Friday, June 14, 2013

The Amateur vs. The Professional Photographer

We in the photography world have heard the argument time and again. Professionals claim that amateurs are ruining and undermining their business. Amateurs disagree defensively. In this new age of ever expanding availability of technology, the not-so-age-old profession of photography has taken a hit as more people peer out from behind a lens. Is this really such a bad thing? Is there a way to avoid this seemingly inevitable conflict? What can we do?!

First, we can recognize and accept that professional photographers are considered pros for a reason. They generally have years of experience and have trained their brain to see the nuances in the scene before them. And they have a stunning portfolio to show for it. These people eat, drink and breathe photography. Sure, your picture may be well positioned and properly focused. A professional photographer in the sane image will read the light to know the correct exposure, will study the surroundings for the best background and lighting, will know to wait one…more…second for the right amount of twinkle in the person’s eye. In other words, a professional photographer knows what to do to make a photo instead of just snapping a pic. This is why they are able to charge considerably for their time and effort, because they know how to get the perfect picture that you have paid them for.

Second, we can recognize and accept that amateur photographers are probably pretty good but just lack the final finesse and experience of a pro. Amateurs are always in the process of improving their skills and equipment to support the new skills. They may be quick to recognize the potential of a scene, but don’t know quite how to get the shot pictured in their head. Amateurs are often relatively recent into the world of photography, although there are some people who stay at the amateur level for years because they never feel the need to go pro. Amateurs fill that important place between taking a million pictures so one will come out good, and making one good picture. Instead an amateur can take nine photos and build up to making the tenth good.

This all sounds fine and dandy until the issue of charging for services comes up. As I said, there’s a reason why professional photographers charge as much as they do. The problem comes when an amateur doesn’t charge for their services. For example, a couple on a budget is more likely to hire an amateur photographer who only asks for dinner in return, versus the professional who will charge hundreds for a session. Sounds like a no-brainer to this budget conscious girl! But they charging food only for mediocre photos, the amateur is taking away a potential client of a professional who would have otherwise paid for a session of great photos. Obviously, not good for the professional. But what about the amateur? They have to gain experience through practice so they can qualify as a professional sometime down the road. I feel that by not charging (much) for a session and having a disclaimer about the quality of your photos, an amateur should be able to practice without offending a professional.

I am an amateur photographer. I accept this and highly doubt I will become a professional. I’m okay with this! I enjoy shooting for fun, for my portfolio, for the wall. But I also enjoy doing the occasional photo shoot for someone that I know. It gives me great practice and free dinner while giving them a budget break and decent photos. I’m sorry if this offends you as a pro, but tell me, how’d you get your experience if not by doing the same thing? So please, let me practice improving my skills while you go make some amazing photos.