Friday, March 19, 2010

How Much Of A Professional Are You? Part 2

Good Afternoon Everyone,

Long day yesterday, much lighter today - thankfully. We've even have the weekend off before we head to Photoshop World early Monday morning.

Hey, if you are going to be in Orlando at Photoshop World, be sure to look me up.  I'm doing three programs this year and you'll be able to find me in the Tech Expo at booth #434 as well. Please come by and say "HI". Bring your CBTL book along and I’ll sign it for you too;~)

Scott w-bookI want to send "Hi-Fives" to Scott Kelby and Matt Kloskowski at D-Town TV.  Their last episode featured my new book, "Captured By The Light". Thanks guys.  D-Town TV is a very entertaining show Scott and Matt present that features all things DSLR - great tips, tricks, and techniques - here is the link to this week's episode.

Get Your Autographed Copy Now

My CBTL book has been getting “rave” reviews and is very popular – Thanks everybody! And good news too, I’ve decided to autograph every copy ordered from our Digital Resource Center. Check out some of the great CBTL bundles too. Here is the DRC link right here.  Amazon only had three copies left when I last checked – WOW! Once again, thank you to everyone who has picked up a copy.

One More “Thank You” & How To View The Video Again

Thank You - Big I was reminded that I neglected to thank my event coordinator, Jennifer, during Wednesday’s broadcast.  So let me say it now – Thank You, Jennifer. Jennifer was the third “wing person” on the web-cast monitoring attendees with their login.  She also coordinates all the email correspondence and questions that come up as we ramp up to the broadcast.

I must tell you, this has become quite the operation pulling all the pieces together for these web-casts. But they are exciting in spite of some of the challenges.  I’m planning another web-cast next month so stay tuned.

Because of our short sound glitch yesterday, lots of folks want to know who won the rest of the door prizes.  Remember you had to be present to win. Good thing we selected some alternates, because some of them were lucky winners!  I’ll get the list up over the weekend.

Captured By The Light Webinar Logo Encore Also, if you missed any part of the program or had problems logging in, here is the link right here (coming shortly after encoding complete) to the Encore - “Captured By The Light” video.

Remember to order a minimum $29 order at our Digital Resource Center [link], to get a FREE copy of the CBTL Web-cast.

”How Much Of A Professional Are You? Part 2”

OK, gang, time to get on with today's post. Last Friday's post on this topic caused quite a stir [link]. Want to read my in depth response?

Hit the “Read Me…” link below for Part 2 of last week’s post.

”How Much Of A Professional Are You? Part 2”

Pro Photog - Fotolia_21038721_XS Here is the back story.  Someone sent me a YouTube link to TV Judge Joe Brown "hammering" a photographer purporting to be a professional photographer.  The judge took her to task for not using "Pro" gear.  The photographer was using a Canon Rebel.

Coincidently, I had just recently attended a program at WPPI where the presenter had mentioned that she had shot her first wedding with a Canon Rebel. About 25% of the audience cheered her remark.  That left me thinking, "Are all those people shooting weddings with a Canon Rebel?"  I assumed, at least, many of them had photographed a wedding or two with the Rebel.

Now don't get me wrong - I think a Canon Rebel, particularly the new Rebel T2i, has a lot of "bang for the buck", but do I think it's a professional grade camera - no. In fact Canon's Professional Services program doesn't even include it in their listing of pro cameras.  But again, does that mean the Rebel can't take a decent photograph - not at all.

Many took exception with me saying that the Rebel, in the right hands, can produce as good an image as, say for example a Canon 5D Mark II or a 7D.   Hey, I don't disagree with that either, but as I said, Do I think it's a pro camera - my response is no, again. But having said that, let me continue.

I mentioned last week that I was pretty surprised with the audience response.  My "read" of their reaction was that, "If I shoot a wedding with a Canon Rebel, and get paid for it, I get to call myself a professional?" Well, maybe you can, but that still doesn't make one a "Pro." "Professionalism" is a lot more than just getting paid for a job.  More on that later.  Anyway, I felt strongly about what I posted and I knew it would "stir the broth" once it went online.

But WOW!!! Did it REALLY "stir the broth", as I like to say, with nearly 100 comments posted in response - an all time record for me.  Interestingly enough, the responses were all across the board - some denouncing my opinions and many more supporting my remarks.

