I am often asked the difference between an amateur photographer and a pro photographer these days. My answer is that, in many ways, the Web has made us all amateurs.
If that sounds outlandish, it starts to make sense when you re-read some of the postings on Web chat groups of a few years ago, when established photographers were just beginning to recognize the potential value of the Internet. What may have been good advice or a good observation then is often obsolete today. What is helpful tomorrow may very well be useless next month.
Because of the Web, former methods used by photography sellers and buyers to communicate and do business are now outmoded. Both amateurs and pros are discovering new, faster, and more precise ways to communicate.
That’s why you find a mixture of established pros plus newcomers visiting various photography blogs and discussion forms. Because equipment today is constantly changing, conversations about hardware and tools are like the latest news, fresh now but stale tomorrow. Innovations that seem to fit well into the present world of photography are quickly outsmarted by even newer ideas and products.
Changing Times, Changing Measures
Because photography is both a technical and creative medium, the changing times have forced the pros of yesterday to reconsider their future. Many of the talented old-liners who found their niche in the last century are now surging forward in new endeavors that take advantage of new media and technology.
Others have chosen to remain steadfast to their old ways of making commerce. They are content with the markets they have fought for and won. They stand their ground and let the digital world move on. Not unexpectedly, this latter group finds its options diminishing. Yes, there are some buyers who also remain in “the old school,” but they are gradually phasing out or moving on, too.
When a pro says that “the markets are drying up,” it usually means that the markets have moved in a new direction from the way he or she is doing business. The world of commerce requires that we employ the methods of commerce that the majority of buyers and sellers are using today.
Some Things Never Change
In the new economy of the Internet, we find that the amateur or part-time photographer, if they produce quality material, can deal with the customer on the same footing as the full-time pro. There has been a shift in image awareness and appreciation. The picture becomes important, not who made it. This creates an uneasy feeling for pros who find themselves shoulder to shoulder with persons who have just entered the marketplace.
However, a difference between the pro and the amateur jumps out when it comes to the delivery of the product. To a buyer, the old values of reliability, trust, dependability, familiarity, are often worth more than a perhaps superior photo. In that sense, when you ask the difference between the pro and the amateur, or newcomer, nothing has changed.