There comes a point in every photographer’s career that you have to actually start calling yourself a “photographer”. Now the definition of a photographer tends to vary from person to person. According to Dictionary.com, a photographer is “ photographs, photography
But I digress. To me, a photographer is someone who takes the act of photographing the world around them very seriously. They practice art fundamentals in their work and do not just run around snapping pictures. They study the standards of photographers, painters, and artists that came before them in order to mold their own craft. Then, to be a professional in my eyes, you must act like a professional. I think the term professional is
actually an attitude and not so much a label. I would also say a professional is knowledgeable in their field both with equipment and marketing. A professional also keeps up with current trends and standards within their field.
So, as you may ask, when did I become a “Professional Photographer?” I will answer that the same way I lined out what the definition means to me. So, I became a photographer my sophomore year of high school. I acquired my first SLR camera and took the class “Photo I.” This was completely film, 35mm, and we used only black and white film. We also developed all of our own rolls of film and enlarged our photographs in a darkroom. We studied the basic history of other photographers that came before us and learned the basics of how to use a camera. That being said, I was an awful photographer. How awful? Well, let’s just say I actually failed Photo II the second half of the year. But still, I was a photographer. I continued to practice photography despite my setbacks. I even did some of my friend’s senior pictures when it came time to graduate from high school in 2005. So when did I become a “Professional?” – well, that was not until many, many years later. I would say that in 2013 I became a “professional”. I was starting to get my very first paid jobs and had sold a couple of my photographs. Also, my work was starting to gain more and more attention on the internet. I ventured into modeling/portrait photography. I had a website, a facebook page, and began to try networking as much as I could to earn an income. Albeit a very, very small income, I was starting to actually make money from it. I was also being granted access into certain events that I would normally not be able to access; such as the NHSA’s Grass Drags and Rave-X Freestyle Snowmobile show in Freemont, NH. I did a few weddings, prom photos, senior portraits, engagement photos, and continued to do modeling photography to keep honing in my portrait skills. In early 2016, a couple of my modeling photos were published in ProShoot magazine and I began to make my BossLife episodes on the regular.
It took many many years for me to get to a level of confidence in my own photography to consider myself a true “Professional Photographer” but I got there. Because it is a self-proclamation, I insist that other amateur photographers out there should not take this notion lightly. There are a lot of hacks out there who will call themselves professionals, and well I guess they can, but you shouldn’t let your ego determine this. If you don’t have a substantial portfolio or collection of photographs that you can comfortably show to other people and then ask for their money in exchange for services, do not call yourself a professional. Do yourself a favor, keep practicing, keep pushing yourself, set up trade shoots with models to practice with. I highly encourage using models for a few reasons; they will have a little experience they can share with you and it is also usually a stranger you do not know – as your future clients will be. Sure, you can practice on your friends and family, that is fine and great, but keep in mind that if you are in this to one day earn money, or call yourself a professional, your clientele will most likely not be your friends and family. You will have to learn how to photograph people you have never even met before, and pull it off to a point where they will be satisfied with the results you give them.
Thank you for taking the time to read my story on how I came to call myself a photographer and then a professional photographer. I hope this may help some of you out there make the same determination. Stay creative, stay motivated!