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Pro vs. Amateur vs. Expert


Foolish Bricks
Posts: 242
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'People' always talk about pro-photographers vs. amateurs photographers. This got me thinking. What exactly makes a pro a pro and an amateur an amateur? Besides this two categories, there also is the expert.

Thinking about this all, I feel the main difference comes down to a state of mind (combined with amount of effort and expertise). I won't elaborate too much yet, because I would like your opinions first...

What do you think the difference between a pro, amateur and expert (Lego-)photographer might be?

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Four Bricks Tall
Posts: 577
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Joined: 3 years ago

Have you seen this video? It's long so just go to the last minute (21:20) for the rundown of the 8 points he makes and then scrub back through to listen to his explanations if you're so inclined.

I agree it's a mindset. I liken it to integrity: you'll do right whether or not someone else is looking.

In our case, you'll do good work even if Instagram never existed. ???? 

Going back to the video, I'll fail on a couple of his points particularly, that I treat LEGO photography as a casual entertainment pursuit rather than a profession.

And well, yeah... because my professional photography pursuit is portraiture.

LEGO photography is my means for creatively exploring photography in ways I can't really do in portraiture. 

Hopefully, I can use some stuff I learn through LEGO photography in my portrait work but that's not the goal, the learning journey is the goal.

I also agree with the YouTube guy that what you present should be curated, cohesive. 

Which is why I use Four Bricks Tall for my LEGO photography and not my real name: I don't want to comingle the two because they are two totally different pursuits and mindsets.

(Related: It annoys me when people name me or out me in public. I don't want people searching my full name looking for my portrait work only to find my much more public LEGO work. It doesn't help me professionally. EDIT: I'm totally fine with first names ???? )

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Maëlick
(@reiterlied)
Joined: 2 years ago

Posts: 38

@fourbrickstall

I didn't listen to the whole video (maybe later) but at the end, the definition of amateur is just plain wrong: "the amateur is just in it for entertaining value or as a hobby that they don't take too seriously". Being an amateur photographer means not relying on photography as a source of income. And that's all. The 8 points from the video are not what differentiates a professional photographer from an amateur photographer, but rather a casual photographer from a "non-casual" (not sure how to call this... Serious photographer?)

While it's probably true that the majority of amateur photographers are casual, it's not to make a generality out of it. It's assuming that you need to make money to be able to do something seriously and ignoring the fact that there are other sources of motivation than money. And it's selling the false idea that living from photography is necessarily better than having a "regular job" if you want to be a serious photographer.

However, there are some real differences between serious amateur and professional. For example, an amateur has complete creative freedom while a professional will always have to satisfy some customers with more or less freedom. And amateurs don't have to do boring stuff like social media marketing and accounting, or they can take a break and do something else because they're in a creative rut.

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Four Bricks Tall
(@fourbrickstall)
Joined: 3 years ago

Posts: 577

@reiterlied

The video starts off with him saying it's not about money at all and most artists don't argue this. 

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Maëlick
(@reiterlied)
Joined: 2 years ago

Posts: 38

@fourbrickstall

Most artists don't argue this? Well, I don't know... I don't remember him citing anyone, he just vaguely talks about research he made online. Here's an artist (who's been living from photography for 20+ years) who has quite a different point of view: https://www.abeautifulanarchy.com/podcast/episode-007

I listened to the whole video. True he says that he doesn't agree on defining being a professional based on a percentage of income. I don't disagree with that. I disagree with opposing amateur to it.

Being an amateur just means that the activity in question is not a source of income. That's all. Being an amateur doesn't mean you don't show any (or all) of 8 characteristics he talks about. The debate "pro vs. amateur" is all about the money. Trying to make that debate on something else while still opposing amateur just feeds a pejorative connotation of the word "amateur". That pejorative view is clearly visible when he talks about the amateurs that don't want to get up and rather sleep in (around 18:20).

