Turning Pro – Warning, the content of this blog may upset some readers ;-)

So you’re thinking about becoming a Pro Photographer or you already call yourself a Professional. Let look at what being Professional really means. The entry into the business of photography has become so low. Some days it feels like everyone is calling themselves a photographer. So what is the difference between the amateur and the professional?

Let’s not look at photography for this example, let’s decide that we want to become a tennis pro.

  • Do we need any natural talent? No, although that would help.
  • Do we need to know how to play the game? Definitely.
  • Do you need to practice? Yes, for hours and hours and hours!!
  • Do we need a coach? It’s a good idea, it will keep you on track to be master of the courts.
  • Do we need to know how to get into the tournaments? Yes, industry knowledge is important.
  • Do we need to know who our competitors are? Sure we do, but we don’t need to be them, we need to develop our own game. And let’s make them our colleagues instead of our competitors.
  • Do we need to take it seriously? Hell yeah!! We aint doing any social tennis game with the ladies over lunch, this is your dream, you want to be the top of your game.

So let’s now have a look how this using cooking: a cook vs a chef.

  • A cook loves what they do as does a chef.
  • A cook has great equipment and practices their craft as does a chef
  • A cook loves to try new recipes. A chef creates new recipes.
  • A chef has training and cannot be called a chef without it.  – A cook might have done some training or might be self-trained.
  • A chef makes their living out of what they do – a cook might make some money out of it.
  • Flipping burgers at Macca’s does not make you a chef. However a cook might be able to make amazing dishes as good if not better than a chef.
  • A chef will often be able make many more dishes than the cook and would have more experience.
  • Is a Chef someone that has gone pro as a Cook?

So how does this relate to the photography industry? I might have just gone crazy and started ranting for no reason but let’s look at what is considered being a Pro Photographer.

 It’s the mindset!! That’s it!! That is all!!

No I won’t leave it there, that would be mean, but let’s think about this for a minute.

If you are serious about being a Professional Photographer shouldn’t you have the mindset that makes you a Professional? Do you have a Pro Mentality about your photography business?

If these questions are making you feel uncomfortable then we need to think about why. Have we hit a nerve? If you’re a professional this won’t be news to you and you have probably stopped reading this article by now or applauding that we have the guts to say it out loud!!

So let’s go back to the example of the Pro Tennis Player.

  • Do we need any natural talent? No, although that would help. You definitely need a passion for creating images, but a technical understanding for lighting, equipment and so on will give you the skills to be a pro.
  • Do we need to know how to play the game? Definitely. Without knowing how to use the basic tools you can’t possibly believe you can play the game.
  • Do you need to practice? Yes, for hours and hours and hours!! there is no difference for this one!! you need to learn the skills to be able to succeed.
  • Do we need a coach? You need to have someone that acts as a coach, or you might have a number of people that you use for different parts of your business that you go to when you need to talk about issues. You might have a community online or use one of the industry representation organisations to build a community of peers.
  • Do we need to know how to get into the tournaments? Yes, industry knowledge is important.
  • Do we need to know who our competitors are? Sure we do, but we don’t need to be them, we need to develop our own game. And let’s make them our colleagues instead of our competitors.
  • Do we need to take it seriously? Hell yeah!! We aren’t doing any camera club fun nights, this is your dream, you want to be the top of your game.

So can you see where I am coming from?

Amateurs are amazing, they can outshoot some of their professional counterparts. However they do it for the fun of it and not for the money. Professionals also do it because they love photography, but they need to produce consistent results for clients on a regular basis, so not every image they take is for fun. They often work to a brief, they often work to be paid and to put money in their pockets to pay for everything. They have clients come to them because of a style that they have developed and they have a price list of services that is designed to create a profit. They are knowledgeable about their part of the industry and have worked hard to build up a brand and profile.

So, are you faking it till you make it? Walking the walk, talking the talk? Are you still doing amateur things while striving to be a Pro? What are the things you can do to be more professional? What do you struggle with as a Pro the most? Do you self-sabotage yourself by wasting your day and making excuses?

Now before you all go drafting that email to give me a hard time about this subject I am NOT saying that part time means not a professional. In fact, just the opposite!! If you are a pro photographer and you do it as a part time business, as long as you do all the stuff we have already talked about, then in my book you deserve to call yourself a pro. That’s when we get into the subject of business models and that is a whole other blog post.

Priorities bring prosperity. I can’t remember where I heard that but it is so true. If your business is your priority and you take it seriously then you will strive. If you make excuses, waste time online, become depressed because everyone else is better than you, then you are not looking out for your business.

Think about how you can get take your business to a more professional level. Do you need to stop dabbling and start taking responsibility, do you need to create a schedule that helps you get all that you need to done? Leave us a comment below to let us know what you find is the most challenging part of being professional.

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