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Any photographer, but particularly a working professional, wants to stand out from the competition and secure new clients throughout their career. There are a wide range of courses, degrees and qualifications that you can pursue in order to boost your resume and authority in the industry but one of the best routes you can take to increase your value is to get certified with a well known, trusted photography organization.
There are several major organizations operating within the United States that you can become a member of however one of the best and most widely known of these is the Professional Photographers of America association.
Professional Photographers of America.
The Professional Photographers of America (PPA) is a not for profit organization that was founded more than 150 years ago, in 1868, to help working photographers make the most of their careers and the opportunities available to them. The PPA provides a supportive community, ongoing education and exams as well as a wide range of other resources that their members can make use of.
The PPA has more than 30,000 members making it the largest photography organisation in America that operates with the aim of creating a vibrant platform for discussion, the sharing of knowledge and an ongoing exchange of experience, ideas and support.
The PPA offers certification for professional photographers. As well as providing excellent educational and community discussion opportunities the PPA also helps photographers to succeed in business and grow as entrepreneurs. In order to gain accreditation from the PPA a photographer must pass tests and exams on an ongoing basis in order to prove their knowledge of the techniques and skills required to work at the top levels of the photography industry.
How do you apply to get Certified by the Professional Photographers of America?
The first step towards becoming a certified photographer with the PPA is to enroll in the Certified Professional Photographer’s Program. There is a fee to join the program which will cost between $17.17 per month for a limited membership and $27.92 per month for a full membership.
Once you have successfully joined the program you will need to pay a one off $200 fee which gives you 2 years to complete the exams and pass through the full application process.
The PPA Test to become a Certified Professional Photographer.
The initial exam that you will have to complete is designed to test your understanding of a wide range of crucial techniques and methods required for practical photography including exposure, lighting, shutter speeds, composition and the general equipment you will need to use. This exam can be taken online or at a number of testing centers all across America.
You will have plenty of opportunity to practise for the exam before you take it and with the help of the PPA’s online resources, including sample questions and other preparation materials, you will be in a good position to pass the exam on your first attempt.
Once you have passed the first exam you will be invited to submit a portfolio of 3 photographs for evaluation by a committee of the PPA. They will assess your photography and once you are approved then you will have become a certified photographer!
If your portfolio is not accepted you will be given the reasons why and then have the opportunity to resubmit a new portfolio as many times as you want over the next 2 years until you are approved.
Once you have become a Certified Professional Photographer with the PPA then you will be required to retake the exam in 3 years time or else take 15 ongoing educational modules. This focus on development and continued engagement is an important part of what makes the association such a valuable asset for working photographers and helps to give you the authority in the photography industry that will supercharge your career.
The Pros of Becoming a Certified Professional Photographer.
There are many reasons why a working photographer may want to get certified.
- Certification helps you to land new clients. Being a certified member of a prestigious organisation such as the PPA will naturally inspire your potential clients with confidence in your abilities and technical knowledge. Of course your portfolio of work should have already done that however every little helps when building a relationship with a new client.
- PPA Certification will give you an edge and help you to stand out from the competition. The competition is steep in the world of professional photography and it can make all the difference to have an extra feather in your cap. Being a certified photographer gives you ongoing authority within the fast moving industry.
- Once you are Certified you become a member of an exciting and vibrant community of fellow working photographers. It’s a great platform to share experience, knowledge, tips and hints so you can all stay at the top of your game!
- The ongoing educational resources that are available as a member of many photography organisations are a great tool to help you continue to grow as a photographer. The PPA has a wide range of modules and courses that, as a certified member, you can access and make use of free of charge.
- Getting certified will make you feel more confident in your abilities because you know that you have reached a high benchmark and are continuing to grow as a photographer.
- You can use the official Certification from a trusted body such as the PPA to justify your prices and the costs of packages that you offer to potential clients.
- Access a range of selected discounts on equipment made by top brands.
- As a Certified member of the PPA you can access superior Insurance models that are tailored to suit the needs of a working photographer which include equipment insurance, general liability insurance as well as data loss and even insurance for dissatisfied clients!
- You can make use of the PPA’s specially designed Copyright procedures which will protect you in case of problems in the future with regards to the ownership of your work.
The Cons of Becoming a Certified Photographer.
There are costs involved with becoming certified. You will need to pay the fees for access to the program and to take the exams and of course you will have to spend some time working through the exams and submitting a small portfolio. However, the benefits far outweigh your input of time and the small fees required to support the organization.
Other Ways that You can become a Certified Photographer.
The PPA is the world’s largest not-for-profit professional photographer’s association and as a result is certainly one of the most popular routes to obtaining certification as a working photographer. Due to the association’s size you also gain access to a large pool of fellow photographers, as well as excellent educational resources, help with insurance and copyright claims and access to a great business community.
However, there are other well respected organizations you can consider joining that are also excellent and provide great services for their certified members.
- American Photographic Artists (APA). Formerly known as the Advertising Photographers of America, the association changed its name recently to respond to the growing and evolving world of professional photography. With its headquarters in Los Angeles, California, the non-profit organization promotes the rights of working photographers and offers superb benefits that include a wide range of discounts on photographic web tools, professional services and some products, including Apple equipment.
- National Press Photographers Association (NPPA). This is a great organization for all budding photojournalists to join to benefit from the outstanding networking opportunities and copyright protection for your work. Offering a wide range of benefits including access to competitions with huge audiences, career advice and help with insurance and other legal matters, the NPPA is a unique organization that provides much needed services for American photojournalists.
- American Society of Media Professionals (ASMP). As one of the top frontline organizations that works tirelessly to promote art and professional photography the group has 39 chapters across America with many meetups and chances to network. The ASMP offers members free guidance on how to run a successful photography business as well as discounts on web design software, insurance and various marketing tools.
Is it worth getting Certified?
It can be a career changing move to get yourself officially certified by a trusted organization. Becoming a certified member of a renowned organization can open many doors for you in your career, give you fantastic opportunities to network with other professionals in the industry and provide you with platforms to display your work, find new clients and expand your operational reach.
From business advice, to insurance and copyright assistance, a good photography certification organization can save you time and money when you are facing legal challenges and help you to protect your work.
If you are serious about breaking into the photography industry, or even if you are already a working photographer, there are countless reasons why joining a trusted, well known photography organization and getting officially certified could be a life changing career move for you.
Are you a certified photographer?