I’ve been asked a few times over the years why I don’t call myself a “professional” photographer. There are two reasons for this.
One reason is that – in Canada at least – the term “professional” carries a legal definition: it implies that there is a governing body made up of one’s peers that is tasked with determining curriculum for training, issuing licenses, setting standards for the quality of service and conduct, and taking punitive or corrective action should those standards fail to be met. Doctors, lawyers, dentists, pilots and real estate agents all have this.
There is no such body in Canada for photographers. Anybody – literally anybody – can become a photographer just by saying they are. You don’t need a degree. You don’t need a license. You don’t even need a camera.
The other reason is that the term insinuates a certain status that can be lorded over others. Instead of calling myself a “professional” photographer, I prefer the term “commercial”. All that implies is that I do this to make money.
And for the same reasons, I refuse to characterize anyone as an “amateur” photographer. “Hobbyist”, “part-time”, “artist”, “dabbler” or even “aspiring” all work fine, and don’t carry that denigrating implication.
There are photographers who’ve been doing this much longer than me. There are people just getting started. Some make way more money than I do. Some just do it for the love of creating something. Every one of them can freely be called a photographer, and every one of them has worth.