The "P word"

Discussion in 'Photographic Discussions' started by Christie Photo, Sep 10, 2008.

  1. Christie Photo

    Christie Photo No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    From time to time, I sense some underlying emotions whenever the word PRO is used here. I'm not sure what it's all about.

    I'm a working professional photographer. I'm happy to share what I know... what I've learned. That's how I got started.... hanging on the shirt-tails of working pros in my town.

    And I realize too that I can learn much more as our industry evolves. I'm never surprised anymore where I pick up something new, often from the most unexpected places.

    But every once in a while, I come across the idea that pros using pro gear is a bad thing... something to be diminished. It's almost as if the idea is to beat down the pro to feel better about what we do and how we do it.

    Anybody else ever feel this? Maybe it's just me.

    -Pete
     
  2. Hertz van Rental

    Hertz van Rental TPF Noob!

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    I've never really picked that up, Pete. But I do feel that the term 'pro' is being debased.
    In the same way that there are people who seem to believe that merely owning a camera makes them wise and knowledgeable in the ways of Photography (and particularly in the area of what makes a good photograph). So too are there people who believe that they are entitled to call themselves a 'pro' on the grounds that they have done nothing more than a few dodgy photo shoots for a mate.
    Whilst I believe that anyone can call themselves an Artist (for who is to say they are not?), I do think that the appellation 'professional' is a different case.
    It implies that you know the craft and that you do it full time for a living. It also implies that your work is at least of a certain level of quality and that your dealings with clients is likewise proficient.
    But the current trend for every Tom, Dick and Ansel to call themselves 'professional' on the thinnest of excuses has devalued the whole meaning of the term 'professional' when applied to Photography.
    In short, professional photographer used to mean something but these days it doesn't seem to mean a damn thing (except to old school film jockeys like you and me).
     
  3. Overread

    Overread has a hat around here somewhere Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Nothing more than jealosy from many who consider it "unfair" that pros have top end kit. Some also consider many new "Pros" (sometimes but not always) useing the latest kit are "cheating" or "not as good" as the pros of yester years.

    All one can do is ignor such comments and let your clients and portfolio to your speaking for you.
     
  4. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I think it's a complex issue...

    Firstly, I think there are a lot more 'amateur' or aspiring 'pros' than there have even been before. This forum certainly seems to have a lot more 'amateur' photographers than actual working professionals. This means that the cost of equipment is a big issue....and there is a very wide range of equipment to choose from. This leads to many photographers working to 'get by' with less expensive or less capable gear. Now, as we know, it's more the photographer and less the gear that they use....so photographers can create great results with cheap gear. I think that this leads to the idea (especially in communities like this one) that expensive 'pro quality' gear is an extravagance. 'It's not required to get the shot, so why not go with cheaper gear'
    I would think that this idea is more prevalent with the younger crowd. Party because the don't remember the days when things were made to last and are more used to the 'everything is disposable' aspect of our current society. Plus, many of them just don't have the experience to fully realize some of the benefits of 'more expensive' gear.
    Much of the time, getting the best 'perceived' value for your money is seen as superior. Of course, the actual value of our equipment should be measured over the life of the gear and not just the first month or year.

    Sometimes, people with pro gear are seen as 'people with too much money to spend'....which probably bothers those who cannot afford it themselves. Those who are bothered, justify their own feelings of inadequacy by saying that they spent less money on their gear and got better value. Maybe that's true. I believe there are plenty of instances where 'almost pro' gear is practically as good as 'pro gear' and much less expensive. But I try not to let it bother me when other people have better gear than I can afford.

    I think the attitude is completely different in a crowd of working professionals. People with a lot of experience will often expound the benefits of using pro quality gear. Some of it may even be ego or image...but most professionals are less put off by the price of equipment anyway.
     
  5. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Good point Hertz...what does "pro" even mean these days.
    I've seen all the arguments...is someone a pro only if they have formal education? If they work at it full time? Are you a pro if more than 50% of your income is derived from it? Are you any less a pro if it's only 49% of your income? Are you a pro the instant that you take a penny for your services? Are you a pro because you consider yourself to be?
    Photography isn't like a doctor, lawyer or engineer....where (in most places) you need certification to practice that profession. Essentially, anyone can call themselves a 'pro photographer'...so the term really doesn't have the same meaning as a 'professional engineer' etc.
     
  6. Christie Photo

    Christie Photo No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I suppose there's a lot less at stake when hiring a photographer.

