How do you know you’re pro?

This post is going to be far more blunt, I’m warning you because I want you to put your thick skin on. I want you to realize that I’m not writing this post directly to you, personally but to a mass and if in reading it, you get the feeling it's directed toward you... Well then take courage in knowing that you recognize there is room for growth. And there is always room for growth.

Let me explain where this post comes from. I have always struggled with calling myself a PROFESSIONAL photographer. After all who says I'm "pro"? Me? And who the heck do I think I am to claim that? So because I love photography, because I operate a business, because I work at it all the time and have put great effort into learning my craft, I say I’m a photographer, and a professional one at that. And although withoutquestion those are very real and very good reasons there has always been something plaguing me about the fact that I’m the only one who says so. If you don't see and hear the tree fall, did it really fall?

I would never let someone cut my hair who hadn’t been properly trained. I would never let someone bring a drill to my teeth who hadn’t studied thoroughly how to do so.  I would never affirmatively trust that my books were properly done and safe from penalty in the event of an audit if I didn’t pay an accountant who had the training and certification to do so. And I certainly would not send my children to be educated by someone who was not certified to educate. Never, never-ever would I take a chance at any of these things. And yet hundreds and thousands of us picked up a camera, were told by a few people that we were good and so called ourselves photographers. Now please, please do not mistake what I am saying. There are so many incredible photographers with no paper credentials who I respect, admire and learn from. But, and this is a big but – there are thousands more who have not honed their skills, who could not go into any environment or situation and know with confidence that they will be able to deliver what a client wants or needs and furthermore have not strived to learn the diverse aspects of our industry and yet they are calling themselves professional. Is this right? Would you be okay if people who had a love for medicine but not the training started writing you prescriptions? Would you be okay if the man who you just gave hundreds and hundreds of dollars to fix your car had heard about transmissions but never been taught properly how to work with one? Why then have so many photographers decided that it's okay to claim a professional status when they are not even confident enough to use their camera on Manuel? I want to take a minute to tell you, that if I'm keeping it real - I started as one of those photographers. I shot in AV and sometimes even Auto mode because I was not confident in Manuel. Now granted, I did make it clear I was portfolio building but should I have even claimed that much when I wasn't even qualified to use my camera fully as it was intended? I don't know? I chose my path, I jumped head first and I never looked back but I also see that maybe looking back could have made the path far less scary and far more gratifying. 

I love photography and I also love this industry. I have deep respect for those who paved the way that I now get to skip down and a sense of gratitude toward them for what they accomplished. It's through their accomplishments that we have had the doors opened so widely to us. It's with this admiration that I feel so strongly about building my industry, not hindering it. I want to improve on the ground work that's been laid not tear up the efforts of those who labored before me. When we do not properly understand our craft, when we charge far less then industry standards, when we operate in a non-professional manner, it's not just ourselves we hurt.  The industry as a whole feels the effects. 

The great news is that there is a fantastic answer and resource for all of us. We can become CERTIFIED PHOTOGRAPHERS and with that never again have to cringe that little bit when someone asks about our training, all the while wondering silently if we truly are legit. The Professional Photographic Certification Commission can make sure to properly link this! (with hard work on yours and my part) declare us certified professional photographers! While in Portland, Sam Puc asked for a show of hands to know how many people in the room were certified. I had never heard of this before and thought I would be one of the few who wasn’t. To mine and apparently Sam’s surprise as well,  only one - maybe 2 people raised their hands. It sparked the idea and so I wrote “certify!!!” in the top margin of my notes. I was excited for the prospect!

You see, my husband has been going to school for the last 7 years. I have helped and watched as we get him closer and closer to those letters that will soon be behind (and in front) of his name. I will admit that I’ve felt left out, he is working at an education that when finished proves to the world what he is, while I work just as hard, study as hard and push myself as hard but have no one to back my claim that I too am legit in my field and passion. Except of course my family and friends, but really- how comforting is that? Think of all those people who have gone onto American Idol and none of their friends and family thought it was a good idea to step in and admit that they were terrible. What if that was all it was? That fear had always plagued me. But soon I will have CPP next to my name and in my own little head it’s just as exciting as the “Dr.” that will be in front of his. I will be the real deal because the real deal said so!

