Professional vs Amateur-Who’s Who?

October 25th, 2010 by

Last week I was in Los Angeles  and took the time while there to help a friend start a jewelry store on a site for handmade goods. Since this was an experiment on a shoestring, she asked if I would take the photos. After all I’ve been in the photography business for decades so I was the right person for the job. Yes? Answer? NO.

As I struggled with her old and cheap tripod, mounted with a point and shoot, I tipped my mental hat to professionals and their equipment everywhere. Even with the help of a jewelry lighting setup, she bought online, I fumbled my way through three days of shooting…the result? A few dozen selects.

And those few dozen? Underexposed, blown out, soft, too narrow a depth of field, off colors, bad crops, flat. Ok, so I’m a photo editor not a photographer but geez! (In my defense: like book editors, the business of photo editing is about selecting the best  pictures not about creating them.)

In my main area of expertise-stock photography, it’s often more about being a professional looking photo than it is about whether or not the creator is a professional photographer.

Many long time professional photographers are still up in arms about crowdsourced photos in microstock collections. But remember: anyone can take a good photo once in a while and these gems often end up in microstock. Even so, look at the poster boys (and girls) for microstock success: these are now all professional photographers with expensive operations. Even in microstock stock, the winners must come home with the bacon again and again. This makes them professionals, in my book.

Being a pro isn’t about how many lenses you own, if and how big your studio is or even how much money you make. It means that you have the talent, the NECESSARY equipment, the business sense and the personality to solve visual problems under many circumstances again and again.

Follow up note: I’ve suggested that my jewelry friend contact Pasadena’s Art Center and pay a student intern who wants to be earn to learn in gaining experience in shooting products. And to hire, at the first financially feasible opportunity, an experienced photographer.

This post was written for and originally appeared as a post on the ASMP Strictly Business Blog