Amateur vs. Professional Photography

I was seven years old when my father bought a professional camera. My father was working as a journalist; he wanted to complement his reporting with pictures. Since early in my life, I was fascinated with my father's work, I wanted to become a writer, I wanted to become a photographer.

I have been taking pictures for 20 years, I have used film camera, point and shoot camera and DSLR. Am I a professional photographer? What are the differences between amateur and professional photographer?

Professional Photographer

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Amateur Photographers

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Difference between Amateur and Professional Photographer


Even though you may own a professional camera and take wonderful shots, this does not make you a professional photographer. Then, what is the difference between amateur and professional photographer.

The obvious answer is money. If you have never charged money for your photography, never sold photos, you are just a hobbyist. Even if you have earned money from your photos, but cannot pay rent, mortgage and other expenses from photography earnings, you are not a professional photographer.

A professional photographer can be self-taught or trained in photography schools. However, he/she has a long list of credentials, and worked as an apprentice with a professional photographer earlier in his/her life.

A professional photographer has high-end equipments such as SLR/DSLR, 35 mm or larger lens, tripod, lighting equipments etc. Since photography is the main source of income, a professional photographer invests lots of money on his/her equipments.

The examples of professional shots used in this article are by Deependra Bajracharya.

Barjacharya is the president of Photo Journalist Association of Nepal. He runs a photography school in Kathmandu.

  • If photography contributes at least 75 percent of the income, he/she is a professional photographer.
  • A professional photographer has a studio, photography website or office.
  • A professional photographer spends long time in shooting session.
  • A professional photographer is usually associated with organization for photographers.
  • A professional photographer also works as a teacher in photography school and workshops.

Professional photographer's shot

A Nepali Bride
A Nepali Bride | Source

Amateur photographer's shot

A Nepali Bride by Vinaya
A Nepali Bride by Vinaya

To become a professional photographer, you need:

A SLR/DSLR camera

Different types of lenses

Tripod

Equipment case

Memory cards with good storage

Computer

Hard disks for backup

Software such as Lightroom or Photoshop

Lighting equipments

Office, website or studio

Different types of reflectors

What kind of photographer you are?

See results without voting

How to Become a Professional Photographer


  • As an amateur, you are perhaps looking for enjoyment and artistry. However, never stop yourself to go pro.
  • You are an amateur does not mean you don’t have talent to become a professional photographer. Always be ready to turn your hobby into a vocation.
  • Calculate your expenses and liabilities before you offer your service.
  • Don’t leave your equipments unattended. If your equipments are damaged, you will probably never recover the cost.
  • Before you begin to work alone, try to find a professional photographer who will hire you as his/her apprentice.
  • Read photography books, view photographers’ work.
  • Enter a photography contest.
  • Join photography community in World Wide Web.
  • Share your work in the social media and photo sharing sites.
  • Build online and offline portfolio of photographs.
  • Join photography school and always read Do It Yourself information on the internet.
  • Lean photography techniques such as the rule of the thirds, photo composition, lighting etc.
  • Invest time and money on your chosen vocation. Buy high-end photography equipments.
  • Whenever you get a chance, interact with photographers.
  • Don’t be afraid of criticism.
  • Develop a business strategy and spend time in marketing your work.
  • Last but not the least, practice, practice, and practice.

Portrait Photography by a Professional Photographer

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Portrait Photography by an Amateur Photographer

Baby at Work by Vinaya
Baby at Work by Vinaya

Tips for Amateur Photographers

You are an amateur photographer does not mean you are a bad photographer. In the past few years, National Geography has published wonderful photos by amateur photographers.

You are an amateur photographer does not mean you cannot charge money for your work. If you can find clients willing to pay for your work, you can always do so. Since professional photographers charge extravagantly, amateur photographers have great chances of finding work.

Explore different kinds of photography and develop your niche. You can begin with on location photography, street photography, wedding photography and silhouette photography.

Wedding photography is very specialized kind of photography. However, it will allow you to go pro. When you are invited for a wedding, ask your host if you can take pictures. It is good if they pay you, but even if they don’t pay, don’t hesitate to photograph wedding. In the beginning, do it for free. When you have some experience, you can charge for your work.

How much should an amateur photographer charge for his/her work?

It depends on your experience.

It depends on your client.

It depends on how much a professional charge for similar kind of work.

Amateur should always charge far less than the professional photographers.

You can raise your pay after you have successfully done couple of projects.

Professional Photography Tips

  • Develop a goal and objectives for your business.
  • Always be critical of your photography. Compare your works with other photographer’s works.
  • Go for location scout.
  • Get in touch with the models for your photographs. In the beginning, you can ask your family and friends to work as model. This will save you money.
  • Advertise your service on print and web.
  • Maintain the contact list of your clients, models and associates.
  • You can take a cue from others works, however, you have to be original and creative.
  • Try to exhibit your works in photography exhibition.
  • Burn your photos in a DVD and send it to the possible clients.
  • Watermark your photos.
  • Attend business management course.
  • You can give one of two photos as a gift, but never compromise with your work.
  • Don’t jump into the business until you have strong income source.
  • Find local newspapers who hires stringers.

