Does it make sense to use point-and-shoot to describe a professional photographer? Don’t we typically associate the phrase with average consumer or amateur photographer?

The difference between a professional photographers and an amateur photographer isn’t necessarily the difference in technical skills. The key difference is that a professional photographer make a living from photography work but an amateur photographer treats it as a hobby and his or her life won’t be disrupted if there is no business.

Amateur photographers have time to tinker and have fun with the learning process, professional photographers don’t have time to mess around since time is money. They have bills to pay and family to support from their jobs. In professional photography studios, the photo-taking process is pretty much streamlined. Most of the time is spent on posing the people rather than adjusting the camera or light settings.

The following is a very familiar scene during holiday in shopping malls. People line up for hours to get their photo taken with Santa.


The zoomed-in view of the photo reveals the photographer’s secret: A single strobe light with softbox on a light stand and a camera tethered to a computer mounted below it. After people are posted , all the photographer does is mostly point-and-shoot.

To be certain, it does need skill and knowledge to setup the light and the camera so the point and shoot action can work each and every time. It is also necessary for the photo-taking process to be done fast before parent’s patience and children’s attention are gone in the holiday rush. There are also many types of of professional photography. Some do need the photographers to experiment to get the optimal results. But often the tinkering is short because their experiences guide them quickly to the desired results.

Now going back to the photos above, the cost of such a photography setup isn’t overwhelming for most people who can afford a DSLR camera. What prevents most people from getting the professional results?

The answer is simple: the props and the Santa. It is not trivial to get the 30 feet Christmas tree, the robotic carton characters, and a professional Santa. For people who don’t care too much about the commercial-looking holiday photos, you can indeed get great photos at home using basic lighting setup and your own living room setting. The process may not be like the point-and-shoot professional photography but that’s not the real goal.

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