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What is a Pro Photographer?
© 2008 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

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See also:

     How to Go Pro

     Photography is not a Profession

     What Makes a Professional Camera

     The Seven Levels

July 2008


Ritz Camera

I personally buy from Adorama, Amazon, Ritz, B&H and J&R. I can't vouch for ads below.


Because photography isn't a profession, different people and organizations define a "professional" photographer very differently.

Anyone can call themselves a professional photographer, and charge you for it.

Let's define who's who.

Full-Time Career Pro

A Full-Time Career Professional Photographer is a person who has been a full-time photographer for his entire career.

He works all day, every day, ever since he graduated college.

These guys buy whatever gear they need, since the cost of gear is trivial compared to how much they use it. If something saves them 5 minutes a day or has a clearer viewfinder to peer through 12 hours a day, it doesn't matter if it costs $8,000. For these guys, even very little things, like AF sensors that don't clutter the viewfinder, are very important.

Full-Time Photographer

A full-time pro works the same as the Full-Time Career Professional Photographer, but failed at some other career and fell back on his hobby to try to make money.

If he hasn't been doing it very long, he may still worry about gear costs since he's not sure how long it will be until he'll get another real job. These worries come from back when he had a real job, and his boss tried to get cheap with the tools. The Career Pro doesn't worry: if a new tool saves him more time over its life than the cost of ownership, it's a no-brainer to buy it.

Professional Photographer

A professional photographer is a photographer who earns 100% of his income from photography. This is the definition required for entrance into the secret Nikon and Canon factory support organizations.

Amateur Photographer

People who earn less than 50% of their income from photography are amateurs.

People who shoot weddings every single weekend while holding down another job aren't professional photographers. People who sell prints at art fairs, but still have real jobs, are still amateurs.

Different people and organizations will argue over what income percentage defines professional. I won't get into that here, but these numbers vary wildly.

These weekend amateurs are all about the cash, and will shoot great pictures, but use the cheapest gear they can. That's OK, and the way to run a part-time business. Rich amateurs will buy any gear they want.

Your homeowners' insurance company probably will define you as a commercial enterprise even if you've sold just one photo, ever. Ask before you make that first print for a friend; you may invalidate all your equipment coverage!

For decades I avoided selling even one print. The jump in my insurance rates would have made the sale of a few prints pointless.



I support my growing family through this website.

If you find this silliness as helpful as a book you might have had to buy or a workshop you may have had to take, feel free to help me continue helping everyone.

If you've gotten your gear through one of my links or helped otherwise, you're family. It's great people like you who allow me to keep adding to this site full-time. Thanks!

If you haven't helped yet, please do, and consider helping me with a gift of $5.00.

It also helps me keep adding to this site when you get your goodies through these links to Adorama, Amazon, B&H, Ritz, and J&R. I use them and recommend them all personally.

Thanks for reading!


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