So how’s it done?

First your declare your candidacy with The Professional Photographic Certification Commission. Along with that declaration there is a $100 fee and you have 3 years to complete the 2 steps to certification. The written exam, which is a 100 question test as well as the image submission portion, where you submit 20 of your very best images from 20 of your sessions.

 Now it’s time to study! But oh wow is there an AWESOME opportunity to help all of us! Turns out that Sam Puc was shocked to see so few of hands as well. She is a huge advocate for constant education and maintaining high standards for our industry, it’s with this mindset that she has created a website, ‘Certify with Sam’ and dedicated it to help photographers get certified and improve our industry… And she has promised to maintain this website until 1000 photographers are certified.

With the Certify with Sam website available as a recourse I really don’t think there is a better time to take the initiative. I am so excited for it!

For me it is without question more personal then anything else. I want to know not think that I AM a professional photographer!

Look into it, explore the PPC website and the Certify with Sam website, ask questions here… Tell us what you need to learn and we'll just try to write posts to help and share resources that we know of as well.  If you are one of the thousands who is lacking the confidence to truly feel empowered to say, ‘I am a professional’ then take this step with me!

I am so excited to study and learn, it can only make me better and that, my friends, is what it’s all about! I really hope you'll do it with Noelle and I. 

Helpful Tips & Links  if you are going to declare intent:

A suggested (mind you it’s suggested – questions are not pulled from this text) book is Photography by Barbara London (9th or 10th Editions). I ordered to help me study and use as a long term reference guide.

iPhone Peeps – there is a FREE app for flashcards to help you study. Download the app ‘Touchcards’ and enter the code: 2059436 No iPhone? Go to and enter the same code. 

What if I'm not in the US? To all my international readers... Yes, you can get certified as well. It may be trickier to find a testing center but it can be done!

How hard is the test? That depends on how much you know already. You have 2 hours to answer 100 questions, you need a 70%, which means you can miss 30 questions and still pass. The questions derive from 6 categories, they are 1) Camera, Lenses & Attachments 2) Composition & Design 3) Digital Post Production 4) Exposure & Meters 5) Film, Digital Capture & Output 6) Lighting

What do I need for the image submission? You will need to submit 20 images from 20 different assignments that were shot within the last 24 months. You can not submit 2 images of the same subject. For example, if you shot baby Jane as a newborn and again at 6 months, you would choose your favorite image from all of your sessions with her. You are submitting your very images that will give a reflection of your work and the type of photographer that YOU are, may that be newborn, wedding, family, landscape or culinary. You are also showing your knowledge on composition, lighting, etc.

Thanks to Sam Puc and creating awareness about certification, study groups are going to be popping up all over the country. I just got an email to join one in Portland. Because of this, I don't think there could be a better time to make the commitment! 


  1. Wow thanks so much for the heads up about this. Its exactly what i have been looking for, something to aim for. I recently traveled home to Australia and on the immigration card i wasnt ready yet to put my occupation as photographer, but i vowed then and there that the next time i travel there, July 2011, I will be able too.

  2. This is the EXACT kind of thing I have been looking for and I am SUPER excited!! Thanks for sharing!

  3. while i do agree that there are photographers in the industry with little experience, they aren't hurting anybody but themselves-a photography business cannot survive long term that isn't built on strong technique and artistry.

    and even though i am taking the certification myself, i see it as an opportunity to educate myself and push myself a little further than i have before, NOT because i need the letters after my name (although it does sound pretty cool :).

    i don't think artists should be expected to conform to some technical standard of what other people define as an 'expert.' we're not doctors or lawyers or accountants-we're artists. the value of our work is assessed by ourselves and our clients, not intrinsic to a diploma or a title.

