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Sometimes people ask me what it means to be a PROFESSIONAL photographer. Like, when do you go from being a young person that knows how to shoot manually and who gets paid for work to a PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHER. Is there a program to do or a badge you can wear?! haha I have no CLUE when I became a “professional”… and to be honest, I don’t think this is a title that you obtain at one moment. I think there could be a dozen blog posts written about what makes one a “professional” shooter. Today I’m just going to offer a few thoughts on the subject!

To me, there are three qualities that every professional photographer has or is at least striving towards. And in true Katelyn fashion, they all start with the letter “C”. So here you have it… “The Three C’s of Professionalism”:

  1. Consistency
  2. Credibility
  3. Composure

Consistency: The more photographers I work with, coach, or start following online, the more I realize that I judge their skill level by how consistent their work is. I’m not sure if that’s an accurate way to judge skill but I am just naturally drawn to consistent blog posts and galleries. I have also realized that the photographers that I follow continually have a fluid style and consistent editing. I honestly think that consistent work is a sign that the photographer is becoming comfortable with their camera and lighting. So this is one way that I judge professionalism! Next is Credibility!

Credibility: You can have the prettiest website and the most amazing equipment in the industry and still be lacking one key aspect to your business… and that’s credibility. When you first start out, you won’t have this yet… and that’s ok. It’s going to take some time for people to start talking. The best thing for your business is people TALKING about you in a positive light! When someone says “Oh my gosh, you’ve got to check out Katelyn’s blog!”… that builds my credibility. The trick about building credibility is that you can’t just complete jobs… you have to complete them in a way that exceeds expectations and shocks your clients (in a good way!).  I think having people who will vouch for your awesome-ness is one step to professionalism. That means you’re making a name for yourself and you’re doing work that is worth remembering!

Composure: This may seem like it doesn’t fit in this category… but I think it does… especially in WEDDING photography. Nothing distinguishes a professional more than the way a photographer acts under pressure. When a ceremony ends at the time you’re supposed to be done with family formals and you have 20 minutes of sunlight left, professionals become bold and brilliant. You have to think on your feet while hiding your fear and anxiety. I’m not saying you can’t freak out… oh, I FREAK OUT! But I never show it. If I need clients, planners or other vendors to know I mean business, I do it in a way that doesn’t cause panic. There is a difference between being firm because you need to stick to a timeline and causing sheer PANIC!! And you can be BOLD without being rude, pushy and coming across as annoyed. You wouldn’t believe how many people come up to us during weddings and say “You guys didn’t seem stressed at all! You handled everything very well!”. That makes be think “How are other photographers acting on wedding days?!” because I don’t think we do anything extraordinary when it comes to handling stress… we just try not to show it!!

So this post may have been encouraging for some of you or it may have made you aware of an area that you may need to work on. Again, this is just my opinion. This didn’t come from a book or podcast or business blog. These three C’s are honestly just what I notice most in the professionals I follow!!! Have an AMAZING 4th of July everyone! We’ll be camping, boating and hoping that the hurricane goes out to sea!!! :)

xoxo, Katelyn
7 Comments Ask Anything, Education
  1. Kimber Wassenberg reply

    Thanks for this info! I’ve wondered often, too, what makes the difference between pro and amateur. :) Thanks for answering my questions! ;) Have a blessed 4th!

  2. Emily reply

    Ok, so I love this post, but I need some more advice. How do you build credibility and owe your clients when you have pretty much no money to do so? Like when you’re first starting out. I have so many ideas for ways that I want to spoil my clients, but I’m a college student, and can’t afford any of those. So what are some ways you can gain credibility and wow your clients that don’t cost a whole bunch of money? Thanks! :)

  3. Admin reply

    @emily we spoil our clients most with turn around times!:) under promise, over deliver!

  4. Abgeka reply

    I love all this. I am still working on the 1st one, consistency but I think I am almost there.
    Emily, when I first started out I didnt have the money to spoil my clients and give them gifts etc (I do now-but then forget it, the equipment alone was all I could afford) so what I did was made sure I was reliable. If I said their gallery was going to be done xxx day…it was done on that day or sooner. I always answered questions in a timely fashion. If I had a repeat client I gave them a small discount on the session or a referral credit. It doesnt have to cost you anything and it goes a long way

  5. Olimpia reply

    I’M ALSO SURPRISED WHEN CLIENTS TELL ME i WAS SUP[ER PROFESSIONAL DURING THEIR WEDDING, WHEN ALL i DID WAS BE VERY POLITE, WORKED HARD ALL EVENING, AND DIDN’T STOP MOVING WHILE THINGS WERE HAPPENING. i SUSPECT THAT THEY MUST EXPERIENCE PHOTOGRAPHERS THAT WHEN YOU TURN AROUND THEY’RE AT THE BAR DRINKING A SCOTCH OR FLIRTING WITH GUESTS? LOL i’M NOT SURE, BUT i’M ALWAYS PROUD WHEN A CLIENT GIVES ME THAT COMPLIMENT.

  6. Kylie Nicholson reply

    Love this post! Question: what do you define as being “bold” on a stressful wedding day? As in, what would you actually do if you have 20 minutes of light for formals?

  7. Sharron Wynn reply

    What a wonderful post! Great advice! this is such a solid foundation of information as a photographer trying to find my way and focus. Thank you. :)

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