I’ve been freelancing for over 30 years doing stills, portraits, copy work, nature, and journalism. Why? Because it’s a hard market and I find if you don’t have the finances, patience, or persistence to develop your craft, then you shouldn’t quit your day job. Am I a professional? Only when I’m getting paid! Sure, I’ve done weddings. Everyone with a camera has done weddings. Did I get paid? No..it was a gift. Was it professionally done? I hope to think so. I certainly wouldn’t do it on a full time basis, because I’m NOT a professional wedding photographer. And what I’ve learned from this experience, I wouldn’t want to be. Most people not in the business have no clue what’s involved in providing a sucessfull wedding shoot.
I tend to use the term professional photographer loosely. I prefer “Freelance Photographer” because that’s what I really am. Yes, I do a professional job and provide what the client expects. But I don’t do it day-in and day-out. And I didn’t quit my day job (lol). My clients, if and when I decide to accept them, are very demanding and if they want cheap, I decline. As the saying goes, “good work isn’t cheap, and cheap work isn’t good”. In fact, my best advice to any aspiring photographer is to avoid job offers in the local paper or online classifieds. Start out as an assistant with an established professional. The people posting online are looking for cheap. That would be like hiring a novice pilot to fly me somewhere. I’ll be darned if I’m going to put my life in the hands of someone that doesn’t fly regularly and who isn’t listed in the Journal Of Professional Pilots (or whatever trade publication they use). It really does surprise me though, how many people are willing to hire just about anyone with a camera to capture their wedding or important event. Why would you trust that to Uncle Bob?
Although most freelancers are true professionals, they don’t necessarily have the experience you may need for your next project. Be sure to find out what their specialty is and ask to see a recent portfolio of their work. Just because they have impressed you with some of their best shots doesn’t mean they are impressive. Ask to see more examples of the type of shots you expect. If it’s a wedding, ask to see samples of numerous weddings to be sure the photographer is consistent or just got lucky. Remember, alot of freelance photographers don’t do this full-time and may lack the experience your looking for.