But here is the deal folks - I think several of the negative responses completely missed the mark of the point I was trying to make. I have re-read the post many times, asking myself over and over if it was in any way offensive, condescending, or nasty.  I know I was "fired up" even perhaps on my soapbox when I wrote the post.

I wanted it to challenges the perceptions of professionalism for all of our readers.  And, BTW, the post never put down the Rebel in any way.  As a matter of fact, I was thinking of picking up the Rebel T2i - especially for LaDawn's use. It's the "video functionality" at such a reasonable price that has me interested.

The post was strongly worded for sure, but surely was not written to offend anyone.  It was written to "fire people up" and have them ask themselves if they felt they were indeed a "Pro."  Being a real "professional", as I said earlier, is more than just collecting a paycheck for shooting a job.

But there it was again, so many of the commenters apparently "offended" by my remarks about the fact that if you shoot a Rebel, you may not be a "Pro." How I could I "put down" my loyal readership, many of whom are photographers just starting out. And whom, BTW, I appreciate very, very much.

Folks, the on going goal of this blog - it's mission statement, if you will - is to constantly help, encourage, and hopefully inspire any photographer - young or mature, "aspiring photographers" to "seasoned professionals" and everyone in between.

Just re-read any of the more than 2150 posts to date; go back and review any of the over 110 Technique Tuesdays, browse any of the 100 Business Day Thursday posts, peruse over 600 images of the day complete with back story and EXIF data on each and every shot! The list goes on. 

My wife says DPT takes to much of our time, cuts into vacation, has us miss too many sunrises and sunsets together and I should cut it back. But I still continue to post regularly - 5 days a week - about 1,200 words a day.  Yes, It's sort of like writing a term paper each day. It's kind of a "part time" job at about 60+ hours of time invested each month.  But in all honesty, I truly enjoy doing it.

Over the years of my being in this this wonderful profession, I've morphed into a teacher, trainer, educator, and recently author. I find this to be a challenging, rewarding, and satisfying endeavor. I've mentioned to LaDawn many times, that I will probably sigh my last breath teaching someone somewhere.  I have no qualms about that either.  Sorry, not trying to be morbid here;~)

My point is this.  Since I have accepted the responsibility of being a "teacher", I want to strive to be a good one, one that hopefully makes a difference. A long time ago, my good friend Wayne Byrne invited me to give a series of seminars for Art Leather, a prominent album company at the time. He followed up his request by saying to me, "Now, David, we don't expect you to give your program in Cincinnati, a city normally on the list, and give all your secrets to your competition."  I answered him by saying, "Wayne, if I ever put limits on where I teach, I could never call myself  a good teacher."  We did the program in Cincinnati, Ohio that year.

Person in Blue Labyrinth Thinking of Way OutGood teachers have to challenge themselves by always questioning themselves and their long held views.  They too, need to constantly re-evaluating their positions, content, and motivation for what they are doing.

More importantly good teachers need to challenge their students, get them thinking, make them re-evaluate their own positions. Challenges do not always result in a "warm fuzzy" teaching/learning relationship as last week's post proved.

So back to the "burning question" - How Much Of A Professional Are You?  I thought the judge was pretty hard on Damaris Geese, the defendant.  In fact, I thought his forceful questioning is what sent her "over the top." But, you know what, reality TV or not, why would anyone react so UNprofessionally in front of the whole world!? 

I felt sorry for Ms. Geese, but, you know, professionals don't act that way.  Do you see what I'm trying to get to?  Being a "Professional" is far more than the gear you shoot.  A good part of being a true "Professional" is rooted in your attitude.  That includes your attitude and honesty towards yourself, your clients, your gear, your demeanor, and your profession.

And by the way, being a "part timer" does NOT mean that you are less than a true professional.  I love seeing and meeting these photographers at Imaging USA, WPPI, at many of my seminars, and workshops.  And, I will do my best to answer questions, give a little advice when asked, and most of all, always encourage them with their photographic endeavors.

Many of these people I meet are professionals in the truest sense of the word.  They are eager to continue to learn; they treat their clients with the utmost respect and will bend over backwards to satisfy them; they may not be shooting with the latest greatest gear, but at least their gear is of "pro" quality - and they know how to use it; and they know they are in this profession for the long run and hopefully, one day, will be able to transition to full time status.

