General Interest

Authors, photographers, journalists: Is the line blurring between amateurs and professionals?

Today, anyone can be a reporter (blogs, YouTube), share photos with the world (Flickr, SmugMug), publish his or her own professional-quality book (Blurb), and even coordinate a book tour (BookTour.com). Is this making it harder to determine who’s a pro and who’s an amateur? Does it matter? And if it does matter, then what defines a professional versus an amateur in the creative world?

The Blurberati Blog has discussed this in the past, but we thought it was worth revisiting in our new forums.

-Allison
One of the Blurberati

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Posted by
allibehr
Jul 24, 2007 10:10am PDT
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allibehr
 

Welcome to the world of competition and open creativeness. We now have the tools to explore our creativity (and in our free time) whereas before you had to get a real journalist job etc or invest tons of time and money into publishing.  This is a wonderful idea and I aplaud and thank you for the opportunity to share my pictures of my family with the rest of my family!!

Posted by
rashfamily1
Aug 8, 2007 6:02pm PDT
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rashfamily1
 

If a line could be drawn between professional and amateur, the line would not be a straight line.  Simply selling your work does not make you a professional.  Background such as schooling, years in the profession, creativity, qualitiy of tools used in creating work, contacts in the world of  your chosen nitch, money required for advertising, printing, framing and other materials all have a place in the discussion. 

We as consumers and we as producers will need to depend on our own sense of what is good and what is not.  It all comes down to agreement anyway. Techniques due to technology both digital, computer, and higher quality materials have incouraged many people to share, bluring the lines, making the lines squiggly, jagged, or transparent. Learning is easier due to the internet, books and people willing to share their expertise.  What creative work appeals to an individual or group is their agreement.  I agree with this artist that his/her work speaks to me, we agree as a group that the artist speaks to us. 

Yes, the lines are being blurred between the amateur and the professional and that I think is a good thing.

Marj

Posted by
Marj
Aug 9, 2007 1:12pm PDT
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Marj
 

As far as I understand in the U.S. you’re a professional if you’re paying taxes from your photography income and the largest part of your income comes from the photography activities.

In other parts of the world I’ve noticed people using the world "professional" for everyone taking pictures which are in focus and with a bit of creativity.

Having a business card where you call yourself a photographer also helps in this case. :)

Posted by
earlyadopter
Aug 9, 2007 3:49pm PDT
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earlyadopter
 

when entering serious photography competitions like International Photography Awards which invited both ‘professional’ and ‘amateur’ photographers, there is one and only one defining line… if the majority of your income comes from the profession, then you are a professional

 whether your work is good enough to be considered ‘professional’ is for the outside world to decide (and they will)

 there are many amateur photographers whose work rivals the professionals but they have simply chosen another source of income to support them

so that is the ‘technical’ line that is drawn in the photogrpahy industry but if someone wants to label themselves as a professional then they have set themselves up to be judged as such and have entered themselves into the realm of the best of their profession 

w

Posted by
wendyfarrow
Aug 19, 2007 11:08am PDT
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wendyfarrow
 

People have different opinion or different meaning of the meaning of professional photographer and what’s not.

I would say that I’d prefer to look at photographer’s portfolio, and also look at years of showing the work, showcase or public or private display at galleries and such, that is to be considered to be very talented, serious professional as opposed to amateur photographers.

To me, amateur photographer could mean just for fun out of photography as a hobby. In my view, it is different from serious, talented photographer.

That is my opinion and that is how I look at two different venue of professional and amateur photographer.

I have seen some horrible portfolio done by so-called professional photographer, I question about that person’s creditability if I don’t see any of other portfolio, education, and showcase in public/private galleries or similar places. If I question about someone who is not as professional photographer, that person do not practice the code ethics set by American Society of Media Photographers organization.

Well, now that there are lot of photographers use digital cameras. That is something else. But I would say, professional photographers understand what is working, what’s not and understand the difference and understand how digital camera such as dSLR or flim-based SLR camera works, and what’s not.

If some amateur photographer claimed to be a professional photographer but do not know how aperture or don’t know what f/2.8 stands for, then that person is in deep trouble. Because people will question like I do.

Again, that is my perspective, opinion.

Posted by
brianbonitz
Aug 19, 2007 9:04pm PDT
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brianbonitz
 

I think that a profssional is somebody that earns his or her money with photography. But to my opinion being a professional doesn’t say anything about how good or bad the work is. I have seen pics done by professionals that made me weep, they were that uninspired and unoriginal and sometimes even non-functional out of focus.

I have seen so called amateurs shoot absolutely great work. Around the corner from my home there is a small deli. The owner of that deli goes out early early in the morning into the nature reserve closeby and takes the most wonderful wildlife pics and he displays them in his shop. If he could, he could sell them and maybe start earning from them. But as it is, he is still an amateur. Not because of the quality of his work but because he has a dayjob selling deli-foods.

I think the whole distinction education-experience-showcase etc is a bit conceited. You can have had the highest schooling in photography and master a camera with all its apertures and shuttertimes to the nines, but what makes a photographer special or talented is his eye to see the world differently and the ability to realise that some thing should be captured in a specific way. You can learn all the standard rules of thirds and tricks and such, but you can never learn to have the talent to distinguish yourself. 

