What constitutes a "professional " photographer?
Good question! What does constitute a professional photographer? My definition of a professional photographer is someone who can deal with any photographic situation and reproduce a good photo consistently time after time. Someone who will preserve and document your memories for you. Someone who cares that you are happy and satisfied with the service with which you are provided and last but not least someone who seeks out your services and pays you for what you do. A professional will go out of their way to find the beauty in everyone and everything they are photographing and not settle a shot that is "good enough". A professional will be prepared and a professional will right the wrongs and treat his or her clients with respect.
I can also tell you what doesn't make a professional photographer. For instance "big camera" and an ego even bigger than the camera that he or she is carrying. "Expert knowledge of photoshop" and "slather" an image in "effects and plug ins".
Some of these points mentioned do have their place in certain situations but only when they are necessary and certainly not all the time. A "big camera" is simply a better tool. When your mom cooks a great meal do you ask what kind of stove she used? If you had Tiger Woods golf clubs would you play like him? Photoshop is also a tool and should not be used a crutch for bad photography but used as a tool to tweak a good photograph. When used for the right purpose it does have it's place. Lastly I'd like to speak to the "big ego" photographer. There is a saying "it's not bragging if you can do it" but a big ego is useless to the client and it doesn't reflect positively on the photographer either.
I have personally been around and learned from great photographers such as Chris Marquardt http://chrismarquardt.com and Sean Galbraith http://seangalbraith.com whose photography speaks for itself. Not to mention when they do teach they convey their message in a professional manner and are both great teachers. I should also make note of my mentor Mr.Dwayne Senft http://gallery.reginaphotoclub.com/dsenft who taught me the basics and laid down the foundation for my photographic career thus far and for that I'll always be grateful.
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Now get out and shoot! Have a great week and take care.