DAZNOTE: I would love to do a series of posts on making the transition into a full time photographer in the upcoming months.  I think changing any career and making this change has to be about the "scariest" decision a person makes in their professional lives.  The series title I have in mind - "Going Pro - Avoiding The Landmines Along The Way."  I'll keep you posted.

So what are some of the things that help define a professional photographer? 

Here is a quick list.

1. Act Less "Artsy" and shoot more "Pro" - I was visiting with one of my past wedding clients yesterday.  Lauren runs a wedding consulting business in the area and is in the process of working with her husband's sister on her upcoming wedding. 

She was telling me stories of photographers she has visited in the Cincy area. One photographer they visited says she NEVER shoots with flash because she only wants to capture every image in it's natural surrounds exactly as it appears.

Sounds so "artsy" doesn't it.  Lauren saw it as "red flag" and asked if the photographer had any samples taken inside the sanctuary during the ceremony - she had NO inside wedding photographs to show - AT ALL! So how does this photographer plan to photograph inside a dark reception hall.  Hey, I'm a high ISO shooter too, but every photograph captured without flash - NO WAY!

2. Looking the part of a "Pro" - Lauren brought up another important point.  She mentioned that in a number of weddings she has worked, that she was shocked that so many so called "pro" photographers show up at a formal event in their black jeans and a black t-shirt!

Hey, I've seen that for years and have voiced my opinions over many posts at DPT. My dress code rule - dress the way the guests dress, never above them and never, never below them. If you want to be a "pro", dress the part.

3. Bring a professional attitude to everything you do. Never become engaged in any kind of "adversarial" discussion with your client, clergy member, "church lady", bridal consultant, vendor, your assistant - never!!!

4. Present yourself as a professional.  That means in the "gear department" too. Let me "fan the flames" one more time.  No, I'm not trying to be argumentative - I'm trying to give you good advice.

To give your clients a "Pro" experience - and isn't that what true professionals are suppose to do -you've got to look the part not just in your attire but with your photography gear as well. A person walking onto a job with a Canon Rebel is claiming "out loud" that they are an amateur shooter maybe making a few extra bucks on the weekends.

Now please don't barrage me with comments on this point.  I'm NOT trying to tick anyone off with that remark.  But what I am saying is that you aspire to be a true professional, you've got to be using the right tools for the job.

A used Canon 40D costs less on eBay than a new Rebel now and it let's you look more the part. This is about the time some folks will be commenting that the new Rebel has more mega-pixels, shoots video, yada, yada, yada.

That all true, but here are a few remarks from some reviews on the Rebel:

- Noisy, Short battery life

- Noisy at high iso, not weatherproof, plasticky body, balance issue when used with a heavy lens

- Poor image quality, Poor build quality, noisy, Difficult to use, Short battery life, Complicated controls/menu

- Shaky operation, Poor image quality, Poor build quality, noisy

- Poor build quality, Difficult to use

I think the poor image quality remarks are based on the kit lens experiences. -DZ

Hear me out on this - I am NOT putting down the Rebel at all. It's a great little camera.  As Chuck Westfall, Canon's Technical advisor says, "The new Rebel is a much smaller and lighter camera than the 7D."  "It's amazing how much it has for the money."  I couldn't agree more.

So I'm a professional wedding photographer - would I ever shoot with a Rebel.  Absolutely yes, but not as my primary camera maybe just as a backup body.  If you want to be a "pro", you need to be taking at least two cameras to a wedding with you anyway.

You say, "I'm on a budget, I'm just getting started."  All well and good.  BTW, people "just getting started" don't graduate to professional status overnight either. 

Anyway, let, me answer the remark above.  If I was just getting started today in the profession here is what I would suggest. If you can't afford a new Canon 7D or Nikon equivalent, then pick up a 40D in good condition.  It was my favorite wedding camera for a few years - solid build quality, fast, easy to use, low noise, external flash sync connector for off camera flash shooting, and lots more.

Next add a decent lens to the mix.  Does it have to be super expensive glass?  No my favorite lens when shooting the 40D was the 17-85mm IS "kit" lens that came with the camera.  It was sharp enough across it's full range for everything I used it for.

