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Thread: Professional versus Amateur

  1. #1

    Default Professional versus Amateur

    Much has been discussed in this forum on the merits of hiring professional photographers versus amateurs. Professional photographers, it is suggested, although cost more to hire, are at the end of the day more reliable, provides quality service and offers value-for-money. On the other hand, amateur photographers, although generally cheaper, are perceived as more risky to hire and the quality of service and photography are not consistent.

    Yet, in a recent posting, a CSer complained of a photographer who failed to deliver on important wedding pictures. It is interesting to note that the initial reaction of fellow CSers was that the photographer must be an amateur and hence this unrealiability. The truth, it turned out is otherwise. The photographer was actually a professional.

    The issue, I believe, is a question of definition. We usually define a professional photographer as someone who earns a living thru' photography as his main source of income (some goes even further to say more than 50% of income, but let's keep this simple). An amateur photographer is one whose main source of income is other than photography and photography is more of a hobby than anything else.

    However, a professional photographer need not necessarily behave, act or work in a "professional" manner. In other words, "professionalism" is not the default behaviour of a professional photographer nor exclusive to him. An amateur photographer can likewise demonstrate professionalism although it is not his main source of income.

    So where does that leave us. I believe that training is necessary for professional photographers. Even better, like what is happening to the financial industry, it is in the interest of professional photographers to get together, form an organisation and provide certification for their members. Professional photographers shld be formally trained not only in photography but in areas like business, finance, ethical behaviour, customer service and perhaps technology (backup methods, imaging tech, etc). In the long term, self-regulation by their peers,although no guarantee, will at least set some minimal standards of quality and control. This is especially essential today where anyone armed with a good DSLR can call himself a photographer.

    Views anyone? Btw, I am not a pro....just a voice in the wilderness

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Professional versus Amateur

    I diasagree entirely with the need for training. Lets face it, thats just crap really. Taxi drivers all get some sort of training, yet some still tout or cant drive. So its not gonna help, just a waste of time and resources. The case is simple, in all professions there are some who give the job a bad name, in this case, this idiot who didnt know how to handle a situation well. The vast majority of professionals get about the day to day jobs in a professional way.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Professional versus Amateur

    Professionals = reliability = reputation to uphold

    i won't call the rest amateurs as some have great skills to, but probably free-lancers... these are a big mix group, as free-lance, they always have something to fall back on when these small jobs don't take off. hence if they screw up, they'll probably just move on, unlike a professional who does this full-time, its their sole bread and butter making machine. nothing to fall back on, reputation gone, might as well change line...

    its the same for every industry, reputation is important. but there are some who don't give a damn about their image... those are what everyone fear...
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  4. #4

    Default Re: Professional versus Amateur

    It's just an opinion. But if you feel strongly about it, then go do something about it, don't just stay as a voice in the wilderness.

  5. #5
    vince123123
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    Default Re: Professional versus Amateur

    Actually, I think the statement "professionals = reliability = reputation to uphold" is not entirely accurate. Not all photographers who derive their main income from photography are reliable or have a reputation to uphold. They are just simply people who derive their main income from photography.

    As an analogy and example closer to our passion, take the example of rogue camera dealers. They are professional photography shops, in the sense that they sell cameras and derive income mainly from selling cameras. Now, does that make them any more reliable or have a reputation to uphold? We have heard more than enough stories of professional camera shops who do a number on their customers.

    Hence, when assessing reliability, the distinction should not be able whether the photographer is a professional photographer (ie making his main income from photography) or not, but his reputation. Just because someone derives his main income from photography does not automatically make him more reliable than someone who does not. There have been many complaint stories about supposed professionals and I have myself witnessed such examples (one which comes to mind is a supposed leading professional who advocates about hiring professionals frequently in this forum, ended up giving his client printed photographs which are not colour corrected and having a yellowish tint).

    Additionally, the term "free-lancers" are probably not accurate in describing amateurs who do not derive their main income from photography, but as a sideline. Freelancers and amateurs are not the same. You can be a freelance professional photographer, and you can also be a non-freelance part time amateur photographer. I think the better term to use is "professional/full time photographer vs amateur/part time photographer".
    Last edited by vince123123; 14th February 2008 at 05:17 PM.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Professional versus Amateur

    Quote Originally Posted by vince123123 View Post
    Additionally, the term "free-lancers" are probably not accurate in describing amateurs who do not derive their main income from photography, but as a sideline. Freelancers and amateurs are not the same. You can be a freelance professional photographer, and you can also be a non-freelance part time amateur photographer. I think the better term to use is "professional/full time photographer vs amateur/part time photographer".
    I would think "full-timer" and "part-timer" is easier to differentiate, both types can have similar skill sets but earn the income differently.

  7. #7
    vince123123
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    Default Re: Professional versus Amateur

    Yep, I totally agree with you

    Quote Originally Posted by Astin View Post
    I would think "full-timer" and "part-timer" is easier to differentiate, both types can have similar skill sets but earn the income differently.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Professional versus Amateur

    Quote Originally Posted by waileong View Post
    It's just an opinion. But if you feel strongly about it, then go do something about it, don't just stay as a voice in the wilderness.
    I agree with you ...I would if I were a professional photographer to protect my interest and that of my profession...but I am not....when photography turned digital and locked itself into the technology bandwagon, life as we knew it has changed forever..the pace has increased tremendously and with the internet as the global connect, the mantra is update and upgrade...improvement in h/w and s/w means constant skill upgrade to meet more demanding customers...it is happening not just in photography but in all profession.

    I am not qualified to make the clarion call for change...it is a decision that only professional photographers can make...as such, I must remain a voice in the wilderness...

  9. #9

    Default Re: Professional versus Amateur

    The term "professional" has two meanings, only one of which is related to % income, and is typically used as a noun. When used as an adjective, it is meant to describe doing things with a high standard.

