Professional Photographers Don’t Shoot Flowers – Just Ask Rick

What does it mean to be a professional photographer? A ninety minute show later, and we’re still not sure. Granted, we’ ve been drinking (again/still) and it’s possible that that has affected our judgment. Still, we go into a pretty animated conversation around the variety of factors that qualifies a person as a “professional”. Oh, and Rick really, really, really hates pictures of flowers!

A quick head’s up: due to some Skype issues, the first few moments are a bit rough with some short bursts of intermittent static. Give it five minutes or so and it goes away. Did we mention we’re on Stitcher?

How a Professional Behaves…

All three of us have opinions on what separates the professional from the amateur. Tony thinks it has to do with a person’s ability to tell a story. Rick and Rob believe it has to do with behavior. And not just the public behavior in front of clients or the public, but also keeping separate records and accounts, approach to clients, and the ability to consistently get the shot under virtually any condition.

We’re still not sure what constitutes being a professional photographer but, perhaps, we can define it by what it is not. It’s not about taking a half-assed approach. It’s not being a “wedding photographer” who shoots one or two weddings for a couple of hundred bucks. It’s not calling yourself a professional because you dropped ten bucks on a domain name. But are you a professional photographer just because others label you that way?

Maybe it’s a combination of all that – regardless of being full- or part-time, being a professional is about running your business as a business, maintaining and expanding your skills and abilities, learning that it’s okay to fail as long as you pick yourself up, and being able to consistently provide your target audience with what they expect, and knowing why it’s important – and how – to capture the image properly in-camera. It’s all that… and more.

Oh yea, there’s no such thing as a “semi professional”: get over it.

Rick, Rob, and Tony all agree - a professional photographer drinks absinthe.

Rick, Rob, and Tony all agree – a professional photographer drinks absinthe. Image by HSLD, licensed under Creative Commons.

Today’s Artists

Our photographer today is a personal favorite of Rob’s, John Shaw. Specifically, we look at his gallery from Ireland.  It’s a tough task to photograph a subject that has preconceived ideas for so many people. None of the guys have been to Ireland but we each have images in our mind’s eye about a land with a rich history in spirituality, mysticism, music, and ancient magic. As a photographer, it is a challenge to shoot something that so many people already have an opinion about but John is successful.

The artist today is Darwyne Cooke, author of graphic novels. We look specifically at his novel, The Hunter. (Click here to see a preview of the novel). As you leaf through the pages, look at the ability to convey emotion and story through light and shadow.

You Get the Last Word on Being a Professional

What do you guys think? Are we right? Are we wrong? Should we try the topic again when we’re sober (yeah, good luck with that). And is wedding photography like sex?



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  1. rudeboy77-Peter April 29, 2012 at 8:40 pm #

    hello Zen Photo Masters , Another great cast of pod. I always have taken snaps just for fun. I do dream of maybe being a great artist someday. I am 53 , Georgio O’keefe didn’t start painting till she was much older. Still hope for us old peeps. . maybe with all my life experience I can see the world in a whole new way.. Later Zen Masters

    • Tony April 29, 2012 at 11:02 pm #

      That’s the great thing about art, it isn’t ageist.

    • Rob April 30, 2012 at 2:39 pm #

      You’ve answered a question for me, Peter.

      One of the personal issues I have been struggling with lately when it comes to photography is whether or not I started too late. I look at the creativity… well, more like “creative freedom” that people half my age exhibit. And then I think back to my childhood and how free I felt to think creatively and artistically.

      Did I start too late? Are the expectations placed on an adult the cause of creative rigidity? If so, how do we break free?

      Talking with Tony several weeks ago, I came to the conclusion that I simply need to let go. That when the creative vision comes to me at midnight, to trust that idea and not toss it out when daylight comes and the logical mind becomes active again.

      Your reference to Georgia O’Keefe was insightful. Can I not try to mirror her actions; an artist who didn’t get started until much later in life? Why the hell not!

      Maybe the cretive kids today need to be creative simply because, as you eloquently state, “maybe with all my life experience I can see the world in a whole new way.”

      And that’s what us older guys bring to the table.

      Thank you for your comment, and for the inspiration for my next blog post.


  2. rudeboy77-Peter May 11, 2012 at 12:19 am #

    Anytime Rob- As a young youth I did spend time in the darkroom making my TRI-X into 8/10 prints – with my fingers in the developer trying to be the next Edward Weston . who eroded his finger tips because of the harsh chemicals . Now I plan to get A sony DSLR and a Apple Airbook as my new darkroom. and see where it takes me. Later

  3. Robert-hsld May 30, 2012 at 11:40 am #

    Awesome, thanks for using my photo. I know I’m an amateur and likely always will be, but comments and people using my photos makes me feel better about adding my shots into the teeming deluge of the internet.
    Anyway, I will have to check your site out. Cheers.