Is professional photographer a recognised profession?
Updated: May 20, 2020
I bet most of you might not even have a glimpse of thought that professional photographer is a profession. Like doctors, lawyers, pilots, accountants, engineers, etc. all these are well known and recognised by the general public as a reputable profession. If you don't trust me, just ask around your neighbours, especially those with kids. What do they want their kids to be? I can almost guarantee that their replies will be somewhat similar as above.
First let's discuss at what level can you label yourself as a professional photographer? From my observation, this profession is unlike any other professions where there is an examination, an internship or a professional body that you have to go through to prove or certified that you are a professional before you can provide your service. In fact, some really good photographers out there in the market that consistently deliver stunning results do not even have a teacher or are not certified at all. Yes, if you are rich. There are classes that you can attend, there are clubs that you can join and college to get learn from but those will only easy your learning process and certainly not the only way out. At least to me your portfolio and reputation speaks your qualification. That is the least you can provide to anyone as a form of guarantee on the level of service that you are providing. As photography is a form of art and your level of work is very subjective to be certified.
Without a proper certification system, stereotype and disrespect is formed against us be it consciously or sub-consciously. This situation is make worse with the advancement of technology and accessibility. No doubt, with the advancement of technology is perfect for consumer photography. Anyone now can produce a decent image within seconds with just a single click. This would not be possible 50 years back as consumers will have to send their film rolls to the lab to be developed before getting the image. Therefore the mentality of "I can do it too" or "this is just a simple job" don't occur as often those days. But let me assure you, the money that you pay for is still well worth every penny as we photographers transform with advancement of technology too. Those shots that were impossible back then are now made possible and best case you can have it too.
So what does it takes to become a professional photographer other than just clicking the shutter. It does takes a lot more than what you think or even process in a second. For instance, before clicking the shutter we pre-visualised the final output with retouching in mind, we predict, read, plan, add, modify and craft lighting on the fly, we compose photographs in different ways and style to translate your text brief into actual photograph, we put in mind how final output will be used to add text, cropped, etc. We also have to take into account the actual colours of the scene and prep files for prints later on. The list goes on and on with different scenarios. If you are running your own business you will have even more to deal with things from branding, client management, accounts, marketing etc.. On top of all this, we will also have to constantly look for ways to improve ourself and keep our work relevant with the current trends and attend courses to learn new retouching techniques that comes with new softwares.
To further explain things, most of my architecture shoots may take up few hours to 1 day of time but from preparations to client proposal to pre-productions, and post productions might take up to 3 weeks time. I do agree that most clients do not see all this. They only see that few hours shoot that you have done in front of them but those clients that understand the hard work behind, they are the gold to work with. You just have to be patience until you found them and not screw up. I also do understand not every photographer are the same, and everyone's workflow is different too. Some can turnover within the next day with lesser attention of details or lesser retouching. As long as you are able to deliver a standard quality work you are good to go.
Putting all this into context, if you are still having the stereotype of paying us just to click the shutter, you probably should reconsider as your fees does includes creative thinking, time, experience, knowledge, equipments, image licensing and etc. So it is time to remove your stereotype and respect the work that photographers put in just to deliver an image for you.
ps: it takes me more than 10 throws to get that curtain perfect.