[Discussion] Pro or Amateur... Which one are you?

Framed: "There has always been the internal battle amongst artists in the industry of when we can officially call ourselves a “professional”. Stepping foot into a camera store or Costco and buying that DSLR with a kit lens and inserting a watermark on your image doesn’t necessarily mean that you are now a professional. Or does it? Are we a professional photographer when we start charging a certain amount for my service? Are we an amateur when a professional photographer thinks our work is below par?

The argument never stops.

To provide insight into this, we thought we’d get the most appropriate inspiration from a recent book we picked up from a friend called The War of Art. Steven Pressfield helps artists “break through the blocks and win your inner creative battles” through his most forthright language and inspiration. If you are struggling by fear or what Pressfield calls “resistance”, this book might be for you. Check out this chapter:"

Professionals and Amateurs:
"Aspiring artists defeated by Resistance share one trait. They all think like amateurs. They have not yet turned pro.

The moment an artist turns pro is as epochal as the birth of his first child. With one stroke, everything changes. I can state absolutely that the term of my life can be divided into two parts: before turning pro, and after.

To be clear: When I say professional, I don’t mean doctors and lawyers, those of “the professions.” I mean the Professional as an ideal. The professional in contrast to the amateur. Consider the differences.

The amateur plays for fun. The professional plays for keeps. To the amateur, the game is his avocation. To the pro, it’s his vocation. The amateur plays part-time, the professional full-time. The amateur is a weekend warrior. The professional is there seven days a week.

The word amateur comes from the Latin root meaning “to love”. The conventional interpretation is that the amateur pursues his calling out of love, while the pro does it for money. Not the way I see it. In my view, the amateur does not love the game enough. If he did, he would not pursue it as a sideline, distinct from his “real” vocation.

The professional loves it so much he dedicates his life to it. He commits full-time.

That’s what I mean when I say turning pro.

Resistance hates it when we turn pro."

"So the question is…are you a Pro or an Amateur? Quite frankly, that’s up to you to decide."
via [FRAMED]
From Kenn:
Where do you guys draw the line? Who do you consider a pro and who an amateur and why? Leave your comments below. And thanks to Framed for the post.

If you want to receive the best of the month's posts in a convenient newsletter then don't forget to subscribe now.
And don't be shy. I could use some more friends these days so hit me up on Twitter and Facebook.

Posted In: 
Log in or register to post comments


Amateur for sure! Just wrote a blog post reflecting upon the past 2 years as a pet photographer and touched on this very subject. Thanks for posting this as it was insightful! Will share for sure.

Do you have a link to the post? Please? :)

Walled Alzuhair's picture

An amateur photographer, with +30 years milage :)
If you don't make more than 50% of your income from a certain profession, you're not a professional at it.. It's not a classification of excellence, so don't let that put you down :)

kenton anderson's picture

I think the whole debate between pro and amateur is kind of stupid. So many people use it to define talent. I've seen some so-called "Pro" shots that look horrible, and some "amateur" shots that are breath taking. If you want to define it as a career or not that is easy. Is it your primary source of income? ok then it's your career. But to use the term pro and amateur to define talent makes no sense. 

Who is Steven Pressfield to say that I love photography any less than another person simply because I have common sense enough to have a stable income from my day-job?  

Any 'modern' hipster-esque interpretations of the two words are meaningless. 

BTW ... ** GREAT ** selection for discussion, Ken! :) Keep 'em coming.

Money should NEVER dictate the quality of your work.

Of course not... but do you want to say that turning in to Pro is giving his Heart to the money?

I'm professional in how I treat my customers, their images and their final product. I'm professional in that I show up on time, exchange money for my craft and am well presented, polite and deliver what was agreed when it was agreed per contract.

I'm also an amateur, because I have a day job that covers my mortgage, lets me feed and cloth myself and my child and my wife. I mainly shoot on weekends and vacation days. I'm always striving to learn from books, classes and other photographers. I'm still buying equipment and developing a "style" of my own. I don't rely on my photography, I've never had to be a starving artist and suffer for my craft.

So, how can someone be professional *and* amateur *and* love photography?

It's all too relative, IMHO.

I'm in the exact same position as you are (except for the child).....I couldn't have put it better! I do want to ad that I've got the intention making a full incoming from photography.

I've often described myself in the same way to others.  I treat it as a profession in every way, I just don't do it full time.  

I too am planning to make the switch to full time one day but until such time I would consider myself a part-time professional regardless of what the dictionary definition of a professional is.

i love being an amateur because you do it more for the love of it, not for the money. and to shoot the subject you like usually adds more punch to the overall pic

Reads like a load of generalized garbage to me.

You could argue that an amateur is at an advantage as they can shoot/paint/draw whatever the hell they want, whenever they want.

i consider myself amateur even though photography makes a portion of my income and i basically could be defined as a pro... i don't care. i just like to shoot.

Currently an Amateur trying to see if I have what it takes to become pro.  I'd love to have a career change into Professional Photography, but it is a REALLY tough industry to crack into.

I am a photographer...period.

I'm an artist. Period.

That book changed my life. More accurately, it made me aware that I could change my life. I'd argue a few of the points made by commenters below but then I'd be arguing on the internet and that's senseless. You guys who are out on the weekend and the evenings shooting because you love your art, Pressfield would applaud you. Then he'd probably advise you to build that into a full time gig because you have the tools and you have the talent.

You're free to read the whole book or not. To understand what he means or not. To be changed by it or not. But I dare you to read it. It's short and simple. Read it if you aren't afraid of change.

Alex's picture

Definitely an amateur here.  I shoot only on weekends - when and where I want it, and the way I want it.

Absolutely PRO,
24/7 Baby ... :)

Eric Fialkowski's picture

Recently defeated by Resistance amateur here.

Jesse Kline's picture

"In my view, the amateur does not love the game enough. If he did,
he would not pursue it as a sideline, distinct from his “real” vocation."

This line kind of bothers me. While I consider myself an amateur and always will, I just don't like the tone being presented here. I love photography more than anything else in my life. I love it even more than the subject I'm majoring in. However, I don't want it to be my career. I want it to remain that wonderful hobby that fills everyday with joy, not the worry of whether or not this next shoot is going to pay my bills. I shoot photos for the love of it and the joy it brings me, not for financial gain in any sort. I guess I just don't see where my love differs from the love of someone who makes money from what their photography...?