Back when I was in elementary school, we used to have to pick teams to play certain games during gym class. I remember getting all excited when it came time to pick those teams. We were all excited. We’d say, “Pick Mary. She’s a professional!” Or, “We need to get Jim on our team. He plays professionally!” Back then, the word professional meant really, really good. If we said that someone played professionally, we simply meant that they would whoop the pants off the other team.
It took a while for me to realize what professional actually meant. Unfortunately, it doesn’t mean really good. What it actually means is this:
– relating to or connected with a profession.
– engaged in a specified activity as one’s main paid occupation rather than as a pastime.
The root word of professional is profession.
– a paid occupation, especially one that involves prolonged training and a formal qualification.
So while there are many folks out there on the internet who claim that once you become exceptionally proficient at photography, you somehow become a pro. They’re wrong. You don’t become a pro photographer until you make it your primary occupation and until you start getting paid for your work. I know, this is difficult to write because the word pro has such positive connotations to it. We all want to be pros. The thing is, if we’re not getting paid, we’re not professional, no matter how we look at things.
So, I guess the question remains, what are we if we’re not pros? What are those really awesome photographers we see online who are taking all of these amazing shots? Well, if they’re just learning about photography and taking great shots to post online for fun or admiration, they’re what we call amateurs. In some cases, really, really good amateurs. It’s sort of like what Mr. Wonderful says in the TV show Shark Tank. “If you’re not making any money in your business, it’s called a hobby.” Tough words to hear.
I know what you’re thinking right now. You’re thinking that you still want to become a pro photographer. I’m hear to tell you that you can absolutely do that and you don’t even need to be an expert at taking photos. All you need to do is find someplace or some way to sell your photos, preferably online. You can sell stock images or print your pictures and sell them on Etsy or Ebay. You can do all sorts of things and once you begin bringing in enough money to quit your day job, you’ll have become a pro. You can even create a small business at that point and treat yourself with the respect you deserve. After all, if your photos are good enough to sell, they’re good enough to earn you some respect as well.