The Merit System Explained

Earning a photographic degree with PPA will require you to earn different kinds of merits.

So what are these famous ‘merits’?

They’re essentially a way for you to learn and grow professionally while becoming more active in our industry. You can earn different kinds of merits, all of which are guaranteed to make you a more well-rounded professional photographer!

Each PPA degree requires a different combination of 25 merits and there are 4 merit types: 

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  • Exhibition Merits
  • Artist Exhibition Merits
  • Service Merits
  • Speaking Merits

Tracking Merits For Your PPA Degree

Keeping track of the PPA merits you earn while working towards a PPA degree is easy. All you need to do is hop on to the home page (make sure you’re logged in) and click on the MyAchievements tab.

Exhibition MeritsExhibition Merits

Exhibition Merits are earned when you, well, exhibit your work! These merits will be your primary focus when working toward your Master of Photography Degree.

There are two ways you can earn your Exhibition Merits:

  1. Enter the Photographic Open Category of the International Photographic Competition (IPC): It will allow you to earn one merit for each image that’s accepted into the General Loan Collection. You’ll then earn an additional merit if you have an image selected for the Loan Collection.
  2. Enter your PPA District Photographic Competition: Each year, the four district competitions give you the chance to earn a merit if your image earns a Seal of Approval in your district. Once sealed, your image will go on to the IPC for another round of judging and, if it is selected for the Loan Collection, you’ll earn an extra Merit for that too! Entering your work in district competitions only enhances your chances to rack up more Merits! Learn more about PPA’s District Photographic Competitions.

Note: Each year, you can submit up to four images to the Photographic Open category at IPC and at your district competition. If all four of your images are selected for the Loan Collection, then the maximum number of Exhibition Merits you can earn per year is eight.

Artist Exhibition MeritsArtist Merit

Artist Exhibition Merits are earned when you start to show off more of your technical proficiency directly through your photographic work. 

This category of merits will be your primary focus if you’re working toward your Master Artist Degree. These merits can be earned by competing in the more technical Master Artist Category of the International Photographic Competition or by entering the PPA District Master Artist Competition. Of the 25 merits required, 13 will need to be in the Artist Exhibition Merits’ category. 

To earn these merits, your images will be judged based on computer-applied techniques and proficiency and there are two ways you can earn them:

  1. Entering PPA's International Photographic Competition (IPC) under the International Master Artist category: It will allow you to earn one merit for each image that’s accepted into the General Loan Collection. You’ll then earn an additional merit if you have an image selected for the Loan Collection.
  2. Enter PPA’s District Competition under the Master Artist category: Each year, the four district competitions give you the chance to earn a merit if your image earns a Seal of Approval in your district. Once sealed, your image will go on to the IPC for another round of judging and, if it is selected for the Loan Collection, you’ll earn an extra Merit for that too! Entering your work in district competitions only enhances your chances to rack up more Merits! Learn more about PPA’s District Photographic Competitions.

Note: Each year, you can submit up to four images to the Master Artist category at IPC and at your district competition. If all four of your images are selected for the Loan Collection, then the maximum number of Artist Exhibition Merits you can earn per year is eight.

Speaking MeritsSpeaking Merits

By design, these merits will involve you more in the PPA and PPA Affiliate communities by requiring you to share your knowledge and expertise with peers who are looking to grow. You will work directly with your peers in raising the photographic bar and pushing them–and our industry– to the next level. Most of your focus will be here as you work to earn your Photographic Craftsman Degree. Of the 25 merits required, 13 will need to be Speaking Merits. 

You can earn Speaking Merits directly through PPA or through your PPA Affiliate. Here’s how: 

If you’re Speaking Merit through PPA, you’ll need to: 

  • Instructing a class at Imaging USA
  • Sitting on an Imaging USA program panel
  • Hosting and instructing a Super 1 Day class
  • Publishing an article in Professional Photographer magazine
  • Having an article posted on PPA.com

If you’re Speaking Merit through an Affiliate, you’ll need to: 

  • Instructing a program during a PPA Affiliate convention seminar or meeting 
  • Sitting on a panel at a PPA Affiliate convention,seminar or meeting
  • Instructing at a PPA Affiliate School

Service MeritsService Merits

Service Merits are earned by the simple act of giving back to our professional community and earning these merits will see you taking part in more volunteer opportunities. And while these merits aren’t degree-specific, you can absolutely use them towards the 12 additional merits required to earn any degree, as these come on top of the degree-specific mandatory merits. This can include things like serving on committees, acting as a Certification Liaison, teaching, and more.

You have 3 avenues to earn Speaking Merits: directly through PPA, through your PPA Affiliate, or through PPA’s Photographic Exhibition Committee:

Earn Service Merits Through PPA

You have many easy ways to earn Service Merits through PPA. Here is how:

  • Attend all 3 days at Imaging USA (PPA’s annual conference)
  • Attend pre-convention sessions at Imaging USA (each class adds merits)
  • Volunteer to serve at PPA as one (or more) of the following positions:
    • Certification Liaison
    • PPA committee member
    • PPA committee chairperson
    • PPA Councilor
    • Proxy for a PPA Councilor at the PPA Council meeting
    • PPA board member
    • Volunteer at Imaging USA
  • Have an image published by Professional Photographer magazine
  • Attend or teaching a PPA-approved continued education seminar
  • Complete a year of attendance at a PPA-approved school of photography
  • Graduate from or instructing at a PPA-approved school of photography

Earn Service Merits Through PPA Affiliates

On top of attending a two-day or full-week paid program from a PPA Affiliate School, you can earn Service Merits by serving as a:

  • PPA Affiliate president
  • State, regional, national or international Affiliate convention chairperson or co-chair
  • PPA Affiliate School trustee or assistant instructor
  • Juror for a PPA Affiliate photographic competition
  • Jury chairperson for a state, regional, national or international PPA Affiliate photographic competition

Earn Service Merits Through PPA’s Photographic Exhibitions Committee

If you serve on this committee, you’ll also earn Service Merit points as:

  • Jury chair, co-chair, or chair-person in training
  • Competition Judge
  • Photographic Exhibitions Committee volunteer for a district competition or for the International Photographic Competition

Once you apply your Service Merit(s) towards a specific degree, you lock said merit(s) for that specific degree (meaning that you won’t be able to re-use that merit to apply for another degree).