  4. p.s. i hope that didn't sound rude! :)

  5. Kristen- I do and I don't agree. Here is what I'm thinking... Photographers with little experience (especially when multiplied by thousands) do and have hurt our industry, I was one such photographer and I vowed to change that. It certainly doesn't mean that single photographers can't rise above it, they can but I'm talking the industry as a unit, not individuals. You see by not being prepared to truly call myself a pro, I was educating people to under value photography, now I'm working twice as hard to reeducate them about valuing fine art photography. And while in my instance maybe it appears I only made things harder for myself, as part of a whole, I'm also effecting those who have worked hard to lay the foundation for a strong value on photography. I had to work twice as hard when I improved and raised my prices because of the message I sent in the beginning.

    And while like you said, we don't NEED a title, we are handling equipment. Ever a Starbucks barista is properly trained to use their machine. May it be books, workshops, a community college class, a full degree or certification we should be able to prove- even if it's just to our clients that we do know what we're doing! And more than for anyone else, it's the pride that we get to take in ourselves!

  6. No, no, no!! So not rude at all! I love having "real" discussion via the comments! I get excited to here you 2 bits and add my 2 bits back. If we were all the same we'd be a pretty boring industry! Just think of accountant - no offense to our beloved accountants! ;)

  7. I am not even in the "portfolio" building stage yet but I know this is where I want to go... do you suggest this is where I start or would this be too advanced to start here? I am really a beginner photographer. I am still "just" taking pics of my own kids. Any suggestions?

  8. Congrats on being featured in the Professional Photographer Magazine. That should feel very rewarding.

  9. I like this Leah!!

    Question: what is the best, simple way I can present proofs to a client (online preferably)? I do not wish to present print proofs in person. Is there an online proofing that I can take advantage of that is free while I am just starting out. Like Flickr or something? Then once I have things built up better I can afford to upgrade to something nicer.

  10. "You see by not being prepared to truly call myself a pro, I was educating people to under value photography, now I'm working twice as hard to reeducate them about valuing fine art photography."

    I love that it's so true. i have several friends who are pursuing photography as well who are charging $25-$50 for a session. So when people see $150-$200 they about choke. "Why go with her when I can go here". I have tried to reason with these friends but they insist that they won't get any business if they charge what everyone else charges.

    My POV on that is as a mom, $25-$50 for 10 hours of work is not worth my time. I am going to look into certifying (this was one of my many questions in that list I sent you). I am still trying to gain confidence to shoot fully in Manual. Wish me Luck!

  11. Can you give more info on the flashcards? I'm having no luck on iphone or quizlet.

  12. So here's my dilemma. I went to college and received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in photography and design. So I feel like I am certified in a sense though it's not from the CPP organization. But the bigger issue lies for me in the expense. I have only been in business a couple years, am a newly wed, and we have (though I'm not at all happy to admit it) a significant amount of debt to deal with.
    I just simply can't afford to pay their fees. The $100 I could handle, but it's the additional $400 on top of that since I'm not a member of the PPA. And as a college graduate - I pay those fees once, I don't have to pay them every year to redeclare that I finished their program.
    I am no way discrediting getting certified! I would love to! I just simply can't afford it. What should people in my situation do then?

  13. i think that is true that some people do need to be educated on what 'fine art photography' is--but even once they are, they probably still are the ones who will only pay $50 for a session and cd. they just don't value it enough.

    just last week, a friend of my sister's chose someone who charged exactly that for a newborn session over me--but i knew i couldn't compete with someone on price. i can only compete on how my images and business are different. but i don't want to have to explain that to those $50 customers. :) i want to market myself to the clients that already value my photography as an art and are happy to pay whatever i charge. i'm not there yet, by ANY means, but it's a goal. :)

    in that light, certification could be something that adds to the value of an already good photographer.

    i hope that makes sense like it does in my head. :)

  14. $100 seems like a lot for someone to confirm you know your buttons and you have alright pictures. I have a few thoughts on this.

    I think we should give people more credit whom are shopping around for photographers. They are not blind and should have an idea what they are getting into after viewing a portfolio. Though i admit, some portfolios CAN be deceiving!

    Secondly when I am looking at other photographers a piece of paper, a college degree, ect. does not sway me to think they have an artistic eye.

