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WPPI & NYIP Launches First Online Certification Program For Wedding Photographers

By Hanssie on April 21st 2015

The low barrier for entry as a professional wedding or portrait photographer is an issue that has been prevalent for the last 8 or 9 years. Anyone can go to Costco, pick up a Canon Rebel with a kit lens bundle, buy a domain name, print up a few business cards and BAM! You’re a professional photographer. No matter that this “professional” photographer still shoots in “P” (for “professional,” of course) mode, uses a free Photoshop Elements that came with their laptop software and relies on the pop-up flash.

Actually, that sort of sounds like how I started, but luckily, before I set myself loose on some unsuspecting bride, I picked up a mentor and second shot in over a dozen weddings before booking my first wedding. My photography education came in the form of “street cred” if you will, but under the watchful eye and tutelage of a photographer that had been shooting weddings for the better part of 15 years.

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In the seven years, I’ve been a professional photographer, there has been quite a need and photography forum chatter about wanting needing, official certification courses for professional photography, specifically wedding photography. And today, WPPI has launched a certification program geared specifically for wedding and portrait photographers.

banner-wppi

Wedding and Portrait Photographers International (WPPI) has partnered with the New York Institute of Photography (NYIP) to bring you an online certification program.

The Wedding and Portrait Photographers International Certification (WPPIC) will be offered exclusively to all WPPI members and aims to become the industry’s gold standard for setting a new level of professionalism that will guide the artistry and business practices for wedding and portrait photography worldwide.

The program will consist of two parts: a fundamentals section which will cover basic photography such as shutter speeds, shooting modes, metering, etc and the second part will be focused on “consulting with and receiving feedback from WPPI Masters” who will provide various in-depth tutorials on working with clients, lighting, composition, etc. The program can be completed in three months, but there is not a deadline to complete the courses. There will also be a portfolio review and final exam before you would be officially certified.

The WPPIC online certification course has a one-time registration fee of $299; annual U.S. PHOTO+ membership to WPPI is $125 with a slightly higher international rate. For more information or if you wish to apply for the certification program you can register at http://www.nyip.edu/courses/wppi-certification.

What are your thoughts of certification for professional photographers? Leave a comment below!

About

Hanssie is a Southern California-based writer and sometimes portrait and wedding photographer. In her free time, she homeschools, works out, rescues dogs and works in marketing for SLR Lounge. She also blogs about her adventures and about fitness when she’s not sick of writing so much. Check out her work and her blog at www.hanssie.com and www.fittedmagazine.com. Follow her on Instagram. Email her at:
[email protected]

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Joseph Prusa

    Money scheme

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  2. Bridal safari

    hi its a nice post about wedding photography..thanks for sharing we are one of the top wedding photographers in hyderabad

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  3. Neil Killion

    A WPPI certification at this point would only mean something to photographers. I suspect much the same way the ASA certifications for mechanics may have been at one point. It would have more weight if it had to be renewed each year. This would show that there is a continued growth or at least a maintaining of basic skills. However, I also have to agree with Rob and others. The subjectivity of art makes it difficult to come up with a standard to achieve. Yes a person may be able to use the right ISO, shutter speed, but if the photo is boring or flat is it really worthy of being certified?

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  4. Thomas Horton

    Good point. I wonder if we can look outside the photographic world for examples.

    Are there any such certificating organizations for artists other than photographers?

    Can one be a certified graphic artist? There are, but are they any good? Certified sculptor? I suspect that the very concept of artistic creation makes any type of certification difficult just as it is difficult to get artistic education.

    A certification can measure technique and knowledge. Can the person set up a 1:3 lighting set up? Does the person understand the legalities of “work for hire”. That sort of stuff can be taught, measured, and tested. But how does one measure and certify artistic ability?

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    • Rob Harris

      In answer to your last question – you can’t. What you think is artistic, I may find ugly. What I think is artistic, you may think is gauche. It is too subjective. Understanding the impact of adjusting aperture, ISO, and shutter speed can be taught and tested. Explaining different ways to reflect light, both with and without a flash, can be taught and tested. Even teaching someone how to frame and compose a picture can be taught. But not everyone can walk into a room, courtyard, or street and see 9 different ways to compose a shot with one of those being quite unique. THAT is what is exciting about being a photographic artist. And I wouldn’t want it any other way.

