How to Differentiate between a Real Photographer and a Beginner

Anyone having a DSLR camera thinks that he/she is a professional photographer. What is the line that separates a real photographer from an amateur photographer/beginners? (as asked on Quora)

Real Photographer vs. Beginners


Real photographers know the ins and outs of their equipment and use it merely as a toy to translate their visual imagery into a real breathtaking photographs. They control their equipment and the environment. They know when and where to use what and quickly adapt to new settings as per changing circumstances. Most importantly, they never compromise with the quality of camera and lenses and invest heavily in right set of equipment. They do not believe in one size (lens) fits all theory.

Beginners or self-proclaimed professional photographers are controlled by their equipment and the environment. They mostly use very limited range of equipment as they lack the detailed knowledge of the precise equipment needed for a particular purpose, which comes only with years and years of experience.

Image Format

Real photographers can shoot both in RAW and JPEG format with the same precision without losing on the quality of pictures. They do minimal post-processing  and sometimes do not even need to edit the pictures (as their original work straight from the camera is already so beautiful). The real photographer does all the hard work in the camera itself so that they don’t need to slog for days to post-process the pictures.

Beginners shoot in JPEG (because they may not be good at editing in RAW) and slightly more advanced photographers shoot in RAW thinking that they will wash off all their sins (read, flaws) in the holy river of Photoshop during post-processing. More than a photographer, they are photo manipulator.

Reviews and Publicity

For real photographers, their work itself is the advertisement. People know them by their work not by their bill boards or advertisements. They don’t need to spend money on branding and other publicity gimmicks. They will always get good client reviews and feedback and yet they will remain modest and grounded to the earth.

Beginners will have lesser chances of getting good reviews or feedback from the clients. And, if they happen to get some, they will always try to cash in on those reviews and publicize them to the fullest. You will hardly find them being modest about their work.

Web site and Blogs

Real photographers will have a thoughtfully designed and beautiful web site. They will invest their time, efforts and money in the smallest details of their web site to ensure ease of use and great visuals. You may also find them writing interesting blog posts  and sharing their knowledge and experiences for free.

The first thing a beginner photographer would do is to create either a Facebook page with their name or a free web site/ blog which may be just average. They will usually avoid sharing their knowledge and experiences thinking that somebody may either copy them or become his/her competitor later on. You will find them more active on social media than the real photography work.

Curating the Work

Real photographers will regularly curate their work and weed out the average ones from their portfolio. For them, less is more. They focus more on the quality than the number of photographs.

Beginners will keep posting their photos without feeling any need to curate their work ever. They are usually so obsessed with their pictures that they forget the art of self-criticism and end up posting more pictures than necessary. They basically cannot differentiate between a good picture and a sub-standard picture.

Personality and Nature

Real photographers’ work is reflection of their personality, nature, mood and temperament. They follow their own signature style. Photography will be almost like their second nature and they can take amazing shots just instinctively.

Beginners’ photos will not have a soul or personality of its own. Their pictures may be merely a replica of various other photographers’ work. They need conscious efforts to click good pictures. It is not their second nature.

Asking Price 

Real photographers will not  devalue themselves by working for free (unless it is a social cause) or at a price much below than their asking price. It is more difficult to engage in any kind of negotiations with them when it comes to pricing. They usually quote a fair price for their quality of work and don’t engage in fish-market bargaining.

Beginners will first quote a much higher price than what they deserve and then engage in heavy bargaining to get the assignment at any cost, sometimes even below the market price.


Real photographers do not heavily rely on photography tips, tutorials, and rules available online or otherwise. They do a lot of experiments with what they read and find the right and wrong for themselves.

Beginners are mostly rule-abiding slaves of the equipment. They learn from whatever source they may find and take them for granted without questioning.


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