Amateurs vs. Professionals – Photography

Amateurs vs. Professionals
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11/09/2014 - My latest offerings

I wasn’t sure which subject to start with for my first blog. I have so much to say on so many subjects, some related to my profession and others completely off topic. So I figured I would start with one that gets me hot under the collar. I hear it too often but cannot comprehend why people reference it. I’ve got a bit of an issue with people referring to Amateurs or Professionals.

It doesn’t matter what profession it is, it could reference design, dancing, knitting or tiddlywinks, in my social circles it often falls into the realm of photographers.

I think the bit that bugs me is why we need to classify people in these different categories. I would like to think that people find their own way into their chosen fields and if their skill set isn’t in league with the experienced they will soon find their own path.

Look; we have all read about the horror stories in the press about stupid photographers that ruin the couple’s special day. I have personally witnessed those people at work. A close friend of mine told me not two days ago about a videographer he hired who got drunk at a very expensive and very pretentious event he organised. But that’s either down to bad luck in his case or not doing the research before hiring them.

Does one call himself or herself a professional because they have a qualification? I studied photography but I didn’t major in it. I would consider myself self-taught and not bad at what I do.

If an amateur is someone who doesn’t get paid and a professional is someone that does get paid, does this mean that once the amateur gets their first commissioned project they can now be called a professional? Their first job could only be a few quid but it must now mean they can classify themselves as such.

I read recently in Roald Dahl’s autobiography a paragraph discussing his opinions on modern photography. Not a lot of people realise that he won many awards for his photographic work and seriously considered becoming a photographer. His work was originally produced on glass plates and blown up in a dark room. Some of his work from World War 2 was exceptional stuff. He referenced in one section about flying his plane in Iraq and tilting it to the right putting the flight stick in-between his legs and then using both hands he took a photo of the Arch of Ctesiphon. Now that’s amazing!!! I digress a little but his opinion was that today’s photographers can shoot 30 photos to find the perfect shot and then edit it even more. Roald Dahl’s camera could only hold six plates so he had to make the most of those. I pondered on what he said for sometime and came away thinking that he’s pretty much bang on. Don’t get me wrong I’m no saint when it comes to photography in that I often fire off way more than I need. I suppose its probably just a safety net as often or not time is short on some shoots, I want to make sure I have enough images just in case someone in the photo has blinked. God forbid I only took one photo per session only to find that someone had his or her eyes closed.

Is it a bad thing to fire off so many shots? It doesn’t hurt anyone does it as at the end of the day its only space on a memory card. I think what I am getting at is…. well is it the professional approach? Am I a professional because I can take one shot? Or would a professional take more photos because they are experienced and want the best for the client?

If I had to formulated and answer to my own questions about Amateurs vs. Professionals well I would say that everyone has a different approach and technique to what they do in various scenarios. The professionalism comes from the end result not the category of person involved. If it takes you 20 shots to find the one that suits your requirements then so be it. If you can set the scene and get the photo or idea taken in one or two hits then great; give oneself a pat on the back.

I think that experience and practice is probably the biggest differentiator in the deciding factor between Amateurs and Professionals. The more your practice the better you become but I cannot abide the split between the two as like I have referenced earlier in this blog if an armature gets paid for a piece of work well they should technically become a professional

I always think back to how the Olympics used to be arranged with only amateurs being allowed to participate. I liked those days without football and tennis etc. I recall asking my dad once why they were called amateurs. His response was that they all had other jobs and they did athletics for free and in their spare time. So I then asked him what Linford Christie did for a job. He said that he didn’t have one as his sponsors paid for his career as a runner. “So he’s a professional then” I said. My dad then looked at me and replied, “Well yes, I guess he is son”. We then discussed the ice hockey players and basketball teams and well, as you can guess it soon transpired that lots of the participants in the Olympics were professionals and got paid some serious dosh.

You may feel like I am ranting on about nothing in particular well if that’s the case jog on as this is my blog. But I stand by what I say… I cannot see the difference between Amateurs and Professionals. I can however see the difference between junior vs. senior, uneducated vs. educated or inexperienced vs. experienced to name a few. Those are where the differences lie when it comes to whom you hire. Should I hire an uneducated solicitor to represent me or hire an educated one? Do I hire an inexperienced builder or an experienced one? I think you can answer that yourself.

It doesn’t matter what you do for a career its about the journey of how you get there that makes the difference. If for some strange reason you fall into the bracket of amateur well just ignore that terminology because as all it really means is that you are standing on a cusp of a wave.

Blogging out.

David Melleney

Cover photo courtesy of my Dad…. and yes its me in the photo.