The 18-55mm "kit" lens that comes with the Rebel is not even in the same category. It's - dare I say the words - an amateur camera lens. Do I know some of our readers use that lens? Of course I do.  Am I "insulting" anyone by calling it an amateur lens? Of course not.  I'm calling it what it is.

OK, armed with the 40D and the 17-85mm IS lens you need to add the second body.  Get another used 40D, not me.  The video capabilities of the new Rebel T2i would point my wallet right to that camera.  Buy it with the cheap kit lens and only use that lens for back up.

Now in one "fell swoop" you are good to go in the camera department.  Be sure to pick up a solid hot shoe mounted strobe - on the Canon side, that would be the 580EX2.  Don't settle for less.

Next I would pick up a Canon F1.8 50mm lens, lots of "bang for the buck" and sharpness in that $90 lens. Put this lens on the Rebel.

DAZNOTE: It's really the kit lens on the Rebel that completes it as an amateur camera.  Put good glass on it and it will take great pictures.  But remember, it's still the second camera.

OK, you need one more piece of gear - some kind of off-camera flash.  Head over to eBay again and pick up a used Quantum Q-Flash and radio system.  Now you are in business.  Are you a "pro" yet?  No, not for quite a while (not being condescending here). 

5. Now you've got to learn the gear inside and out.  You've got to be ready to handle ANY gear related eventuality at a wedding.

You've got to know what shots to get at a wedding and know what to do when you can't get them. What is your Plan B?  Back in the 80's when I employed two other photographers working for me, I stressed to them that they had to come back with the shots - NO EXCEPTIONS!!! No excuses. They always did.

6. Now you've got do dedicate yourself to this profession.  Just shooting weddings for weekend cash does not a "pro" make.  It’s your dedication to both your craft and your art that begins to raise your bar as an upcoming "pro" level shooter.

7. Want to call yourself a pro? You better know how to run your business successfully.  This is usually the biggest differentiator between the "enthusiastic" and the "pro." Is being called an "enthusiast" a bad thing, of course not.  Heck, I'm still an enthusiast in many ways - particularly in the DSLR video department - but I still keep plugging away.

But I'll tell you one thing about our business.  There is a tremendous amount of turn-over in this business.  They come in as fast as they drop out.  The funny thing is that many that drop out after only a year or two were still labeling themselves as "pro".  As my good friend Ms. Sarah would say, "Say it ain't so, Joe!"

Let me leave you with just a few more thoughts on "professionalism" before I wrap this up.

Definitions: pro·fes·sional (prō fes̸hə nəl, prə-)


  1. of, engaged in, or worthy of the high standards of a profession
  2. A person who earns his living from a specified activity; That is carried out for money, especially as a livelihood.

I found this great piece on "Professionalism" right here.  Here are a few excerpts.

Are You a Professional?

How you look, talk, write, act and work determines whether you are a professional or an amateur. Society does not emphasize the importance of professionalism, so people tend to believe that amateur work is normal. Many businesses accept less-than-good results.

A professional looks, speaks and dresses like a professional. Develop the frame of mind that whatever you do, you are doing it as a professional and move up to professional standards in it.

This article is a good read and needs to be read by everyone that joined the conversation last week.

The bottom line is this:

If you want to "talk the talk", you've got to "walk the walk."

So to all our loyal readers at, that includes all enthusiasts, amateurs, part-time pros, seasoned professionals, and anyone with a keen interest in this exciting photographic times, please keep checking back for posts that will be exciting, informative, entertaining, and sometimes challenging.  And never shy away from challenges in your life if you want to be a "PRO".

Respectfully submitted, David


On that note gang, I'm out of here.  We’ve got bags to pack, books to sign and gear to check out before we head to Orlando and Photoshop World. 

Have a great weekend, and I'll see you in Orlando next week. -David


  1. Another consideration if you are just starting out is to RENT. I shoot Nikon, but I know you can rent the 7D for $130 (insured) for 4 days from

    That's less than $33 a day and you can configure that cost into your pricing for the wedding.

  2. While some of your comments intitally may have been a bit stingy for me, I must say that I think your overall theme is correct.

