Certification Professional Photographer

What is the Certification Process?

"The certification of specialized skill-sets affirms a knowledge and experience base for practitioners in a particular field, their employers, and the public at large. Certification represents a declaration of a particular individual's professional competence. In some professions certification is a requirement for employment or practice. Doctors, mechanics, accountants, professional secretaries, surveyors and many others are all required to go through a certification process of some kind." Reference: PPA's Certification page.

Your journey to Certificaton consists of 2 parts: 1) the Exam, and 2) the Technical Evaluation Image Submission. Declaring your candancy for CPP, will give you 2 years to complete the journey. Addition time can be requested under certain circumstances.

When you're ready to take the Exam, you will register for it on the PPA website no less than 2 weeks before the Exam scheduled date. Check the PPA website for a list of scheculed Exam dates, times, and locations. If you don't find one in your vicinity or desired timeframe, contact one of your local CPP Liaisions to see if they can schedule an Exam for you. They'll be happy to accomadate your needs.

If for some reason 70% of your answers to the Exam don't match the offical answers you'll need to retake the Exam until you get 70 or better. But don't just shoot for a score of 70, shoot for a 100. While the minimum passing score is 70, it means you still missed 30% of the Exam, aim higher and you'll reach higher.

The CPP program requires at least 30 days between Exams, use the time to brush up on the sections you didn't do as well on.

Once you pass your exam you are eligible to submit your technical image evaluation during any evaluation period (they take place 5 times a year). If you don't pass the first time that’s ok! You can submit your evaluation as many times as needed during your candidacy period. If your candidacy expires before you successfully complete your evaluation you can apply for re-candidacy at a reduced cost of $100. To learn more about re-candidacy email cppmailbox@ppa.com.

Image submission periods are held usually 5 times a year, and the submission period is usually open for 2 weeks. Note: If you typically wait for the last moment to do things and you're thinking you'll submit your images before the end of the day on the last day of the submission period, think again, and check the schedule. The submission period usually ends at noon, Easterm Time, not at the end of the day of 5:00p or midnight. Fair warning: Sometimes computers and websites experience outages, don't be caught by an unexpected outage, plan on submitting a day or two early just in case. Otherwise, you may have to wait until the next submission period, or even worse, you may have exceeded your two year window, and it's now closed.

Speaking of waiting, after submitting your portfolio, it will be at least 3 weeks before you will receive your pass / fail notification. All 3 of your images must pass, if one of them fail, the entire submission will fail.

If your notification indicates a failure, often there will be comments returned from the judges, but not always. You may be wondering "Why Not?" It's a vaild question, but the judges aren't there to help you pass, that's what your liasions are for - long before you submit, you should be getting critiques and perfecting your images. There are several ways to go about getting feedback: There are Facebook groups as well as Print Competition groups. You may be amazed how many photographers that do well in Print Competition owe a large part of their success to having completed their CPP. Feel free to contact me regarding how you can get individual help.

There is a CPP Standard. What is it?

Established in 1977 by Professional Photographers of America the Certified Professional Photographer (CPP) credential serves to identify professional photographers who have demonstrated technical competence through a written examination and photographic image submission. PPA and the Certification Committee follow standards for certification which are established by the national Institute of Credentialing Excellence (ICE). ICE sets the guidelines for creating the written certification exam, and makes sure the questions are relevant to professional photography today. ICE also provides PPA and the Certification Committee with support and information to maintain the certification process. Reference: PPA's Certification page.

Why Become a Certified Professional Photographer?

Certification helps to show potential clients the value in hiring a true professional. Consumers might not know much about professional photography, but they understand that certification means professional-quality goods and services. Anyone can buy a camera and take some pictures, but a Certified Professional Photographer (CPP) designation shows clients that you are a true professional in your field.

Clients in every industry seek out credentialed professionals, as the public recognizes certification as a sign that one is an authority in the field. A CPP designation offers potential clients an assurance, not just of quality, but of technical skill and artistic expertise.
Reference: PPA's Certification page.


The digital era has made it much easier for inexperienced part-time and fly-by-night photographers to throw their hat into the ring, undercutting professionals with rock bottom prices. Certification is an easy way to help consumers understand and appreciate your level of experience and talent.

Reference: PPA's Certification page.

You can't just declare yourself certified. Certification is granted by Professional Photographers of America, the world's largest non-profit association organized for professional photographers, and that speaks volumes to potential clients about your skill. When potential clients become aware that Certified Photographers must recertify every three years, they understand that education, training, and the latest industry techniques and skills are important to you and your images.

Reference: PPA's Certification page.

Ever found yourself in an unfamiliar or challenging situation? What do you do, panic? No, after successfully navigating the CPP journey, you'll have the confidence and competetence to handle any situation. Never had a speedlight fail at a wedding, how will you continue? Light is light, once you learn to control it, you can be successful in any challenging environment.These are just a couple of examples, I'm sure you can relate.

Learn about the preparing for the Exam.
Dan Ferguson is a Certified Professional Photographer (CPP) and CPP Liaison. CPP Liaisons assist candidates and existing CPPs as subject matter experts and sources of information. Each liaison must maintain his or her certification and PPA Membership, and is entrusted with responsibilities to maintain the integrity of the program.