If you belong to a professional organization, local or national, odds are you have heard about becoming a Certified Professional Photographer (CPP) and it’s benefits. It’s a topic which comes up in photography forums and well know professionals like Sandy Puc are encouraging you to become a CPP. I want this post to be an open discussion about being a CPP or if you should be become one. I’ve asked several well-known professionals in this industry what they thought about of becoming a CPP and I’ll post those comments a little later. At the bottom of the page, please post your comments. I believe we can all benefit if we share our ideas/thoughts on this subject.
Certified Professional Photographer… what does that mean?
The following information is pulled straight from the CPP site.
What is Certification?
The certification of specialized skill-sets affirms a knowledge and experience base for practitioners in a particular field, their employers, and the public at large. Certification represents a declaration of a particular individual’s professional competence. In some professions certification is a requirement for employment or practice. Doctors, mechanics, accountants, professional secretaries, surveyors and many others are all required to go through a certification process of some kind.
Why Be A Certified Photographer?
Studies show that certification is the most widely recognized consumer credential. Consumers may not know a lot about professional photography, but they know that certification should ensure professional-quality goods and services. Clients in every industry seek out credentialed professionals, as the public recognizes certification as a sign that one is an authority in the field. A Certified Photographer designation offers potential clients an assurance, not just of quality, but of technical skill and artistic expertise.
As the leading certifying agency for imaging professionals, the Professional Photographic Certification program is recognized throughout the industry.Those who have earned the Professional Photographic Certification have passed a comprehensive written exam measuring their technical expertise, and have successfully submitted their work to a panel of judges for review and approval.
How can Certification Help You?
Advertising Edge: Before you can show a consumer your portfolio or sell them on your services, you have to get them into your studio. With hundreds, sometimes thousands of photographers advertising in a market, this is not always an easy task. Advertising as a Certified Professional Photographer is one way to distinguish yourself from the masses. Certification gives clients a concrete business reason to put you on their short list.
Pricing Justification: The digital era has made it much easier for inexperienced part-time and fly-by-night photographers to throw their hat into the ring, undercutting professionals with rock bottom prices. Certification is an easy way to help consumers understand and appreciate your level of experience and talent.
Validation: Certification is granted by the Professional Photographic Certification Commission, an objective third-party who validates your expertise, and that speaks volumes to potential clients about your skill. When potential clients become aware that Certified Photographers must re-certify every five years, they understand that education, training, and the latest industry techniques and skills are important to you – and your images.
Credibility and respect in the workplace and the industry: Nearly 71 % of certified professionals say that credentials give them more prestige among their colleagues. Salary Survey: Monitoring Your Net Worth, CertMag, 2005
There are three components to CPP certification:
Declaration of Candidacy
Image Submission Review
Declaration of Candidacy is your first step towards becoming a Certified Professional Photographer. Once you’ve declared your candidacy, you will have three years to successfully complete the two additional requirements: Image Submission Review and the Certification Exam.
The Certification Exam and Image Submission Review may be completed in any order — one may submit images for review before taking the written exam. If you do not complete all requirements during the three-year period, your candidacy will end. You must re-apply, pay the appropriate fee, and re-start the process.
All Certified Professional Photographers must adhere to the Standards of Conduct for Certification, as outlined below.
Standards of Conduct for Certification
As a Certified Professional Photographer, one agrees to:
Maintain exemplary standards of professional conduct
Actively model and encourage others to integrate professionalism and ethics in the practice of business and to encourage all people qualified to pursue the goal of Certification strive to continually advance my knowledge and achieve higher levels of excellence. Maintain the confidentiality of all privileged information, except when so doing becomes an ethical or legal breach of contract.
Maintain the integrity and proprietary nature of the Certification Examination and agree not to divulge the individual questions that are used on the Examination
So now you know if you didn’t…how to go about becoming a CPP and the benefits of completing your certification. I attended local AZPPA meetings last year and there was a huge push for everyone to become certified. Initially I thought this was a path I should pursue. I’m all about people wanting to improve themselves. So, if you have your certification, wonderful. Please let us know at the bottom of the page what the CPP has done for you and your business.
I went out and purchased the book, started to study and then something about becoming certified in profession where it’s based on the imagery/art you produce didn’t sit well with me. I asked myself how this was going to improve my work, bring creditability to what I’m doing, and would it bring in additional clients? I’m far from the greatest photographer… please don’t think for a second I don’t think or know I need to improve my work. It’s a constant battle to get better.
Let’s talk a little about the questions I had/have.
