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In today's photography world, it seems like everyone knows a "photographer". But, much like owning a knife doesn't make you a chef, owning a DSLR doesn't make you a professional photographer. So, how do you explain to potential clients the difference between your work and that of Uncle Phil's down the street? One easy way you can set yourself apart from the competition is by becoming a Certified Professional Photographer (CPP). 

PPA started the CPP program to assure consumers that a certified photographer is an experienced professional with the knowledge to create, consistently, the best images possible. Becoming a CPP takes several steps on a photographer's part. First, you must take (and pass!) a written exam that covers the photography techniques used by pros. Finally, you must submit a portfolio of your images to a panel of judges, showing that you can indeed apply all of the techniques covered by the exam. Once you've passed both steps, you'll earn your CPP designation! You'll need to re-certify every 3 years, a process that is by design meant to ensure that CPP holders are always at the top of their craft. Learn more about the steps to becoming a CPP here.

Once you've earned your certification, it's time to start marketing it to possible customers! Keep in mind these 3 points when marketing your CPP designation:

1. Image & Advertising Edge

The fact that you are a CPP is an immediate huge trust indicator for clients and potential clients alike. By showing that you are certified on all of your advertising, you are telling them that they can rely on you to consistently produce high-quality images. 

As Gregg Martin, CPP, says, "Photographers are coming out of the woodwork in every town in America, and being a CPP places you in a much different category than the average photographer. Being a CPP has opened doors to numerous corporate jobs, magazine work, sports contracts and several other opportunities in my career. It makes that instant difference between a hobbyist (even good ones) and a pro. And in a split second only."

2. Pricing Justification

As you know, the digital era has made it easier for inexperienced and fly-by-night photographers to enter the industry. Often, they undercut the profession by charging extremely low rates. Your CPP designation helps clients justify your higher asking prices. After all, don't they want the best photos possible for once-in-a-lifetime events like weddings and graduations? The inexperienced guy may be cheaper, but they'll get what they pay for when it comes to quality of images!

3. Peer Validation

Make sure your clients know that your certification is granted to you by Professional Photographers of America. It is the world's largest non-profit association for professional photographers and that alone is added credibility for your work. Before you can get certified, or even renew your certification, other photographers who have also earned the designation review your skills via the exam and the image submission. That process shows that you are knowledgeable and dedicated to your craft. And the fact that you must re-certify every 3 years shows that you are keeping up with the latest skills and techniques in photography. That should help put clients' minds at ease when hiring you. 

4. Boost Your Confidence

Once you've earned your certification, you should be proud of what you've accomplished! After all, you are now one of the few Certified Professional Photographers, meaning that you can be confident that your work is top-notch. This confidence will come through when you are speaking with clients and help put them at ease with hiring you. 

There you have it! We hope that the edge you can gain over the competition has inspired you to become a CPP. Just remember, you've got to be a PPA member to earn your certification. Join today! 

Watch this video for more on the CPP program, and you can read all about it at ppa.com/cpp.

Have you heard? The Certified Professional Photographer (CPP) program was recently given a massive makeover--and it looks GOOD! The new CPP-only website provides CPPs with more resources than ever, including a Certification See the Difference video, a CPP-only marketing toolkit and so much more.

If you once held the prestigious CPP designation,  we have some good news. You can be grandfathered in AT NO COST. That's right! Since you are a loyal PPA member you have the opportunity to reinstate your CPP, totally free! All you have to do is maintain your PPA membership. In three years, you'll have the opportunity to recertify and continue on as a CPP for years to come. Pretty good deal, huh?

Here's the fine print: You have until September 2014 to opt-in to the CPP Amnesty Program. You may opt-in anytime simply by completing the Certification Amnesty Form found at http://www.ppa.com/amnesty. Once you submit your form our Certification staff will update your status to reflect your reacquired designation as a CPP. You will then receive a CPP packet in the mail with your new CPP Certificate and CPP marketing materials to help you display and market your CPP proudly. And of course, you will also be able to access the CPP-only section on the website. 

If you have any questions on the changes to the CPP program, please feel free to reach out to us at cppmailbox@ppa.com. We look forward to welcoming you back as a CPP!
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Have you heard? The Certified Professional Photographer (CPP) program was recently given a massive makeover--and it looks GOOD! The new CPP-only website provides CPPs with more resources than ever, including a Certification See the Difference video, a CPP-only marketing toolkit and so much more.

Before we get too far into this, we need to share some good news! If you previously held the CPP designation, you can be grandfathered back in AT NO COST. All you have to do is maintain your PPA membership. In three years, you'll have the opportunity to recertify and continue on as a CPP for years to come. Pretty good deal, huh? Okay, now back to it.

