The Difference Between an Amateur and a Professional Photographer

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  By Jonathan Ma
The Difference Between an Amateur and a Professional Photographer

Since the rise and popularity of affordable digital cameras, the number of photographers in the world has skyrocketed. Add to that the number of people who own a camera phone, and that number goes up into the millions, maybe even billions. Social media apps such as Instagram has also made it quite easy to put a filter on an image. These factors all lead to the fact that many call themselves “photographers”. But are there differences between amateur and professional photographers? Or can anyone become a professional photographer if they really wanted to? Let’s take a look at what makes professional photographers “professional”.

Professional Photographers Use the Viewfinder

Professional photographers tend to use the viewfinder when taking photos. The reason for this is threefold. First, using the viewfinder helps them to stabilize the camera using their arms, body, and face. By using the proper grip and holding technique, professional photographers can take super steady photos without image stabilization. This comes in handy in low-light situations and when there is no flash handy. And it is not something that amateur photographers can achieve consistently. The second reason professional photographers prefer to use the viewfinder is that the image that you see is more reliable. It is the same one that will hit the sensor because you’re looking directly through the lens.

Last but not least, looking through the viewfinder is quicker than using the LCD view a photo. Because the LCD screen requires the image to be processed before being displayed, there is a delay. This is called the shutter lag. Shutter lag may seem like just an inconvenience, but in high-paced scenarios, shutter lag may mean the difference between capturing an unforgettable moment and missing it.

Professional Photographers Always Come Prepared

When it comes to taking photos for a client – professional photographers are the one to go to. Amateur photographers may have the skills but they do not have the experience. Even though professional photographers are more expensive, they are hired over amateur photographers. The experience that they have is invaluable because it helps them to prepare. Preparation not only includes equipment but also being mentally ready for whatever happens and adapting accordingly. Professionals have encountered many different problems, unfortunate situations, and unforeseen circumstances. Those events help them to anticipate and deal with potential issues before they surface. On the other hand, amateurs have no idea what might go wrong and therefore are caught off-guard more often than not. Amateur photographers also have trouble adapting to changing circumstances, such as what to do if it starts to rain unexpectedly during a photo shoot.

Professional Photographers Know Their Equipment

Photo courtesy of Smart Photo Courses

Just because a professional photographer and an amateur photographer own the same piece of equipment does not mean that it has the same value in each of their hands. Some amateur photographers may say that they’ve read the users manual enough times to know what every button and setting is for on their camera. Even so, the amateur photographer likely does have anywhere near the same amount of field experience with their cameras as the professional does. When you are on a photo shoot, time is of the essence. Even a few extra seconds spent adjusting settings can add up when you are taking hundreds of pictures in a session. In addition, no client likes to sit around waiting for the photographer while he is adjusting his settings. They expect the photographer to know their equipment and that only comes with experience.

Professional Photographers Are Dedicated

For amateur photographers, photography is just a hobby. For professionals, however, photography is also their means of collecting income. Because being in the photography business is directly related to the size of their bank account, professional photographers tend to be dedicated to their job. No matter what it takes, professional photographers will get the job done. There are 3,000 wedding photos to sort through and edit this weekend? Done. On a photo shoot with a professional and there are only 30 minutes left but you’ve still got three outfits that you want to wear? Don’t worry about it. A professional photographer will give you extra time on the photo shoot if it means one more happy customer.

Happy shooting!


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Jonathan Ma

Jonathan Ma is a freelance writer and professional photographer. He grew up in the beautiful Pacific Northwest of the United States. The natural beauty that surrounds this area has helped him to learn to appreciate art and photography. Jonathan's favorite styles of photography are nature and sports photography. He enjoys learning and teaching others what he knows.

Comments (3)

  1. AF Guest

    The difference between professional photographers and Amateurs has nothing to do with skill. Professionals gets paid and amateurs don’t and that’s the only difference. Who’s in a hurry if they are not getting paid?

  2. John Willson Guest

    Hello Jonathan, the blog is good but it did not make the justice to the title, You say its the difference between Amateur & Professional Photographers but its mostly about Professionals. also its not like newbies don’t know about the field its just that they are new ans many new comers these days are very professional.
    – Images retouch

  3. Rolf Karstaedt Guest

    Hey Jonathan, you’re right and you’re not. Some enthusiasts are more dedicated than professionals, and some even come over prepared. And you forget one major difference, the hobbyist tends to take to much shots without thinking
    Regards Rolf