Why Being a “Pro” Photographer is Overrated.

heART by Annette Kim

In photography, Apple devices, and more– we all want to be “Pro.” But what if it wasn’t desirable to be a “Pro” and it was better to be an “Amateur” instead?

Why I love being an amateur photographer

Saigon, 2017

Okay first interesting thing,

The word “Amateur” traditionally meant someone who did something for love. It comes from the word “Amator” in Latin– lover.

So if you’re an “amateur” photographer, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad photographer. It just means you make photos for the love of it.

What is a “Pro” photographer?

Saigon, 2017 #cindyproject

A “Pro” photographer is a professional. It means that they get paid for what they do.

What is a “photographer” anyways?

A photographer:

  • Photo: Light
  • Grapher: Writer (in Ancient Greek, “graphos” meant writer)

A photographer is a writer of light.

If you write photos for a living, you are a “professional” photographer– because you get paid for it.

But, you can be a baby photographer at a mall, and be a “professional” photographer.

I think in modern days, to be a “professional” means you make a full-time living from it.

Saigon, 2017. Photo by Cindy.

But just because you do something, get paid for it, and can make a living from it… that doesn’t mean you’re necessarily good.

I can be a “professional” cook at McDonald’s or a “professional” barista at Starbucks, but that doesn’t mean much.

You can be a great photographer by having a boring office job.

Saigon, 2017 #cindyproject

To be honest, I think the best photographers are amateur photographers– photographers who have “day jobs”, and pursue photography as their hobby or passion.

If you earn your income outside of photography, you will compromise less in your photography and art.

Einstein worked a boring 9-5 job at the Swiss patent office as a clerk, when he came up with the theory of relativity. The philosopher Spinoza made lenses for a living, while he came up with the most exquisite philosophies.

Saigon selfie, 2017

Even Richard Avedon made most of his money from doing commercial portrait, fashion photography. But his magnum opus was mostly “street portraits” of folks he met in America, was partly funded by a grant, but I’m sure he bank-rolled himself mostly with his own money.

Believe in yourself and your photos.

Saigon, 2017

So the moral of the story is this:

Just because you don’t earn money from your photography, don’t talk down on yourself. Let your work speak for itself.

Follow your personality.

Some of us were born to be risk takers and entrepreneurs. Not all of us are.


So you can have a boring ass job, but still make good photos. My friend Charlie Kirk made some of his best photos while working as a lawyer. My friend Josh White makes great photos and he works in education. My friend Neil Ta makes great street/documentary photos, and he makes his living shooting commercial and wedding work.

So the other point I want to make is this:

Don’t let money, prestige, or this need to “validate” yourself get in front of your self-worth as a photographer.

Shoot photos because it is your love and passion. Make photos that bring you joy, and ignore everyone else.

Downtown LA, 2016

If you are crazy enough to want to pursue photography for a living, do read my photography entrepreneurship 101 series.


But if that doesn’t interest you, just learn my photography 101 series.


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