What does it take to choose a professional photographer to meet your needs? Would you prefer your photographer use natural lighting only or a photographer that uses flash and strobes? Have you considered whether or not you'd like a photographer on location, or would you rather go to a studio? What about their portfolio? Is it clear and consistent? These are several things that most families rarely, if ever, consider. But what about if your photographer is a certified? We take certification into consideration when choosing doctors, teachers, lawyers, even real estate and travel agents, but why not when it comes to photography?
Photography is one of those magical professions that anyone can pick up a camera and call themselves a professional. From burn and turn chain studios to hobbyists, everyone has an opportunity to make a profit from their photography. The key thing to remember is, everyone who owns or has access to a digital camera, may not be a capable photographer though they may have some technical skill or knowledge of the use of their device. The good news is, that if anyone is interested in photography, he or she does not require a college degree to be proficient at it either. Many top professional photographers in the industry have never attended any formal schooling for photography. Others do have some form of educational background, usually in graphic designing. Generally, all professional photographers start somewhere and strive to better themselves as such. For me personally, this means taking on the process of becoming a Certified Professional Photographer with Professional Photographers of America, an organization which I currently hold membership in.
My certification as a Certified Professional Photographer or CPP, will be a signal to my clients that I am dedicated and committed to my craft as a photographer. It is an indication that I am proficient not only in my technical skills, but artistry, and professionalism. Having my CPP also shows my intended clients that I have the talent, skill, and experience to produce the premiere and quality product that I put my name behind.
Certification is a three step process: declaring my candidacy, successfully completing and passing the CPP exam, and finally submitting an image portfolio. Declaring my candidacy allows me two years to complete the process. During this time, I will study, practice, and improve my practical and technical skills. I'll study and review exam questions, take practice exams, and work with a mentor to improve my portfolio. At any point during the process, I can elect to take the exam whether at the beginning or end of the process.
The final and most difficult process is the Image Submission. The Image Review Board requires 15 photographic images taken with in the two year time span of declaring your candidacy. The first six images submitted are compulsory images required to fit within guidelines as defined by CPP judges indicating a "standardized technical proficiency that all professional photographers, regardless or specially, should know." Of the six, the first three images must indicate proficiency and technical skill of two lighting skills and one composition skill while the next three images must contain three predesignated elective composition skills. The remaining nine images are required to be images taken within the 24 month time span representing the purchased portrait photography work that at that time I have completed. All images should be reflective of the photography services that I offer and must be taken independently of any workshop or coaching/assistance from another photographer, particularly in an educational environment. Portfolios can be submitted for review only during one of the 5 predesignated dates each year up to three times before candidacy must be redeclared. Upon successful completion of all three events, I will receive my certification which must be maintained and renewed every three years.
To earn my CPP would be a dream come true. It would push me creatively and force me to see where my strong areas are and where I could use room for improvement. Having my CPP would set me apart from my peers making me an authority in the field of photography and give my clients the reassurance that they can trust me with the task at hand. I'm excited to start my journey toward certification and I can't to finally list the credentials CPP behind my name!