What does it mean to be a Certified Professional Photographer?
Updated: Oct 7, 2021
In the early days of the COVID19 pandemic lock down last year, I spent a lot of time applying for business grants and retooling my website. Because photography studios were considered non-essential business, I couldn't operate for several weeks. After I finished with all of my website updating, I started studying for the PPA's Certified Professional Photographer exam.
I've been a member of the Professional Photographers of America for five years. This national photography organization was established in 1880 and has over 30,000 members. They provide photography education, group insurance rates, networking and many other benefits. They offer the CPP as a benchmark to help experienced photographers master their craft. With some free time on my hands, it seemed like the perfect time to pursue this certification!
There are three steps to the process.
1. Apply and pay the application fee. (This was the easy part.)
2. Pass the written exam. The exam was tough, even for someone who went to school for photography. Because I went to photo school before digital photography became widely available, there was a lot of technical information about digital imaging that I needed to review. Also, there's so much math! Let's just say lighting ratios are no cake walk. With a study guide, online flash cards and a study buddy, I passed on my first attempt. Yay!
3. Shoot images and pass the technical image evaluation. The PPA gives you three still life photographs to replicate, and you have to shoot them exactly as they describe. This took me two tries to get perfect. These images do not test your creative talent or artistic expression. The exercise tests technical knowledge and control of lighting and camera settings.
Why should you hire a certified professional photographer? This certification shows that a photographer has control of the technical aspects of their craft. Any person with a camera can put together a group of images on a website or Instagram and charge money for sessions. Someone who has this certification can produce consistently proficient photos.
I decided to pursue the certification to refresh and hone my skills and to set myself apart from other photographers. Currently, there are only 10 photographers in metro Atlanta with this certification, out of thousands working in the city.