What Makes a Photographer Professional?

A professional photographer is someone who is being paid to take photographs; photography is his job and not simply a pastime.

Many people have different interpretations of a professional photographer and most of them are superficial. For example, there was once when I went out with my family to visit "River Angbao" during the Chinese New Year period, I overheard passers-by exclaiming "professional photographer". What gave them the "professional" impression was simply my equipment - since I loved creating soft light, I often put a big flash modifier on top of my speedlite. My camera body (Canon 6D) was not even as big as Canon 1D series' and I did not add a battery grip. The fact is that people do not even need to look at the end result to judge while any rich amateur can easily buy bigger equipment than mine. Some of my fellow photographer friends also share the same idea that "branded" equipment will give clients better impression, although many cheaper ones can do similar jobs.

In my photography journey, I have met a few unreasonable people who would play with words to satisfy their own demands. One trick they would use is to script their self proclaimed roles of a professional photographer according to their own need like as if they were in the trade and know exactly well what a professional photographer should do.

"You are a professional photographer and thus you should..."

There are actually a number of basic things a photographer should do to stay professional:

  1. Be punctual for the shoot.
  2. Offers advices for the shoot, including pointing out possible errors.
  3. Shows respect to clients by using appropriate languages and refrain from having body contact, especially for portrait shoot.
  4. Produces the best photgraphs possible given every situation and its restrictions.
  5. Keeps the promises between the clients and himself, for example, delivery of photographs and privacy if agreed on.

A professional photographer needs not:

  1. Arrives earlier to start shooting. Professional photographers may arrive earlier to take a rest before the actual shoot starts.
  2. Accepts all sorts of job. Professional photographers have their own preferences of the type of shoot and even the clients they want to work with.
  3. Removes any photograph from his portfolio or social media when a client demands to and yet does not pay to buy over the copyright. All photographs taken by a photographer belong to the photographer.


Eventually, trying to dictate what a professional photographer should do in order to stay professional in your own way will make you look really immature and ugly. Always put yourself in the shoes of professional photographers and think of the limitation.



You may be interested in:
- How to judge a photographer
- Reasons to engage a professional photographer
- Ways to insult a professional photographer
- Blacklisted photographers in Singapore