Strange title but it’s one worth thinking about. In the world of photography ‘weekend warriors’ is the name given by those in the trade to photographers who have a full time job that is not as a professional photographer, but do their professional photography at the weekends, often its felt (maybe justifiably) to just earn a little bit of extra cash rather than actually trying to make career out of it. It’s the latter part that you may find draws the ire of those in the trade. So what’s wrong with a little competition you ask? The short answer is money and professionalism.
Nobody has any problems with an up and coming photographer who shows they have skills and the artistic flair to be a good photographer. I also personally (and think this is general amongst those in the trade) have no problem with those just starting out, offering their services initially for free or at least a low price, I certainly did it as it’s difficult to break into the photography market and you need something that will make people consider taking you on. Also for things like weddings, you can only really learn on the job, you can gain as much advice in advance, but it’s only until you put this into practice and under stress that it gives you the actual skills. So that means either covering family and/or friends, and/or second shooting beside a seasoned professional and/or offering your services cheaply enough at the start. If you the reader happens to be somebody looking for a wedding photographer, you’ll find there some offering their services cheaply, but I hope those photographers are quite candid with you and told you why their price is so cheap (I cover this in more detail in another blog “What to look for in a wedding photographer“). The expectation however is that any up and coming photographer will as they progress in skill and experience raise their prices and for a simple reason. To be able to stay in business! Any business should be self financing and providing enough income to live off.
Professional photography has two sides to it (at least from my point of view) which have to work hand in hand to make it succeed as a trade. 1) The artistic-skill side and 2) the business side. The artistic-skill side is one side that attracts clients (at least we hope that’s the case! :-) ). A stark way of looking at this is comparing the average photo found on 500px against the average photo on Flickr. There is the sheer artistic flair or style of photography of the photographer combined with the skills they have acquired. Eg in wedding photography one of these is being able to deal with the challenging light conditions and knowing which equipment and how to use it to achieve the looks wanted. The business side is everything aside from the actual photography such as promotion, travel, equipment, pricing, products, training, etc.
It’s probably the business side of it that causes the most problems as many new photographers don’t take into account what the true cost are of running a business and making sure they have enough profit at least to live off (food, heating, lighting, mortgage, etc). Sorry, but we have to be realistic, we need money to live off… and there is the rub. The ire with weekend warriors follows the fact that with a full time job already they can undercut professional photographers. There has also been in recent years a massive proliferation of digital camera’s. You only have to go to any event or just walk around to notice how many people are now taking photos using everything from mobile phones to mid-range and high end camera’s. There has also been an increase in the numbers of people wanting to make some money out of their photography. So the number of people offering photography is very high.
Okay, so before somebody calls me a hypocrite, I should say I do have another job beside being a professional photographer and that’s as a Learning Technologist at the Institute of Education, London. It’s a job I also happen to love and I feel very fortunate to be doing two jobs I love, one that serves my academic side the other my artistic side. However, my role as a Learning Technologist is half time and I treat my professional photography as a business because I want to and need to. So to return to the question “weekend warrior or professional?” I’m very much a professional photographer, with the added advantage that I can bring another set of skills to the table :-)