The revamped Certified Professional Photographer (CPP) program's goal is to acknowledge and validate a consistent photography standard by which professional photographers can achieve and maintain a recognizable mark of excellence.

PPA's CPP program assures others of a photographer's knowledge, experience and continuance to develop new skills and techniques. It is a declaration of your professional competence! The certification program assures the general public that you, as a Certified Professional Photographer, are a quality professional. It's like quality assurance because certification is a credential that consumers and businesses understand. 

More importantly, it provides you with a tool for telling the world--and all those potential clients--why they should call you rather than the competitor down the street. Because earning your designation isn't just for you--it's for your clients too! 

Earning your CPP will give you an advertising edge, pricing justification and peer validation! And talk about a confidence boost! 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 CPP designation offers potential clients an assurance, not just of quality, but of professionalism, technical skill and artistic expertise.

We'll let PPA member, Dave Goldman, CPP, have a crack at this one:

"Would you use a first-year resident as a doctor because you can save a few dollars on an operation or use a specialist recognized by his peers in a particular profession? Certification shows that you took the time to learn about what you are doing and how you perform to a higher standard. Each client that comes to my studio asks me about the very visible certificate on the wall. I explain the difference between CPPs and everyday photographers and educate them on the investment they are about to make. Certification makes it a critical difference."

The new Certification microsite gives you everything you need to know about the program, from in-depth explanation on what a certification is and means, to the CPP pathway for those who have yet to certify! If you fall into the latter, consider the CPP Prep class taking place next month here at PPA HQ in Atlanta!

Be on the lookout for the new CPP newsletters, the CPP Liaison newsletters and enjoy the many benefits offered in the Certification updated program. 

Be More... Certified!
The International Photographic Competition just wrapped up, and since the next image submission deadline for the Certified Professional Photographer is this Friday, August 16th, we thought this would be an excellent time to explain the difference between these two types of judging. 

At first thought, you might think that all judging is the same: some (extremely dedicated) PPA Jurors get together and give your work a thumbs up or down (based on a set of serious evaluation criteria, of course!). The principle is similar between the two, but depending on if it's for IPC or CPP, what they are evaluating is completely different!

Think of the CPP image submission as your best portfolio work (like your day-to-day, how you pay the bills type of work). On the other hand, the International Photographic Competition is where you can get crazy, artistic and creative. Submit what you do out of love versus what your portfolio is based on - sometimes they can be the same thing, but often times the work a photographer submits to one is not suitable for the other. Why? Let's dive in.

For the IPC (and related District Competitions):

The Photographic Exhibitions Committee (PEC) of PPA uses the 12 elements below as the "gold standard" to define a merit image. PEC trains judges to be mindful of these elements when judging images to the PPA merit level and to be placed in the International Photographic Exhibit at Imaging USA. The use of these 12 elements connects the modern practice of photography and its photographers to the historical practice of photography begun nearly two centuries ago.

Twelve elements have been defined as necessary for the success of an art piece or image. Any image, art piece, or photograph will reveal some measure of all twelve elements, while a visually superior example will reveal obvious consideration of each one. 

The Twelve elements listed below are in accordance to their importance.
  1. Impact - This is the sense one gets upon viewing an image for the first time. Compelling images evoke laughter, sadness, anger, pride, wonder or another intense emotion. There can be impact in any of these twelve elements.
  2. Technical Excellence - The quality of the image itself, as it is presented for viewing, is taken into consideration. Retouching, manipulation, sharpness, exposure, printing, mounting, and correct color are some items that speak to the qualities of the image.
  3. Creativity - This relates to the original, fresh, and external expression of the imagination of the maker by using photography medium to convey his or her idea, message or thought.
  4. Style - There is a number of ways, or styles, as it applies to creating an image. Style might be defined by a specific genre or simply be recognizable as the characteristics of how a specific artist applies light to a subject.
  5. Composition - This is important to the design of an image, as it brings all of the visual elements together and contributes to expressing a purpose. Proper composition holds the viewer in the image while leading the viewer to follow the direction intended by the creator. Effective composition can be pleasing or disturbing, depending on the intent of the image maker.
  6. Presentation - This is the finished look that affects and contributes to the impact or intent of an image. The mats and borders used, either physical or digital, should support and enhance the image, not distract from it.
  7. Color Balance - The color harmony and the way tones work together effectively supporting the image can enhance its emotional appeal. Color balance is not always harmonious and can be used to evoke diverse feelings for effect.
  8. Center of Interest - This is the point or points on the image where the maker wants the viewer to stop as they view the image. There can be primary and secondary centers of interest. Occasionally there will be no specific center of interest, when the entire scene collectively serves as the center of interest.
  9. Lighting - There is no image without light and judges evaluate the use and control of light, how dimension, shape and roundness are defined in an image. Whether the light applied to an image is manmade or natural, proper use of it should enhance an image.
  10. Subject Matter - An image's name should always be supporting the story being told.
  11. Technique - The approach used to create the image is reflected in the technique used. Printing, lighting, posing, capture, presentation media, and more are part of the technique applied to an image.
  12. Story Telling - This refers to the image's ability to evoke imagination. One beautiful thing about art is that each viewer might collect his own message or read her own story in an image.