Family Photo by a Professional Photographer

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Group Photo by an Amateur Photographer

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More by this Author


Comments 17 comments

Charles Drones profile image

Charles Drones 3 months ago from London

Very interesting!


Vinaya Ghimire profile image

Vinaya Ghimire 3 years ago from Nepal Author

@Tobusiness, that is perhaps I have used my best shots all the while using professional photographer's worst shot. LOL

@Peggy, I wanted to use thematically similar photos and these shots were provided to me. Thanks for appreciating my works.


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 3 years ago from Houston, Texas

I actually prefer your group photo to the professionally taken one. Perhaps that was a reject? I know that many photos are taken and culled down to the best ones when it comes to professional photography. You always take really good photos! Up, useful and interesting votes.


tobusiness profile image

tobusiness 3 years ago from Bedfordshire, U.K

Vinaya, great tips... Brilliant pictures; I have to agree with the above comments, your photos are much more engaging. The photographer must also be able to get the best from his subject and you do this so very well!


Vinaya Ghimire profile image

Vinaya Ghimire 3 years ago from Nepal Author

@Faith, it does not matter how long we have been taking pictures, what really matters is ability to take better pictures. Thanks for appreciating my works.

@Nell, thanks for appreciating my works. The best camera is the one you have with you.

@Photo-medic, thanks


photo-medic 3 years ago

Some very interesting points, tidy hub.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 3 years ago from England

Hi vinaya, I actually prefer your shots than the professional ones, purely because they are of real situations without being stilted. I love photography and if I had a proper camera I would try to perfect it a bit more, great hub, and info, nell


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 3 years ago from southern USA

No wonder your photography is so great if you started when you were seven years old! How awesome. Thanks for the useful information on how to become a professional photographer.

As always, really great and informative hub here. Voted up ++++ and sharing

Blessings, Faith Reaper


Vinaya Ghimire profile image

Vinaya Ghimire 3 years ago from Nepal Author

@Photographyadvice, thanks for your interesting comparison and analysis. On this hub, I don't intend to say amateurs are bad, but what I mean is professional are the ones who earn from their work.

@OMGridle, thanks for appreciating my works. I don't earn much but I sell my writings so I am a professional writer, but following this defination, I do photography but don't sell my works, so I cannot consider photography my profession. Even though I have been using camera since 20 years.

@Mhatter, thanks for sharing your experience.

@Tillsontitan, it is matter of personal thinking. Some people think the best pictures are the on in which subject look at the camera, while other think just opposite.

@Frank, you are true, I have also seen craps from professional photo journalists.

@John, photography is about learning how to use the camera and thinking outside the box. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

@Movie Master, thanks for your wonderful feedback. Cheers

@Made, thanks for being here.

@truth, I also consider myself glutamate. Thanks for your comment.


truthfornow profile image

truthfornow 3 years ago from New Orleans, LA

I am definitely an amateur. But, I love taking pictures and always have my camera or cell phone near by for that must have shot.


Made profile image

Made 3 years ago from Finland

Interesting hub! I like taking pictures, but it stays there. :)


Movie Master profile image

Movie Master 3 years ago from United Kingdom

I agree with the above comments and prefer your shot of the group and the bride!

Excellent hub as always Vinaya, voting up, thank you.


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 3 years ago from Shelton

Vin I think it also depends on the photographer.. Ive seen some crime photos taken by professionals that were not that great.. and others almost too good.. some people are just too anal while others think their photos are just good enough.. yours are more than good enough yeah but nonetheless this was a breat hub my friend :)


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 3 years ago from New York

Its funny Vinaya, I thought the same thing as Photographyadvice when I saw your pictures. The group picture by your professional friend did not have everyone looking at the camera but yours did. I disagree about the bride picture, I think even though the bride isn't looking at you or smiling, your shot is still better. It is a contemplative shot and beautifully done bringing out the beauty in that young bride!

This entire hub, as always, was well done with lots of good advice.

Voted up, useful, awesome, and interesting.


Mhatter99 profile image

Mhatter99 3 years ago from San Francisco

Thank you for this. From my experience, it was just a matter of will people pay. I only gave it up because my wife got jealous of all the girls.


OMGirdle profile image

OMGirdle 3 years ago from United States

Just my opinion, but I think it's a matter of skill and not a matter of financial gain. Only a skilled photographer with proven ability through their work can reap monetary reward. It doesn't matter how much equipment you have. Your photos of the amateur, to me, are more captivating than the professional shots. In the first one of the bride, the background doesn't complement the photo. Whereas the amateur photo of the bride tends to capture an emotion. The professional photo of the family catches some looking off-camera where the amateur photo has everyone's attention. Skill will definitely build a better and lasting clientele. Beyond that, you give many excellent tips. Thumbs up!


photographyadvice profile image

photographyadvice 3 years ago from UK

Hi Vinaya

For the group shot photo, I actually prefer yours to the professional's. In your photo everyone is looking at the camera and smiling, in the professionals some of the group are looking away. Your photo has a cleaner foreground and background, which I also think makes the shot better as it means there is less distracting from the subject.

Your photo of the bride I think could have been as good or maybe better than the professional's if the bride had been looking into the camera and smiling in your shot.

It just goes to show that being a professional is about whether you make your living doing something, and not necessarily the skill level. (Though of course, most professionals are quite skilled).

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