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Professional?

dudler

Time for an update: I still use film, though. Not vast quantities, but I have a darkroom, and I'm not afraid to use it.

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Professional?

18 Jan 2022 7:20AM   Views : 723 Unique : 334

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Photography is one sphere in which the term professional is used with very mixed and variable meanings. Letís have a look, and see if we can clarify it, or maybe decide to use the word with care.

If thinking about my own situation, and I spent a large part of my career with written reports as the major deliverable from my work. Internal audit reports need to be factual and ought to be persuasive Ė a standard that many fail. I put a lot of effort into making the reports on my work and the work of my subordinates shorter, more helpful, and a lot more readable than the norm. I even co-presented courses on plain English for internal auditors.

For the last four years, Ephotozine has paid me to write articles for the site, and since March 2020 I have written around 500 blogs for this website. Along with my internal audit experience, I wonder if that makes me a professional writer?

Certainly, when I started writing the blogs the idea that being able to produce copy on demand (so to speak) would be a test of my ability as a writer was firmly in view. In the same way, a GP photographer will cover weddings, product shots, portraits and landscapes in the course of a week. Not to mention the interiors for estate agents and a few pet shots. So Iíll suggest that one mark of professionalism is being able to get on and do it, whether or not it really interests you. Maybe the trick is to find a way to make it interesting.

For a lot of photographic competitions, a professional is defined as someone who earns more than a tenth of their income from photographs: if thatís the standard my work for Ephotozine doesnít count because itís a relatively small supplement to my pension.

Maybe itís the approach? I had one super organised boss who only ever had stuff on his desk that he was using for the current task. He filtered the post by putting things that he would deal with personally into a stack on his filing tray (the distance from the top of the pile indicating its priority), writing someone elseís initials on it and a note saying what to do with it, or consigning it to the round grey file on the floor beside his desk. Following this line Iíd obviously write a detailed plan for each article with a list of all the shots I needed to take to illustrate it. Well, thatís a fail.

One other thought. I remember reporting on a potentially difficult situation to a city treasurer 25 years ago, and my assessment was that I wouldnít be panicking yet. The subsequent discussion was cordial, but included the words ĎJohn, I pay you not to panic.í I took that to heart and I think that it may be the core of being a professional. You always have a plan A backed up by plan B, plans C, and even plan D. And thatís just for starters!

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Comments

dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
18 Jan 2022 7:21AM
Random old pictures to illustrate this - after all, isn't it about the words?

Or is that unprofessional?
ugly Avatar
ugly Plus
15 9 58 United Kingdom
18 Jan 2022 7:37AM
I was always told that the word ment doing things to a high standard. Nothing to do with payment but the quality. Modern day life has changed the view of how we see the word and how it is applied.


Is that unprofessional??
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
18 Jan 2022 7:40AM
I really like the idea that it has something to do with doing things well. Certainly, it feels right to describe someone's approach as 'professional' when they clearly know what they're doing - whether or not they get paid.

And some 'professionals' getting paid to do something actually behave very unprofessionally.
kaybee Avatar
kaybee 19 8.7k 28 Scotland
18 Jan 2022 8:33AM
I think professionalism is maybe more important than being professional.
A complete rank amateur can have professionalism and produce the goods (or very close to it) almost by mistake while a professional can behave like a rank amateur, rude or aloof and produce the goods and it will be the person who acts with professionalism who will have the respect from the client (or sitter in the case of a photographer).
ZenTony Avatar
ZenTony Plus
7 28 7 United Kingdom
18 Jan 2022 8:59AM

Quote:I think professionalism is maybe more important than being professional.
A complete rank amateur can have professionalism and produce the goods (or very close to it) almost by mistake while a professional can behave like a rank amateur, rude or aloof and produce the goods and it will be the person who acts with professionalism who will have the respect from the client (or sitter in the case of a photographer).



