According to the dictionary, a professional is:

“A person who belongs to one of the professions, esp. one of the learned professions.”

“A person who earns a living in a sport or other occupation frequently engaged in by amateurs: a golf professional.”

“A person who is expert at his or her work: You can tell by her comments that this editor is a real professional. “

It’s the last definition that most closely fits for me. Being an “expert” or at least an ASPIRING expert, makes you professional.

Most of this conversation won’t center around the financial aspect of being a professional photographer. While making money is certainly evidence of professionalism, financial success alone isn’t enough to be “professional.”

Tony Corbell often says that being a professional is about being “proficient.” I really like that saying. Clay Blackmore says being a professional is about being able to deliver consistently good results, and knowing how you did it. I like that saying too.

They all point to one thing – caring about your craft enough to know WHY that shot worked. We’ve all had a lucky shot or two. But some people are “luckier” than others and that usually translates to preparing, studying, practicing and working hard – in order to be “lucky.”

If you aren’t sure how you got from A-Z, then you might want to consider boning up on the craft of photography before you call yourself a professional. If you can consistently deliver great results…if you are proficient, you’re already there.

But if you’re not, there’s no reason to despair. Relax. It will come, as long as you work hard. If you’re not quite there, then there’s no shame in identifying yourself as an “aspiring professional.”

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