    I know so many professionals (with certifications no less)with booming businesses who take mediocre or even terrible images.

    I may be bias because I've never been certified or taken any classes/workshops. But I feel like this sort of certificate would cheapen me.

  15. Wow oh wow! We finally have a post that getting some discussion again! I love it!! Okay - so many things I want to comment on....

    Christine - This is just what I would do... But if I could do it again, I would have declared my candidacy from the beginning because you have 3 years to complete it. I haven't even been in business for 3 years yet. ;) And it would be purely for personal reasons. I find having that certification very empowering! Now I'm way way more busy and it's going to be really hard to find time to study for the test portion, of the course however the image portion will be significantly easier now because I'll just pull my favorite images from my last 20 sessions. So that was no help at all! :) Bottom line, learning this stuff can ONLY make you better so why not start now instead of tomorrow or next year?

    The App - Search Touchcards Free and instal that. Once installed click Import and enter in the code. You may have to delete the trial deck for it to go through because with the free version, you can only have one deck at a time.

    More comments coming...

  16. Thank you SO much for the links esp the flashcards! This is one of my goals for the next 2 years (have a newborn--goals are slow right now!). Bought the book in Jan and have been studying. This is IMPORTANT! Thank you! I was a teacher and never felt "official" until I was certified. I want this certification, too!

  17. Kristen - Before I could afford my website with proofing I used However I don't proof almost at all now. I do an in preson presentation and my orders went from an average of $100-$150 to and average of $1000. Clients didn't change just the way I presented it!

    Erin D. - Just keep trying to educate! You can send them over here and I'll help! ;) It's easy to feel scared that your work isn't of a caliber to charge the $150-$200 session rates. I WAS TERRIFIED!!! But thats exactly why opportunities like certification is so great. You have to LEARN (through certification) what you need to know to hold your own and once you know you know then you can charge like it! Okay, that's a lot of knows! :)

    Stephanie! You have a bachelors for crying out loud! That's fantastic I would love to have a BA in fine art and photography. Most don't have that, a lot don't even have a cc course on photography behind them so when they get asked about training they feel a little pink in the cheeks when they try to answer. I think for you, in the future if it was something you wanted to achieve Go 4 it! But you can feel great about what you already have behind you!

    Kristen... I don't believe education could ever discredit us! Getting certified is getting educated after all, you have to prove you know your stuff and that takes learning. I in no way believe that this will get me more clients, this - more than anything is personal. But I'm also excited for the prospect that when my target client is shopping around and liking what they see - when the go to click on my bio and see that I'm certified that's one more "mark" in my favor. Because the word certification is the universal definition of "knowing your stuff". Education is our greatest asset, our intellect can't be stripped from us the way money or fame can. I've always said I had no intent at being mediocre, this is one more way to set myself above!

    Maryanne - First read what I said to Kristen. :) also... Certification isn't putting you in a box, it's not saying now you have to be a certain kind of photographer (as far as artistically) it's saying you've proven yourself to your own peers/field to be qualified to perform YOUR art!
    To me $100 seems like nothing to receive accreditation in my field! Maybe thats because I just payed upwards of $1000 for my hubby to take his board to do the exact same thing in his field. Again, becoming certified is a personal choice, but one that I feel can only help me grow as an artist and a business owner because it helps me feel legitimized in my talent.

    Way to go to all of you who are already working on certification!! I'm so excited to achieve it!

  18. agh! i didn't say education would discredit us! i am all for education and certification. i was just trying to say that some people only are hiring their photographers based on price and no amount of certification will change those people refusing to value photography as a fine art.

  19. Sorry Kristen! No worries - you're a Utah gal so I know you know all about the power of education! ;) You are completely right in that bargain shoppers will probably stay bargain shoppers... But sometimes you can show a Wal-Mart shopper what it feels like to be in Nordstrom or a hershey's person what it's like to enjoy Godiva and change them! Same can go with photography too. Okay that's a whole 'nother topic though :) Really I don't think certification should be a marketing expense or in other words, looked at as a way to get you new clients, instead I see it as an educational expense so that's where my thoughts were coming from.
    P.S. Super cute avatar pic!

