Professional vs. Amateur Photographers?


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photoselecThe Olympics are coming and there have been already many controversial discussions on how the photography rights will be handled during the games. There were rumors that it will not be allowed to share images on social networks in the stadiums and photographers were prohibited to photograph the Olympic locations during construction. Well, this week came the news that only small cameras will be allowed in the stadiums and any camera or lens bigger than the allowed size will be confiscated, but there are no lockers to keep them, so they most likely will be gone when you come out. As a response a discussion spun off from both sides, professional and amateur photographers. The amateur photographers were upset that they cannot take their great equipment with them and the professional photographers were cynical, stating that with the allowed camera and lens size one still can take great images. What is this about?
The professional photographers who are the official photographers of an event make their living from photography, invest constantly in their business and often have to pay to be allowed photographing an event. For a big event as the Olympics photo and press agencies pay for the right to take photographs. They need to earn that money back by selling the images to the media and online platforms. That becomes very difficult when everybody in the stadium with a big zoom lens gets in the position to photograph the event as well. At such an event it’s not that much about the quality of the images, it’s more about catching a moment and being the first to have it on the Internet. It’s a race.
That race can be real fun for amateur photographers, but is very annoying for professional photographers. The professional is working there and does not have the time and energy to play a game with thousands of amateurs challenging him or her. It’s completely understandable that everybody wants to photograph the Olympics when being one of the lucky ones having a ticket. But just do it for your own and your friend’s fun and leave the professionals doing their job. All photographers share the passion for photography. Respect each other’s role in the photography world and learn from each other.
Imagine being an electrician, called in to repair a power failure and the head of the household is telling you how to do it, because he built his electrical miniature train system himself. He can be of big help by telling the electrician when the failure occurred, which machines were running at that moment and probably other relevant information, but the actual work needs to be done by the called in professional.
If the amateur feels the desire to become a professional, do it! Follow you heart and make your passion your profession and respect those who did that already.

Ute Sonnenberg
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2 Responses to “Professional vs. Amateur Photographers?”

  1. I guess in many ways you’re right. The big event such is the Olympics will inevitably attract a swarm of keen amateurs, but what are their chances of having their pictures taken by the likes of Getty or any big media outlet? I work for one of those outlets, and while some of the content is indeed provided by the public, most of what goes on our site is the work of professionals.
    That said, it is true that the competition with people armed with camera phones is getting tougher by the day, particularly on the net. But the quality of their effort at times leaves a lot to be desired and most pictures they supply only live for a day – just because there are so many of them. Of course, it’s a major nuisance for those of us who depend on selling our pictures, but as far as serious competition is concerned, I doubt it affects the pros badly. Besides, a picture taken for it’s “Wow!” factor to be instantly shared with friends is hardly a match for a photo taken by a pro.
    There’s a different kind of competition though – people like myself. I shoot for pleasure, but take it seriously, keep learning and invest in my gear. And I have an advantage of not depending on selling my pictures to buy a loaf of bread and therefore can afford to be more picky in what I shoot and how I do it, which, in theory at least, should reflect on the quality of my photos, as I don’t have to work to a deadline.
    But even so, most of us keen amateurs are not a threat to you pros – we just pursue our passion for pictures, although some of us eventually do turn pros and this is when the competition tightens a bit.
    Of course, good quality tools get cheaper by the day and more people buy a camera and a couple of lenses and start taking pictures. But, in my view, it’s not the tools, however expensive, that make a professional photographer, it’s his or hers skill and talent – and if you’ve got neither, you are just in a different league. Annoying – sometimes, but threatening – hardly…
    Finally, on the subject of the Olympics again: correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems the event of this scale is just too grand and there will be enough work for all of us.

    • Ute Sonnenberg says:

      Thank you Michael for your comment. Specially your thoughts on what determines the quality of a photo are very interesting. You unfold a theory that photos which are not shot with a deadline in mind and a loaf of bread to buy should be of better quality. For what reason? Isn’t it the poet who is challenged by survival who writes the poems that touch us the most? Isn’t it the going for it with all your heart what makes the difference in quality? The olympics and photography have actually essentially a lot in common. Only the athlete who goes to his/her physical, mental and emotional limit will make it to olympic gold and it will eventually look as easy as drinking a cup of coffee when they run world record, but it was incredibly hard work getting there. Photography works the same way and its even harder to see how hard work it is to get to high quality images, because most people think its just pressing the shutter.
      Thank you again Michael. Its worth thinking it through.