That may be an easier answer then we think.
We are BOTH. And pretty much we have always been both.
People here on 500 are mostly masters (excluding myself), probably mostly professionals (excluding myself, I work for pizza and beer) and 100% doing our own post processing (including me). Look at my friends list, well, heck, they aren't friends, I have never met them (except Belinda), but I surely admire their work. These people have inspired me and educated me via the internet, e-books, training video's, live chats or blogs. But I will gladly follow them because each one contributes to a whole experience. And each one brings to the table a different view and method.
here are just a few;
Look at Kevin-Wang, he has a unique vision and has kindly added some video of how he processed one of my favorite shots here is the link to the video: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=2276155675610
Tegnh Santosa does macros, I stand in awe of each and every shot, he is a god. Hands down.
Trey Ratcliff is (to me) the undisputed king of HDR. Oh yeah, there are others who produce books and run blogs, but Trey hits the nail on the head and has such nice way of looking at photography and life.
85mm Street, simply makes clean beautiful B&W street shots, he makes it look so easy ... maybe it is, but I just can't quite get myself to anywhere close to how he does it.
Jason Odell has a series of e-books and videos that have taught me much, I have everything he publishes. He made my editing go from tedious to easy and fun.
Mat Kloskowski and Scott Kelby I follow on Kelby TV, utilizing their training classes as well as their video podcasts, The Grid and D-Town TV. Kelby has a wealth of information for us to learn from.
Belinda Criscenti is my friend, I love her very much, she is here to see what I am doing and I know she is poking around 500 to see the most amazing photos ever.
Thanks to all of the above for their inspiration and education as well is bits of wisdom, I am indebted to you all.
I have just added several people to my list to follow, though I have looked at them often, most are from Russia. "What's going on with those Russians on 500px?" RC Concepcion remarked recently on "The Grid". I'll tell ya ... pure magic!! Look at the ones I finally added today. Stunning art. Simply stunning.
Well, back to artists/photographers. I look at it this way, the moment we put that camera to our eye and compose a shot we are creating art. The placement of a off camera flash, or lighting of any sort, the placement of the model, position of the sun, the selection of aperture or shutter speed, ISO or white balance is under our control, at the moment we make all of these decisions and push the shutter button we have created art. We have transferred our artistic vision to a series of digital 1's and 0's, what was analog is now digital.
When we load our photos into our computers to view them, pick one we like and make a single minor or many major adjustments, we are altering the view our camera captured, we are now artists.
Photography today is part science, part art, and all magic. We no longer have to spend hours in the darkroom processing slides or doing the dodge and burn or working with nasty chemicals. In the comfort of our own home we can at our leisure manipulate to our heart's content to either get the precise vision we want or a bucket of Clown Vomit.
Our tools are legion, and for the most part not cheap. But money is not the limiting factor here, all you need is a camera and it doesn't matter if it is your phone or a $30,000+ camera. It is never the equipment but your vision that matters.
Since photography is ever evolving the amount of training out here is amazing, there is nothing we can't get an answer for. Our education will never be over, and that's kinda cool isn't it? I mean seriously, once you get this bug, you are not gonna stop. Photography is satisfying, a little frustrating, it could be expensive, it could be time consuming in a very fun way but with it you join the ranks of artists around the world who do more than post a shot of their lunch of Facebook.
But people on 500px don't need to be told this. If this is your first visit here and for some unknown reason you landed on this blog, take a few hours, seriously, and look at what some of the best photographers/artists in the world are up to here on 500px. You will be amazed and inspired. I only wish I had something inspiring to show you myself, but at this point, I am still intimidated!
As my good friend Martin (who looks suspiciously like Comrade Lenin) says "Welcome to the party...."