    -Pete
     
  7. LaFoto

    LaFoto Just Corinna in real life Staff Member Supporting Member

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    My own opinion on what makes a photographer a "professional" is exactly what Hertz is pointing out: it must be a person who knows the craft, i.e. has learned it from some teachers earlier in his life, and who makes a living out of practising his craft.

    However, the term "photographer" is as little protected as is the term "translator": everyone who happened to grow up bilingual may practise the trade and call himself that, the term is not protected at all, whereas there are some who went to uni for four years to make themselves translators. But in the professional world, those who put a plaque outside their front door and convert one room inside their homes into a kind of office, and who happen to sort of know two language, can call themselves "translator".

    That is why I still (also inwardly) refuse to call myself "photographer", since I have never gone to ANY class on photography at all, ever in my life, and would definitely not call myself "professional" since I'd have starved to death by now, and the family too, if I ever tried to live off my photography. We wouldn't even survive for one week...! :shock:

    Though I must admit to something: when I covered that swim meet on that last June-weekend, I worked with what I have. And then there was that press photographer with his Mark I or whatever his camera was called, and he pushed his button and it took about 10 photos for him within 1,5 seconds. That was when I thought by myself, 'of course, one of them will have the swimmer above the water, breathing, but I, who I only ever take ONE photo at a time, must try to catch that moment WHEN IT COMES', and I felt he had an easier life with his pro equipment but I was doing the better work :greenpbl: ... so no jealousy, but a feeling of "Ha, I can do what you can, too, and with my little 350D!" ;)
     
  8. Village Idiot

    Village Idiot No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    What is pro gear? A piece of gear labeled by a manufacture? Gear that pros use? Joe McNally, David Hobby, and Don Giannatti all use speed lights. Not all the time, but they use them. Does that make the SB800 and Vivitar 285HV's pro gear?

    Just because some one is using a piece of gear that cost 1/10th of the price as a similar piece of gear another person is using, doesn't make them any less of a pro. I saw a Playboy shoot where the photographer was using a 5D and not a 40mp Digital Hasselblad. Is he not a pro photographer then?
     
  9. Christie Photo

    Christie Photo No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I think we've got two different things going on here.

    First, we all agree that camera gear has NOTHING to do with whether or not a photographer is a pro. A pro photographer might use anything he has on hand.

    And second, professional gear has nothing to do with COST. Yes... it nearly always costs more, but that's not what makes it pro gear.

    So to answer your question, the best I can offer is that pro equipment is made to perform consistently, reliably and conveniently in a professional setting, allowing a photographer to work quickly and without added worry. A proven track record is a good indicator.

    Can anyone add to this?

    -Pete
     
  10. Mike_E

    Mike_E No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Might it be a lack of education? Most of those who are quick to criticize are the ones who will call any properly exposed, passably focused picture with the subject exactly on the third and a leading line some where in it a "Great" photo.

    The equipment has gotten so easy to use that the skill level has gotten very hard to detect. At least in my view.
     
  11. ksmattfish

    ksmattfish Now 100% DC - not as cool as I once was, but still

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    Sour grapes? To me it seems like most of the time "pro gear" is usually emphasized and encouraged for pros and amateurs alike.

    Photographers are more like musicians than doctors. There are top of the line orchestras, house bands, studio musicians, etc..., and then there are homeless street musicians, and many variations in between. They're all earning most of their income from playing music; they're all pros in my book. ;)

    There you go.
     
  12. epp_b

    epp_b No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Generally, gear is considered "professional" if it has:

    • metal construction
    • weather sealing
    • full manual controls for all adjustments (WB, ISO, AF toggle, AF points, AF mode, shutter, aperture, etc.)
    • lacks gimicky features that get in the way of the photographer (eg.: live view, idiot modes, etc.)
    • more reliable internals


    I am NOT saying that "professional" equipment will make any user of it a "professional" by any means. What I'm saying is that "professional" equipment is generally designed to take the abuse from a "professional" photographer, whatever that is ;)

    The differences between my D40 and a D3, besides being a full-frame camera, are mainly that:
    • I have dig through menus to change most settings
    • the body is constructed of plastic (albeit, very good plastic)
    • I have to be more careful with my stuff (that's OK, I take care of my belongings anyway)
    • I can't take it out in a dust storm and expect it work properly without a good cleaning
    • it won't last a third-of-a-million shutter clicks

    From the lowest-end to the highest-end DSLR of any brand, it's a scale largely of convenience.
     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2008

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