I’ll come right out and say it; I don’t feel comfortable calling myself a professional photographer. I am starting to feel like I’m at a crossroads, though. My new website is about to go live, and one of the factors driving this redesign is my desire to reach a wider audience (and sell prints). To that end, I think it’s important that I present myself and my work in a professional manner.
This isn’t a money play, because if it were, it would be about as smart as playing the lotto. No, this is more about my growth as an artist.
Without question, I pursue photography for myself. It’s an outlet for my creative energy. It’s the way I connect with the natural world. But, if I’m honest with myself, I also seek a certain amount of validation and appreciation for my work. If I’m creating art, which I like to believe I am, I would like to earn the respect of my peers, and it brings a certain amount of satisfaction when someone tells me, “I’d like to hang that on my wall.”
Which leads me back to my original question; should I call myself a professional? Do I need to sell a certain number of prints to justify this designation? Is it simply a matter of handling myself in a professional manner – following a code of ethics? Must I earn my living through photography?
Certainly, one should be proficient at their craft if they call themselves a professional. I suppose this is the question that I ask myself, and it is the question that I struggle to answer. Am I skilled enough to call myself a professional? If the answer to that question is a cautious “yes”, it seems appropriate to wear this designation with confidence. After all, I do spend considerable time and energy in this endeavor. I approach photography with a passion and seriousness that is no different than the way I run my small business (which happens to be in a completely unrelated field).
Ultimately, I suppose it doesn’t matter what I call myself. Serious hobbyist? Advanced Amateur? Occasional Pro? None of these names have any bearing on the visual impact of my images (they shouldn’t, at least). I am motivated to make compelling images, plain and simple. I will continue to work towards this goal, and eventually, I hope the answers to these questions will become clear.