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  5. Suhaana Manhattan

    G00gle pay 78$ per hour my last pay check was $9240 w0rking 98 hours a week online. My y0unger brother friend has been averaging 13k for months now and he works about 22 hours a week. I cant believe h0w easy it was once I tried it out. This is what I do.. click at this go to tech tab for more details…
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
    http://www.careertoday-10.com
    ++++++++++++++++++

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  6. Greg Townsend

    Non profit was probably a bad choice of words. I am more thinking about an independent, regulated trade body that exists only to set a defined standard in professional photography to which pros should aspire. It would then be something that consumers and potential clients could use to confirm that a photographer could consistently work to a defined standard both regarding the quality of their work and their professional ethics

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  7. ShaunAnthony Williams

    Isn’t that what the PPA is for? None of it any good until the WPPI and PPA spend money on educating the public on using a certify Photographer and do some commercial like insurance Agency and Financial adviser do!!!

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    • Greg Townsend

      The PPA is a non profit so yes I think it’s probably more about the quality and less about the money. They do though seem to cater for wedding and portrait photographers.

      And maybe that’s the crux of it. I’m a commercial photographer, I don’t normally shoot for private clients. So my customers are perhaps better able to decide if I am capable of doing the work they need. They don’t need to see a BPPI or BoFP or whatever award on my web site. It doesn’t make them any more or less likely to employ me. What they want to see is have I done similar work for another client and is it any good. Am I professional, will I turn up on time etc. How much do I charge, what are my licensing terms.

      But regular consumers buying portrait shoots etc are maybe more vulnerable and easily deceived by dishonest photographers who in reality don’t have the right equipment, skill or insurance and actually can’t shoot what the customer needs. For them I really think a recognised, non profit, legitimate trade association would be a great idea. The problem is we don’t have one either in the US or here in the UK……. that I am aware of.

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    • Thomas Horton

      “The PPA is a non profit so yes I think it’s probably more about the quality and less about the money.”

      I question the validity of this. A non-profit is very much interested in money and just like one can’t assume that a professional is any good, one can’t assume that a non-profit is interested in quality over money.

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  8. Rob Harris

    The annual fee is steep even compared to some IT and security certifications. Because most consumers don’t have a clue about this, that $125 would be as effectively spent on other marketing efforts like buying a round of beers for the people at the next table and then telling them you are a photographer. Actually, that may have some benefit after all. :)

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  9. Paul Empson

    Another self interested money making ‘association’ ….it is in their interests to grant ‘qualifications’ to keep the membership renewals coming in.

    In the UK there are 10’s of self promoting, self interested associations… one even awards points towards your accreditation to postings made to their forum… unbelievable…

    Having a qualification / accreditation / subscription is no marker of suitability…

    There are no good or bad photos… just ones you either like or dislike…
    A large and consistent body of work should be portfolio enough for couples to judge ability…

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    • Greg Townsend

      I think you have nailed it. It’s probably not that easy to check if a solicitor or a lawyer etc is any good. You can’t actually watch them work and decide if you want to employ them. You need testimonials at least. But at least you know they are trained professionals that have attained an official standard based on their ability to practice and not their ability to pay. However a photographer should have a portfolio and assuming the work is theirs it’s a simple enough process to check them out.
      I do have a lot of sympathy for couples getting married. It’s an expensive business and good photography usually doesn’t come cheap. But it’s not hard to check out a wedding photographer’s work. Yes they are being ripped off by charlatans but they’re also being naive if they don’t check who they are giving their wedding photography work to. I’ve never done wedding photography mainly due to never being willing to ‘practice’ on someone elses wedding day with the associated risks of messing it up and ruining their day.
      I checked out the WPPI and the NYIP. They both might be fine organisations (I’m a Brit so I have no idea) but neither seem to have any official standing or operate as a legal body that oversees the profession as ACAT do for accountants or the bar exam does for lawyers.

      Photographers though aren’t lawyers or doctors. We’re people with a trade. A car mechanic, baker or gardener doesn’t need to take exams to work. So why should we. We’re not special, so do we really need an official non profit regulated trade body? I’m not sure we do. I think as has been mentioned before it should be down to us providing a decent portfolio and caveat emptor for our potential clients.

