Professional Photographer? Real Photographer?

A lot of people call themselves “professional photographers” these days, but what does that mean? When do you consider someone to be a professional?Well, there is a generally consensus, but no strict rule, as there is no “license” needed to be a photographer. The general rule about when someone is considered to be a professional photographer is: A photographer who accepts money for their photography services is considered to be a professional photographer.

However, that is just a general rule. More of a guideline (pun intended). To distinguish, you may hear some people say things like, “They’re a professional photographer, but they’re not a real photographer.” That’s because, as mentioned above, nothing is needed to be a professional in this field. There are actual “professional photographers” out there who use only their phone for images, and actually make their living doing it. While, technically, they are doing photography and they are professionals, many people don’t consider them to be “real” photographers.

A real, professional photographer though? How can you tell them apart? It’s actually pretty easy if you know what you’re looking for. It can be faked, but usually fakes will show themselves in some way or another. So here are some things to look for in some real, professional photographers!

  • They’ll have a professional-looking website with their own domain. None of this “” stuff, nothing that looks like it came straight out of 2002. Templates are fine, not many photographers know how do do the HTML, CSS, and other programming languages well enough to make their own website by hand.
  • They have an actual DSLR (digital single lens reflex) camera and a few lenses. As discussed on previous blogs, a photographer cannot hope to photograph everything with a single lens (unless they’re extremely specialized and only do one type of formulaic image), because different lenses are used for different purposes.
  • They’re a little expensive. You get what you pay for. Have you ever bought a cheap coffee table from IKEA because it’s only $29.99 and it looked nice in the store, but then a leg cracks and it’s covered in unrepairable scratches in a couple months? It’s the same principle. A good coffee table that’ll last you will cost about $100-$150, that’s up to 5 times the amount of the cheap one. Expect to pay for quality.
  • Their images will be sharp, well composed, in focus, and make you want to keep looking. Nothing will seem over-processed. You might even notice how much they choose to let the background of their images blur out (the depth-of-field), since it’s next to impossible to control this with phones or cameras set to “AUTO,” the ability to control this shows that they have some skill with a camera.
  • The feeling you get from them will be a casual professional. Most photographers don’t like to come off as overly formal. We’re a pretty relaxed bunch! Usually we’ll come to a shoot in jeans and everything! Shorts if we’re working outside and it’s hot. A photographer will also come off as knowledgeable about their field.

If you’re looking for someone to take pictures for you, this is what you’ll most likely find in all good photographers out there! And hey, if someone out there is good enough to pull off all of this, well, maybe they’re a good photographer after all!


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