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When do you call yourself a Professional Photographer?

“You are a Professional Photographer as soon as someone pays you money to do photography.”FALSE

Here’s why not. I’ve also taken money to cook a hamburger when I worked at Burger King – way back when. That doesn’t make me a Chef.

Saying that you are a professional photographer as soon as you make money on photography – would mean that anyone at the DMV who takes a driver’s license photo is now a “professional photographer.”

That would also mean that anyone that does a Passport Photo is now a professional photographer.

Everyone here knows of an “Uncle Bob” who has shot a wedding and his niece pays him $100 as a thank you. Yes… he took money – but that does NOT make him a professional photographer.

“You are a Professional Photographer as soon as you work in photography full time.”FALSE

And here’s why not. I know many Professional Race Car Drivers who do not have a full-time “ride” in the NASCAR series. Quite frankly – it’s hard to be a full-time race car driver.

There are some drivers in NASCAR who are in demand because they excel in Road Courses. Others freelance their way around in different racing series. On top of that – a lot of drivers do other stuff to get by. Some in the smaller race series? They work in body shops during the week and then race on weekends. They are all Professional Race Car Drivers.

There’s no shame in moonlighting.

Is there any shame in us as parents that we’re not at our home Monday -Friday – 9 to 5 – changing diapers and folding laundry? No. I consider myself a full-time dad. It’s just that I spend a lot of time on the road working.

“You are professional photographer when you have a business license.”FALSE

And here’s why. Some photographers live in a jurisdiction where a business license isn’t even required.

And some photographers travel the world to take amazing pictures and they come back home and sell them. They are not required to get a business license and they are very much professional photographers.

At the same time… tomorrow – I can get a business license as “House Painting by Gene Ho , LLC.”  Yes… as of tomorrow morning – I call myself a professional house painter! And I am now a professional painter!!!

No… that just means I have a business license. (And trust me… you don’t want me to paint your home.)

“You are a professional photographer when you pay taxes.” FALSE

You know why? Because the last few years past year I paid taxes on my Charles Schwab stock market account. Yes!!! I’m made a profit!

Oh yeah… you know it. I know how to pick’um. I’m really pretty darn good and picking stocks.

Each morning I watch my stocks – I invest and when I see an opening and I’ve made some money on my investments.

Yup. I made money in the stock market. Yup. I paid taxes on my profits.

But am I a stock broker? Am I a professional trader

No way.

That all being said – I think the answer is one you can only answer YOURSELF.

I am a professional photographer.

I have been for now 23 years.

In year one – I fell in love with photography. I was still in college at the time.

First year? Gross Income in Photography? Probably like $500 or so. Can’t even remember – because I was too busy working my job as a “City of Myrtle Beach Life Guard” and a student at Coastal Carolina University.

But don’t you tell me back then then that I wasn’t a professional photographer.

Because I was. That was what I loved – in the core of my being.

Does this make EVERY person that says they are a “Professional Photographer” a Professional Photographer?


But that’s the beauty of it.

Neither do I care.

23 years ago… If I announced I was a Professional Photographer – and you laughed in my face? I would laugh with you. But I could care less what you thought.

I know who I am. And I’m a Professional Photographer.

That being said… If I really, really believe it deep down inside that I am a professional athlete… And I said it. And I believed it. Would I be a Professional Athlete?


And I’m not. But that’s the beauty of it all

You can say anything you want. But it’s up to you to prove it day in and day out.

You know – truth be told? Sometimes I get so frustrated with my photography. I go out and shoot something and I think it’s all great and wonderful looking at the back of my camera. And then I get back to my computer and think – “What in the world???”

I replayed that video of Tiger Woods many times over – when Tiger Tee’d off in a tournament. The ball hooked way left. And Tiger said… “Tiger!!!  YOU SUCK!!!”

See – we’re not Lawyers. We don’t pass the Bar Exam and then we become lawyers.

And we’re not doctors. We don’t pass the Board Exam and then become doctors.

You feel it? You believe it?

You feel it in your veins?

Then you are a professional photographer.

Now just go prove it.

Because that’s what I try to do every day.





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