Here at Mak Rabbitt Photography we hear this question a lot; what makes someone a professional photographer? Nowadays just about anyone with a Facebook page and a cell phone can set up shop as a "photographer". Don't get me wrong there are a lot of talented people out there taking and selling images and I am not trying to take anything away from what they are doing, but as a wedding photographer our clients deserve more.
I first was asked this by my father at fourteen years old when I told him I wanted to become a professional photographer. My dad always wanted me to go to college and become a doctor or a lawyer, but I wanted nothing to do with college and I loved taking photos. He insisted I would never make money at this profession and there was no way to justify myself as a pro. Well dad was half right.
I photographed my first solo wedding professionally at 16 years old using a Hasselblad 501C, 2 film backs, a waist level finder, 80mm lens, hand-held Minolta light meter, and a single Metz Flash (HUGE Investment for a 16 year old!). My set-up looked something like this (image from Pintrest)
I'll never forget how nervous I was, I checked the film backs 10 times the night before, packed enough film and batteries to photograph 10 weddings and did not sleep a wink the night before. To this day I still am restless the night beforehand as it's like Christmas Eve to me; the anticipation, excitement, planning the shots and moments in my head.
My mentor at the studio I was working for at the time reviewed my images following the wedding and said I did a great job for my first time out alone but I had a lot to learn. He was not joking! There was so much about weddings, photography, and running a business I was about to learn in the next twenty plus years, I wish I would of recorded it.
Back to the question, what makes you a professional photographer? I do not think that there is one simple answer to this and it may be different for each and every person to qualify themselves as a professional. If we look at the definition of professional:
a : 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
a : participating for gain or livelihood in an activity or field of endeavor often engaged in by amateurs professional golfer>
b : having a particular profession as a permanent career professional soldier>
c : engaged in by persons receiving financial return <professional football>
So as we can see by the definition, it is easy to conclude that basically anyone that charges for a images or their services can start referring to themselves as a professional photographer. There really is no technical or ethical standards set in the industry that everyone with a camera must abide by in order to sell an image, it is art after all!