In additional to doing lots of work as a DJ and an audio engineer, I am also the owner of a proud photo booth company, Breezy Day Productions... I wasn't always as proud of our photobooths... we all started somewhere, and my photo booth was no exception. The first one we built we did on a shoestring budget and to start with we did many low budget/charity events. Of course even with the booth not at 100%, the clients still loved us and loved the booth, but after a few months of tweaking, we got into our groove. I'd say it took about 1 year before our photo booth was something that I was very proud of. We consistently had great props, awesome prints, great lighting, hired some awesome photobooth attendants, and everything just worked. Like I said, I am very proud of our booths now, and not that I was unhappy with them when we started, but they needed some tweaking.
The same goes for new DJ's (myself included)... They need to have some time to iron out some kinks, learn what works and what doesn't, and also get comfortable with the whole set-up situation... For me, I'd say it took about a year before i felt comfortable DJing. Again, I had a lot of great events, and people were generally happy, but I was not sure exactly what I did to either make or break the party.
To be fair, I should mention the first year I DJ’ed I distinctly recall 3 events that I just completely bombed… I tried hard, did my homework, but it just didn’t work. When you are getting started you are thrown some tougher events, but looking back I can see exactly where I went wrong.
So as part of my adventures as a photo booth owner, one of the great advantages is that if I wasn't DJing an event, I got to be a photo booth attendant. This meant that once the booth was set up, I could observe the party, watch the DJ, see the great ones, the mediocre ones and the horrible ones. I get to see DJs at their best moments and also their mistakes (something most DJs don't get to do on a regular basis).
There are always lots of thoughts swirling through my mind about what I can do better as a DJ. I want to be improving all the time, and I want each performance to get better than the next, and watching other DJs has helped out tremendously. A tip or trick here goes a long way.... oh wow, this DJ just lost the crowd, but hey, he got them right back! Oh wow, this DJ is bombing... just bombing... oh no, don't play that song.... Switch please. Switch soon! Man, this DJ is on fire, I never thought those songs would go together, but they did; and they way he made his announcements - seamless! There have been a few DJ's who use samples, effects, and remixes in a way that is so perfect that it makes me somewhat jealous.
OK, enough of the inner workings of my mind and back to the title topic at hand, Amateur Vs Pro DJ... There is so much to say about this, but if I were to boil it down to one word it would be "control." The pro DJ is in command of everything, the amateur knows what is up, but might not have control.
I would say the thing that strikes me most for beginner DJs is lack of control of their sound. Top to bottom you will hear issues... The most obvious "amateur" trait is feedback from a microphone. This comes from not setting the levels right. Pros encounter feedback too, but the difference is when I hear feedback starting, I can usually tame it in under a second (literally). I know exactly which switch to move to get rid of the problem. This wasn't always the case, and when I first started if the mic was feeding back, I panicked!
Also, the Amateur might play music at the wrong volume throughout the night - generally everything will be too loud, but occasionally it will just be way too soft, then way too loud. I am also amazed at those who have no concept of “good sound.” They will play an entire show with their speakers and microphone distorting. The pros, on the other hand, know their gear, have control of the sound. They make it loud when they want, soft when they want, and in between. They change the tone and timbre of their speakers to match the room.
OK, all this isn't to slam new DJs and say that DJs who are starting out can't be good, on the contrary, I’ve heard many good DJs who are brand new. BUT they do always seem to lack the control needed that is only gained from experience.
Alright, that is my thought for the day :)