Somebody said that the difference between hobbyist and professional photographers was if they had made 50,000 photos or more. Other people say that it depends if a person works full time in this sphere. Other opinions are that it is anyone who earned money by doing a photo job.

Some members of this site have said that you cannot be a professional without professional equipment. Is this true? I don't see any criteria about quality, performance, experience of working with equipment...


For most places where the distinction matters: A professional photographer is someone who makes a major or substantial part of this income from photography.

You see this definition often in rules for photo contest, professional association or for qualifying for professional service programs. For example:

  • Photo contests me be open to amateurs only, professionals only or have separate competitions for amateurs and professionals.
  • Professional associations of photographers often stipulate this in membership rules to make sure of the level of its members and focus events and discussions better.
  • Camera manufacturers have professional services which entitle professionals to faster service, replacement loaners, etc.

The main consideration to answer your question is who is asking and why? You can certainly be a professional without high-end equipment and you can be a professional without formal training. After all, there is no mandates photography certification program.

For someone who is hiring you, it may simply be that you have experience and a portfolio that shows you are capable of the quality of images they seek.


My opinion on this would be if you do it as your main job and it is your primary source of income, then you are a professional.

If you do it for fun, and not make money, or you only sell the odd image or two now and again, then I'd say you're a hobbyist not a pro.

  • I think that skill level has to be considered a part of it too. There are people out there doing photography as their primary occupation that do not have the skill level or business courtesy necessary to be considered professional. – AJ Henderson Mar 26 '13 at 16:31
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    Wouldn't that just make them a "bad professional photographer"? – DJClayworth Mar 26 '13 at 16:51
  • Agreed, depends on your definition of professional. Generally I would expect it to mean you get paid for it, as in "it is your profession". But there are those professionals who are not always professional! Exceptions to the rule, just like in photography itself :) – Mike Mar 27 '13 at 8:22

Traditionally a professional photographer is someone for whom photography is their profession, i.e. it is their primary source of income.

Outside this formal definition the word "professional" is used these days as an adjective to describe both equipment (being of sufficient quality/durability to be chosen by professionals) and individual photographs which are seen to be at above a certain threshold of quality "I get really professional looking results with camera X".

I suppose you could extend this to use the term to describe an amateur who produces professional quality results, but this is abusing the language somewhat.


In Italy, the legal definition of professional photographer is someone who non-occasionally generates any profit from photographic services.

(The definition of "non occasionally" makes professional those who engage in such activity more often than an arbitrary limit in an unit of time and those who actively search for activity, i.e. advertising yourself as a photographer).


From Google's dictionary result, professional is defined as "A person engaged or qualified in a profession." This definition indicates that they should either actively be working in the field or be qualified to work in the field at a professional level of skill and conduct themselves in a professional manner (ie, good work ethic, morals, etc)

Personally, I define professional as a level of skill and training (which may be formal or self taught) combined with making money doing it. I know people who make their livings doing photography that I would not consider to be professionals based on their level of skill (or lack there of).

Alternately, I personally do not make my primary living as a photographer, however I do run a photography business and have a college degree that covers photography among other digital arts, so I consider myself to be a professional since I have both training, experience and regularly earn income (if minor) from photography.

As for the question of gear, I believe that it is possible to produce a professional level of work with gear that would normally be considered consumer grade, but it is also much more difficult and will put much more burden on proving your skill with a portfolio.

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