For the Certification's image submission:

CPP image submissions are judged by a group of 5 jurors who rotate each submission period. The judging pool consists of CPP Liaisons, Certification Committee members and active Certified Professional Photographers. 

As a CPP candidate, you are required to submit a portfolio of 15 images. The first six images must fit within the compulsory guidelines showing a standardized technical proficiency that all professional photographers, regardless of specialty, should know. Of those six, three must include the following:

  • Broad lighting 3:1 ratio
  • Selective focus, with minimum depth of field
  • Short lighting 3:1 ratio
The other three mandatory images must fall into one of the following categories. Choose any 3 of these image types to use as your fourth, fifth, and sixth image submission entries.
  • High Key Image - This image should demonstrate the proper technique in lighting a subject for a high key result. Note: 'Key' in an image describes the overall tonal range in which an image is created. This includes background, props & clothing. Therefore, a High Key image is an image where the predominant tones in the image are brighter than the mid tones. High Key images are typically lower in contrast than Low Key Images.
  • Low Key Image - This image should demonstrate the proper technique in lighting a subject for a low key result.
  • Rule of Thirds - This image should demonstrate subject placement and organization.
  • Use of Shape, Form, and Texture - This image should demonstrate these basic elements of art.
  • Balance (symmetrical or asymmetrical) - This image should demonstrate the principles of balance achieved through subject size, placement, weight or color.
  • Color Harmony - This image should demonstrate the harmonious relationship of color to create focus on your point of subject. Note: Color harmony delivers visual interest and a sense of order. In portraiture, color harmony can help draw the viewer's eye to the point within the image which is most important.
  • "S" Curve Line - This image should demonstrate the "S" curve or feminine posing.
  • Assertive, Angular, or Masculine Line-This image should demonstrate an assertive, angular or masculine pose.
  • Architectural - This image should demonstrate the commercial application of architectural photography.

The remaining nine images must be representative of paid client work from nine different job assignments in the last 24 months. If you are a wedding photographer, that means nine different weddings, same with portraits or families. If you do multiple types of photography, then your portfolio can include a little of all that you do.

At the end of the day, the CPP image submission is a about entering technically excellent images that portray the fundamental basics of photography, whereas the IPC allows you to focus on the creation of the art. 

Interested in becoming a CPP or participating in future photographic competitions? Check out www.ppa.com for all the details! 

Here at PPA, one of the biggest challenges we hear photographers talk about is making their business stand out from all the other photography studios out there. Many of these competitors actually fall under the hobbyists' category and lack the skills and dedication of trained professional photographers. 

Showing potential clients that you have the experience, skills, and recognized status of a pro can be a huge help in setting your business apart from the competition. How can you do this? Well, becoming a Certified Professional Photographer (CPP) is one sure way to show potential clients that you are a professional photographer, guaranteeing that they'll receive high quality images, unlike with a hobbyist. It also helps justify why your prices may be higher than other folks out there. 

Earning your Certification is a process that definitely will require some effort on your part. After all, you're trying to show that you are a professional photographer at the top of your game and an expert in your field! 

In order to become certified, you must pass both a written exam that covers various technical topics of photography (technical things that every serious photographer should be fluent with) and an Image Submission Review, where you'll submit your own work and show that you understand the concepts covered by the exam. 

Anyone can declare their candidacy for the CPP exam and there are no requirements to prepare for the exam. However, the technicality and depth of information covered in the exam is not for the faint of heart or beginners in photography. This is why, for those seeking to earn the CPP credential, PPA highly recommends attending the Certification Preparation Class to review these topics. That way, the topics will be fresh in your mind when you take the CPP exam! Plus, there's an optional fourth day of the class that will cover the Image Submission Review. Remember, the CPP Image Submission Review is judged differently than the International Photographic Competition. It's helpful to hear how you'll be critiqued and to learn best strategies of what work to select. 

