What separates an Amateur from a Professional Photographer?

What separates an Amateur from a Professional Photographer?

By Nicoletta Kavvadia 


In an online social world where anyone, who owns a full frame camera or a smartphone with a high definition camera, can automatically call themselves a “photographer”, we found ourselves wondering; “What is the difference between a professional and amateur photographer”?


While back in the day, a photographer would be someone who would have mastered the craft, by assisting a Master Photographer as an apprentice and later on practice the craft as a professional himself, nowadays, anyone, can be called a photographer. By attending online classes, either from well-established institutions schools and online platforms and personalised photography workshops, which, however, are sometimes organised by under qualified “professionals”, everyone, wherever in the world they may be, can provide themselves with credentials, “proving” the mastering of the Art of Photography.


In general, amateur photographers are the ones who take up photography as a hobby, an escape from everyday’s obligations. Some of them don’t even know the fundamentals of lighting and posing when it comes to portraits, however, being behind a camera and capturing whatever catches their eye attention makes them happy and that is why the continue to do it. Although amateur photographers have full-time jobs and a standard salary at the end of the month, some pursue photography learning in a deeper level.


As photography technology has been improving more and more over the years, photography enthusiasts have been growing alongside it as well.  Passionate amateur photographers, who need some time off from their full-time jobs, their everyday family stresses and personal anxieties, have been buying camera bodies and lenses to ensure the best quality possible for their hobby. To ensure that all these expenses do not burden their families, these group of  photographers, tend to create for themselves take upon them small, part-time photography careers, photographing small weddings in the weekends and family portraits on Sunday mornings, so they can earn some extra money for this expensive hobby/occupation while doing something they truly love. In many cases, photographers who started of as amateurs grew to become top in their craft.


Having said that, we ask ourselves again, what will separate an amateur photographer from a professional one?


Differences can be found in every aspect of this artistic occupation, however, it is very difficult for one to distinguish one from the other, especially when many “professional” characteristics are adopted by amateurs and many “amateur” attributes are used by professionals.


Trying to shed some light in this mystery and taking quality into consideration, we can’t help but notice that many amateur photographers produce some ah-mazing photographs, while professionals of the craft share some mediocre photos as a result of their paid services, that disappoint their clients, rather than pleasing them. Needless to say that these disappointed clients, who are fed up with paying such big sums of money and not get the images they’ve been paying for, tend to hire now more than ever before, amateur photographers who deliver them the quality they want and need for their businesses, when professionals, most of the times, lack to deliver.


Since quality did not lead to a satisfactory explanation / answer to the main question in hand, consequently, the only real difference, nowadays, between a professional and an amateur photographer (at least the one who is taking on paid work), is that the first is trying  to sustain a successful business through photography.


A licensed professional photographer will take care of how he presents himself on a potential client. His spelling and grammar are spot on and he responds to all inquiries in a polite and professional way, whether he is hired for the job or not.


Furthermore, price range vary from professional photographers and amateur ones and here’s why; every professional photographer, making a sustainable business out of his name, has to pay taxes, whereas amateurs do not. Taxation requires to be making a living on a regular base so it can be paid off. That is one of the reasons professionals get frustrated when amateur photographers take on paid jobs. The later can afford not to charge extra money for taxes, which makes them more eligible to be hired for a venue than the former.


However, in a similar, business-wise concept,  on one hand, professional photographers have the ability and are able to provide, at any given time, a sample of work for a client to review his work / portfolio, in order to decide upon hiring him or not. On the other hand, amateurs, who start their part time, often illegal, photography career don’t have the same ability.


One can also add to the whole issue that professional photographers can be characterised often as more dedicated to their own brand, exactly because they need to make a living out of it.  Being a professional photographer is all about branding your own name and letting potential clients know the worth, value and quality that separates you from other, fellow professionals and, better yet, amateurs.


The fact will remain as is; professional and amateurs will always be “at war” when the later intervene in the former’s fields, however, every day is a new day and one can learn new things, arts and crafts. No one should be prevented from doing so, and if a creative career is what makes one happy, he should do so, no matter who will be insulted or not.


In the end, photography is a form of art and whether you do it for full-time, part-time of for a hobby, it should be treated with love and respect.


Nicoletta Kavvadia
Fashion Photographer/Videographer
Banner Image credit Tamara Williams.