  20. So I'm seeing a pattern in all these comments. We are all talking about the industry and in particular about the pricing aspect. Leah - do you think you could work on a post about the importance of pricing - like how you figured out what to charge? You've got so many readers - maybe spreading the word, and the how to decide what to charge may help too.

    Just a thought. ;)

  21. Stephanie! Great observation... I already have a post in the works on just that subject! Stay tuned! I'll try to get it put in the next week or two!
    Until then, I've linked to this pricing calculator before and will again in my pricing post, but this is a great resource!!

  22. Thanks so much! I can't wait! This blog is awesome! So many amazing people! Thanks Leah!

  23. Manuel.

    Manuel who?

    Sorry :) I know what you really meant to say, but it certainly conjurred up this The Office clip ;)

    Interesting perspective. I wholeheartedly agree that photographers shouldn't go "pro" without a proper understanding of their camera and shooting in manual, but we all have to start somewhere. There are under-qualified people in every industry. And unfortunately, as much as we like to think our quality of images is the most important, I would venture to say that having business skills trumps the photography skills. I know "certified" amazing photographers with exclusive degrees in photography from big name schools who have horrible business skills and are not successful, and on the other hand, know people who are self taught artists who's quality is not spectacular, but they have incredible business sense, customer service, and are highly successful.

    The ultimate of course, is to have great artistic AND business skills.

  24. With the absolute utmost respect, I offer a sincere rebuttal :)

    I don't necessarily agree that photographers must be certified. Of course, I'm not certified and can easily take that position! But I know my camera through and through, shoot exclusively in manual and am confident I can get great images any time of day or in any situation.

    For some industries a standard of certification and education is indeed important. I agree that a medical professional should be certified, but I don't agree that certification is necessary sometimes in other fields.

    There is an AMAZING artist (painter) in my community. He's trained and "certified" with an educational degree. He has an equally talented son who also paints. He actually encouraged his son to NOT go to school, in fear that it would taint his natural artistry.

    Personally, there is no way in the world I would buy an art piece based off of someone's "certification". I will buy it because I like their work.

    I may have a Masters in Music Composition, but no one is going to hire me to do a film score, because of that "certification"


    good 'ol Kurt Bestor or Sam Cardon (who never finished their music undergraduate degrees from BYU) have won Emmy awards for their movie scores...

    They get the jobs because of their talent and understanding, and quality of past work, not because of certification.

    I do believe STRONGLY in education, and understanding your camera. Obviously. That's why I actually teach classes for photographers to master manual.

    But I don't think its ruining the industry to not have people "certified".

    People can still sense quality when they find it. Having cheap poorly made cars hasn't lessened the value of the Lexus, or BMW. If anything, it makes them even more valuable.

  25. I guess I don't think it a fair to compare being a certified dentist to a photographer. Photography is so subjective, it's art. Dentistry... Not so much.

    If I bought a painting I would not care if the painter went to school, what brushes they used, if they were using the proper techniques or if other painters thought them qualified. I would buy what moved me.

    I don't think certification would help insecurity, I think it would make it worse, for me at least. It just sounds so gimmicky, almost scam like. Pay someone $100 to feel better about myself or prove myself to others!

    On a positive note, I really like the videos you post on this blog. Always fun to watch other photographers work.


  26. Brooke! Your comment didn't show before I posted mine, sorry to rehash what you said so well! I've also wondered is schooling can "taint" artistry.

  27. Can you join Sandy's forum/learning site even though you are not in the US??

  28. Once again - I am loving the discussion going here BUT I WISH I could just pick up the phone and start a confrence call because I can tell that so many things I'm saying are not being understood and I've seen other people feeling the same in the comments...

    Brooke & Marryanne- B: I love everything you said, except that you forgot to disagree, because I completely agree. The problem is, I'm talking and writing to photographers ALL over the gammet (no I don't know how to sp gammet? ;) Remember I started by saying I know a lot of great photographers with no formal training/certification and I would NEVER respect them less for not having it. YOU DON'T NEED CERTIFICATION! And I was never implying that you do, it's an option, a choice and for me - I'm excited to take it!