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Four Bricks Tall
(@fourbrickstall)
Joined: 3 years ago

Posts: 577

@reiterlied

I disagree. I think he is talking about approach and mindset. It really isn't about money at all. 

But since you seem to be sticking to dictionary definitions, I think you're choosing the definition of "amateur" as incompetent, which is not what is being discussed here.

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Maëlick
(@reiterlied)
Joined: 2 years ago

Posts: 38

@fourbrickstall

No, I'm sticking to a definition of amateur as someone who doesn't make a living from an activity and I oppose the view of amateur as incompetent (or lazy like in the video at 18:20). My point is that it doesn't do justice to the ones who are truly amateur (i.e. don't earn money and are as dedicated to their art or craft as a professional) to pretend there is such a thing as "amateur mindset".

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Four Bricks Tall
(@fourbrickstall)
Joined: 3 years ago

Posts: 577

@reiterlied

He's saying that people with a professional attitude towards their craft will trudge through it despite how they feel at the moment.

And that speaks to the mindset.

Me, I'll stay in if it's raining out if I had planned to go and shoot LEGO that day. I just don't take my LEGO photography work that seriously.

But if I have an on-location portrait session, I'm not going to cancel. You bet your butt I'm going to pack up all my gear, set it up, do the shoot, break down the set, go back home, download all the images and start editing. Because I'm a professional. Even if it were a charity shoot or a TFP shoot to expand my own portfolio (i.e., no money involved).

I still do consider myself to have a professional mindset towards LEGO photography despite my readiness to ditch plans to shoot at the slightest hint of bad weather. I just am very aware that I am not as committed to it as others in this regard ???? 

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Maëlick
(@reiterlied)
Joined: 2 years ago

Posts: 38

@fourbrickstall

Yeah I got that but I just think it's unfair to call amateur the opposite of that professional mindset he talks about. I'd rather use the word casual. I feel that I check many boxes in the video because toy photography is as important (sometimes even more) as my "real job".

Still, when he says "amateurs don't do their work when they feel like being lazy" that really gets under my skin. I see myself as an amateur and want to stay it that way because I think money would have a negative impact on my creativity.  Yet I can wake up crazy early for sunrise (not so much in winter and in summer it's more like going to bed late ????) or force myself to go out when I just feel like staying comfortably at home.

That's why for me the difference between "a pro and an amateur" is about the money and not much else. The mindset is a completely different thing than "pro vs. amateur".

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Four Bricks Tall
(@fourbrickstall)
Joined: 3 years ago

Posts: 577

@reiterlied

Here's what I do when a label doesn't work for me: I remind myself that they are helpful for other people, and the broader the definition, the better for them.

Labels aren't accurate for the most part.

If I had to apply labels to myself I'd only realize that I am nothing special, as there already exists a label for me ???? 

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Maëlick
(@reiterlied)
Joined: 2 years ago

Posts: 38

@fourbrickstall

True that labels aren't accurate, but still, I think the label amateur deserves to be shown more ❤️

The podcast from David DuChemin I mentioned before is great for that.

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FreeTheGeekMan
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I almost responded tongue and cheek with "pros get paid" but decided to wait for others to respond first.

I agree with @Maëlick that those definitions sound more like casual vs non casual.

I'm defo an amateur and casual. But even if I got really good and acted professional, well I'm A Software Product Owner by profession I wont be quitting to do photography because taking photos is a hobby for me. So I'll always be technically an amateur no matter my attitude, approach ir skill level. 

I could be an expert though! Unlikely ????

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Maëlick
(@reiterlied)
Joined: 2 years ago

Posts: 38

@freethegeekman

Software development is a perfect example of a case where amateurs have been able to have the same mindset as professionals. To me, that just shows how sterile it is to oppose amateurs and professionals in terms of mindset.

(Also I'm in a similar position to you, I have a well-paid job related to software development/engineering, it gives me ample freedom to pursue photography as a hobby. Even if it were possible, I wouldn't want to change that because I don't want to put pressure on my hobby and limit my creative freedom.)

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