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What Makes a Photographer a Professional?

When times are tough, those with pickup trucks start a landscaping business and those with cameras become wedding photographers.  Yet when the first drought hits, those new landscapers quickly realize landscaping is not just about mowing lawns and just as quickly leave the business.  There is so much more to consider.  The same is true with wedding photography but, we don’t have droughts to weed out the unqualified photographers.  Unfortunately, it is the consumer who ends up paying the price.  What you first thought was a great deal, turns out to be tremendous heartbreak.

Sure all of us can play miniature golf and occasionally get a hole-in-one.  But very few can play golf well enough to earn a living at the game.  Photography is much the same way.  Anybody can take a good picture once in a while.  Some people become better than average.  Fewer people are able to make a living as a Professional Photographer.  What separates the true Professional Photographer from the Amateur?

First the professional is able to provide a repeatable, expected result upon demand.  The pro golfer will hit the ball 250 yards down the fairway most of the time.  They depend on skill and not luck to make the shot.  It should be the same with your wedding photographer.  The biggest difference between a professional and an amateur is that a professional can be told to take a photo and is able to create a good predictable image. An amateur trusts it to luck.  After all, you only get one chance to photograph the first kiss!  Your photographer must be able to capture all of those special moments from your wedding day without leaving anything to chance.

Next a professional is prepared for the unexpected.  When the pro golfer hits a shot into a bunker or sand trap, they know what to do to recover.  A professional photographer knows what to do when a piece of equipment fails.  They know what to do when the sky suddenly clouds over and then become sunny again.  Just like a golfer trains for those difficult situations and makes them look easy, so does the professional photographer.  After all, the professional photographer knows “P” on the camera does not stand for “Professional” but rather “Pretend” or “Phony.”


Just as a professional golfer continues to train, so does the true professional photographer.  The true professional photographer is not looking for the quick buck.  They are passionate about the product they want to deliver and will continue to learn.  They attend seminars, conferences and are members of professional associations.  This allows the professional photographer to stay abreast of the most current trends in the photography industry.

Sad to say, there are times when serious problems do occur.  The professional photographer is prepared by being fully insured.  If somebody were to trip over a camera bag, liability insurance is there to help.  More importantly, many professional photographers carry Errors and Omissions Insurance to protect against everything from a missed shot to a total loss of all the photos due to a hard drive crash.  In the absolute worst case something tragic happens like my car catches on fire as I'm on the way home from a wedding, my Errors and Omissions insurance will provide my client with another wedding day. Dresses will be cleaned, tuxes will be rerented, new flowers purchased.... Errors and Omissions is for more than just restaging that missed shot of the bride and her dad. It lets you and your photographer rest easy should anything completely unexpected occur.

Plumbers, Doctors, Electricians and many other professions are licensed.  Unfortunately, professional photographers are not.  Anybody can walk into the store, buy a professional looking camera and say they are a professional photographer.  Just as there are full-time photographers who pretend to be professional photographers there are also part-time photographers who are truly professional photographers.  It is up to you, the consumer, to make sure the photographer you hire for your special day is in fact really a professional photographer and not just pretending to be one.  That great price you pay up front could cause you a lot of heartache after your wedding.


A Chicago Illinois professional wedding photographer and owner of Magical Moments Photography, Howard's honors and achievements include becoming one of the first local Certified Professional Wedding Photographers. His work has been published in "Chicago Style Weddings," "Wedding Guide Chicago," "The Perfect Wedding Guide,"  and the "Daily Herald."

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