Top 5 Signs You Aren’t A Professional Photographer

Illustration © Liz M

Never, ever, EVER let a photo with color like this stand (even if you forget to set your white balance and it happens)…much less make it to your client.

There are a lot of folks out there who charge for taking photos.  Unfortunately, not all who make money from photography are truly “professional.”  By this I mean that just charging and getting paid doesn’t mean a person is 1. Ethical, 2. Competent, 3. Capable of behaving professionally.   Those of you who follow my writings know the respect I hold for those hobbyists who put so many “pros” to shame and those who work so hard to improve their craft.  My gripe is with those who try to pass themselves off as a high quality professional photographer and truly aren’t.

YouAreNotAPhotographer is a website that probably just popped into your mind.  This is NOT what I’m talking about.  Yes, there are some horrible photos on that site.  However, far too often it turns into a “I don’t like this pose so I’ll insult the photographer AND the subjects.”  Any professional photographer who comments on the photos on that site probably needs to reexamine what professional behavior means.

All that said, here are the

Top 5 Signs You Aren’t A Professional Photographer

    1. Manners
      If you have ever cussed at a client, guest of client, friend of client, etc while working.  If you have ever been less than polite without apologizing to your clients.  If you smoke while on the job (even if your clients are chimneys).  If you push anyone out of the way…you are not a professional photographer.  If you think it is ok to sell photos you took from weddings where you were the guest and not the official photographer…you are no pro.  No matter how good your photos are, you are not behaving in a professional manner.  You don’t have to be stuffy and snobby to be a professional, but you do need some basic manners.
    2. Lack of Knowledge/Unwilling to Learn
      If you think that “White Balance” is a circus act or that Aperture is a company in a video game,  you are not a professional photographer.  I don’t care if you prefer to shoot in any one of a dozen different camera preset modes.  BUT you better know how to fix problems that arise.  How do you adjust exposure?  Can you realize it when the camera’s meter can’t handle a lighting situation?  Do you know how far your flash can bounce off the ceiling for a nice even light?  What happens to the battery if your camera gets too cold?  When should you use filters?  Can you bracket?  What about exposure compensation?  Do you know what shutter speed is required to freeze the action of a toddler knocking the wedding cake to the floor?  Do you have that gut feeling from years of experience behind a camera (paid and before you went pro) that tells you something crazy is about to happen in front of the lens at the event you are shooting?  If you don’t know about photography in an intimate way and are unwilling to learn, you are not a professional.
    3. No Contingency Plan
      What if your camera dies during a shoot?  The battery?  What if you get the flu the night before?  Some shoots are easy to reschedule…weddings, not so much.  If you don’t have even a bare bones contingency plan for stuff going wrong then you are not a professional.
    4. Free Software
      I’m not knocking GIMP.  There are good free software programs out there for photo editing.  However, if you are still mourning the loss of Picnik or use any of the free online “editors” that think a selection area is always a fuzzy circle, you are NOT a professional photographer.
    5. Lazy/Don’t Care
      If can’t be bothered to remove the occasional out of focus shot (that everyone will occasionally get) from the proof set.  If that indoor shot that looks like it was dipped in mustard makes it to your client because you were too friggin lazy to at least hit “auto color correct” on your digital editing software there are no words to describe how lazy you are and generally sorry your attitude is towards your clients.

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