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Are you a "pro"now?

Many a times I get asked this question if I am a professional photographer now. I've asked myself many more times if I am a professional. Who is a professional photographer? I've been pondering over this for a while and thought maybe I should put it to words just in case it might help someone in similar shoes.

Merriam-Webster defines professional as below:

1a: of, relating to, or characteristic of a profession

b: engaged in one of the learned professions

c (1): characterized by or conforming to the technical or ethical standards of a profession (2): exhibiting a courteous, conscientious, and generally businesslike manner in the workplace

To me, professionalism in photography comes across in different facets.

  1. Skills

  2. Tools

  3. Preparation

  4. Ethics and

  5. Commercial

As in any profession there's definitely skills that one should have to be able to deliver client's expectations. There are plenty of channels these days that one could acquire some basic skills in photography and continue to build on them as they progress. After a few months of doing paid photography projects I realised I was missing some fundamentals. Until then my skills were purely an accumulation of random tips here and there. I did a course to sort of refine what I knew so far and it did open up a few perspectives that brought a few "aha" moments. When it comes to skills it's not just photography skills one needs. We also need skills in business, marketing, social media etc.

While a professional grade camera does not automatically make one a professional photographer, a good set of tools to handle different purposes is definitely needed to provide a good quality output. I still remember (and cringe) my first 2 paid events that I photographed with only the built-in flash. What a disaster they were... Once I started figuring out the kind of photography I wanted to get paid for I started investing in certain tools such as prime lenses, flashes, diffusers etc., that will help delivering the expected images.

A very important trait in a photographer and that too a professional one is about visualisation. We should have a clear mental image in mind before we press the shutter release. Without visualisation the output becomes a snapshot compared to a visual or image one would cherish. One thing I've learned over these years is that no 2 shoots are ever the same. I've done a variety of family portraits, maternity shoots etc., sometimes even in the same location. However the client's expectations will always be different. The lighting conditions will be different, the locations could be different. A professional will need to do his/her research on various aspects before going trigger frenzy. For instance I make it a point to scout the location at least a day in advance to have an idea of good spots. I definitely watch for the weather and sunlight at the expected time of shoot.

One of the qualities I would expect in any professional engagement is ethics. By ethics I don't mean something too fancy. Just a simple behaviour such as being there on location on time is a good ethic. Ethics in terms of client privacy is big. I always check with them if their photos can be shared on my social media pages and only do so if they are OK with it. This by no means is a comprehensive list but you get the gist.

Finally there is nothing "professional" until money is received for the services provided. You may not need to have photography as your only / main source of income but one should aim at getting remunerated for their efforts. This also means that we have registered our business with relevant authorities, pay taxes, have the necessary insurances and so forth.

What do you think? What does it take to be a professional 'tog?


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