Professional Photographer | St. Augustine Photographer
Hi. I'm Danielle Brooks and I'm a Professional Photographer in St. Augustine, Florida.
It took me 3 years to say that. Weird right? I have a nice camera, I take photos of families, I give them the images, and I make money. Professional Photographer, right? Not really. I feel like there are certain qualifications that make you a Professional and not just a Photographer. Before I go to much further, I want to preface this post by saying that this is just my opinion on the subject and I would really like to hear your ideas. I also want to say that this list doesn't mean you're not a good photographer. If you are going to be commanding a certain price point from your clients, you could be doing them a disservice by not having these qualifications.
For starters, I'm not a mom with a camera. I don't want moms out there to go all crazy on me, but most people who start off in photography pick up an slr camera and say, "Hey, I can take pictures of my friends and make money. I'm a professional." No you're not. I've had 4+ years of experience. I know how to pose people, I know how to frame a shot. If you were to cover up my screen on my camera, I could take a perfectly exposed photo no matter the lighting. That takes time and practice. The reason it took me 3 years to add the word "professional" to my job description is because I didn't feel like I deserved it. Over time I've learned that there are 3 things that differentiate me as professional from non-professional photographers.
I don't shoot and burn. I used to, and in my opinion it can be a great way to get started in the industry. I would meet with clients, take their pictures and give them a disc. Now I educate my clients on the importance of print products and preserving their memories beyond a disc of images. What differentiates me from non-professionals is I work with a print lab and have my monitor calibrated to their printers. I know how to crop a photo for a 4x6, 5x7, 8x10, etc. You are missing out on a wonderful experience if you just shoot photos and hand clients a disc.
The biggest kicker for me to now say I'm a Professional Photographer is that I pay taxes. I am registered with the State of Florida. Not just income taxes, but sales tax on any products I sell. This is a big one, and it just happened for me. Before I was registered, I took pictures and accepted money. I didn't track my finances or take out the appropriate amount of money for taxes. Now, I book-keep. I track every dollar earned and spent. I pay my taxes quarterly. I charge sales tax. My livelihood depends on this business. It's not a side job. Most people with cameras don't do this. And if you want to do photography as a business, this is the key component to doing it successfully. How else will you know if you're truly successful and not just loosing money if you don't keep track of your cash flow?
Lastly, you shoot with a full-frame camera and a kit lens isn't in your glass line up. Professionals are almost always shooting with a full-frame camera. It gives you the opportunity to shoot larger photos for printing. With my 5D Mark II I can shoot photos for billboards! That's HUGE! You can't do that sort of thing with a Rebel. And kit lenses? Suck. They are great learning tools, but with it comes to taking a great photo, they just don't cut it.
I want to encourage you all. If you aren't a professional yet, keep at it! I just now started calling myself a professional. I have set a high standard for myself and I want my clients to know they are booking the best. We all started as beginners. I started with a Rebel T2i and a kit lens. I started by shooting and burning. I wasn't paying taxes. It has been a long road and and a hard one, but the journey is so worth it.
Do you call yourself a "Professional Photographer"? If so, what sets you apart from the others? Can't wait to hear from you all! Here is a funny photo of Ava and I. She was laying in the grass and I laid next to her for a photo. She was great for the first few frames and then, she was done cuddling. This is just a perfectly timed photo. I feel that it captures all the love I have for her, but she just isn't interested. Of course, I'm totally oblivious.