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Amateur photographers often compare their pictures with excellent professional photos they see in the finest magazines such as National Geographic, National Wildlife, Smithsonian and Outdoor Photographer.

It's a good idea for amateurs to study the efforts of professionals for ideas and inspiration. But comparing their work seriously with that of the pros is another matter.The fact is that professionals take pictures to earn a living. Their creativity, experience and resourcefulness shine through in their pictures. They have many advantages amateurs don't have.

For example, pros can take a great deal of time to get one-of-a-kind pictures. Photographers for leading magazines usually can spend months on a story and take thousands of pictures. After all this work, perhaps 10, 15 or less are used.

The pros often have a complete system of lenses, filters and flash units - as well as several different film types. With all this gear at their fingertips, they rarely miss good photo opportunities.

Professionals, particularly fashion shooters, usually have an on-site assistant (sometimes two or three) who helps with logistics, camera gear, lighting equipment and subject positioning.

So, the next time you are a bit discouraged with your photos, tell yourself how much better they'd be if you had months or weeks to take them, a car full of camera gear and an assistant or two.

- If you like taking pictures of wildlife and want some inspiration, there's a new book that will give you many good ideas. It's titled, "Magnificent Moments, The World's Greatest Wildlife Photographs."

Selected by a panel of distinguished editors of American, Canadian and European nature magazines, 20 nominated photographers contributed their finest works to this coffee-table book.

"Magnificent Moments, The World's Greatest Wildlife Photographs" is published by Willow Creek Press, Minocqua, Wis. It's available at bookstores and from Willow Creek Press at (800) 850-9453. The price is $35.