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Northumberland Camera Club

Ivor Rackham's great-grandfather hired a professional photographer to promote his business 120 years ago.
Ivor Rackham's great-grandfather hired a professional photographer to promote his business 120 years ago.

Are you thinking of becoming a professional photographer?

Please seek first the honest opinion of your work from someone already doing it. Your friends may tell you how great your photos are, but do they have the knowledge to critique your images properly? They won’t want to hurt your feelings so may say your pictures are great, no matter what.

Just as they would write a Shakespeare play if given sufficient typewriters, an infinite number of monkeys with cameras would produce images worthy of Eve Arnold or Ansel Adams. The billions of images taken over the last few years resulted in many great photographs taken by chance, swamping those resulting from ability.

It takes a lot of knowledge to be able to use a camera well. The many years’ progressive learning of the technical and artistic skills is why so many love the art.

There are amateur photographers good enough to become professional, but don’t want to turn their hobby into work. Amateurs can shoot what and when they want. They can take dozens of frames to get one good shot. Professionals don’t have those luxuries.

Throughout photographic history, businesses employed professionals because they knew their trade. Photography has become more accessible so professional standards are much higher. They need to deliver exactly what their customers want every time.

They organise the shoot and guarantee great images. They must get along with everyone at an event, yet also become invisible. Then, they need the skills, time and money for all the organisational acrobatics of running a business.

Being an amateur photographer doesn’t usually risk ruining someone’s wedding or damaging a livelihood, although a retired minister told me that inexperienced wedding photographers were a nightmare. Once, he was in the middle of a ceremony with the couple kneeling before him when a shadow fell across his shoulder. A family member had climbed on the altar to get the shot.

Sadly, there are professionals who give the industry a bad name. Are these charlatans trying to make a quick buck? They would be mistaken; it’s hard work.

Or were they misled into thinking their photography was good enough when it wasn’t? I suspect it’s mostly the latter, people who jumped into the profession without being ready.

Six people in as many weeks told me how disappointed they were with photos they had commissioned from rogue photographers; people with all of the equipment, but lacking the skills.

I’ve seen wedding photos with a host of rudimentary mistakes, including a bridal portrait showing a road cone in the background. I’ve seen children’s pictures with blown-out highlights on sweaty faces, pets with crusty eyes and important family members missing from albums.

This is sad both for the clients and for the photographers whose reputations are forever tarnished.

Let’s celebrate the amateur enthusiasts who strive to achieve great photographic skills. Three cheers to those who have potential of becoming great photographers, whether they want to turn professional or not.

Let’s celebrate everyone starting on that journey and help them become fantastic.