What Pro Photographers and Amateurs Can Do to Get Along

By Jerry Nelson
Jerry Nelson
Jerry Nelson
I´m often asked why do I do what I do. Through floods, stampedes, drug cartels, raging rivers and blizzards…why do I keep putting this old battered and used up body on the line. The answer is simple, but maybe hard to understand. I believe that photos can be used to change the conditions in which people live. For me, photography is both a path and instrument for social justice. I like to point the camera where images can make a difference — especially
September 7, 2014 Updated: April 23, 2016

 Epoch Times Photo

I’m a skilled and competent photographer. I know that the “professional” label is losing its meaning and significance. Other than being allowed to deduct some of the equipment off my taxes, what else does the label “professional” bring to the table?

There’s not many people making a living strictly from self-employed photography these days. Sadly, there’s nothing to prevent a person who makes their main income as a mechanic, accountant or baker from referring to themselves a “photographer”.

I completely understand why pro photographers feel bitter towards hobbyists, amateurs, “mamarazzi” or whatever else they’re called these days. There’s a big thing that many people with a camera don’t understand. It’s that…

Being a Camera Owner Doesn’t Make You a Photographer

Yes, owning a digitial-single-lens-reflex is helpful towards making images easier, but it doesn’t make you a good photographer. It merely means you’re the proud possessor of a great piece of gear.

Many people don’t seem to comprehend the difference.

Most people that own DSLRs, from parents-to-be to tourists, begin with the idea of documenting what is going on in their lives. They seldom print anything larger than an eight by ten and the large part of their images are only seen online by a few friends and family on Facebook.

Quality doesn’t mean anything to the people that see their images online because at the resolution used on the web, those flaws aren’t noticeable.

When I see an image I like on Facebook, I’m usually complementing the photo’s subject and not giving the photographer an “attaboy.” At 72 ppi, it’s impossible to tell if it’s really a good photo.

But something weird happens.

Often, an amateur or hobbyist will hear compliments about their work. When they hear enough compliments they start to think they should be doing this for a professionally.

They open up a website, purchase, or upgrade, gear, invest in Photoshop to try to hide their mistakes and they haven’t spent the time learning how to light-up their subject, figuring out the knobs and buttons on their camera, marketing and all the other skills required of professional photogs.

And, well, because photography is so “easy” and because they earn their living actually doing something other than making images, they feel it’s only reasonable to invoice for a fraction of what professionals charge.

As a crusty old pro, I promise I won’t laugh out loud when I see your camera is in program mode. I won’t giggle like a school girl when I see you’re trying to capture that grand vista with a kit lens and I won’t roll-on-the-floor from laughing so hard when you use the built-in, pop-up flash to light up a group of 10 people as your camera swings wildly on the strap around your neck.

You have to promise that you’ll stop telling people that you can do the same thing we do but for half the price.

Is it a deal?


Jerry Nelson is a internationally known, professional freelance photojournalist and documentary photographer. His work is seen in some of the largest media outlets in the world’s capitals. Busy now on assignment in South America, Jerry is always interested in discussing future work assignments.  Contact him today.

Follow Jerry on Twitter. @Journey_America


 

Jerry Nelson
I´m often asked why do I do what I do. Through floods, stampedes, drug cartels, raging rivers and blizzards…why do I keep putting this old battered and used up body on the line. The answer is simple, but maybe hard to understand. I believe that photos can be used to change the conditions in which people live. For me, photography is both a path and instrument for social justice. I like to point the camera where images can make a difference — especially