Myth #1: Pros shoot with full frame cameras and only use the best lenses and equipment.
This one is just ridiculous. We’d all like to have great equipment – but the equipment doesn’t make the photographer. A pro needs to learn to use the equipment he does have, and understand it’s shortcomings as well. Varina and I both own crop-factor cameras as well as full frame one. We use those crop sensors regularly because they work well for certain situations. We have several great L-series lenses – but we’re perfectly happy to use a less-expensive lens if it meets our needs. Take a look at the shot above – I took this shot several years ago with a 3 megapixel crop-factor camera. That’s one gorgeous sky, isn’t it? Being a pro isn’t about your equipment – it’s about how you use it.
Myth #2: Pros make a full time living from photography.
We’ve heard many variations on this theme. Some people believe that a pro must work as a photographer exclusively. Some believe that a pro is someone who makes at least 15% of his income from photography. Well – Varina works as a photographer full time. 100% of her income comes from our photography business. So she’s clearly a pro, right? But I work as a program manager most of the time. My income from photography may be less than 15% of my income overall… but does that make me less of a pro than Varina? We teach together. We write eBooks together. We run our business together – selling prints, teaching workshops, shooting weddings, portraits, and events. We have similar skill sets overall. And yet – by some definitions, I’m not a pro. Obviously, this definition doesn’t make much sense in our situation.
Myth #3: A pro teaches workshop on a regular basis.
Well – Varina and I have been teaching workshops for years… but what about photographers who never teach a single class. There are lots of different ways to make money from photography (if that’s what it comes down to in the end). Selling prints in a gallery or at art shows, selling merchandise, working as a journalist, offering tours, selling images for stock or microstock… the list goes on and on. And lots of photographers who do teach workshops don’t make a full-time living from photography, which takes us back to myth #2.
Myth #4: A pro has been published in print.
Here we are in the internet age – and the world of publication has changed dramatically. You don’t need an agent anymore, and you don’t need to go through a publishing company in order to see your work in print. So anyone can be published now. Varina and I have both been published in a variety of magazines and calendars… and we also have a collection of self-published eBooks. Are they less legitimate because we published them ourselves? Do we really care? We put a whole lot of work into them, and we do our best to make sure they are professionally presented and packed full of good information. Heck – we make good money selling them too, so I guess it really doesn’t matter if they count as “real” publications or not, right? And many photographers don’t work with print media at all. If I sell my images at fairs or in a gallery, does that make me less professional?
The lines between pros and amateurs have blurred. There is no single, clear definition of what it means to be a professional photographer. It seems that we each make our own standards, and that’s entirely ok. What’s your definition of a pro photographer?