    Maybe the primary photographer I am talking to is new? Although it's written thinking about myself as well... But let's use a newbie to try to explain. She/he is not confident in their work or with their camera. They are producing good images and are working hard but still haven't reached where they would like to see themselves. They feel insecure and uncomfortable with where they stand (and I get dozens of these types of emails a week) and they are looking to improve and grow in our field.
    What a fantastic opportunity to be given a specific outline on what to learn and study for, to have a goal in mind to work toward with a wonderful accomplishment/reward in the end, who could argue with that??
    Of course an artist is still an artist and your work is going to be liked or disliked based on the emotion you're able to evoke with in the onlooker.

    However (and please don't respond with hate mail cause this is not to anyone directly) I think some put to much emphasis on artist. If you take pictures of people, you are a story tellers FIRST... A painter can paint a black canvas, mark it with an x and call it art if thats they're prerogative if however, they want to be commissioned for specific jobs they are going to have to prove more than that or they won't get hired!

    We are not only artists, we are capturing MOMENTS that in some situations (i.e. a wedding or a birth) can never be duplicated and we have an obligation to be prepared to successfully accomplish it if we claim we can. If certification can help photographers accomplish just that - awesome!!

    And I loved, your Manuel clip - that was a great episode. I actually read the first 2 lines 4 times before reading down and seeing the link, I didn't even get it! Ha!

  29. Anonymous - Yes you can become a member if you are not in the US!

  30. If certification is the means to an education , then awesome!

    I suppose overall, whether we receive an education through a university, through a book, through forums, through reading our camera manual, through classes, through lots of trial and error, or by taking a course to get certified, the goal is the same, and absolutely imperative:)

    p.s. just discovered your blog today by a recommendation to read your article! Fun stuff!

  31. Amen!

    I don't want to sound argumentative. But I think maybe I have a different picture in my head when I hear "professional photographer" I'm thinking not ONLY portraiture, but the bigger field included also; advertising, fine art, landscape, free lance, ect. Some of those fields cater to varied clients which may or may not include a larger emphasis on "art" It's just such a big field to cover in one blog post. Probably frustrating for you.

  32. I'm all over it. Getting a business license doesn't make me a professional and having a time limit set will push this dream to the front of my priority list. I've been given the "fake it till you make it" advise when discussing making $ with my passion but that just isn't me.

  33. Awesome post. Awesome comments. Awesome discussion. I love this blog! =)

  34. Totally off the subject...but Leah, you mentioned doing projections sales. I am scared to death to go down that road...but know it is a road I need to take. Can you post about that???

  35. oh...I meant to comment on the issue at hand as well. Will I do the certification? absolutely! I am always striving for ways to improve my work. Do I think that the "Smith" family cares if I am certified? Sure don't...
    Equate it to Picasso(not my work, the topic at hand). Did Picasso have letters behind his name? Nope. Was he an incredible artist? Yes. The letters will never define the artist, but those that earn the "letters" might improve their photography through the work to attain them...
    Carrie Reger M.Ed (hahahaha
    had to throw in my "letters"
    for a laugh)

  36. Wow, so many good comments! I follow this blog but rarely comment and I'd like to thank Leah and Noelle for all the time they put into this. It seems to me that everyone is right. Yes, that's what I said - I think everyone is right. Call me crazy, but there is no right answer and this debate which, by the way, isn't new. Art vs. Study. Business vs. Skill, only not so. They aren't opponents, they are COMponents. Facets that combine to create the whole. I especially like what Brooke said about any education being good. Trial and error will do a lot, some are self-directed and fast learners, others get more efficient use of their time within guided structure, it's all about how you take advantage of whatever opportunity is available to you. Personal skill and experience will inevitably grow as long as one is dedicated to continue. I think the general idea Noelle and Leah (forgive me for "speaking for you" I know I don't need to,) want to convey, is for us to be encouraged to do whatever we can to better ourselves not only for the good of the industry, but for ourselves in our art. After all, even Van Gogh's last work was better than his first. Let's each in our own way do what it takes to improve on the work and vision of our imaging predecessors. Me? I'll get the "letters," and do my own thing with what I learn from them. Thanks again, to everyone!

