Passionate doesn’t equal Professional

Google “Passionate about Photography” and see over 21 million results.

I do not discount that many photographers are indeed sincerely passionate about photography, but it is hardly the only attribute one needs to be a successful photographer.  The competitive space is being overcrowded, and everyone is passionate and creative so in my view, it’s all starting to look the same to the consumer.

Everyone takes pictures, but not everyone should instantly brand themselves as professional after 10 minutes with their new camera (even with a zoom lens…).

The art and craft of photography is one of the most interesting historical journeys over the last 100 years in America.  My good friend Gavin Seim is preparing for another road trip with his family themed “A Journey of Technique & History”.  You can read about his project at and find me as a regular roundtable member of where we discuss an ever changing industry.

It is great to see a photographer like Gavin, come full circle from starting out in the “digital age” only to discover film, other formats and now he is on a journey of learning and discovery  of how photography evolved.  For a guy that still loves film cameras, I think that’s pretty cool.

My “passion” for photography really began on a family summer trip to Europe after my Sophomore year of high school.  Within days, I had become the official family photographer and gladly slugged the camera bag with a Konica Autoreflex T, 3 lenses and a Honeywell Strobonar Flash, yeah, I was that cool.  I experimented with many long exposure night shots and constantly looked for unique scenes, and natural lighting.  It was torture having to wait 2 months to finish the summer travels, return home, and send the slide film off for processing.

The day the slides arrived, I spent hours at the dining room table with a small viewer inspecting my work.  Most of what I tried worked, and the pictures were fantastic. At that moment, I wanted to learn everything there was to know about photography, and so it all began for me.

To achieve “Professional” status, you had to conquer technical skills, and over time, develop your own style and determine what type of photography suited you best.  Young/inexperienced photographers had great respect for established pros in all genres of photography.  It was not uncommon for a photographer to shadow/apprentice for example with wedding photography, for a year or more with an established wedding photographer.  Only then, would you consider taking on the weight and responsibility of photographing a once in a lifetime event like a wedding.

Technology has changed everything.  Not all for the bad, but with cameras that do pretty much everything for you (if you choose to give up control), the case could be made that too many shooters are fast forwarding to a perceived level of expertise that just doesn’t exist.

There are 507,000 Wedding Photographer listings, just in Minneapolis, MN.  Impressive considering the overall population of the Twin Cities is just over 3 million people.  Is it any surprise that very few photographers are thriving, let alone surviving with such statistics?

The quality of photography (especially for weddings) is both better and worse than ever before.  The creativity, and fresh looks continue to add a very photojournalistic feel to wedding photography.  I contend that far too often however, the “passionate” photographer shortchanges their clients as a result of the lack of technical skills and experience.  This was brought to light (pun intended) with a conversation this weekend while photographing over 50 youth hockey teams, at an outdoor rink (see my blustery self portrait).


I visited with a gentleman whose wedding I photographed in 1990. He shared with me the fact that when his daughter got engaged, they suggested talking to me (I have done a few second generation weddings already!), she already had a friend from college who was “awesome, amazing, passionate and cheap” in mind to shoot the wedding.  Well, it didn’t end well.  The young photographer arrived with one camera, one lens and a flash.  The flash pictures inside the very large, dark church were either super dark, or blasted light. The photographer tried to tell the family that there’s nothing that she could have done differently, the camera is totally automatic (which in my book doesn’t mean automatically right).  The outside pictures were fine and they got some fun shots.  There were no pictures taken with the parents or grandparents.  When requested, the mother of the bride was told by the photographer that “no one wants those images anymore.   As it turns out, this “passionate photographer” charged almost the same I would have charged.

It saddens me every time I hear a story like this (and there is no shortage of them coming my way).  I cannot save the profession, nor is that my goal.  All I can continue to do is provide Professional Photography that inspires, amazes, and probably generates a tear or two for my clients.  I have talked about experience many times.  Recently I began using the slogan “1000 brides can’t be wrong” as I have indeed photographed well over 1000 weddings. I still love what I do, and do what I love.  My professional life spans a wide range of photographic events.  Figuring out how to make the gear work perfectly, in everything I shoot is a challenge. Yesterday started at zero degrees, and I am glad to report all the gear worked perfectly, and never failed.  Here’s a link to a fun time-lapse that one of my photographers created just for fun of our outdoor hockey shoot.

My next blog will focus on what I am doing to re-brand and re-launch my wedding photography.  Email me anything you want to know about planning a wedding, or if you’d like the pdf sent to you of my soon to be released wedding magazine.

Thanks to all who continue to support true professional photographers around the world. Just because cameras have made it easy for anyone to be a photographer, true professionals still exist, you just have to work harder to find them.

Thanks for listening, the journey continues.


Picture Place Photography •  651-426-0232 •



2 thoughts on “Passionate doesn’t equal Professional

  1. I wish you could get this message out to as many people as possible. How can we as photographers educate the public so that they are able to make informed choices able what constitutes “professional” and what they should expect from a professional photographer? Any time I see a photographer who claims that shooting on automatic is all they need to do, I cringe. And telling someone that a church was too dark… inexcusable.

    I hope that the trend of everyone who buys a somewhat nice camera trying to become a photographer ends soon. I hope it ends as more and more people are disappointed with the photos they receive when they hire someone inexperienced (and not just inexperienced – unwilling or unable to recognize what they need to learn). I’m very sorry for those people who trusted someone they shouldn’t have and got those bad shots, but that may be what it takes to help the photography profession come back to what it should be.

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