Opinion: Main difference hobby shooting/shooting for a buck
An opinion (this gives me a lot of latitude :p ): The main difference between shooting as a hobby and shooting for money!
There are those who come to the forums with a mixed agenda in their wake. Some come for fun and knowledge … others come to see what the “pros” have to say about higher-end improvements in photography and then there are others who just come to “stir the pot.” We all come as photographers, otherwise you would not be here.
There is one common fulcrum, though, among this group that usually breaks it right in half and that is, more often than not … money. Based on “available funds” the hobbyist usually have to make a clear choice of how much they are going to “improve” their tools and struggle with them to achieve a reasonable looking result, because appearances is what it is all about. There is no business "write-off" to absorb the cost or depreciate it. It is placed squarely on the back of the person who chose to pursue this hobby. As such, this is usually where the "weeding out" occurs, between making a better product or just caving in and taking snapshots.
There is often a "rude awakening" that occurs when the new DSLR owner opens the new camera box, pulls out the body, inserts the battery, assembles the included lens on the front mount and then ... has to wait about 10-hours while the Ni-Cad battery charges, before it can be used.
Then ... after snapping everything nearby, the "chimping" at the shots on the LCD. They kind of look okay ... but then, when transferred to the "wide-screen" of the computer ... horrors! Well, we all have done it and it is nothing we should be ashamed of. The manufacturer's of this crappy lens should be the ones who really need to be ashamed. Honestly, it was not always like this. There was a time where you actually bought a good quality lens to go with your new camera, instead of having this piece of **** packed inside to camera box (and not even having a choice about it). As you have probably been a part of it, you know there has been much heart-burn over this. It touches us all.
Back to hobbyists versus pros: If a photographer can successfully transmit his idea, through his tools, then the question becomes, has he/she completed the mission? Or should he/she suffer being picked technically apart because aspects of the work did not quite measure up to a “perfect shot?” There are typically two questions that often are key to the argument: a) what are you trying to achieve (artistically) … and b) what is it that someone, other than yourself, is seeing (the critic)?
Fundamentally, you can only squeeze so much blood out of a rock. The tools only have so much to give and then they stop. So given lower-end glass, specific qualities will be inferior to higher-end glass. Be it “edge-focal acuity” (a very common issue) or “speed of the lens” (another common difference), chromatic aberration (another hot spot) a choice usually has to be made in how this is resolved or approached … and just how much appreciation of these aspects should be reasonable.
The hobbyist, by virtue of not being professionally demanded upon (in other words, PAID), normally has “the option” of allowing for these to be considered and measured in his/her work. The “budget” is the limitation for the most part and that comes, more than likely, under the heading of “discretionary spending.”
The professional has an expectation level of continual and very standard results. The level of “slop”, as it were, is to be minimized or be, for all practical purposes, eliminated. To do this requires a much richer investment in his tools and a more scheduled approach to all shots. The candid image becomes more rare, because uncontrolled aspects are to be avoided. So comparing the results of the hobbyist and the professional should well very well gauged against the level of investment the two have had to work with and the particular subject-types they have chosen to photograph.
In fact, the professional has had to be so controlled in his approach to “perfect photography” that given the same equipment across the board, there is a substantial chance that a dedicated hobbyist probably could turn out more “designer work” with more artistic punch, because of the prior risk level that the hobbyist could take. But, that is a rare thing, of course, because most hobbyists are not “funded” to levels that allow for “the best” equipment. They are making lemonade from lemons and in the effort, they are to be applauded, because it really is all voluntary.
Dedication to the craft is not really at odds, here, because there is a good chance that the hobbyist and the professional both will spend countless hours in an effect to perfect their work, to the degree that each can and will be able to tolerate. The real difference in “quality” usually boils down to just the bottom line: available funds. It certainly is not for the lack of effort, otherwise we would not be seeing this issue.
So, in effect, unless the hobbyist is shooting through the premium tools of his craft, there will always be an opportunity for “improved” shooting. You might say “the reach often exceeds the grasp”, in this case. Complaining about the cost of equipment is usually a fruitless effort, unless you are ready to cave in and go from a hobbyist … to a professional … or have that “golden spoon” feeding your habit.
Personally, I have a lot of respect for the hobbyist photographer, at all levels, but in an effort to maintain a certain minimum level of “expectation” to any work … there is a minimum level of tools that need to be considered. In the forums, this is often and briskly debated. It is in that choice of dedication to the craft, the scale of appreciation is built. Get the right tool with the best bang for the buck. It may not be the top of the line, but it offers a decent return on your investment. The "kit" lens is not it, okay?
Good luck with the gear you have in your bag. Go photograph your subject. Make it sing. :D