Are qualifications important? What about recognition by professional bodies? Ever heard the phrase “don’t confuse qualifications with clever”? Yep, but did you ever go to a doctor who didn’t have a medical degree? A dentist? How about the lawyer who helped you buy your house – did they go to law school?
Was it the qualification that made you trust them? No, of course it wasn’t. But it does help to work out whether or not these people are the real deal, or if they just opened an office somewhere and decided to give it a shot. Same with photographers. While qualifications don’t mean much on their own, they do prove that the person has been in business for a while and can work to a professional standard.
When I was based in the UK I was a member of the Society of Wedding and Portrait Photographers (SWPP) and I continue to be a member of the Master of Photographers Association (MPA). For both I had to prove that I could work to the required standard by submitting a portfolio of images. To be a Master Photographer this went further and I had to show that I was making my income from photography, and I actually had to attend a live judging of my images. I was delighted when the panel not only unanimously passed me but the head judge said he would have no hesitation in having me substitute for him if he couldn’t shoot a wedding. I don’t just photograph weddings, but that was the category I decided to be assessed on. (Did you ever ask yourself what would happen if your wedding photographer got sick? Are they a member of an association where they can call on the services of a reliable replacement?)
I am delighted to say that my recent application to SA Professional Photographers was successful. Does it make me a better photographer? No! But it does mean that if someone is trying to tell the difference between me and some guy with a camera, they at least have somewhere to start. I am listed in the Kwa-Zulu Natal secion of SAPP and would love to hear from you.