What makes you a Photographer?
In general you can call yourself a photographer the moment you pick up any device capable of capturing an image on any media, including a camera, cell phone, tablet PC or even your laptop when using a built-in webcam or connected capture device.
Some Photographers who do photography as a profession (Professional Photographers) are offended, for some reason, when someone else using just a point and shoot or entry level dSLR camera calls themselves a photographer. Calling yourself a photographer does not require you to have a studio, an expensive dSLR body and a hoard of lenses and specific camera lighting and/or strobes. To call yourself a photographer does not require you to actually do photography as part of your job, have clients, make and sell prints or even know how to edit photos. You are a photographer the moment you capture a picture and preserve it or upload it to social media sites like Facebook, whether you edit the image or not.
The Different Classes of Photographers:
The popular misconception exists that someone who is a Professional Photographer is really good at what they do, but actually a Professional Photographer is just a photographer who does photography as a profession. In other words, a professional photographer does photography as a full-time job and has no other job. You can get a good professional photographer and you can get a bad professional photographer. A professional photographer who is bad will not stay in business for very long, so it is generally accepted that if someone has been a professional photographer for more than a year then they have to be pretty good to survive this very competitive market. If you own expensive dSLR bodies, big fast lenses have multiple studio strobes and a photography degree and know how to use all your equipment you cannot call yourself a professional photographer if you are not actually in the profession. Also see: Wikipedia – Professional
A hobby photographer is a photographer who does part-time photography for a fee or even for free. A hobby photographer has a normal day job as photography is just a small extra income or a way to spend their free time. Many hobby photographers end up doing wedding photography since weekends are the only real time they have to do photography. I know, I was a hobby photographer prior to 2008 and I know how you rush through editing as by the time you get home from work you are tired and the evening becomes very short to do editing. Once you step up from hobby photography to professional photography you have more time to edit and do shoots which is what photographers who have a passion for the art really want to do. Many hobby photographers are really good at what they do, but get stuck in hobby photography because they have not figured a way to sell their art to make a living. The main problem is that hobby photographers tend to charge far less than professional photographers and in essence shoot themselves in the foot as they quickly become known as “cheap photographers” and thus cannot start a sustainable photography business based on their low rates. Many hobby photographers produce the same quality work as professional photographers would, but at the cost of spending all their free time (and usually away from family) doing so.
Amateur photographers are usually those still learning the art of photography until they progress to becoming a hobby photographer. Most people still call themselves amateur photographers, but their art has progressed to the extent that they actually qualify as hobby photographers. Amateur photographers will never charge a fee for photography (unless it is just to cover small costs). The difference between an amateur and a hobby photographer is that amateurs are still learning how to capture those great shots while hobby photographers and professional photographers know how to see something and capture it using their camera and lenses to their full potential.
Anyone can be a photographer, it is just the level of passion one has for the art which will put you into one of the above classes.