Certified By PPA: What It Takes

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Certified By PPA: What It Takes

Six months ago today, I was able to announce that I was officially a Certified Professional Photographer. After years of hesitation and a harrowing medical experience, I took the first step and joined PPA. I figure the half-year milestone is a good time to share a few thoughts.

Why Certification?

PPA serves over 30,000 photographers. There are fewer than 3,000 Certified Professional Photographers. As of this writing, there are only 22 listed for the state of Oklahoma. If I’m going to be a member, why settle for anything less?

How Does It Work?

Becoming certified consists of three steps. First, you declare your candidacy. This starts the clock, giving you two years to complete the process.

Next, you take the CPP Exam. This includes 100 multiple choice questions ranging from basic terminology to posing to details of printing an image. Even if you know it all, you don’t know it all. Study up!

After passing the CPP Exam, you will submit images for review. For me, this was the most difficult part. A group of unidentified judges would evaluate the images of a photographer who is already hypercritical of his own work. I knew this would sting.

Six compulsory photographs need to meet specific criteria, demonstrating mastery of key concepts. The remaining nine illustrate actual work for clients. Each will be picked apart. The critiques come in the form of generic statements, often leaving you to wonder at the details. In retrospect, as much as I hated it at the time, I know this has strengthened my work.

Go into this step with the following in mind:

  1. The judges want you to succeed but must also uphold CPP standards
  2. The judges are focused on technical details
  3. Creativity that respects the technical details will prevail

If your work is not accepted the first time through, use it as a learning opportunity. Do your best to understand why the judges did not accept your images. Find a way to embrace the growing pains. If you persevere, you will be all the stronger for it.

Was Becoming Certified Worth It?

For me, it was a valuable experience. I have become far more cognizant of how I shoot. It has had a positive impact on every shoot since. The challenge of earning my CPP has made me stronger behind the lens. Certification isn’t for everyone. It requires dedication, hard work and education, even after earning it.

If you are serious about your photography, take a look. If you are doing business as a photographer, an organization like PPA is a must. Being certified is a powerful plus.


Looking for a photographer in your area? Visit www.findaphotographer.com.

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