The Differences Between Pro and Amateur Cameras

Photography is one of the few professions where the amateurs can have the same equipment as the professionals.  If you have the desire and/or money, then you can shoot on the same rig that the great names in photography use. But there are a few differences.

In this video, I talk about some key differences that I have noted between professionals cameras and amateurs cameras that I have spotted over the years. In the past I would run workshops, which meant that a lot of hobbyists came along, and I got to see how they tackled the problem of photography. 

From the choice of brands through to the amount of equipment they own, the procurement of camera gear differs vastly from amateur to professional. Even if two photographers have identical bags of kit, I can guarantee you the rationale was far from identical. I go over some of the tips, tricks, and hacks that I use to make sure that my cameras work for me, save me time, and in my case as a professional, make me money. 

Since 2008, digital cameras have been pretty darn amazing; the tech sheets from then until today really hasn't changed all that much at all for studio photographers. With this in mind, I go over why professionals are choosing certain systems and formats as well as the modifications that they make to their kit.

What are your pro camera hacks?

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15 Comments

You know I was ready to snub my nose at this until I watched it. He's right. In the end it's the image that counts, and you use what it takes to provide the image. I had to laugh because I've got stuff with gaff tape on it to hold parts together (like my battered 70-200, which I don't use all that often but is getting on in years - like me - and those focus hold buttons just don't want top stay put ... ). I haven't upgraded my camera in > 5 years and frankly I don't care to.

Scott Choucino's picture

Thanks for watching :) My old canon 70-200 mk1 is held together with tape haha. It feels like its barrel is coming apart! Still works though and I use it so little that I coudln't justify buying a new one.

Being a pure professional makes it easy. Being a pure enthusiast makes it easy. Being a professional who's also an enthusiast is what leads to a lot of us bending over backwards to try to rationalize purchases that we don't actually need. I suspect that if we were to honestly look at the work that makes us money, most of us could get away with owning a hell of a lot less than we do. Don't tell my wife I said this, though... :O

Scott Choucino's picture

Thats a really interesting take on it. And yes those who are interested in cameras and professional photographers really are in a tight spot, compared to those who just love cameras or just love the act of photography.

Thankfully, cameras as objects are pretty dull to me haha. Otherwise my kit would probably be very different.

So true and disappointing that many photographers don’t get this and some even argue against it, claiming newer cameras and lenses do matter. You just need kit to get the job done. At the end of the day, when people see your photos or videos, they’ll never see the battered old cameras that created them. I first started with manual film photography where learning how to expose when you couldn’t see the picture until it was developed was vital and I always put knowledge and experience above owning the latest camera gear.

Great video, I think sticking with one brand and one range of camera means all the batteries, chargers and lenses are the same and most of the menus are the same, this make life simple under pressure. I shoot on canon 1Dx and MK2 and tend to upgrade the older of the two a year after the new one has come out to keep the CPS support (which is insanely good) and to keep the reliability. The thing I do is customize mine to the hill and use the c1/c2/c3 all the time. Lenses get used to death, My old canon 70-200 mk1 had 14 years of abuse until it would crash my camera. I tend to do very pressured shoots with very little time to get it right and short publication deadlines and charge for the pleasure :-) I love your comment about amateurs turning up with lots of different kit of different brands, why on earth would you have different brands!! so much duplication in kit..

Thank You!!! You hit it and said what needs to be said about gear!!! Not a pro but just a hobbyist and yes a gear collector. I have film, 2006 point and shoot, a Canon T2i and three Sony's (why? mirrorless what can I say IBIS). It is not the gear BUT the Post Processing programs. I have gone back to many of my old shots with way better results. All cameras are sharp and good. Pro's have one or two genre and even as a hobbyist just a few will be an attraction. Gear reviewers are camera maker salesmen of the latest and greatest to make you part with your money. Kinda like the fast glass race of who has the fastest lens and best bokeh! Well I use my old Canon FD lenses (a reason the Sony's adapters and all) from 20mm to 300mm all f/1.2 to f/2.8 and old prizm filters I used for two years before my first Sony Lens. But for those chasers remember landscape/night cityscape f/8 to f/16 mostly f/11, for astro MW yes fast but you will dial back to f/2.8 or f/4 because of dove stars (physics of light speed through glass sections[reason for good bokeh]). Oh if you want the bokeh or cream there are many software solutions so keep your $$$! and play!!!

David Pavlich's picture

Makes sense. You get the tools that work best for what you do. I agree with the 'one brand' philosophy as well. Familiarity makes working with the gear much easier.

The one thing that I do is bend over backwards to keep from making my gear look like it was tossed out of a moving car. Having a lens that I paid good money for have crap and corruption on it is not acceptable to me. But I'm only a part time pro and don't have the dinars to buy lotsa' goodies, so I do my best to keep them in top condition inside AND out.

Robert Nurse's picture

Yeah, I almost baby my gear. I want that nice warm feeling of knowing that when I open my bag I have reasonable confidence that whatever is in there works. I work at not banging it against stuff or letting other people handle it.

John Ellingson's picture

I remember way back in the day when operating as a pro you felt it was a sign of your status to have the black paint worn off you your camera body and have the brass underneath show through. Today I use my gear hard. I want to take it on location and not have to worry about it. I want it moisture proof and able to take the knocks and dings that come with working the sidelines in sports and tough locations. I spend a lot of time keeping my gear meticulously clean and properly functioning, but the cosmetics have long since gone by the boards. I have a fifty plus year old tripod that still get regular use and it is more bare metal than paint and works as well as the day it was new. I value tough over pretty!

John Ellingson's picture

I think the biggest difference between a pro and an amateur camera is the person using the camera.

Robert Nurse's picture

I'm that amateur guy, LOL, and I love new "kit" but with a rationale. I once took a workshop from a pro who gave us some advice: if the equipment makes the job more convenient, buy it if you can. If that bobble lets you concentrate more on composition, the subject, the light, etc and makes getting the shot easier, go for it.

I'm a "tool guy" (I have lots of tools), which may explain why I love photography so much. I am a commercial photographer, and product photography requires lots of crap. Like any tool, good tools make it easier (and more satisfying) to work with. But once you have the tool, you have it (unless it breaks). If it doesn't do what you need, or you find it a pain to use what you have, you move on and get something else. I use the same camera system and have multiple cameras of the same system (sort of - Sony A and E. I won't be buying any more A but those lenses are still very nice and do the job). But I'm not in an upgrade cycle every x years.

I'm not a photographer but I've followed fstoppers for a long time due to the many business similarities to my field of professional audio. I've learned many business lessons from the comments and articles but here is finally one I can offer.

In the late 80s I took a location recording class at University of Iowa co-taught by Jerry Bruck of NY's Posthorn Recordings.

At that time he said, "Amateurs can now purchase the same equipment that we use daily. The only difference is in the results. The professional gets it right more often.".

Yes indeed. On any given day an amateur could best me at my own profession. But in the long run I should have a better batting average.

Humbling.