How would YOU define a “professional” photographer?

There’s been much outrage in our industry over the recent statement by Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, saying “…there’s really no such thing as professional photographers anymore.” Obviously, I disagree with her.  When I looked in the mirror this morning I saw a bleary-eyed professional photographer looking back, so I exist to disprove her ill-informed comment. But the kerfuffle got me thinking: how do we define “professional” anymore?  I created my own definition for a portraiture class that I teach at Madison College. I use it to help guide my students as a measure against which they should gauge themselves as they develop as photographers. I include it here.  But do you agree?  How would you define “professional photographer”?


The Professional Portrait Photographer can consistently create pleasing, sellable portraiture via a combination of lighting, posing, technical skill and direction.  The Professional Portrait Photographer…

  • has mastery of his or her camera equipment;
  • has the knowledge that allows him or her to shape and mold light to his or her vision;
  • knows how to control the tonal quality of the light in a portrait;
  • has the ability to work with different types of light sources in varying situations;
  • knows how to alter lighting patterns for different types of physical features;
  • guides the subject to the proper poses and expressions that make for a pleasing portrait;
  • seeks to improve through continuing study and education;
  • is his or her own worst critic, can take constructive criticism from others, and uses this insight to improve his or her work;
  • produces consistent, repeatable, sellable results;
  • and, by definition, is able to earn a living via photography.


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