The photographer only uses “professional” equipment or their equipment is superior to others.
Yes, there is such a thing as “professional” equipment. But professional equipment doesn’t make someone a better photographer. In the photography world, there are countless stories of amatuer photographers who always purchase the latest and greatest equipment thinking it will improve their photography.
A camera is to a photographer as a hammer is to a carpenter. And having a better hammer doesn’t mean you’ll be able to build a better house. I would even go so far as to say that many photographers’ cameras are capable of doing far more than the photographer has the ability to truly take advantage of.
That said, there is a reason why most equipment labelled as “professional” is marketed to and bought by professionals. This equipment has features and options available to help meet the demanding and often diverse needs of professionals. And one also hopes that having professional equipment means that the quality of the equipment, the high standards to which is was made, and/or the output provided by that equipment is better. And in many cases it is.
Probably the most significant (and obvious) tool used by photographers is their camera and the next significant would be the lenses they use. While some on the cheaper end of the spectrum may not provide all of the same bells & whistles of the more expensive brands, they can be quite capable of getting “professional” quality results when put in the hands of a capable photographer.
The quality and of type of camera and lenses a photographer can get away with using depends on the quality and resolution of the output they need. If a client needs super large, tack sharp, and highly detailed prints, then that means it is necessary to use a camera and lens combination capable providing that.
But the minimum requirements of the type of camera and lens combination necessary to take actors headshots which result in 8″x10″ prints are lower than the requirements of someone shooting materials for a nationwide ad campaign.
Photographers are often very proud of their gadgets and many times loyal to their brands. Oftentimes, this attachment is facilitated by the fact that they paid a lot of money for whatever it is they use. Digital cameras can exceed $20,000!
So long as the result a photographer can provide is capable of meeting your specific needs and makes you happy, then it really doesn’t matter what tools they used to go about it.