“Professional Photographer” What the heck does that mean?

Who really is a professional photographer and does it even matter?

Everyone is a photographer

Yes, you read that right! But, "how can that be" you ask. Well, the word photography comes from a combination of Greek words literally translated “drawing with light”. Making a photographer someone who draws with light, or in modern vernacular, a person who makes photographs. In this day and age, pretty much everyone has taken a photo with their cell phone, thus making them, a photographer!

What does "professional" mean?

A professional is defined as either someone “engaged or qualified in a profession” or "participating for gain or livelihood in an activity or field of endeavor often engaged in by amateurs". By these definitions anyone working as a photographer is a professional, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they are good at their job. Also, anyone who is qualified, is also a professional. Meaning that your dentist, who happens to be very skilled in photography, is also a professional photographer. (However I don't think you can hire your dentist to take photos of your anniversary party 🤷‍)

What makes a Great Photographer?

Great Photographers are Great Problem Solvers

Great Photographers are great problem solvers, flexible, and patient. A professional photographer from a technical problem solving standpoint, knows their gear and craft well. This is handy when equipment malfunctions or things don't go as planned. A flexible photographer can solve problems on the fly created by ever-changing environments and still create high-quality work. Great photographers are also patient planners. They schedule and plan so that shoots go smoothly, but also have the wisdom to know when to wait for more favorable conditions.

The Personal Touch

It doesn't matter how great a photographer is if the photographer never calls you back. No one wants to work with someone who is hard to communicate with, or disrespects their time. Dealing with clients in a professional and dignified manner is paramount in any profession. However, it is especially important to behave this way in photography as many clients feel uncomfortable in front of the camera. If a photographer is late, or unprofessional in any manner, it may make the client even more uncomfortable!

Here is what I mean by “Professional Photographer”?

A professional photographer consistently produces high quality work in the field of photography while treating clients with respect.

To arrive at this definition I interviewed two photographers I know, and combined their answers with my own feelings on the subject. (Check out the Video) After our conversations, I formulated my own definition as what is written above.


While the term “Professional Photographer” can mean slightly different things depending on who you're talking with, I use the term in this manner. A professional photographer consistently produces high quality work in the field of photography while treating clients with respect.

Comment Below

Let me know If you think there is another aspect of being a professional photographer that I left out!

Additional Information

My accompanying YouTube Video

Shell Creek Photography

Photographer wiki page

About The Author

Hello, my name is Johnny Lee and I'm your friendly neighborhood photographer. 😉 I LOVE telling stories!!! I adore traveling, exploring, and leaning new things. I hold myself to the highest standards, and try to make people feel comfortable in their own skin. I find the beauty others don't see in themselves, and can help you share it with the world. This is your story, but I can help you tell it.

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