  37. Anna! That was positively poetic! :-)

  38. I think if you are serious about any professional field you are in you should consider continuing education. I personally like the idea of being certified because serious photographers will stand out even more than everyone else. As for the PPA I think I saw yes it is expensive but the great thing with the PPA is what comes with membership. I have been looking into there orginization for a while and gulp at price but know it pays for itself especially with the equipment insurance including with membership. Clients should always research photographers before hiring but I think this certification will help.

  39. LOVE this post and all the comments. I read this yesterday and thought ab out it all day. I have a certificate in photography (nothing fancy but I had to take tests, provide images and was critiqued and quite harshly thank goodness!). So I debated all day in my head if my certificate was good enough. Then I remembered how long ago that was and how much I have grown since. From lots of practice, critique from peers, seminars and continued education and I realize how important it is to never stop. Even after this certificate you speak of. The learning and striving to get better doesn't stop there.

    Some of the comments had me thinking also. Last year I took a seminar from an international photographer. He is one of the kindest men I have EVER MET. HE started out many moons ago when he was 17 I believe and is now in his 50's. Younger photographers in my area have mocked some of his work because some of his ideas are old school and feel his work isn't that great. They feel his film work was perfect but digital is off. They made fun of me for attending this seminar. I personally love his work and learned so much. Perhaps his style is different from mine and perhaps his editing is not to my taste. But do you know what I learned from him? I learned how to work artistic lighting, I learned how to shoot midday, I learned little secrets and tips of commercial shoots that at first intimidated me, I learned what they look for in competition images, I learned mind blowing tips about reflectors and so many other thins. So, yes I am not a commercial pro, and I can't be compared to him but we can learn from anyone, no matter who they work for. No matter what their style is.

    In life, there is always room to grow and polish oneself. We do it with so many things in our life, why not with our art. ;)

  40. I absolutely agree with this post! People ask me why I won't charge and this is exactly why! I'm not a professional and I will never claim to be one until I have the proper education! Thanks for posting all these resources. I can't wait to use them!

  41. What an interesting post and another goal to put on my list! I too see the pattern of pricing coming up. Living in a rural community I've struggled with pricing from the very start of my business venture. I would love to be certified but not sure how I could raise my pricing like a lot of boutique photographer's when I take into account my geographical location. This is one aspect on pricing I would like to see more discussion about and just haven't. There are so many formulas and guides out there {I've obtained a few myself} to help figuring out how to price. However, I keep coming back to the same issue-how do I price myself for an area where the median income is 30k-40k (this is a ND state average, so my area is probably on the lower-end) and still be able to make a living? I wonder if certification around here would change what clients would be willing to pay?
    Thank you again for posting's gotten my wheels turning for sure :)

  42. I've been pondering the same things as Victoria. I don't feel like people who can't/don't charge $200 for a session are any less "professional." Some people just cannot afford that, but that doesn't mean that their only option should be to go get cheesy pictures at JCPenney. If you live in an area with a lot people who can't afford a $200 session, is the photographer less of a professional if they choose to cater to that market? Everyone deserves beautiful photography, and it seems like a photographer shouldn't be seen as less of a professional if they choose to price so that it's accessible to people with low incomes.

    I'm sure I have the views I do because of my situation: A) I grew up with two hard-working parents that wouldn't have been able to afford $200 for a session and $50 for 5x7 print. B) I'm new. I am taking classes and working on a certificate. I need experience. I need to get those 10,000 hours. I feel like my time is still valuable and I shouldn't do photography for free, but I don't think I can charge what someone with 10-15 years of experience can charge. I don't want to hinder the industry or undermine the efforts of those who've paved the way. It's a balancing act. I'm trying to find my way but I don't want other photographers to think I'm bringing the industry down.

