Please Stop Calling Yourself an Amateur Photographer

If you’re reading this, then you’re probably not really an amateur photographer–you’re probably actually a hobbyist. If you’re a professional photographer, than most of your taxable income comes from photography. If you’re a semi-pro photographer, then you make taxable income from your photography. But if you’re an amateur, the proper definition is simply doing something for pure pleasure and not in the pursuit of money. And that’s absolutely correct, but the connotation of it has more to do with your skill level. Many of you reading this have most likely been shooting for years and the majority of you probably make some sort of taxable income off of your photography. So you’ve learned step 1 about this industry: that sometimes it doesn’t have a single thing to do with your skill level.

When it comes to taking photos, you’re probably not an amateur if someone (a publication, a buyer) is interested in your photos. Instead, you’ve obviously got some sort of talent. But you’re probably an amateur when it comes to selling. You may not know a thing about the business side of photography and instead all you may know and understand is that the more Instagram followers you can garner the more popular you are the the cooler you are.

Story of the current industry…a world plagued by art buyers who know nothing about art or photography but know everything about the gamification of Instagram numbers and co-branded symbiotic marketing. These “amateurs” are the ones that they want to go after in some respects because they can get something from you for free. Years ago, Thrillist emailed me because they wanted to use a photo of mine in high res and without the watermark for a big email campaign that they were doing. When I presented them with a licensing agreement, they said no. VICE did the same thing. And the Washington Post. And a number of others.

These are the amateurs that are incredibly valued to some gatekeepers: the highly skilled photographers who surely qualify as advanced or intermediate when it comes to skill but know nothing about the business side. Of course, on the other hand some professional photographers either take terrible photos and know a ton about marketing and sales while others know little about sales/marketing but do fantastic work.

Okay, so where am I getting at with this?

It’s okay for you to be an amateur; but if you’re not at that skill level, then give yourself a bit more credit to who you are. And eventually, learn how to put a decent price on the quality of work that you can do.

I mean, you wouldn’t cater a wedding just for funsies, would you?