We have probably the worst system of determining how good we really are in this profession I have ever seen.  Since none of us have to obtain any licensing or certification (mandatory certification) it is pretty much left up to each of us to determine our own worth as a professional.  There are photographers that turn to loved ones and ask for their opinion, (kind of like the ugly girl asking their mother if she could be a model!), we have the newbie photographers that turn to the other photographers in the support group and then you have the studio owners that spend 6 month out of the year trying to create a perfect image to submit for PPA Judging.  While PPA Judging is better than asking your mother, it still isn’t ideal, since you are submitting one image from hundreds and in many cases thousands that were taken.

No matter if you are a newbie or you started your career the day after the first camera was invented, you are good and can give your self flowery title like “artist” when and only when every pose, every photograph in every session looks beautiful and your clients want them all!  Now don’t be a wise-guy and ask what about the blinks and bad expressions!  You good when you see the client and their clothing, select the background/set /area of a location to create the portrait in, select a lighting style that works with all the other elements, pose the client to look their best and capture the image with the proper exposure and white balance, not just one or twice in a session but in every pose, in every session, all the time.

I see the work of many photographers and effort is another limiting factor of how good we are.  I have seen many local photographers that are very talented, “when they want to be”.  You see a cute cheerleader, a twenty-something perfect woman doing a portrait for their boyfriend and a guy with bulging muscles and the photographs look amazing, you can’t find a single bad image.  But in walks the homely cousin of that cheerleader, perfect woman or muscle-head guy and you would think the photos were taken by a soccer mom or high school kid, because the photographer isn’t interested in doing a good job, since none of these photos will be samples, go on their wall or entered for print competition.   The quality of their work depends on the beauty of the subject.

The last group of photographers are the ‘justifiers’.  Justifiers, justify every crappy photo they take by blaming something outside of their control.  “If I only had that camera, or that light, or if the weather just would have been better, than the crappy photos I created would have been beautiful”.  In the session I posted here, it was from a day at the beach several days ago.  We use a beach outside Monterey, Ca.  It’s close, it offers a variety of different types of backgrounds and I like it.  The down side is that on the coast and Monterey especially the weather is constantly changing.  One minute it’s overcast, then the sun comes out, then the overcast is back, then it starts to drizzle, the ten minutes later the sun is out again.  During this one session (we have 4 that day) the light was almost constantly change from bright sun to heavy overcast and yet the images from the entire session looked great and the client loved each one.  I know the client like each one because she traded her great big stack of money for the images that I had created.

An additional note, before I get any emails calling me a hypocrite taking photos of a young lady (senior actually) in swim wear when I have made fun of other senior photographers showing seniors in swimwear at photography conventions and programs, first of all we were at the beach, with her mother and father right there with us.  Secondly, the only reason this young lady wanted to be photographed in swimwear was she is interested in modeling and thoughts a few of these shots might come in handy!

Remember, it’s not what you have, it what you know, it not what you have learned but you put to use in each and every session and it doesn’t really matter what friends, loved ones and colleagues think of your work, it’s the opinion of paying clients (that pay a professional fee, not $29 for every image on a CD) the ultimately determine the true worth of your work and you as a professional photographer.

Learn how to deal with outdoor lighting my DVD  Outdoor Portrait Photography is 75 minutes long filmed at 5 locations.  You will love it!  FREE SAMPLE!


~ by jeffsmithbooks on October 10, 2010.


  1. Amen brother!!!! If we all took the time to really learn our craft, practice until our fingers hurt, then we can call ourselves professionals. It’s not the camera that takes the photos but the artist behind it!!!!

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