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Are you professional?

paulbroad 10 123 1243 United Kingdom
9 Jan 2011 11:59AM
I am seeing more and more people buying a digital DSLR and seeing themselves as semi-pro or Pro straight away. You only need to look at the critique gallery to see that we have semi-pros who are not even passable amateurs.

Let me start something off.

By definition, you are a professional if you earn more than 10% of your income from a trade. (Any trade.) The word, 'professional' does NOT mean you are any good at it though.

The equipment you have is good enough if the customer is happy with the end product. It is only the end product that matters. But, if you are running around with, say a Nikon D3000 and no external flash or tripod as a 'pro' was at a wedding I was at recently - you leave yourself open to comment at the time.

Her results were, to say the least, poor. She was heavily put out at the time by my Canon 7D, carbon fibre tripod, external gun and radio trigger, plus spare EOS 40d. (That doesn't mean I am any good, just have a better chance. Gear doesn't help if you don't know how to use it!)

The bride and groom used my images and I was a guest. Don't know what they said to the 'pro' - don't want to

You must know your gear inside out, must be able to use it without thinking regardless of the job - portrait, wedding, industrial and so on.

You must be confident, be able to direct people, use authority with feeling and be quick. So many wedding photographers are very, very slow. You must practice when, if you fail, and you will, it doesn't matter.

You must be insured. How many of you budding pros out there have bothered with, at least, public liability insurance. You really must you know.

If you are accepting payment for a job - photography or any other trade, and someone is injured by, for example, tripping over your tripod, and breaks a leg, thus being off work for 6 weeks. They can sue YOU for damages, lost earnings, pain etc. Thousands of pounds.

Can you afford it.

Be warned. I have £5 million public liability insurance and I am just a retired industrial manager who has some photographic skill and thus does an odd job here and there. I wouldn't accept any job without suitable insurance. My policy excludes aerial and underwater photography and costs about £125.

If you want to be a pro, or semi pro, you do need gear of a certain standard, you should look the part, you should be confident and efficient, but above all, you must be capable of the correct end result. You must be insured and you MUST tell the tax man - be warned on that one too. If you try and hide it, another pro will shop you! Several have tried with me, but I keep records and declare everything - do not try and fool the tax man.

Are you sure you are bullet proof?


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JamesGarfield 9 915 4 United Kingdom
9 Jan 2011 12:02PM
Just out of interest Paul, what inspired you to start this thread?
paulbroad 10 123 1243 United Kingdom
9 Jan 2011 12:10PM
A number of things, but mainly to help people who actually do want to be a pro or semi pro to not fall into the traps. My local observations, as in the initial post tell me that the man in the street needs to be very careful when booking a professional at any trade.

I've noticed a lot of photographers on this site and other sites call themselves professional or semi-pro and the images they show vary from superb to - not too good. (Not content, technically - content is subjective, sharpness exposure etc. are not.)

In order to protect themselves, they need to think about what they are doing. If they think they are good enough - great, go for it. But, they must not forget other business requirements such as tax and insurance. If they do, they can easily fall foul of the law.

Ignorance would not be considered an excuse.

justin c 14 4.9k 36 England
9 Jan 2011 12:21PM

Quote:for example, tripping over your tripod, and breaks a leg

Heaven forbid!! It doesn't bear thinking about!! Those Gitzo CF tripod legs are not cheap to replace either. Tongue
roxpix 14 2.2k 11 Scotland
9 Jan 2011 1:08PM
Yeah I donít eat anything thatís not been prepared in Le Creuset cookware....of course this does mean I pay £59.99 for burger & chips & I can only eat in 17 restaurants in Scotland, but what the hey

Seriously though you make some really useful points re running a small business that have been mentioned on previous threads, although your post does come across has having a little brand/model snobbery in it but that might just be due to the firsthand experience you had recently with a wedding tog
Not surprising that you judge her results to be poor, Iíd imagine any wedding tog thatís concentrating on gear carried by the guests rather than doing their job will suffer for it (because as you indicate, her kit would suffice in the right hands)

Iíve seen it mentioned on here that some wedding togs wouldnít dream of lugging a tripod round at a wedding and others who hate the artificial flash light so she really had no cause to be put out (shame for the couple though)
KathyW 14 1.8k 12 Norfolk Island
9 Jan 2011 1:27PM

Quote:Not surprising that you judge her results to be poor, Iíd imagine any wedding tog thatís concentrating on gear carried by the guests rather than doing their job will suffer for it (because as you indicate, her kit would suffice in the right hands)

I must admit, I'd be somewhat bemused if a wedding guest produced 2 DSLRs, complete with flashgun and radio trigger, and proceeded to set up a carbon fibre tripod and start taking photos... I would probably have to spend the rest of the day reassuring my old tripod that it really isn't inadequate and cuddling my ancient camera bag... Tongue
paulbroad 10 123 1243 United Kingdom
9 Jan 2011 1:55PM
I'd better add a bit to the wedding example. I had actually been asked to take the formal wedding shots - it was a close friends do. It was a civil ceremony and the hotel said they supplied a photographer in the deal. The hotel had been clearly told that there photographer was not required - the couple had heard comments from previous ceremonies about her capabilities, but she turned up anyway.

