What is a Professional Photographer?



1)  Photography is a trade.  It does not require a degree or any form of certification.

2)  (Webster) Profession by definition is a paid occupation, especially one that involves prolonged training and formal qualification.

3)  (Webster) Professional by definition is of,  relating to or connected with a profession.  (of a person) engaged in a specified activity as one's main paid occupation rather than as a pastime.

4)  The term "Professional Photographer"  has nothing to do with your skill level or quality of your product.  It is about what you do for an occupation.

5)  Work from a "Professional Photographer" can be good or bad.  People pay good money for bad work every day.

6)  Anyone with a camera that charges to take photographs as a real business/occupation can be called a Professional Photographer.

7)  "Professional Photography"  references the quality of a photographers work.

7)  When a person uses the term "Professional Photographer" clients automatically expect "Professional Photography" , high quality "Professional" images and services. 

8)  People that use the term Professional Photographer don't always produce "Professional Photography."

9)  People that don't call themselves Professional Photographer's produce "Professional Photography" everyday.


My opinion: 

1)  In a business your main goal is to make a profit to live off of.   If you are not running a real business.  Tax ID and all.  You should consider not using the term because it is your hobby, not profession.

2)  If you call yourself a Professional Photographer your work should be excellent.  Your images should show that you know what you are doing with the capture, lighting, composition, and final product.

3)  When a "Professional Photographer creates an image they take control of and consider:




Specific Focus

Depth of Field

Lens selection

Camera Position

Background/Foreground content

Glare, reflections




Color Balance

Subject Matter

Creating consistent images


A non-pro just pretty much points and shoots, maybe on just AV or TV mode all of the time without considering the above.



Professional Photography Services:

If you use the term Professional Photographer what people actually expect is a certain level of quality and service from you.  They expect Professional Photography Services.  They expect you to be thoroughly knowledgeable about the products you produce and they expect a high level of quality.  You should be adequately trained to meet this expectation and should continue training in the industry.  You should be able to consistently produce a quality product.  Often it is better to use the term "Professional Photography Services" than "Professional Photographer".  One speaks to the quality of your work and the other speaks to the fact that you do it as a business.


Marketing Tool

People use the term "Professional Photographer" as a marketing tool to set themselves apart from other photographers.  They hope the consumers will see the term an automatically feel they are a better choice.   The term carries an expectation so they do think that.  The real proof is in the work of the photographer.  However, most consumers for basic products don't know a good photograph from a bad one.  They just have an emotional response that sells them.  But that is often all you need.  If you want to set yourself apart don't get caught up on terms.  Let your work and your reputation speak for you.  Create images that look like they were taken by a professional and learn how to properly run a business. 


There is no standard Professional Photographer Certification that is required by anyone anywhere.


Different organizations offer their own certifications and they do look good for advertising. Business is business, any certification does enhance your value as a photographer to potential clients.  Most of these organizations are just a group of people certifying themselves bus some of them are really good as far as having their members meet good minimum standards.  (Such as the PPA)  If you wish to obtain a "Professional Photography Certification" for marketing plus have resources to improve your skills check out http://www.ppa.com/cpp. 


But above all, be sure your work speaks for you.


People often ask me these questions and I get tired of repeating the same answer so I put it here for a quick reference.


Lyndon Johnson

LJ Images Photography