guess it’s not a good idea to go pro. Great job as always Damon.

      Best regards,

      • Being a professional photographer is great if you love the job and don’t mind being broke most of the time! Just be aware that it is not an easy path and will require a lot of career development before it begins to make a reasonable return. If someone wants to be a professional photographer then I will always encourage them. But they should not be under any illusion about the future. Thanks for commenting.