I added the line, "I am a Professional Photographer" to my personal Facebook info today. I typically simply say that I'm a photographer and leave the professional out of the sentence. So why add it now?
Well, for one thing, it seems that everyone is calling themselves a photographer these days just because they have a camera (including but not limited to smart phones) and some even know the difference between an f-stop and shutter speed. But that's like me calling myself a blacksmith because I have a blow-torch and a hammer. One gets really hot and the other hurts like hell when you hit your thumb. I know the difference, but a blacksmith I'm not.
So what makes a photographer professional. Well, along with everyone calling themselves a photographer, it seems that they are now adding the word professional as well, even if it's just a hobby where they make a few extra bucks on the side. Just because you made some pocket change doesn't make you professional. Just because someone was willing to pay you for a photograph doesn't make you professional.
Professionals are not just 'gear-heads' that can rattle off specs of the latest/greatest new piece of equipment. They can produce results even with equipment failure. For one thing, a professional always has backup equipment. A professional can shoot a job with anything from an iPhone to a high end camera, and the client wouldn't know the difference unless it's pointed out. Maybe not even then.
To me, a professional is more than just what percentage of your income is derived from photography. There are full time photographers that shouldn't be and plenty of amateurs that could be. It has a lot to do with photographic skills, of course, learned over time but with continuous improvement. But there's more to it than that.
A Professional is someone that understands the craft as well as the art. Someone that can be trusted to produce what the client desires, no matter what the conditions are, what hurdles are met and in the time-frame required. Someone that can consistently deliver, day after day, no matter what's going on in their business or personal lives. When you're 'on the job', that's all that matters. A professional is someone that can run into obstacles, inclement weather, stressed out subjects, dog bites, crying babies and hurricanes, yet still deliver. It's someone that goes the extra mile, often literally, to 'get the shot!'.
So, when you hire me I don't just bring my gear to a job - I bring a lifetime of experience to get the job done and my passion for photography to every job I do.
The camera is a tool, just like a blow-torch or hammer. But in the hands of a professional, it becomes more. It becomes an extension of their knowledge and their vision. That to me is a Professional Photographer.