We hosted a Certification Preparation Class at our headquarters in Atlanta from July 15 - 18 and talked to several attendees about their motivation for starting the process and how the class helped them prepare for the exam and image review.

Why Attendees Want to Be a CPP:

"Certification gives me something I've never had, and that's showing I've gone through the gauntlet learning the high standards that are required of a professional photographer. I believe that there are so many people out there today with digital cameras who call themselves photographers and I really find that it's sad because so many people are just not producing the quality of work that I feel the profession deserves." - Jim McDonald, James McDonald Photography

"When I pass the certification process, it will be a stamp of approval for my clients showing that I know what I'm doing and that's why I charge what I do. It can also help me raise the bar for photography in our area, encouraging more people to pick a real pro!" - Bonnie Jean Berg, BJB Photography

"Certification will help my marketing efforts by saying to my clients 'I can give you a great product because I spent the time and money to be certified by a panel of highly experienced and educated photographers.'" - Lisa Shorts, ImagoModo Photography

"Everyone says they are a photographer but they really aren't. Not until they know the art, they know what they are doing and they know everything about exposures and the whole gamut. That's what's going to help set my business apart and explaining that to my clients will put me over the [competitive] edge." - Daniel Douglas, Daniel Douglas Photography

What Attendees Took Away From the Class

"I can apply everything I know about shooting a picture, but trying to regurgitate it for the exam is really more complicated than people think. I know instinctively what to do, but the prep class helped me to be able to know the technical steps behind making an image, so I can take the exam and make sure that I pass." - Lisa Shorts, ImagoModo Photography

"The instructor was very thorough and covered everything in the class to help us pass the exam, and I also learned a lot of information that will help my business to be better in general." - Denise Savage, Savage Photography

"You can never know too much about photography. Even though I'm a photography instructor, the class helped keep my skills sharp and keep me aware of the 'cutting-edge' of what's going on in photography." - Jim McDonald, James McDonald Photography

"The class gave me basic information about some of the aspects of photography I've never worked with before. I was surprised to find that some of the things I didn't think I knew, I actually did. It was a neat confidence boost." - Bonnie Jean Berg, BJB Photography


So, are you ready to become certified? You can do it! Learn more about the program in the brand-new Certified section of PPA.com. You can also sign up for the next Certification Preparation Class, taking place at PPA headquarters October 21-23 (with the optional Image Submission class on October 24). 

Stay tuned to the PPA blog for videos featuring the thoughts of Certification Preparation Class attendees! 

PPA member, Super Monday instructor and recent CPP recipient, Dave Goldman, has been named a CPP Liaison for the state of North Carolina.

"Becoming a Certified Professional Photographer (CPP) was a huge accomplishment for me! Passing the CPP exam and image submission process was incredibly difficult. I now hold a designation that less than 8% of the photographers worldwide hold," stated Goldman. "I also now know that I have the necessary skill set to be professionally recognized by my peers as a Certified Professional Photographer. My clients always love my work, but it takes the recognition to a whole new level when it comes from the industry itself. Working towards the CPP has given me the ability and confidence to create strong images under any conditions and I can produce consistent, repeatable results each and every time."

Dave's passion for teaching inspired him to go above and beyond becoming a CPP to become the first and only state Liaison for North Carolina in Charlotte.

"I love to teach and I wanted to give back to the photography community. Most people have no idea where to turn for learning and they end up at local meet-up groups. These groups are okay when you are starting in the [photography] business," said Dave. "I get very motivated when I see beginners aspire to become certified and I can now help them achieve that. I hope to raise the bar and educate other photographers through workshops and hands-on classes."

Dave has a reason to be motivated--becoming a Certified Professional Photographer has made an significant difference in his business.

"Most photographers claim that certification means nothing to their clients; however in my case that is far from the truth. Would you use a first-year resident as a doctor because you can save a few dollars on an operation or use a specialist recognized by his peers in a particular profession? Certification shows that you took the time to learn about what you are doing and how you perform to a higher standard," said Dave. "Each client that comes to my studio asks me about the very visible certificate on the wall. I explain the difference between CPPs and every-day photographers with a camera and educate them on the investment they are about to make. Certification makes it a critical difference."

View some of Dave's Certification passing images below and if you are interested in pursuing the certification program, here are some easy steps to get started:

First, check out http://certifiedphotographer.com/, then to look for a CPP liaison in your local area and get connected. Find other CPP's and speak with them about what the process, what it brought to them and to their business. They'll help you sort through what certification can do for you. Finally, pair up with a CPP (shadow or second shoot are great options) and see how they do things and learn from them. After all, they are trained to create beautiful images under any circumstances, so you are bound to learn something.


