Published On: Thu, Dec 27th, 2012

So You Want To Be A Pro Photographer

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The legendary Ansel Adams

The legendary Ansel Adams

So you want to be a professional photographer.  In the past, professional meant that you made money with your photography, and it implied a certain level of expertise.  Not so much anymore—unfortunately.

Back in the day of film (and many professional wedding photographers and landscape photographers still use film), and manual cameras, both rangefinder and early single-lens reflex (SLR) cameras, a photographer HAD to have the expertise to turn pro.  Film was unforgiving and took experience to handle well (both behind the lens and in the darkroom).

Today, in the digital age, everyone “thinks” that they’re a photographer.  I am not being condescending, I am being honest.  Now manufacturer algorithms replace that essential experience, and even a beginning photographer can take credible shots from time-to-time. And Facebook allows anyone to set up a photography business, and then call themselves a professional.

Why is this unfortunate?  Mainly because it does a disservice to the customer, and to the real professional photographers still out there.  A typical example is of a bride-to-be selecting a relative or friend or cut-rate amateur to take her wedding photos.  Hopefully, this is a one time event (the wedding), and if the photographer blows the assignment then all is lost. That’s why the pros have liability insurance, backup equipment and even backup photographers. The amateur has none of this infrastructure in place.

But, even more import, are the final images of the special day.  I see so many so-called professional photographers who don’t have a clue about the basics, and yet call themselves professional.  The implied expertise is no longer guaranteed, and often times not present at all. Sure, their prices are low (undercutting legitimate pros), but their product is inferior.  It is embarrassing to see final images that are blurry and out of focus (even with auto-focus), exposure that is all over the place (even with auto-exposure) and composition that is just terrible.

These photographers never learned the basics, and just like anything else you CANNOT become a professional without MASTERING the basics.  And I am disappointed that many of these photographers have no inclination to even want to learn the basics.  This dilutes the true professional’s business, and renders an embarrassing substandard result to the customer.  It is really difficult these days to make a decent living as a professional photographer (ask any of them).  And to make it, you not only have to be an artist but also a business person (you have to understand business models, marketing, accounting and all the rest).

I have been a photographer for 58 years, and only went professional about 4 years ago.  I won’t sign-on as the primary photographer for weddings, because it’s not what interests me (and I don’t want the liability, responsibility and pressure that it entails).  I will, on occasion, agree to be the secondary photographer taking mostly candid shots.  I make my money (and take my enjoyment) from Travel, Landscape and Wildlife Photography.  After almost 4 years I am just now starting to pay my way.  I am not an overnight success, remember I’ve been shooting for almost 60 years now.

I have a professional website (not just a FB page), an online virtual gallery where I market and sell product, I submit images to 3 of the largest micro-stock agencies for sales to book publishers, advertisers, illustrators and authors.  I market my work almost everyday, and strive for multiple revenue streams.  I’ve only recently been signed by a major gallery here in Mexico, but continue to actively market myself to the expat and local community.

To put a fine point on it:  To declare yourself a professional photographer DON’T MAKE IT SO.  Learn your craft, learn your equipment, learn post-editing, learn, learn and learn some more.  Don’t shortchange your customers, family and friends.  Until you’re good enough, ALWAYS recommend a talented, experienced professional photographer for important shoots—do everyone a favor.

You want to turn pro?  Fine.  I have no problem with that.  But don’t pass yourself off as something you’re not just for ego gratification.  Think you’re ready?  Check out this link forwarded by Anth Blake (a real professional photographer).

Think you’re ready:  (Click Here).

To learn more about Anth:  (Click Here)

To learn more about Stephen Dennstedt:  (Click Here)

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Publisher’s note: The Yucatan Times publishes with owner content permission abiding by copyright laws in Mexico and did not require payment in the publishing of this article. Please contact the editor of this newspaper or Stephen F. Dennstedt for publishing rights or for more information.

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