We define people who engage in an activity as being amateur or professional but do we understand what these words mean? Definitions I have seen of the word amateur include a person who engages in a pursuit on an unpaid basis and a person considered contemptibly inept at a particular activity. Neither reflects the true derivation of the word amateur, which stems from Latin. Most of us, certainly those of a certain age, will remember the basic Latin conjugation starting point of amo, amas, amat…. Amo means to love and is the root from which Amateur stems. An amateur originally meant simply one who follows a pursuit because he or she loves it.
So what about professional? The Oxford dictionary defines profession as a vocation or calling especially one that involves…some advanced learning. The words are not mutually exclusive one can be both and it would be much better were we not to pigeonhole people with labels that, whilst short and convenient, are inaccurate. Read the rest in the next issue.
There is a saying in photography that amateurs worry about gear, pros about money and artists worry about light. There are grains of truth in this but again we see the misuse of the word and a derogatory tilt at the amateur. An amateur doing photography may well have less equipment and what he has is of a lower quality simply because as a hobby he cannot afford, or justify the expense of, more or better gear. More and better equipment will sometimes mean more versatility in what can be photographed and how but it is also true that for many novices a lack of a ability holds back results more than the lack of equipment.
A true professional is most unlikely to worry about gear; his reputation and his living depend on him being able to produce the results and so he will have spare camera bodies, a range of lenses and lighting equipment etc. Having spent tens, or even hundreds, of thousands of pounds on this equipment he will want to get a return on his investment and support himself and his family.
Light is the key to it all, without good light (be it natural or artificial) no photograph will be as good as it could and should be. All photographers should worry about light. As Leonard Misonne said over 100 years ago “Light glorifies everything. It transforms and ennobles the most commonplace and ordinary subjects. The object is nothing; light is everything.”
What about me? I regard myself as a Pro-am; professional in the quality I demand in my images, amateur in that I do it because I love it. Landscape photography is in my blood and my soul and it demands the best light available and the highest quality image file I can achieve.