From this article:
“Can an amateur take a picture as good as a professional? Sure,”... “Can they do it on demand? Can they do it again? Can they do it over and over? Can they do it when a scene isn’t that interesting?”
I think Katrin Eismann, the chairwoman of the Masters in Digital Photography program at the School of Visual Arts in New York, hits it right on the head. Being a professional isn't about how much you charge. It isn't about what gear you use or how many lenses you have or how well you know photoshop. It is about getting quality results every single time you show up to a paid shoot.
In the quote above, Eismann is talking specifically about photojournalists, but I see no reason why her argument can't expand to every kind of creative out there. Painters, musicians, writers, photographers, glassblowers, anybody.
Imagine: You woke up on the wrong side of the bed. You didn't have milk for your cereal and your dog pooped on the carpet... again. You have 20 minutes to drive to the other side of town so you can prep for *another* engagement shoot, your third this week. You are a full 24 hours behind on editing photos for paying clients and you don't have a clue when you're going to make up the time.
Can you still show up, engage the client, and make great photographs? If you want to call yourself a professional photographer, you don't have a choice. You don't have the luxury of having an "off-day," or a day off for that matter. Sure, you might not feel like taking pictures and you might not be really into it, but if you can't produce the great photography that your clients have come to expect... You're done. In that case, someone who can get the shot consistently will usurp you.
Anybody can get lucky once in a while and produce a masterpiece. You don't want to be that person. I know I don't.
Of course, it happens anyway. I have days where nothing but the shutter clicks. It clicks over and over again and all my photos suck. Lucky for me, those days never happen on days where I have a paying client... at least not yet. The day it does, I'll take "professional" off my business card and replace it with "lucky". (As it turns out, my card just says "Photographer" instead of "professional" or "lucky" or "amateur")
Anyway... that's my rant for the day. Thank you to the NY Times for the fodder.