Photographers, let me ask you a question…

It’s a question that you’ve been asked before while holding a DSLR camera in your hands, “Are you a professional, or do you just do this as a hobby? Are you an amateur or a pro?”

Take a minute and think about a moment in time that you can look back and say, that is when I became a professional. Is it when you started shooting family sessions for people that were not your actual family? Was it when you started shooting weddings? Is being a pro when you are only doing it as a full time job? Does only doing it part-time count as being a professional? We could go on and on with these questions.

I know a lot of amazingly creative photographers. They are successful in their craft. Yet, we still get the questions from others saying, “You really do this full time?”

The question that I always got from people that really got to me was right after I told them of a cool gig that I shot, and then I heard, “Really? That’s great. Did you get paid for that?” Now, the part of me that God is still working on, you know, the part that gets offended by and annoyed with things that I really don’t need to… the part that really needs God’s grace, because people really don’t mean to be offensive… but I’m going to be offended by it anyway so I might as well write about it in an article (ugh… breathe…) that part isn’t the Pro. It’s operating as an amateur.

So, what makes you a pro? Here are some questions to ask yourself to see if you are operating as an amateur or as a professional…

Are you Getting Paid?
Ok, scratch that. Not that it’s not great to get paid for what you are working on, but getting a paycheck doesn’t make you a professional at anything. I can make money by selling my child’s fundraisers for his school, but that doesn’t make me a professional fundraiser.

You can be an unpaid professional, or a paid amateur. Pros work no matter what they are being paid because the job or gig or craft deserves excellence. And pros strive to do their job well. Period.

Have You Updated?
Are you someone who is constantly improving, or have you reached the endpoint of knowing everything about your field? Listen, even app’s are constantly being updated. I’m constantly getting notifications that something on my phone needs me to download the newest version. How many times are you pushing the button to say, “Remind me Later”? Don’t settle for version 1.0. Go ahead and learn that new way to do something. Take that course at college. Read that article. Update.

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Being a pro is a mindset. It’s constantly learning, constantly pushing. It’s telling yourself, “I’m going to do it,” and then walking forward in it. Not waiting on the feeling or the big break to come before you decide to be it.

Being a pro is a commitment; a decision, not a feeling. Don’t wait to “feel” like a pro, because for all of people in a creative field, that feeling never comes. Decide to be a pro.

Are You Failing?
Failing? I thought this article was to see if you were succeeding at being a pro.

Failure is just a precursor to success. It’s a part of it. A very important part of it.
I love the way the Disney animated movie, “Meet the Robinson’s” teaches this lesson, like only Disney can. The family comes together at one point in the movie and they celebrate and clap and yell when Lewis fails at making his invention. Why? They are helping him understand that he didn’t fail, he just found another way how to not do something. He was still growing and moving forward in the direction of success. He learned to not have the “Attitude of Defeat” through his failure.

Mistakes mean progress. They challenge us. They give us an edge. A pro will own
their mistakes.

Pros are led by purpose. As a pro, be disciplined to follow your purpose. Always be in a mindset to learn, and don’t let failure stop you. Celebrate it.

In the words of Walt Disney, “Keep Moving Forward.”

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