And yes, nowadays more and more people can take pictures because they do not need to know how a camera works to do so and with digital technology it get easier to actually do anything with your pics (make a book, calendar, cards etc etc) so more people are actually getting out there and displaying their work.  But looking at that work the talents amongst them will reveal themselves right away. and that may be somebody with a point-and-shoot camera.

so if you mean with the line between professionals and amateurs the distinction of earning from your pics or not, the line will not blur so easily, because it is not easygetting a living out of photos

but if you define the distinction professional-amateur in a way meaning the quality of the photo’s: I certainly think that the line is blurring in a big way. They were always out there, those talented amateurs, you just never got to see them. Now you do. And they may be just as good or better than the profs!

frances 

Posted by
fschling
Jan 19, 2008 6:48am PDT
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fschling
 

Yes, I think that pretty well sums up the debate as well as I’ve ever heard it expressed. It has far more to do with personal vision than almost anything else- how that person sees the world and how his ideas tell me something new about that world…......And whether that person understands all the intricacies of digital or film photography is of a lot less intrest to me. So I don’t care very much whether that talented individual is considered to be  an amateur or professional. We all start out as amateurs afterall.

Posted by
cantudoit2
Jan 22, 2008 1:39pm PDT
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cantudoit2
 

cantudoit2 and frances,

I’ll just say that I agree with your statement quoted as saying ”... We all start out as amateurs afterall.” How true.

However, there IS some difference when it comes to individual, how often someone take camera, what kind of camera this person use and all. Some individual examine their photos right under the microscope, while others do not. That is difference.

As time go, I would think experience and understanding how the camera work and general photography works – speaks for itself. That is to say, the more “hands on” and follow-through approach of some individuals do shows some significant difference – just because of experience, skills, and all other parameters. I am not saying that professional photographers’ pictures are so much better than amateurs. It is just that it IS based on individual’s experience, skill and such. That is difference.

I insists that once anyone understand the fundamentals of photo taking, how camera (whether it is old fashioned camera or high-end DX dSLR or digital point n shoot camera) work and what is not. It just all depends on whom you are talking to. Well, I am not going on and on. I’ll let that go and let you be the judge.

Have a wonderful day and keep smiling. Have some fun taking pictures and learning. That is what photography is all about as long as you are having some fun. That is what I find what I like the best in photography where I find lot of fun and comforting.

Cheers, Brian :)

Posted by
brianbonitz
Jan 24, 2008 12:44pm PDT
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brianbonitz
 

Well Brian, I agree with all that. I always used to tell the students, (when I did a bit of teaching to would be painters and graphic designers/illustrators that one thing they will and must develop is a close and abiding familiarity with their materials , tools and media. The brush becomes an extension of the hand and the camera, an extension of the eye and so on. Obviously professionals get the chance to develop that familiarity because they are at it all day ,everyday and most amateurs have’nt  the same opportunity or time to do so.   Still, vision and talent shine through where ever it may find itself- in pro or ‘amateur’........at least that’s my gut feeling about it.

Posted by
cantudoit2
Jan 25, 2008 3:59pm PDT
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cantudoit2
 

Ah.! guys & gals,
This site is a showcase for your talents, good or bad, professional or amateur, ...without a tag.
Your work can be that of a bloody good amateur or a bloody awful professional (Oops. sorry I’m an Aussie) and you need not be publicly pigeonholed in either category. Viewers will decide for themselves. However, if Amazon or a photographic giant make you a lucrative offer, then you have to make a choice,(so the taxman can keep track of you, of course). The creative world has needed this avenue and outlet for a long time, and it has finally arrived. Lets not stifle it with self proclaimed pigeonholes and categories. Let the public decide whether they enjoy your work, ..or not.!.

Posted by
countrywide
Jan 27, 2008 4:27pm PDT
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countrywide
 

As someone who enjoys photography but doesn’t make the majority of his income from it (at least not yet), one thing I’ve noticed is that “professional” is as much an attitude or state of mind as it is a employment classification. I’ve met some people who do photography for a living and their attitude is lousy, along with their output and some amateurs who have a respect for the medium and their subject(s) and their output is stunning. I think a person’s attitude as much as their pay (or lack thereof) determines if they are a “professional” or not. I hope this makes sense.

Posted by
rjvpubs
Jun 6, 2008 7:07pm PDT
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rjvpubs
 

Are the lines between amateurs and professionals being blurred?  I don’t think so.  As others havementioned, there are several charactaristics that help define whether someone is a prefessional or not.   Those include quality of work, income, and personality traits.  It has been this way for a very long time.  The only difference is there is more competition at every level.  Services such as those offered by Blurb merely showcase the tallents (or lack of tallent) of its members.  As a result this infinitely expanding showcase demands a much higher level of skill in order tfor one to be successful.

  I consider myself a professional photographer as I have clients (however few) come to me with requests and expectations that I am able to meet consistantly.  I have not been published yet, nor do I earn enough to quit my day job.  But it is a good suppliment.  I also sell quite a good deal of prints and other items featuring my photographs.  When it comes to my niche (aviation photography) I’ve read all the books, asked all the questions, and have acquired a good bag of equipment to get the results both my customers and myself require.  I also know how to operate all of my equipment like the back of my hand and have set "formulas" to get the exact picture I (or a client) desire.

 But in the end I can proclaim myself as a professional until I’m blue in the face.  The matter of the fact comes down to those who purchase what I have to offer, either as a service or physical goods.  And that is the way the business has been from day one.  We just have a larger showcase now.

Posted by
Fight2Fly
Jul 2, 2008 12:37pm PDT
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Fight2Fly
 

We all know amatuers that are better at something than a professional. Amatures do something because they are passionate. Professionals may be passionate but now they depend on the income. Sometimes that takes the fun out of it.  As I experienced in the last two years, amatures should take the criticism of professionals into account but don’t ever let it stop you. If I had let the advice of a professional photographer control my interest in a higher level of photography  I’d be working at a box store or worse, a local copy shop.

linda henning

imageworkspub.com  (still under construction- Im too busy)

Posted by
LindaHenning
Jul 2, 2008 5:40pm PDT
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LindaHenning