Amateur vs. Enthusiast vs. Pro

Thom Hogan, perhaps my favorite writer on photography-related topics, ironically posted a rather interesting commentary on amateur vs. enthusiast vs. pro needs.  It’s well worth reading, but since it’s currently on the front page of, Thom’s site, I can’t yet post a link to it – he does indicate that due to response, he’ll create a permanent URL.  Incidentally, it’s a shame he doesn’t use something like WordPress so that every post automatically has a permanent URL, and so that nice things like RSS work for keeping up to date with the site.  Still, I’m a big enough fan of what he does that I think I’ll finally get rid of the default WordPress links and put a link to his site there instead!

I’ll comment more once his updated article is linkable, but he’s clearly a pro that writes for enthusiasts.  In contrast to that is Ken Rockwell, who is also a pro that takes some great shots, but with advice much more targeted at amateurs.  I bothered to start writing down some of my thoughts here (vs. E-mailing them to friends) because I think that since both are pros, they forget at times what it means to be definitively in the amateur category – even if you are trying to do the best you can within that category!

As an example, this is one of Ken Rockwell’s pictures of Half Dome at Yosemite, linked directly from his site and not copied here, copyright owned by him, and directly linking to his site.  (Which I think makes it OK for me to post a link to, but I’m no IPR lawyer):

Half Dome, shot by pro photographer Ken Rockwell @

Ken or Thom probably think of all the people up on Glacier Point shooting with cameraphones as the amateur, but my amateur version of the shot is this one:

Half Dome, Amateur Edition, shot by me

Well, I seem to have almost exactly the same framing of the shot itself, and this is back from my JPEG-only no-processing days so it’s what came straight out of the camera with no changes – so no, I didn’t crop this after the fact to match.  Wow!  Maybe I don’t do everything completely wrong.  My shot is from September 2009, Ken’s is from October 2009, so same available camera technology (Ken may have more budget for said purchases, but that’s not why his shots are better than mine).  You might notice a tiny, little bit more detail in the rock face if you look really close in Ken’s shot.  Oh, I guess his lighting is spectacularly better too – he went there just before sunset, we went there right after baby nap time.  And of the approximately 6,900,000,000 people in the world, perhaps a hundred (those that know my wife Valerie personally) might prefer my shot, with the other 6,899,999,900 preferring Ken’s shot.

But that’s just fine, because us amateurs are shooting for those 100 people.  And even better, I’m probably the world’s #1 photographer when it comes to pictures of Valerie standing in front of stuff.  At least if you measure by quantity :).

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