  43. Oh my goodness... So many great thoughts!

    Sara - I just wanted to say to you, everyone starts somewhere. Nobody was incredible the first time they picked up a camera or edited in photoshop. I'm so glad that you realize that your time is valuable because IT IS! You do not have to charge $200 to be taken seriously. Charge $100, charge less. The key is to make it profitable and worth your while! There is something to be said for making prints affordable enough (I don't mean giving them away by any stretch) so that people can afford them. This isn't the place but I price certain things and a lower markup because it means a lot to me to see my work become their art!
    Noelle and I will be working on a post together soon to talk about the miffs and myths in response to the accusations toward those who "bring our industry down."

  44. Thank you for the encouragement! :) I'll look forward to that post. I love your blog. I just recently found it and it's been so helpful!

  45. Hi !
    I bumped into this blog by accident and it made me laugh when I saw the certified professional photographer, and on top of that so many people getting excited about it.
    I think too many people get too obsessed on being called professional I don’t get it? Who cares? In my 6 years of shooting (3yrs wedding) I was maybe asked twice whether I’m professional. And being nice I told them everyone is professional nowadays!
    Why would you want to spend money to some organization for some silly title? And then exam?? ($1,285 complete education and testing package) It’s just a way to generate money for someone else. And then every 3yrs you have to re-certified ??? I would invest that money into your equipment and you really don’t need that much anyway.
    Same thing with WPPI and their awards that you basically paying for and generate revenue for them. You can learn everything you know about photography on the internet. You can learn all the technical stuff in a week. But learning how to see, composing and how to tell the story takes much longer.
    People are so obsessed about taking workshops. It’s insane. I hear the so called industry leaders are talking about now it’s the best time to invest in your education since the economy is down. Sure they’re just trying to make sure to keep their economy growing.
    Nowadays you shoot five weddings and then you teach a workshop. Same thing is in acting, no one really wants to learn the craft, but everyone wants to be a celebrity. I heard people that go to India to learn yoga won’t shut up asking how long it will take so they can go back to U.S. and become an instructor.
    This industry is going so commercialized now. Yes everyone is nice and sweet, but the bottom line is they are trying to sell you something.

    Learning how to see in a photography doesn't only involve taking pictures.
    I hope I didn't upset anyone by my comments.

  46. Thanks so much for your thoughts and comment Mark!
    I completely agree on some of what (love that you called out the 5 weddings and you're a teacher thing ;) you said and not so much on other parts.

    I'll leave what I agree with alone as you said it perfectly yourself.
    Lining pockets: I certainly have no intention of spending $1,285 for the complete. And while I do agree that everyone is usually trying to make a buck - do you lame them so much? We're all trying to pay bills? There are some things where I admit I'm shocked people are charging or at the very least how much they are charging. Paying $100 to complete a certification process is not one of them. $1,200 maybe, but the resources are available at a fraction of that cost if people are willing to put in the time and energy of finding them! So I'm looking at $100 to take the test and prove to MYSELF once and for all that not only in my eyes but in the eyes of my colleagues... I do make the cut!

    I am a HUGE believer in constant education and refinement of what ever you do! And you are so right... The internet is a gold-mine and Google has been my best friend through this learning process! But there are certain things that I would love to learn through a workshop, now I would be extremely particular on who I would take a workshop from (the list only has 2 photographers on it) but I do see the benefit in workshops if you are already tapping all of the other free (books & internet) resources and still want to push yourself further in a particular area and there is someone who specializes in exactly that.

    Equipment is essential, but there is so much more to it than having a great camera. What about running a great business that will actually be profitable (my favorite thing to teach on) or truly learning techniques to push and stretch your artistic ideas for your niche? There are somethings that can be taught so much better in an in-person environment as apposed to reading lines on a page (or screen ;)

    I definitely agree that there is some very obvious inaccuracies with this statement; "I hear the so called industry leaders are talking about now it’s the best time to invest in your education since the economy is down. Sure they’re just trying to make sure to keep their economy growing." Unless of course it's a workshop on a fool-proof system be over the top busy in this economy! Haven't seen that one yet. :-)

    Thanks again for your great comments!