Amateur Photographer vs. Professional Photographer

I often am asked when I’m out to take photographs if I am a professional photographer.  Usually this happens when I am out to take sports photos.  I walk out with my relatively large camera and sometimes other professional looking gear, depending what I am shooting that day, and it is a natural assumption that I am I guess.  I do take my hobby very seriously which is reflected in my gear choices.

Hunt Seat CofC

I’m usually pretty quick to say that I am not a professional photographer when asked, sometimes too quick, and have seen where I have put people off being so quick with my response.   I often say “no I am not, I am taking photos for me”.  Because I am and if I have my camera with me, I’m thinking of the photos I’m going to take next already.  The best part of being an Amateur photographer, I take photos of what I want, when I want, when I’m allowed to do so and always have permission.

20180421 SOBMX regionals 20186183-2
MX photo from SOBMX at a regional qualifier by Victory Sports Racing 

Why do I not want someone to assume that I am a Professional Photographer?  I have the utmost respect for many professional photographers, and many that I consider friends.  But why does my skin crawl at the thought of being a professional photographer?   A professional photographer must take pictures of what their clients are paying them to photograph a majority of the time.  A majority of the time, a professional photographer, or someone that makes all of their income directly from photography, is not going to have the opportunity to be taking photos of subjects they want to photograph when they want to do so.  Of course some are lucky and do get to do so, but sometimes they are not even taking the photographs the way they want to take them.  Also professionals are taking “marketable images” like landscapes or images they were paid to capture and in some cases were told what the outcome should look like.  They are asked “Can you take an image of this subject and make it look like this image the client found off the Internet?”

Siani Oliver skiing at the Malibu Open this summer.  Love the splashes.

There are a few photographers that are lucky enough and or good enough to take photos of only what they love all the time, but that is not the fate of most professional photographers.  Booking clients, meeting with them, setting up for shoots, prepping for the next shoot, scouting locations, or editing the photos from past shoots to get them to their clients take up a lot more time than actually taking the actual photographs.  the business side of photography is much more time consuming than capturing memorable images. The hard part is that this also limits their time to explore the subjects they want to photograph.

Also professional photographers can be under great pressure to “get the shot” for whatever purpose the image is needed that they were hired to capture.   The magazine cover, wedding photos, newspaper, marketing shot, prints or online display that their clients want or need.  That stress alone would keep me from taking wedding photographs for a living.  Bridezilla stories scare me worse than horror movies.

Hurricane swell at Washout Folly Beach fall 2017 

As an amateur photographer, I am only competing with myself and capturing images that make me happy.  Learning computer development software and expanding my skills and challenging myself creatively to capture unique images that are memorable to me.  And I’m under no pressure, because if I go to any event or location and feel like my arm is tired, or want to be home by noon so I can take a nap, or eat lunch it is OK.    Or if I feel like I want to take photos of something else, I will just go do so.  I’ll follow the light anywhere if I think I can get a unique shot.

Sometimes, I’ll challenge myself though as if I was a professional photographer.  Limiting myself to the number of shots or attempts to get the look I want.  Attempting to capture what I would consider at least one image “worthy” of being a “magazine cover”  or in a magazine of every competitor in an event.    And I have to tell you that really does turn up the pressure, that I don’t envy.  And if I didn’t love taking photos of the subject I’m photographing,  I would not most likely consider doing so.  If I really like the subject, it helps keep me focused on taking images and being creative, or consistent, depending on the subject.

My son’s football team’s senior photo was a fun challenge.

It is funny though, if I’m asked if I sell my photos, I respond differently than if they ask if I’m a professional photographer.  I’ll give them a card, if I remembered to bring any which I often don’t, and I tell everyone to visit my website and that I hope they find something they like.  I really I hope they find images that make them want to look at them more than once.   If they like an image of themselves and want to use it on their social media as their cover photo sharing an image of themselves, that is one of the greatest of compliments.  Nicer when they buy the image without a watermark and still give me photo credit.

Would I love to sell enough images to pay for one of my cameras or lenses someday, or even better all of them even?   I really do appreciate the purchases from my website that support my hobby.    And I also mark my calendar for similar events, when I have a good time and purchases were made from going to an event.  Is it nice when people like or recognize my work on social media?  Of course it is, but it is not what motivates me to go out and take photos almost every weekend, always looking for new challenging subjects and take thousands of photos.   I take photographs for me, and that is all the motivation I hopefully ever will ever need.  Sharing what I capture is just a plus.

Now if someone likes my work and is wants me to take some photos for them, I’m not against the idea if it is a subject I’m interested.  But I have a real job, so hopefully they can wait until my vacation.

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