Absolutely. I shudder when I look at the behaviour of so called professionals now. It starts from the top and I don't need to say anymore !
AltImages Avatar
AltImages 3 4
18 Jan 2022 12:07PM
Thanks for the insight into your world John 😊 You're clearly a very organised person and a very different employee to what I was! I'd often go into my boss's office and ask his advice, which generally resulted in him clarifying my way forward, usually diametrically opposed to the advice received. On one occasion I even got a bollocking for following his advice for not doing something he'd told me not to do (after something I'd warned him about subsequently hit the fan and the MD had come down on him like a ton of bricks. Lol).

About 35 years ago, when I used to shoot weddings from home, I was accosted by a local studio owner in the waiting area at the professional photo laboratory I used who in his upper class voice announced to the waiting photographers "Oh, you're one of what we call the cowboys!" As in those days professional social photographers, and as far as the Master Photographers Association was concerned too, were considered only to be those with a high street portrait studio. But in my view the distinction is simply whether you're shooting purely for money ('professional') or for the love of the art (amour = amateur). Certainly in my own case when I was being paid thousands per magazine shoot for 80 RAW files uploaded to their Dropbox I did barely sufficient to adequately fulfill their brief - which is quite unprofessional in another sense of the word. Conversely when I'm shooting for my own projects I'll sweat blood with meticulous planning, shooting, and editing - where nothing is too much trouble. I have a very different approach when I'm shooting for the love of it!
AltImages Avatar
AltImages 3 4
18 Jan 2022 12:26PM

Quote:I really like the idea that it has something to do with doing things well. Certainly, it feels right to describe someone's approach as 'professional' when they clearly know what they're doing - whether or not they get paid.


John, your comment reminds me of an editorial in Professional Photography magazine maybe 15 years ago when the editor told the story of when he was walking though a woods and stopped to talk to a photographer who was painstakingly photographing mushrooms. He'd got a Hasselbad on a tripod and was taking numerous hand held meter readings, and then looked up tables to decide what colour correction filters and exposure compensation he needed to use for the reciprocity failure for the long exposure to make sure he'd captured the image perfectly on slide film. It turns out that the guy wasn't a professional photographer at all, but a specialist mycologist who'd had four different fungi named after him. And photography was just a tool he used to record the mushrooms. So the editor then asked the guy which university he worked at. But it turned out that he wasn't an academic either, he was just an hourly paid worker at the local power station and everything else was just his hobby! Now that's what I call professional!
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
18 Jan 2022 12:27PM
I got paid rather more for being an auditor than I have ever received for taking pictures... Organisation doesn't come to me naturally, but I found that balancing my creative chaos with a bit of process in putting files together gave me an unusual and sometimes successful approach.
altitude50 Avatar
altitude50 19 23.9k United Kingdom
18 Jan 2022 1:17PM
As an aside. I really dislike the expression 'pro' when applied to products that do not warrant it. Pro tripod £99 ! Pro camera strap, Pro shampoo (& conditioner!), pro chef knife. Or shoot like a pro, make pasta like a pro And so on. Often on the cover of a magazine.
whatriveristhis Avatar
18 Jan 2022 2:18PM
So in other words, "professional" means one thing when used as an adjective, but something else when used as a noun.
And someone can be either, but not necessarily both.
AltImages Avatar
AltImages 3 4
18 Jan 2022 3:01PM

Quote:So in other words, "professional" means one thing when used as an adjective, but something else when used as a noun.
And someone can be either, but not necessarily both.



That reminds me of an acquaintance in my uni days, who swore a lot. Someone he'd arranged to meet had let him down and he came back into the kitchen uttering just four words: "The f**king f**ker's f**ked." The epitome of concise speech whilst using one word in three totally different grammatical ways 😊
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
18 Jan 2022 3:02PM
Alan, as usual, has hit the nail squarely on the head.

Smile
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.1k 2048 England
18 Jan 2022 5:39PM
Did he advise on scripts for The Thick of It?
Bryanstanton Avatar
25 Jan 2022 10:03AM
I agree that it's down to attitude. I remember a friend at college comparing two companies: "We are professional amateurs, where they are amateur professionals".
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