I don’t consider myself ambitious or driven but I know that I can be fiercely competitive. Oftentimes, the person I challenge most is myself. My journey as a photographer has been driven by the challenge of making myself better. I see an image and I want to do THAT. I obsess about technique and composition and inspiration until I understand why that image resonated with me as I try to recreate that feeling. I don’t always succeed but I certainly learn something in the process.
A year ago I heard about a certification for professional photographers (CPP) offered by the Professional Photographers of America (PPA). A bit of research left me subdued – the written exam covered subjects that I wasn’t familiar with and the portfolio submission piece had me breaking out into a cold sweat. It was all over my head and I didn’t feel confident in my skills or knowledge.
I suspect that many a self-taught photographer has felt the same curiosity and dread about professional standards. Why do I need to be certified? It’s not a requirement for booking clients. What does book learning have to do with my craft? I’ve learned what I’ve needed through experience and experimentation. What could the benefit be of being certified?
One thing I’ve learned from other photographers and professionals in other fields: if you stagnate, you will fail. You have to constantly strive to change and learn and improve yourself in order to succeed. I want to keep getting better at what I do. I consider the certification to be a badge of pride. It shows a technical competency in my craft and an acknowledgment from my peers that I am a professional. I wanted that certification.
Over the following six months I mentored with fabulous pet photographers, competed well in PPA’s International Photographic Competition, and became more confident in my equipment and my techniques. In January 2017 declared my candidacy for certification. What followed were two months of stuffing my head with formulas and data in every free second I had. And I did learn. New ideas as well as the reasoning behind why I do things that I’ve learned myself. In March I took the written exam and passed.
At the end of April I submitted my portfolio for review. The portfolio had to consist of six compulsory images of specific lighting styles and nine client images. As a pet photographer, all my client images had to be animals. I decided to submit pets for my compulsory lighting images as well. Broad lighting, short lighting, selective focus, color harmony, high key, and rule of thirds. There’s nothing like setting up your lighting and trying to convince a dog to look at a toy or a treat at juuuust the right angle to capture the correct lighting pattern!
And, on May 5th, I passed the portfolio review.
I am officially a Certified Professional Photographer. And it feels good. Danica Barreau, CPP.