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What I Know About Photography, and Why It’s All Wrong - 'Professional' versus 'Amateur&#

This series of articles are excerpts from the ongoing informational series ‘What I Know About Photography, and Why It’s All Wrong’, distributed by Paul Goulding Photography, and delves into some of the myths, mysteries and truisms of the craft.

‘Professional’ versus ‘Amateur’

Some hold that a ‘professional’, in any trade, art or workplace, is someone who practices their craft for pay, or profit, and that an ‘amateur’ does not get paid for their travails.

There are as many arguments on both sides of this point of contention when it comes to photographers as there are on the perennial ‘Canon versus Nikon’ argument, but the fact remains that if you are a professional, you must produce- in this case, photos and/or video- in order to maintain the adjective.

Some say 'pro' versus 'amateur' is reckoned by quality of images, but we have all seen bad pro photos just as we have seen some extremely talented amateur snaps.

Cost, or valuation of gear, is sometimes used to define what constitutes a ‘pro’, but again, just having good gear does not guarantee quality production. As a matter of fact, it has been demonstrated again and again that a pro with amateur gear will typically get better shots than an amateur with pro gear.

As long as there is plenty of light, great quality photos can be taken with most any gear. It’s only when faced with low-light (or no-light) conditions that the more costly cameras, capable of higher ISO’s with little or no noise, become necessary for quality images.

Still others use the criteria of quantity, or how many photos you take, along with how often you practice your craft, to determine professionalism. One thing is certain- the more photos or video you take, the better you will become, regardless of the quality of your equipment.

According to Wikipedia, a ‘photographer’ is a person who takes photographs, whether for pay or not.

There are approximately 125,000 paid jobs for photographers in the United States, according to the last United States Census, with a median annual salary of $32,000. Many ‘pro’ photographers do not make this much income while many make well in excess of this number.

You could argue that the sign of a true professional photographer is the ability to deliver a great photograph anytime, anywhere, but there are a lot of pro’s who can’t, and a lot of amateurs who can.

Perhaps when you acquire the ability to create amazing photographs, and the ability to earn income and the ability to deliver great shots, even under pressure, you start to get to the core of what is the value of a professional photographer.

At the end of the day, one would hope that those who truly consider themselves 'pro' simply have higher standards when it comes to doing business, respecting privacy, personal conduct and many other aspects of the craft, which really have to do with a business model rather than any opinions of quality or compensation.

Bottom line- differentiate yourself from the amateurs out there by being professional- reply to inquiries quickly, use proper grammar and spelling, send professional quotations on a professional letterhead, have insurance, be licensed when necessary- these are all the prescription for enhanced success or ‘professionalism in ANY trade, craft or business.

The only road to true professionalism is to conduct yourself will all possible professionalism, knowing and practicing your craft, keeping up with changes in the industry, giving back to the community and most importantly, always learning and keeping an open mind.

This purpose of this series is to encourage creativity, professionalism and the art form of photography and videography. If you have a question or a suggestion for an article, please submit your idea in email to

Real Florida Media, a subsidiary of The Goulding Agency in Chipley, Florida takes over 350,000 photos each year, highlighting people, events and businesses in the Southeast United States. For more information visit Paul Goulding Photography on Facebook or online at

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