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Professional cameras and the semantics of selling10/10/2009 - 3:36 PM
The English language is thing of great beauty and versatility. Nowhere can this be illustrated more acutely than in the world of “professional cameras”. Amongst the gear heads and equipment tarts found lurking in the dark recesses of many camera clubs and internet chat rooms, the “professional camera” is a torch that shines bright. For many, it is one of the great debates.
How “professional” is your camera?
What makes one camera “professional”, and another one “unprofessional”?
The gear heads and equipment tarts will eagerly answer this question. They would happily point out how the AF speed would need to be faster than lightening, the frame rate would need to shoot faster than a Gatling gun, how it should be able to survive in a war zone, have a duty cycle that outlasts it’s owners, and then have the highest resolution possible. They could produce the most exotic specification possible and make this the reference for all professional camera designs.
Consider a view camera, which is still in use today in an almost exclusively professional capacity. In looks it is not dissimilar to a Victorian camera. No exotic specification. No whiz-bang features. Instead you get a lens, a shutter and a film plane. It sort of kills all the arguments the gear head will use to justify “professional” status.
Consider another question.
What is the difference between an amateur and a professional photographer?
Before you list a whole host of qualities the professional should have, from working practices through to skill and quality of work, allow me to interject and say that there is only one.
The professional is paid to do it.
A professional is likely to have a business case associated with any purchase they make for their business. While there is an economic argument for any purchase in a professional environment, there is also the right tool for the job.
So, any camera in use by a professional photographer becomes, by default, a professional camera.
In sales there is a maxim that says “Sell the dream, not the product”. It works regardless of what you are trying to sell. For example, it means you don’t sell the camera. Instead you have the customer imagine their photographs being as good as those of the professional.
Camera manufacturers are wise to all of this of course. The professional moniker is thrown around like confetti at a wedding. Equipment is “graded” in such a way that you might start with one model and graduate to a more “professional” model as your skills experience and aspirations increase. Manufacturers want you to have that aspiration when looking at the vast range of equipment they offer. Once you’re in, they want you to move up. The “Professional” badge appeals more to the amateur than professional. Professional cameras don’t exist. Marketing rhetoric and building desire amongst consumers does.
Amongst the aforementioned gear heads and equipment tarts out there, there are enough buyers to ensure the semantics of camera marketing won’t change any time soon.