Novice or Pro?

Rohn Engh

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Need the answer to a stock photography question? At our website ( you'll find our Bulletin Board, called "The Kracker Barrel. " Check it out. Our staff answers marketing questions; fellow photographers offer their input and experience. The following is a typical exchange:

Q. In this new century of photography, how would you describe the difference between an amateur and a pro?

A. The Web has made us all amateurs. If that sounds outlandish, it starts to make sense when you re-read some of the postings on Web chat groups of three and four years ago, when established photographers were just beginning to recognize the potential value of the Internet. What may have been good advice or a good observation then, may be obsolete today. What is helpful tomorrow, may very well be useless next month.

Because of the Web, former methods used by sellers and buyers to communicate and do business are now outmoded. Both amateurs and pros are discovering new, faster, and more precise ways to communicate.

That’s why you find a mixture of pros plus newcomers to the stock photography marketplace visiting the PhotoSource Kracker Barrel ( Because equipment today is constantly changing, conversations about hardware and tools are like the latest news, fresh now but stale tomorrow. Innovations that seem to fit well into the present world of photography are quickly out-smarted by even newer ideas and products.

Because photography is both a technical and creative medium, the changing times have forced the pros of yesterday to reconsider their future. Many of the talented old-liners who found their niche in the last century, are surging forward in new endeavors that take advantage of the new Media and technology. Others have chosen to remain steadfast to their old ways of making commerce. They are content with the markets they have fought for and won. They stand their ground and let the digital world move on. Not unexpectedly, this latter group find their markets diminishing. Yes, there are some buyers who also remain in “the old school, " but they are gradually phasing out or moving on, too.

When a pro says that “the markets are drying up, ” it usually means that the markets have moved in a new direction from the way he or she is doing business. The world of commerce requires that we employ the methods of commerce that the majority of buyers and sellers are using today.

In the new economy of the Internet, we find that the amateur or part-time photographer, if they produce quality material, can deal with the customer on the same footing as the full-time pro. There has been a shift in image awareness and appreciation. The picture becomes important, not who made it. This creates an uneasy feeling for pros who find themselves shoulder to shoulder with persons who have just entered the marketplace.

However, a difference between the pro and the amateur jumps out when it comes to the delivery of the product. To a buyer, the old values of reliability, trust, dependability, familiarity, are often worth more than a perhaps superior photo. In that sense, when you ask the difference between the pro and the amateur, or newcomer, nothing has changed.

Rohn Engh is director of PhotoSource International and publisher of PhotoStockNotes. Pine Lake Farm, 1910 35th Road, Osceola, WI 54020 USA. 1 800 624 0266 Fax: 1 715 248 7394. Web site:


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