Sunday, June 24, 2007

POV: Full Time vs Part Time

Much has been written and said on what constitutes a professional photographer (in contrast to an amateur). The common definition of a “professional photographer” is someone who makes most of his income from photography, be it sales of photographs in print or in digital form.

Although this definition may sound sensible, I disagree with it on many levels. For one thing, it's a minority of photographers (especially at this time of flux in the industry) who derive all or most of their income from the profession of photography. The majority have jobs or careers that pay for their photography. Another reason is that many people consider 'professional' and 'amateur' to be synonymous with 'serious photographer' and 'photographer for fun'. The former implies quality work, while the second doesn't...and is often not the case. I also abhor the term 'hobbyist' which I hear being used in Britain.

I much prefer the terms 'full time photographer' (or 'working photographer') and 'part time photographer' which are more precise definitions. The quality of the work also matters a lot, and we all have seen work by so-called 'pros' that doesn't hold a candle to what an 'amateur' produces. The advent of photo sharing websites such as Flickr proves this very point. The amount of top quality photography on Flickr is nothing short of astounding, and these images are not all generated by working photographers, but by part-timers.

One of the gripes that I hear from working photographers is that while many part timers are good enough to make income from their work, they either sell it at below market prices, or even give it out for free....and that destroys the photography market. The part timers, on the other hand, make the point that they need to publish their photographs at whatever price (or none) to get recognition....especially since they feel shut out by long established full time photographers who have the contacts, the marketing, the track record, etc.

It is a dilemma...and many full timers will disagree with this, but the part timers are justified provided they get paid something, whatever that is. Since I believe in free market forces, I accept that I may lose a sale because another photographer (whether a full timer or part timer or beginner) has similar imagery at a lower price.

Oh, and why did I choose this photograph of this elderly Rajasthani in Jaipur for this week's POV? Well, it was photographed about 9 years ago as I started to take photography seriously, and using a Canon Elan IIe and a cheap Canon zoom...the hallmarks of an "beginner". It sold for various travel catalogs and brochures, and that gave me the start I needed.

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