Don't Shoot in the Dark
A Risk Management Guide for Self-Employed Photographers and Videographers

Chapter 3: Tips for Growing Your Small Photography / Videography Business
Part 2: Should You Become a Certified Professional Photographer?

Fauxtographers are everywhere. Anyone with enough money to throw down for a digital SLR can set it to P-mode and start churning out "professional work" — usually for a fraction of the standard professional-market price.

Some clients can be blinded by these low prices and find out too late that the "professional photographer" they hired doesn't actually have the knowledge and skills to back up their title. So try to make it easy for your future clients to tell the difference. There are already a few ways you can distinguish yourself as a legitimate professional photographer:

  • A solid professional portfolio.
  • The endurance of your business.
  • Client referrals and testimonials.

But if you want to show your clients that you've gone the extra mile, consider becoming a Certified Professional Photographer (CPP).

You can become certified through The Professional Photographers of America New browser window icon. (PPA) which, along with the Certification Committee, developed a certification program that "follows the standards for certification which are established by the national Institute of Credentialing Excellence (ICE)."

Certification begins with declaring candidacy and ends with…

  • Passing a written test. This test covers various aspects of photography, including (but not limited to) the candidate's understanding of light, exposure, shutter speed composition, and the proper use of photography equipment.
  • Submitting two image portfolios. Several times throughout the year, the Certification Commission will accept image portfolios for review. The first portfolio consists of six images, some of which must showcase certain requirements and techniques. Once the Commission approves this portfolio, you must submit nine additional photographs. These photos must be recent (taken within the last two years) selections from your professional portfolio.

Once you've gained certification, the credential is valid for three years. After that, you can apply for recertification by submitting a six-image portfolio and completing one of the following:

  • Another written test. And, obviously, you must pass it again.
  • Approved training courses. You can either attend a certain number or courses or complete less training and submit additional images for review.

Freelancer tip: Boost your professional credibility by becoming a Certified Professional Photographer.

You can learn more about the certification and recertification process on the PPA's Certification FAQ New browser window icon. page.

On its CPP Advantage New browser window icon. page, the PAA cites three specific benefits to becoming a Certified Professional Photographer:

  • An "advertising edge." The CPP credential is something you can promote in your advertising and marketing campaigns to help you set yourself apart from the pack.
  • A "pricing justification." The CPP credential helps potential clients understand that your higher-market price aligns with your knowledge, talent, and professional dedication.
  • "Peer validation." It takes time, money, and energy to maintain your CPP status — and not just any photographer can do it. The CPP credential means that you are part of a select group of photographers who care deeply about continuing their professional education and keeping up with the innovations of their industry.

Lastly, maintaining a CPP may help you lower your Professional Liability risk. Continuing your professional training and keeping apprised of new developments means you are doing everything you can to maintain your business. A professional certification "keeps you on your toes," so to speak, and may translate into better business practices.

Next: Chapter 4: Protecting Your Photography / Videography Business

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