Musing on Photography: Amateur or Professional

As the title states it is my own “musing” on photography.  It will be about theory, philosophy, and other thoughts that come to mind as I sit in front of my computer. 

I am not a professional photographer.  I do not make a living with my camera.  I am self-taught.  I have improved over the years with trial and error.  I am not an amateur photographer either.  I have sold a few images since I became a member of Image City Photography Gallery.  Does that make me a professional photographer?  I don’t think so.

Why the pickiness between these two words?  If you sell an image you are now a professional, but if you don’t you are an amateur.  This sells both categories short.  To be a professional photographer, it takes on a life of its own.  Years of schooling, maybe working for another professional photographer at low pay, learning to run a business, all the time continuing to improve your craft until you can make a living.  Being a professional photographer is considered, by some job polls, to be one of the most stressful jobs to have.

And the amateur?  One definition of the word is unskilled.  I do not think that I am an unskilled photographer.  And in viewing the portfolios that are presented at the Image City Photography Gallery, I know that there are plenty of skilled photographers who do not make a living at this craft.  

Here is my main point.  The word amateur comes from the Latin word amatorem, which means lover.  All photographers, professional or not, share a love for this craft. We work at our craft, wrestle with problems and try to figure out solutions.  We go out in the worst kind of weather to get a shot.  We will wait for hours at one spot for the light to be just right for us to snap the shutter.

Being a professional photographer is a very lofty goal.  The ones that go this route should be proud of their success.  The “amateur” photographer though is no less skilled or dedicated to creating great images.  The word, amateur, though makes me feel less competent than I am.  

We need a new word for the rest of us.  Any ideas?


Please post your comments or suggestions here, or send them directly to me at

7 responses to “Musing on Photography: Amateur or Professional”

      • I guess Marie will not let me off the hook that easily, but I choose neither label of professional nor amateur for photographer or artist. It is unfortunate that others may label other’s artwork as less worthy because it does not come with the label of “pro”. There have been lots of images by “pros” that I would have no interest in purchasing and just the opposite for some amateurs’ photos. This issue seems similar to discussions around photography “gear”, as though the equipment some how determines whether one is a good photographer or not.

  1. I believe we are all photographer “explorers”. Some are at the beginning of the journey, others much farther along showing the way. The realm of photography is always changing; style, technology, creativity, AI, public influence.. This makes the journey for the “explorer” never dull and never ending.

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