  3. You may not get a tweet out of this one. I don't dare consider myself a pro although the possibilities have increased since you and other website have been found. My work is getting noticed little by little.Thank you for your time, effort, great posts... and Dawns.

  4. I'd still like to see you address the "why no f/2.8 lenses?" questions from the previous blog post.

    You suggested the 17-85 and the 24-105 lenses in previous posts and on the webcast and some would consider them fairly slow and somewhat annoying because they're not constant f/2.8 zooms (they just won't focus as fast as f/2.8 or faster lenses in low light and will force you to run slower shutter speeds unless you're going to use flash all the time indoors)...

  5. I still think you missed the point, Dave. This case shouldn't be about professionalism, equipment, or photography - it is about contract law and if the photographer fulfilled the contract. If her work was consistent with what she delivered in the past, what she presents on her website, etc., then the conclusion must be "yes - she fulfilled the contract. Everything else is superfluous.

    The problem for you - and yes, it could be a problem for you - is that someone who is dissatisfied with your work, simply wants it for free, or whatever their motive - was taught a lesson here that they can challenge you in court over your "professionalism" and not over what was delivered to them. That is wrong.

    So this has nothing to do with how professional equipment is or anything other than contract law. Period. And on this point, Judge Brown was an amateur.

  6. Unforunately, the ferver over cameras seems to have obscured the real issue in the suit. The client hired a photographer for an agreed price based on samples of previous work, and a promise of services to be delivered. Did the photographer deliver work consistent with the samples? Did she deliver the services promised? Did she charge the agreed price?

    Legally, I believe those are the only questions with merit, and I've never seen them addressed. I feel like the poor gal was railroaded to make "good" television.

    Charging for services doesn't make you Professional (capital P). But unless you've promised 21MP files, using a Rebel doesn't by itself mean you violated a contract either.

  7. Great post David. Lots of food for thought there. The only point I would debate with you is in the area of natural light wedding photography; England's Jeff Ascough does an amazing job using only natural light and, while a different style to yours, is still worthy of merit and one for his appreciators to aspire to.

    Love your book by the way. The best wedding photography work I have read. Great job with the blog too. I know how much work it must be!

  8. I'm your typical weekend shooter and use a 5dmkii along with a 7d backup all pro lenses and always worry about my clients opinion, but I see many "pros" with lesser equipment and crappy websites... they sell themselves much better than me. .. I guess I need to be more confident

  9. I went back and watched the video again, and I will say that if the portfolio pictures the bride saw were as bad as the ones she recieved, I don't believe she would have hired her. This discussion (and the judges rants) seemed to focus on equipment. While equipment is important, so is a knowledge of lighting, posing, composition, post production, etc., and based on the pictures in the video, that photographer was not very knowledgeable about any of these. Maybe if she had subscribed to DPT she could have remedied that. ;)

  10. David, You are my new super hero! I can't begin to THANK YOU enough for all the efforts you put into your blog. You ve helped me so much in developing my business and becoming a better photographer.

    Your book is amazing, simply to read and understand. I've re-read chapters over and over just hoping some of your style will sink in.

    On behalf of all your loyal readers, do what ever it takes to keep LaDawn happy. Take her to dinner, do the dishes, buy her some jewelry I need your blog and continue to learn much from you.

    Thanks for all your time, energy and wisdom.

  11. Great post, I think we could in [art carry it farther and sayeven with a pro camera the pictures in the video would still be crap. I have grown from a Rebel to a Nikon D300 and still growing. I am not a full time pro but have started from the ground up and will work and learn until I may someday make a full time living from my photography. It is because of your blog and others like yours that allow begginers to learn and try new things and to see what is possible.
    Thank you for your hard work and your willingness to teach others is GREATLY appreciated.

  12. Watched the Joe Brown scene on YouTube, and the judge has some serious ethics issues. Yes, the photographer's work presented wasn't great. But before even hearing the photographer's side, he started railing on how she wasn't using the Canon 1-series. Really? IMHO, that's the WRONG camera for the job. He did indirectly make a good point when the photographer didn't know what speed her lens was, etc. But he seemed to imply that if you don't have the heaviest camera & lens combination, you can't be a professional. Even David Ziser doesn't use the 1-series!!!

  13. You are always SOOOO RIGHT and we learn so much from you!!! Thank you!!!