“There is no such thing really as professional photographers” (and “professional” vs. expert”

New Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer is getting heat for this:

“…there’s no such thing as Flickr Pro, because today, with cameras as pervasive as they are, there is no such thing really as professional photographers, when there’s everything is professional photographers. Certainly there is varying levels of skills, but we didn’t want to have a Flickr Pro anymore, we wanted everyone to have professional quality photos, space, and sharing.”

Most photographers are upset because the implication is that the owning a camera makes someone a photographer. Plenty of people have that perception, but that doesn’t make it a reality. Owning a musical instrument doesn’t make someone a musician; they need knowledge, skills, and practice.

What throws people off about photography is that you can push the button and make a picture, but that has as much relation to being a photographer as pushing a gas pedal has to being a Formula 1 race car driver. Putting affordable, user-friendly tools in the hands of lots of people is a good thing, but having a smartphone in your pocket doesn’t make you Ansel Adams.

The thing I’ll add is that Mayer used the wrong word. “Professional” doesn’t mean expert. Professional means pursuing an activity as a business. Someone might be a damned good photographer, but will they show up on time at your wedding, have equipment that won’t break (and backups in case something does), persevere in the face of difficulty, get results no matter what, and complete the job with guaranteed results in a timely manner? You can’t expect to get all of that in a wedding photographer unless you’re paying them, and you can’t know if they’re capable unless someone else has paid them to do it in the past.

ex·pert

noun
1. a person who has special skill or knowledge in some particular field; specialist; authority: a language expert.
2. Military
a. the highest rating in rifle marksmanship, above that of marksman and sharpshooter.
b. a person who has achieved such a rating.
adjective
3. possessing special skill or knowledge; trained by practice; skillful or skilled (often followed by in or at ): an expert driver; to be expert at driving a car.
4. pertaining to, coming from, or characteristic of an expert: expert work; expert advice.
verb (used with object)
5. to act as an expert for.

pro·fes·sion·al

adjective

1. following an occupation as a means of livelihood or for gain: a professional builder.
2. of, pertaining to, or connected with a profession: professional studies.
3. appropriate to a profession: professional objectivity.
4. engaged in one of the learned professions: A lawyer is a professional person.
5. following as a business an occupation ordinarily engaged in as a pastime: a professional golfer.
6. making a business or constant practice of something not properly to be regarded as a business: “A salesman,” he said, “is a professional optimist.”
7. undertaken or engaged in as a means of livelihood or for gain: professional baseball.
8. of or for a professional person or his or her place of business or work: a professional apartment; professional equipment.
9. done by a professional; expert: professional car repairs.
10. a person who belongs to one of the professions, especially one of the learned professions.
11. a person who earns a living in a sport or other occupation frequently engaged in by amateurs: a golf professional.
12. an expert player, as of golf or tennis, serving as a teacher, consultant, performer, or contestant; pro.
13. a person who is expert at his or her work: You can tell by her comments that this editor is a real professional.

3 Responses to “There is no such thing really as professional photographers” (and “professional” vs. expert”

  1. DaddyBear says:

    Anyone who says there’s no such thing as an ‘expert’ or ‘professional’ photographer needs to go look at the work of Oleg Volk or Blackfork. Looking at their stuff reminds me that I have a long way to go on that particular skill.

  2. Les Jones says:

    Same here. I’m in awe of lots and lots of photographers that are way out my league.

    And as proud as I am of some of my photos, I realize I’m hit and miss. I can’t guarantee a great image. I swing and miss all the time because I don’t have photography down pat.

  3. Pingback: The McGurk Effect | Les Jones