Lately I have had a really hard time dealing with photography as a “professional” as compared to when it I was still am “amateur”. On paper, it’s easy to see the difference:
Professional |prəˈfe sh ənl| (adjective)
- [ attrib. ] of, relating to, or connected with a profession : young professional people | the professional schools of Yale and Harvard.
- (of a person) engaged in a specified activity as one’s main paid occupation rather than as a pastime : a professional boxer.
• having or showing the skill appropriate to a professional person; competent or skillful : their music is both memorable and professional.
• worthy of or appropriate to a professional person : his professional expertise.
• informal derogatory denoting a person who persistently makes a feature of a particular activity or attribute : a professional naysayer.
Amateur |ˈamətər; -ˌtər; -ˌ ch oŏr; – ch ər|
a person who engages in a pursuit, esp. a sport, on an unpaid basis.
• a person considered contemptibly inept at a particular activity : that bunch of stumbling amateurs.
engaging or engaged in without payment; nonprofessional : an amateur archaeologist | amateur athletics.
• inept or unskillful : it’s all so amateur!
amateurism |-ˌrizəm| |ˈømədəˈrɪzəm| |ˈøməˈt(j)ʊˈrɪzəm| |ˈøməˈtʃʊˈrɪzəm| noun
ORIGIN late 18th cent.: from French, from Italian amatore, from Latin amator ‘lover,’ from amare ‘to love.’
What I’m getting to here is that as a professional I find myself pressured into making images that I don’t so much want to make, but if they aren’t made then the client doesn’t pay or is unhappy. In other words, I’m no longer working for myself, but using my skill set to make the pictures that others want me to make.
This leaves me to make the pictures that I want to make in my time outside of my “professional” title. But being in the industry that I am, I am very limited as to what it is that I can make pictures of. No people, no interiors, no products, no concerts, no bands, no buildings, no, no, no. The only way that I am able to make pictures outside of work is to put them in the “Fine Art” category. I’m still waiting for the day that I cannot take pictures while i’m on vacation.
Fine art is a great area of subject, I believe that some of the best photographers of all time have been fine artists. The problem that I run into is that with my day job of make pictures of people, mainly high school seniors, some children, babies and business executives, I have come to be so fascinated with people as a subject. I am drawn to each and every person that steps foot into the studio where I work. I am proud that these clients have chosen us to serve their photography needs. The expectations are all over the board as to what each is looking for, but everyone is looking for me to make them (or their children) look good. Not in my eyes, but in their eyes. When I look at a picture and like am like, wow! But then show a client and they are like, well…….that’s neat…..I like it……….but I can sense that there is still a bit of unhappiness. This means that I have to work harder and continue to build that trust with the client so we are on the same page and I can make what they are looking for.
I approach each session that I do as a little relationship. When you think about it, how many people have YOU let take a picture of you? As for me, there have been less than a single handful. It is a major thing to have your picture taken to most people. Building that trust with the client starts from the minute that they walk in your studio door, all the way till they come in pickup their prints. Trust is the most important aspect in my relationship with my loved ones, my beautiful wife Maggie, my mother and father, my brothers and sisters. Why should it be any different with the clients that are trusting you to capture their personality, smiles and character in portrait form? The only way to get great pictures is to have that trust with your clients/subjects.
Back onto the main subject, I find myself attracted to people so much that I have a hard time not making pictures of them outside work. It’s not that I want to take business away, but it’s my way of “practicing”. I don’t charge for portraits when I take them outside of work, which is why I think that they are so mad at me, but it’s not being done for the profit, it’s being done for the passion and fueling the creativity that I bring to work to make the pictures that they pay me to make.
If this is taken away from me, my creativity, fun with the photography medium, passion and drive go out the window. I HAVE to have the time and opportunities to make the pictures that I want to. It’s passion that drives amateurs, money that drive professionals.
In closing, thanks for making it through my scattered thoughts. It has been a rough few days and I have had a lot on my mind as to where I would like to take my career and life; more so my life. I know for sure that I am a photographer and that forever I will remain an Amateur because I do it for the passion and love of picture making on a daily basis. I only hold a “professional” title to me name to pay the bills, much like many of the professionals out there. But when work starts to control what I can and cannot do outside of work……….we should really think about if it’s the best position to be in.
I headed to the Milwaukee Art Museum last fall and haven’t had the time to edit a few of the pictures till now (due to work). Here’s a few, including the portrait of my beautiful Maggie (above).
What are your thoughts?
until next time….mw