Do you have something you want us to brag on? Tell us here: www.ppa.com/bragbook.


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When you're looking for professional services, you pay attention to any certifications or designations the business may have, right? Well, the same can be said for your potential customers searching for a professional photographer.

That's where PPA's Certified Professional Photographer (CPP) designation can help you out!buck_husson_taylor_cppblog.jpg While a consumer may not know much about professional photography, having the CPP designation for your business tells them that they can expect professional quality services and goods from you.

It may seem easier to ignore the certification process, but it can greatly help you and your business' image. Several PPA members weighed-in with their thoughts on the worth of the program.

In a former life, Mary Buck, CPP, was in real estate. As such, licensing and keeping up with the credential requirements was a must in her line of business.

"Even before I started turning photography into my full-time business, I could see how some people could resist the certification process, because there is such a low barrier to entry into the field," she said. "I believe there should be a certain bar, in any industry, and certification does that for us photographers.

"The clients who care, and the ones I want, are the ones that respect me for making a commitment to my profession."

Studies have shown that having professional certification is the most widely recognized consumer credential, so certification can turn into a big advantage over your competition.

However, the CPP designation has more advantages than just giving you a leg up on your competitors. It will also make you a more confident photographer.

"What happened to me on the business side wasn't nearly as profound as what I found on the inside," said Stuart Husson, CPP. "The process to become certified was personal. I thought it would enhance my business, but that turned out to be secondary.

"I simply wanted to see if I was good enough, but the boost in self-confidence was such that it gave me the assurance that it was okay to turn down potential clients who did not meet my preferred client profile."

As you might expect, earning a CPP designation does take some effort and work on your part. In order to become a CPP, you must pass both a written exam on photography techniques and skills as well as the image submission review, where you'll submit your own photographs to be accepted by the Certification panel.

The process can also help fill in any gaps in your photographic knowledge, as 2013 first time CPP, Andrea Taylor, CPP, shared.

"I decided to become certified because I didn't go to photography school," she said. "I'm an emotional photographer, so it forced me to study and do things I wouldn't have done otherwise. I really tapped into a lot of technical parts of photography and I expect this process to impact my business because of my personal feelings about the whole process. The more confident I am, the better I can serve my clients."

To help you along the way towards becoming a CPP and to prepare you for the challenges of the exam, PPA hosts Certification Preparation classes. There's one coming up July 15-17, at PPA's headquarters in Atlanta, GA.

If you've ever considered taking the CPP exam, this class is for you. In fact, during these three days we will review all the technical topics covered by the exam. It's an in-depth study of the technical side of photography, almost equivalent to a semester of college!

Topics covered during the class include:
  • The Inverse Square Law, Filter Factors, Bellows Factor
  • Lenses and Filters
  • Color Theory and H&D Curves
  • Lighting Ratios, Corrective Lighting and Posing, Depth of Field, Angle of View
  • The Zone System (and how it helps you understand the digital histogram)
  • Difference between a Bit, a Byte and Bit Depth

Are you 100% familiar with these six topics? Taking the Certification Preparation class is sure to make you more relaxed and confident when it comes time to take the exam. Better yet, you'll be able to choose to take the exam at the end of the class when all this information is fresh in your head.

If you're nervous about the image submission portion of the certification process, there is an optional fourth day of class on July 18 that will explain the submission criteria and show you some examples of certifiable images.

If you're ready to become a Certified Professional Photographer, sign up for the Certification Preparation class in Atlanta July 15-17! And don't forget about the optional Image Submission Preparation class on July 18.

Need more? Check out how becoming a CPP can help your business
Certification Image Review Deadline
The deadline for the last Certified Professional Photographer (CPP) image review of the year is October 10, 2008.  Visit CertifiedPhotographer.com. to download your image submission forms and for complete information on the CPP program.

Certification Exams at Imaging USA
The certification exam will be offered on all three days of Imaging USA in Phoenix this January. The dates and times are:

  • January 11, 2009,  from 9am to 11am
  • January 12, 2009,  from 9am to 11am
  • January 13, 2009,  from 10am to 12pm
Candidates wishing to take the exam must contact the Service Center at 800-786-6277, at least five days prior to an exam to reserve a space. Picture identification is required upon arrival at the testing site.

For more information on becoming a Certified Professional Photographer, visit CertifiedPhotographer.com. For more information on Imaging USA, visit ImagingUSA.org.



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