How was this going to improve my work? The book has some great info in it, nothing I’ve used during any of my shoots above and beyond what I know at the moment but, I’m not saying at some point I will not need to go back and reference the material. It pretty much covers the fundamentals of photography. I find I learn more from doing but having additional knowledge or resources to pull from is never a bad thing. The $130 I paid for the book was a little hard to swallow.. but.. I was on the path.
Bring creditability to what I’m doing?
I really struggle with this statement about being a CPP. I understand in many professions certificates and degrees bring credibility to the person who must have them to show competency in what they are doing. Would this certificate/course bring credibility to me and my business? I think this is where we are unique as a profession. Potential clients can and do look at our work …they immediately like it or hate it. They don’t… from my experience go looking through my site/work to see what credentials I have. They see a consistent body of work with a style they may or may not like. I’ve yet to have a person ask me what credentials I have to be a photographer. My work is my credibility. Or is it?
I like the thought of this and who wouldn’t? Adding CPP credentials certainly wouldn’t hurt would they? It does show I took the time to read a book…take a test…submit my images to a panel of judges and I’m really making the extra effort to show I believe in what I’m doing as a professional photographer. This would set me apart from my competition right? I want to think this.. I do.. and I look forward to the comments to come. Maybe you can convince me I do need to complete the CPP program/process. However, my train of thought is people hit my site, they really don’t care for a second if I’m a CPP, or a PPA member or if I have a BFA. (again… if you have any of these or you belong to the PPA… awesome) Just speaking my mind. I might be very naive about all of this? But, when they hit the site, the like what they see or they don’t. I know I have a very long list of favorite photographers and not once have I ever thought… I wonder if they are certified photographers.
Should you? Shouldn’t you?
I can’t say to be honest. What I do see is an industry with industry leading professionals trying to establish a baseline for this craft. Or, is it just another way to get a few more $’s from your fellow photographers? As you have heard or may have even seen, there is a flood of photographers out there. Having a standard isn’t all that horrible, or is it? Will I be penalized for not being a part of the CPP group? Will this help bring “credibility” to those individuals willing to put in the extra effort to become certified? You still have to stand on your work… the visual end of this business. Hard to say…
Comments from a few top professionals
I asked what they thought about CPP and they were kind enough to share a few thoughts…
Zack Arias - I’m not a fan of professional certification for photographers. Certification is usually a list of stuff you’re tested on. Just because you can nail a 3:1 ratio doesn’t mean you can shoot. Yeah. Not a fan of certification as a way of trying to be legitimate. Trying to certify “art” is a difficult thing. Certifying someone can do heart surgery or replace a transmission is an easier process.
Katrin Eismann – The advantage of CPP is that it also addresses the business side of photography which is just as important as your talent!
Andy from Lighten up and shoot - I think it’s a bad idea. Nobody should be able to tell you that you are not a photographer. This has been tried many times and failed each time. Reality is you are a pro when you charge money for photography, no other reason! The CPP will eventually be like the BBB, you are in because you paid but it doesn’t mean your good!
Bruce Allen Hendricks MPA, F.Ph. CPP- I think getting certified my the PPCC is an excellent idea and can go a long way to separating you from the rest of the heard in today’s crowded photography market. I am a huge believer in professional photographic associations and pushing yourself to always improve your ability, skill and talent. I believe it should be every photographers goal to achieve their photographic masters, but attaining your CPP is a huge step in distinguishing yourself as a photographer who is not only talented, but also knowledgeable in your craft. Anyone can push a button, and can even get lucky now and then and come up with a decent photograph. However, stepping up and proving that you are skilled in both the technical and the artistic end of this industry and can constantly produce quality work is something that most of today’s new photographers are not capable of demonstrating. Therefore, when you have the recognition of achieving an international certification that stands for that and your competitors do not, you are instantly regarded higher than the competition. I recommend everyone continues on pushing themselves in striving to achieve their photographic masters degree from such organizations as PPA, PPOC, AIPP, etc. something that at best takes years to accomplish, and sometimes is never achieved in your entire career. However, the CPP certification is a standard that every photographer in business (in my opinion) should be forced to achieve. It demonstrated a minimum level of technical and artistic ability that assures the buying public that they will receive a decent product when they hire you. With so many people entering the market with little knowledge, skill and ability today, and dragging down the level of true professional photography, anything that you can do to separate yourself from them is a smart business move on your part. Getting Certified by the PPCC is a giant step in that direction. Stop thinking about it, make the commitment to challenge yourself to achieve it and go out and get it!
Your thoughts and comments.
Share with us what you think about this post and becoming a CPP. Are you one now? Are you planning on becoming certified? Let’s get the discussion rolling!
Thanks for taking the time to read this and comment.