Amateur. That word can have a negative connotation, right? It can be used to denote someone who isn't serious about what they do, someone who is "less than." But is that really what it means?
Let's go back to French 101(the source of this beautiful word) and break it down:
Amateur = "lover of..."
I am an amateur photographer. I am proud of that fact. I don't get paid one thin dime for what I do, and I wouldn't have it any other way. And that's really, in essence, what the word means: someone who does something they love without being paid for it.
I admire you professional photographers - I really do. You guys capture memories, you meet demanding expectations, you bruise your bodies and end up with unnatural aches and pains. I know what a multiple-hour shoot feels like. I don't want to do that for a living - but I'm very glad that you do. You guys are the wedding people, the family reunion people, the commercial shoot people. I'm a small business owner - I'm familiar with all the hats you have to wear. I do that five days a week in our salon, and it can be rough. I know the pain of being undercut and losing customers to competition. I know how hard you work, giving up almost every weekend with your families to shoot weddings and events, because that's when things happen.
But here's the thing: I love what I do when I'm behind that lens, too. I love the effect that light has on mood - how framing can completely change the context of a subject. It's magic! I want complete creative freedom, without expectations, to shoot whatever I want to shoot, when I want to shoot it. It's how I'm learning and growing.
Do I know as much as a professional? No way, and probably never will. And that's why if someone asks me if I could shoot their important family events or a wedding, I tell them to go to you. Because when it counts, passion isn't going to take the place of experience. You aren't going to get a second chance in those moments, and you need someone who is confident they can capture them. You need that money shot. I'm not trying to steal your job, professional awesome people. Please be nice to me - I may send you your next customer, because now I know a little bit about how much skill it took to get those perfect shots in your portfolio. Skills I don't yet have.
We were all once amateurs at the things we now are proficient in.
I guess that's why I'm so thankful for the encouraging words from some of my photographer friends(both pros and skilled hobbyists) like Shannon Alexander, Dave Strong, Brian Duncan, Daenel, and Ginger - I notice your "likes" on my photos, and it gives me a nice buzz. I admire humble people with extreme talent - like Christian Gideon, who dispenses words of encouragement to novice photographers like me through Twitter. It makes me feel like I don't totally suck, and I appreciate that. :)
I'm a firm believer in if you're good at something - people will tell you. There's no reason to shout it from the rooftops yourself. I heart the humble people. But, then again I've always been a cheerleader for the underdog.
Bottom line, I think for lots of us, photography came as a bit of a pleasant surprise, and it's good to see the people who have become successful at it being generous instead of proud and defensive. It's one of the most accessible art forms, but one of the hardest to become an expert at. I don't think I'll ever be an expert. But I love the process of learning, and photography has awoken something in me that I didn't expect.
I guess what amateur really means to me is this: passion.
I just love to take pictures. That's all.
And I'll wear that amateur badge with honor.