    While it is hoped that a professional will be professional, that is not always the case. Caveat emptor. That's why we spend so much time checking portfolios, looking for track record, looking for evidence of professionalism. And not just in photography, but in every field. Doesn't mean that every field should have specialised training, certification, professional associations, regulations.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Professional versus Amateur

    However, with specific regard to the thread that the TS mentioned, it is interesting to note that the portfolio of the wedding photographer was rather well-assembled. Sadly for the person who started the other thread, the AD photos were not to be so.

  11. #11
    vince123123
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    Default Re: Professional versus Amateur

    Yup, a prime example of how even professionals are not spared from rogue activities.

  12. #12

    Default Re: Professional versus Amateur

    a lousy professional

    will not remain a professional for long, he will starve and just disappear to do something else

    a good amateur

    will not remain an amateur for long if he has interest in the line

    simple as that, of course professionals have hiccups and amateurs can have their field day, but who cares? why bother about definitions, although obviously in terms of experience of dealing with such coverage the professionals would have one up?

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Professional versus Amateur

    Professional=reliablility, is just a comforting statement.

    All it takes is a flaw in charecter.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Professional versus Amateur

    Professional=reliablility, is just a comforting statement.

    All it takes is a flaw in charecter.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: Professional versus Amateur

    I've seen amatuers respect their craft far more than so-called professionals can ever dream of doing.
    We live in an age when unnecessary things are our only necessities. - Oscar Wilde

  16. #16

    Default Re: Professional versus Amateur

    I would think that:

    - Pro = Full time job. He CHARGES for his time and work. That said he should be very good at what he is doing and is being able to command some "trust" from the client.
    - Freelance = Full time job in another industry. He CHARGES for his time and work. Should also be expected to be good at what he offers but exposure/expertise/experience not expected to match a pro's level.
    - Hobbist = Like many CSers, DOES NOT CHARGE, shoots for the passion but skills can range from very good to very bad.
    - Amateurs = Novice experience in whatever he shoots, shoots for fun/passion, DOES NOT CHARGE.

    Ok so I'm actually thinking that the client should actually identify the person he engages. Not stopping there, he should dig deeper for consistency and reliability but not just by reputation. There has to be some homework done before you engage anyone for a shoot. Unfortunately the moment a deal is agreed upon, its done.

    I''m thinking too many grey areas, its gonna be chicken & egg.
    1) I would like to doubt that "Pros" would actually sacrifice their reputation for a few dollars. Unfortunately lets not doubt that there are those who lack pride and just want to clear jobs.
    2) What the Pro perceives as a good image might not be seen the same way by the client and vice versa.
    3) Client likes a "Pros" portfolio and thats why he engaged him, no? Then again, a Pro normally puts only his best works in a portfolio, lets not forget there are bound to be the hits and misses.

    No pun intended. Just my 2cents worth
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  17. #17
    vince123123
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    Default Re: Professional versus Amateur

    Sometimes its because of the very fact that professinals are full timers that they tend to cut corners when delivering. Because they derive their main income from photography, they need to be efficient and cut out the frills, or cut corners in the process - ie they need to make every hour count because it affects the bottom line. And we know when bottom line is the main factor, some other thing gets compromised.

    Amateurs, not relying on that as a main source of income, have the leisure and time and can afford inefficiencies to deliver perhaps, a dfferent set of standards.

    Quote Originally Posted by LazerLordz View Post
    I've seen amatuers respect their craft far more than so-called professionals can ever dream of doing.

  18. #18

    Default Re: Professional versus Amateur

    Quote Originally Posted by vince123123 View Post
    ...Because they derive their main income from photography, they need to be efficient and cut out the frills, or cut corners in the process - ie they need to make every hour count because it affects the bottom line.
    I think you hit the nail on the head. To me,this is what separates the "professional" from the amateur. It is exactly in situations like these, that "professionalism" comes into play. How does the individual behave given this situation? Does he compromise quality and standards? Or does he reach into his inner reserves and sometimes even suffer losses in order to deliver quality service and products to his customer ? He may suffer short term losses but maintain his high standards of quality and integrity. This is where his reputation is made.

  19. #19
    vince123123
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    Default Re: Professional versus Amateur

    Yep, I couldn't have said it better myself.

  20. #20

    Default Re: Professional versus Amateur

    Nope.

    There are different levels of professional photographers, just like there are different classes of hotels, airlines, restaurants, etc.

    You pay cheap, you get no frills.

    You pay more, you expect more and you should get more.

    As I mentioned in the other thread, a truly high-end pro would have memory card duplication in the field, SAN setup in their office, RAID and DR arrangements, etc. so that they would not lose your photos except in Sep-11 type situations.

    They also charge more correspondingly.

    When you go to the market for a pro photographer, you have a choice of price range and professionalism you want to pay for.

    If you pay cheap, expect cheap standards.

    And in my view, while there is a case for enforcing some minimum standards and regulations in areas like healthcare (where all doctors must be licensed and trained properly), these are because of the nature of the industries themselves (it's about life and death in health care). Not every industry needs to be treated in the same way, and I think photography is no exception.

    Caveat emptor, and you (should) get what you pay for.

    Quote Originally Posted by lightbrush View Post
    I think you hit the nail on the head. To me,this is what separates the "professional" from the amateur. It is exactly in situations like these, that "professionalism" comes into play. How does the individual behave given this situation? Does he compromise quality and standards? Or does he reach into his inner reserves and sometimes even suffer losses in order to deliver quality service and products to his customer ? He may suffer short term losses but maintain his high standards of quality and integrity. This is where his reputation is made.
    Last edited by waileong; 15th February 2008 at 12:49 PM.

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