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  10. Greg Townsend

    In the UK we’re awash with associations all claiming to represent photographers. The trouble with them all is that they are for profit companies who exist primarily to make money. They have absolutely no official standing and their entry requirements have zero oversight. Some might be good and some might let anyone in. The trouble is that there’s no way to know, so for a buyer of photographic services they are useless at best and just snake oil at worst.
    The conflict comes from the fact that the harder the entry ‘exam’ the fewer people will get in and the less revenue these companies will earn. Lower the barriers to entry and make more money. It’s a competitive market in the UK, at the recent National Photography Show there must have been at least half a dozen of them all claiming to ‘represent’ pro photographers.
    I really think there is any need for some form of accreditation for Wedding photographers at least. It’s horrible to hear about people who buy a cheap camera, buy some business cards and ruin some poor couples important day. But until there is a non profit official body that regulates the standards and oversees the acceptance of photographers these associations are worthless as a way to confirm the ability of a photographer. Some might offer a good community, or special offers and discounts etc for photographers but that’s about it.
    I’ve managed to survive in the industry for twenty odd years without joining ‘The British Association of Proper Photographers’ or whatever. Save your money and go buy a new lens :-)

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  11. Robert T

    A better idea: Free SLRLounge Certificates based on the level and XP points :))

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    • Kyle Stauffer

      I like it…. Or even a 1 time class/test/certification from SLR lounge…. There are a lot of basic no-no’s that new photographers do that have nothing to do with creativity and everything to do with inexperience. Yes photography is subjective, but a certification that someone knows enough to shoot a wedding is easy to test for IMO. Especially when the judgment comes from a group of veterans.

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    • Paul Empson

      This already happens for on UK based association…

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    • Dustin Baugh

      I like it!

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    • Dustin Baugh

      Good idea!

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    • Dustin Baugh

      +10 XP!
      ;)

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  12. Mark Romine

    Until the certification or license comes from an outside/3rd party or governmentally established office this means nothing to the buyer. It is just another way for photography groups and clubs to make money. PPA and it’a affiliates have offered this for many years now.

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  13. Thomas Horton

    How can an online certification course indicate that a person has the artistic and business skills to be a successful wedding photographer?

    WPPI Masters? wow.

    How many established wedding photographers are going to spend the time and money for this “certification”?

    And as previously posted, if the customer does not recognize or appreciate what WPPI even is or what their certification means, the certification does not really mean much.

    Does this mean that if a client is unhappy with the performance of a “certified” WPPI wedding photographer that they can sue WPPI?

    Me thinks this just to give money to WPPI.

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    • Kyle Stauffer

      I totally agree…

      The part where they want a renewed subscription every year to keep the certification valid is proof that this is just as much of a money scheme as it is a means of accreditation.

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    • Kyle Stauffer

      First round revenue….
      10,000 photographers x $299 = $2,990,000 + $125(10,000) = $4,240,000

      Revenue/year in renewals (possibly indefinite)
      10,0000 photographers x $125 = $1,250,000

      Why didn’t I think of this?????

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    • Thomas Horton

      The only thing better than selling a certification program is selling a certification program that has to be renewed…. for a fee… every year.

      And in the end you still need to check a wedding photographers portfolio…… same as we do before the certification.

      Would anyone one hire a WPPI certified wedding photographer without reviewing the photographer’s portfolio and interviewing them?

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    • Thomas Horton

      It turns out that there is only a one time fee for this certification. The re-occurring cost is the membership.

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  14. Uncle Bob

    I like the idea behind it. Anything that even theoretically might get rid of crappy “I just bought a camera and now I’m shooting a wedding” fake pro’s is good. But as Jason points out, unless it becomes an industry standard there isn’t much value to it… in fact, I could see how this might actually embolden the crummy wannabes.

    All they have to do is pay the money, pass a test and now all of a sudden they have an official looking certificate that “qualifies” them. I suppose it all depend on how serious the portfolio review part of it is. I know plenty of people who can pass any test out there on the technical details but who don’t get composition, posing or lighting at all. They might be dangerous with a certificate and false sense of confidence.

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    • Dustin Baugh

      That’s what I wonder. If the certificate is more money based than testing and skill based it will only make the problem worse.

      For certifications to work it needs some time to incubate and become and acutal standard in the profession; especially if there is some peer review and being a member is seen as being part of a skilled group of perofessionals. At which point it could be a very good thing.

      If it’s just a matter of paying the money and then reading off some simple tips and settings that can be gleaned from an Camera Manual then it’s just going to muddy the waters more.

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  15. Kyle Stauffer

    I think this is a good idea. For every other business/occupation with “registered professionals”, there are certification tests to be accredited.

    The only thing I don’t like is that it’s pricey. My engineering tests were less expensive, and I don’t have to continue to pay $125/yr to be valid. The $125/yr part is what I really don’t like. That’s just mho.

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  16. Jason Trayer

    This is an interesting concept but until the ones getting married value this certificate, it means nothing. This seems like a great way to make some more money off of photographers trying to make a living. Photography is an art and art is subject to opinion.

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    • Rafael Steffen

      The idea of certifications are nice, but as you mentioned most couples do not now anything about this and the art of your photography is what counts.

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