If it helps, she was to be paid £100 by the hotel. Does that tell you anything about her status? (How much do you charge?)

I detect a little mirth about my points. It's not the gear, it's if you can use it. I have some nice gear because I can afford it whether I do jobs or not. A lousy photographer will be lousy with an EOS1 Ds Mk1V, a good one will turn in the goods with a Nikon D3000, but human nature is that Mr. Public will be rather more impressed by the big flashy camera!

As you wish.

I am not a 'pro' in that I do not need the work to eat, but I do a bit and am well paid for it. I get asked repeatedly, although my efforts are mostly industrial, so must be good enough - whatever that means. I rarely accept weddings other than family or close friends - I don't need the problems.

The point about tax and insurance is a serious one. I suggest those of you that are serious and competent professionals, and often comment on amateur intrusion into the business thank heaven that you know your trade. Those who are somewhat newer, or are aspiring to making some cash from the business take heed.

Tax and insurance are not to be ignored.

roxpix 14 2.2k 11 Scotland
9 Jan 2011 2:36PM
Thanks Paul, it certainly adds to the first post

And while not wishing to go too far off the topic of insurance (Iím sure those in the biz appreciate the advice) & Tax (itís the law after all) the extra info paints a weird scenario for all concerned

ē For you to have a second photographer on site while trying to do your job, canít have been a whole lot of fun
ē For the couple having an unwanted person trying to take their time for shots (must be like two kitchens serving a different wedding meal & one starting with dessert)
ē For the photographer, the hotel must have told her to attend & she either did/didnít know about you & if the latter, neither wonder she was heavily put out, god knows how one would react in that scenario, especially if the bridal party are cooperating with you and not her

Kind of shoots down any chance she has of getting meaningful images regardless of the kit round her neck (an EOS1 Ds Mk1V will still only catch a head of hair if the couple turn their back on you)

It sounds like no-one really took control & cleared things up during the day (for the benefit of all concerned) if the tog was still in a position to provide images (poor or otherwise). This with hindsight would have been best for all
brian1208 Plus
14 11.4k 12 United Kingdom
9 Jan 2011 4:00PM

Quote:Tax and insurance are not to be ignored

Couldn't agree more.

In my experience most venues for Craft Fairs, galleries and the like now insist on you having Public Liability for at least £5 million anyway and the penalty for not declaring unearned income is running at around £2k if I remember rightly so its bonkers to try to cheat HRMC out of a few bob (I found them very helpful when I started out selling some of my pics on a semi-pro basis)
monkeygrip 9 574 6 England
9 Jan 2011 4:25PM
I guess by definition I am a professional photographer but still think it sounds awfully pretentious so I often refer to myself as a working photographer.

If you are a good photographer and are frustrated by people calling themselves pro's try doing it for a living it is 10 times more frustrating when a couple who are getting married or a family who want a portrait shoot start to negotiate a price based on some guy who just fell out of Jessops clutching an entry level dslr and a kit lens.

The kit reference there wasn't a skill Vs kit argument it was more in agreement to the original post about buying half decent kit and thinking it will elevate your skills.

The thing you only realise when you actually take the plunge and start a photography business is that only 50% of what you do is with a camera the rest is business and people skills unfortunately bad photographers that happen to be good sales people can make a living from it and leave a trail of un happy customers. When potential customers tell me about bad experiences with photographers I never bad mouth the photographer but lecture them on the importance of viewing a portfolio and the old adage about paying peanuts.
roxpix 14 2.2k 11 Scotland
9 Jan 2011 4:31PM

Quote: by Monkeygrip...............and the old adage about paying peanuts.

LOL GrinGrinGrinGrinGrin
Maybe pun not intended but that is sooo funny!!
collywobles 14 4.0k 10 United Kingdom
9 Jan 2011 4:38PM
Paul, A very interesting and in our line of interest very well thought out posting.

"Yes I have a camera and of course I can do your wedding" does this ring a bell.

Your comments should be heeded by anyone contemplating starting a photography business (or any business come to that). A worthwhile thread. Colin
brian1208 Plus
14 11.4k 12 United Kingdom
9 Jan 2011 4:49PM

Quote: not declaring unearned income

That didn't come out right! Anyone who makes money with photography earns every penny in my opinion. From memory I think on my Tax Form its called "Additional Earnings" (I try not to look at the forms too often, they depress me Wink )
thewilliam 9 6.1k
9 Jan 2011 5:09PM
I'd go further than monkeygrip and say that it's 5% creative and 95% business. Somewhere between 80% and 90% of new photographis businesses fail in their first 2 years and I'd bet that most of the failures were competent image-makers.

I do business survival workshops and I'm staggered by the innocence of some delegates. It's amazing what can be done in just one day - and every single one of them has prospered!
discreetphoton 13 3.5k 20 United Kingdom
9 Jan 2011 6:02PM
Of course, being professional, and being A Professional, are not always interconnected...

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