Amateur Vs. Professional Photographers
The sentence every professional photographer does not want to hear: "that's a nice camera, it must take great pictures!"
There are so many people now who think that going out and purchasing the most expensive high end equipment will give them amazing photos that compete with the guy who's got 10k followers and is a published photographer. Only they are disappointed when they just can't get THAT image they are aiming for. They still get blurry images with no depth and look flat and frankly, boring. $10,000 in professional equipment is pretty standard for a PROFESSIONAL. What most are under appreciating is that developing the eye and technical understanding of light, composition, and techniques is a value you can't put a number on. What shouldn't be forgotten is these techniques can be applied to any camera or lighting situation.
There are some AMAZING hobby or fine art photographers who have put a lot of time into learning the art, but can't produce that same quality of work when forced into situations they can't control or are outside of their comfort zone, which is why they don't sell themselves as a photographer for hire, only their work as fine art after they've been able to control all the elements. In my options this statement should be the number one thing you look for when searching for a professional. Can they handle being put into a situation or environment they have ZERO control over. And what type of images will they produce.
We all live in the same world and have access to the exact same elements - the world around us is a canvas. What you choose to do with that canvas and the tools you have full control over and you may never know the difference between an amateur and professiona after final outcome has been manipulated and they've had full control over all situations. So how do you know the difference between the two? Here's a list of things that I've noticed over the years that truly separate an amateur and a professional...
Perfecting the shot and not just taking any shot
Most amateurs just want click through and take pictures of what they see. They are satisfied with the shot and move on to the next. A professional, on the other hand will obsess on how to make that photo better. Often times you'll notice the difference between the two because while an amateur is satisfied with a basic image with whatever lighting or background are there a professional will carefully analyze the situation (often times in a matter of seconds) and choose their angle, background, framing, composition and lighting. They'll take their time to master the shot and not move on to the next, unless they have to because of time constraints. Professionals can understand the situation that they are in and know that with patience they will capture the scene perfectly. Most amateurs tend to have less patience and just want to move on to the next.
Possessing the right tools for job and knowing when to use them
This point is pretty simple to understand. A professional posses the equipment for every possible job they may be hired to do and if they don't have the right equipment they will rent it. Most professional photographers have two cameras, and they'll know when to pull out the $20,000 camera or what job just requires the $3,000 camera. Professional photographers know when a situation may require additional post processing or if using that extra light or filter will provide a better outcome. Most of the time an amateur will be satisfied with the lens kit that came with their camera while you'll see a professional who has a 50mm prime lens or a 70-200 f2.8 and knows when to use them. For example, putting your camera in auto and letting it make automatic unskilled decisions that, majority of the time produce mediocre or missed results, rather than having the knowledge and access to choose when it would be best to have more control by using manual, aperture priority, shutter priority, or bulb and know which lens to use for that moment.
This is kind of a no brainer. Once you've taken payment as a professional to produce what another person is expecting you are now responsible to produce what is expected. An Amateur doesn't need to worry about honouring commitments because they don't get paid. On that same note I want to discuss value. If you've been researching photographers and received a pretty common price range and then find one photographer who is significantly less than others this should be a red flag that you are probably not hiring a professional. Granted, it may be someone who is trying to put their feet in the industry but do you want to be someone's test subject? We've all paid our dues but most professionals practiced and developed their skills on their own time and dime. Professional photographers understood their value the moment the stepped into the industry and have placed that value on themselves from the start.
You'll see an amateur sharing so much of their work because often times they are happy with what they got. They are satisfied because it's what they saw and not how they saw it. A professional will see things one way, then look again and see it another way until finally they've found the perfect way. Professionals break down each element of a photo and edit each element of the shot until it represents what they want to show according to their style. Amateurs are happy with an easy action or filter and ready to show the world what they saw.
I'm hoping this helped you truly see the difference between an amateur and professional. These points are also things that every professional considers when valuing their services. I find that it is also an industry that is really hard to put a number on. The amount of time and dedication a professional took into mastering their art and being confident enough to show the world is truly priceless to them.
The images on this article are examples of the outcome from choosing the right equipment and knowing how to manipulate what is available. All images where taken in dark places with almost no available light.
Feel free to leave your comments below if there's anything I left out. Check out this visual comparison from The Mind Circle.