There are a few different levels of photographer. Everybody has their own opinion, and here are what I classify people as!
Hobbyist photographers are regular people who don’t take photographer too seriously, it’s not their job or source of income, so they just do it because they love it and they have fun! They don’t make any money and it’s solely for their own enjoyment or that of their friends.
Amateur photographers want to make their money from photography but are still learning the craft. They have better image quality than hobbyists but are still learning the technical, the techniques, and the mindset. They key is that they’re learning as much as they can.
These are people bridging the gap between amateur and true professional. They take on clients and are building their portfolio. They want to make a living off of photography, but might not feel that they’re totally qualified yet. They want to make sure they’re fully prepared before they start charging money for their work. They’ve got the technical side of photography pretty much there! Same with composition and critical thinking.
A professional photographer is a photographer who accepts money in exchange for photography services.
A true professional photographer has mastered the craft. They understand that there are always new things to learn, but they can operate the camera as more of a reflex than having to consciously think about which controls go where.
They use industry-standard or higher equipment.
They spend time on each image they process and give them the care that they need.
They have the proper lens for every occasion they work in (i.e. they don’t use telephoto lenses for architecture or wide-angle for portraiture).
They probably use Photoshop or similar.
They won’t publish anything that could damage their reputation or make them look bad.
They parse through their images with scrupulous attention to detail.
While they shoot, they’re already thinking about the final outcome.
They have great image quality!
And yes, they accept money in exchange for photography services.
You may have noticed that I left the ‘Professional’ line very bare-bones. That’s out of necessity. Once people start paying you for your services, you are, technically, a professional. That’s why I added the ‘True Professional’ line in there. I’ve mentioned on previous blogs that I’ve seen people offering their “photography services” and getting paid for it, but only doing the photography with their mobile phone.
That’s not what a true professional photographer is, regardless of how many megapixels your phone is, the quality does not match up.