Hobby vs Amateur vs Professional
You hear these terms thrown about in the Photography world all the time. It's just a hobby, you can't be a professional if you don't have a studio or make X amount per sale. Usually keyboard warriors or trolls dishing out their anonymous opinions on others. I thought I would break this down logically.
Here are the Webster Definitions:
- a pursuit outside one's regular occupation engaged in especially for relaxation
- one who engages in a pursuit, study, science, or sport as a pastime rather than as a profession
- one lacking in experience and competence in an art or science
- of, relating to, or characteristic of a profession
- engaged in one of the learned professions
- characterized by or conforming to the technical or ethical standards of a profession
- exhibiting a courteous, conscientious, and generally businesslike manner in the workplace
- participating for gain or livelihood in an activity or field of endeavor often engaged in by amateurs
- having a particular profession as a permanent career
- engaged in by persons receiving financial return
- following a line of conduct as though it were a profession
Note that in Amateur and Professional they both reference PROFESSION. So whats a profession?
- the act of taking the vows of a religious community
- an act of openly declaring or publicly claiming a belief, faith, or opinion : protestation
- an avowed religious faith
- a calling requiring specialized knowledge and often long and intensive academic preparation
- a principal calling, vocation, or employment
- the whole body of persons engaged in a calling
Well 1,2 &3 are out. So that leaves us with 4, 5 & 6.
Let's figure this out!
Is this your hobby?
If you are a hobbyist photographer, you are taking photos outside of your regular occupation, AND IT IS FOR RELAXATION!!! Get that? Relaxation. You will note there is no reference to anything monetary here. To be a hobbyist you are probably NOT making any money and you are doing this for fun, to relax. Although you could be making money. It's out of the scope of the definition. (I'm sure the IRS has it's own definitions)
Anyone who is attempting to run a photography business knows that there is nothing relaxing about it.
You're so amateur!!!!
Well not you, you are awesome!! But seriously look at the definitions. Number 2 states that it is one lacking in experience and competence in an art or science. This was all photographers at some point. Again nothing monetary here. Let's jump back to number 1, you are engaging in a pursuit, study, science or sport as a pastime rather than a profession. Well Pastime is defined as something that helps to make time pass agreeably.
OK so now you are engaged in something to pass the time agreeably, but its NOT for relaxation as that would make it a hobby. Got it? It's also NOT a profession.
There is still no mention of anything monetary here. So you could be an amateur that does or does not make money.
You've made it, you are a PROFESSIONAL!!
Remember there are requirements here. What does it really mean to be a professional? You have to be engaged in one of the “learned professions.” I'm not sure what an “unlearned profession” is. Maybe Breathing?
You conform to technical and ethical standards of a profession or exhibiting a courteous, conscientious and general businesslike manner. That just means you are “acting” professionally. Let's hope we are all doing that anyway. Being good humans.
Now here is where it gets interesting. To be a Professional you are participating FOR GAIN or livelihood in an activity often engaged in by amateurs. So now there is a definite Monetary factor. But it does not say that it has to be your ONLY profession or even FULL TIME. It just indicates for gain OR livelihood.
A profession can be a calling, vocation OR employment. However you can also be a professional if it is a permanent career.
Number 7 under Professional defines a Professional as receiving a financial return. So again the over all defining difference between Hobbyist, Amateur and Professional is that monetary GAIN or a FINANCIAL RETURN are specifically defined, whereas Hobbyist or Amateur include no monetary definitions.
So what are you?
My take from this, if you are just doing photography for fun, relaxation and mostly for your self, you are probably a Hobbyist. You can be an Amateur Hobbyist if you are just starting out and are learning. But can you be a Professional Hobbyist? Not really, because it requires RELAXATION. (technically you could earn some money as it is outside of the scope of the definition and as long as photography is not your regular occupation)
There is really a fine line between a true Amateur and Hobby Photographer. Remember a Hobby is relaxing, Amateur is passing time agreeably. Kind of the same thing.
I will just leave it as a beginner that is just starting out and learning the craft is an Amateur.
So that leaves Professional. If you make money from Photography AT ALL, YOU ARE A PROFESSIONAL. Hopefully you also behave in a professional manner. You can be an Amateur Professional if you are making money while you are in the process of learning.
There is no minimum dollar amount required, there is no maximum dollar amount required to be a Professional. I'm not speaking in terms of actually running a business and dealing with taxes and other such items. That is actually running a photography business.
You can be a Professional Photographer without running a Photography Business. Those differences are purely based on Tax laws.
Amateur – a beginner
Amateur Hobbyist – Just learning the craft and photographing for relaxation
Hobbyist – you know what you are doing and its still fun and relaxing
Amateur Professional – Just learning the craft and making some money. Hopefully not your main occupation at this point.
Professional Photographer – You know your craft and you behave in a courteous, conscientious and general businesslike manner. You are photographing for gain or livelihood. May or may not be your only profession.
Any other terms are irrelevant. Full Time, Part Time, home studio, retail location, average sales etc. These are all related to the actual business side and have no bearing on whether or not you are a Professional Photographer.
Dave Doeppel discovered his passion for all things photography the moment he picked up his very first camera. Since then, he has been taking photos professionally and helping new photographers refine their artistic skills. When he isn’t educating or capturing beautiful moments through a camera lens, Dave Doeppel loves exploring the world with his dogs and his wife Regina.
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