The Journey to becoming a CPP
18 years.

That's how long it took me to become a Certified Professional Photographer from the time I picked up my first, actual SLR camera.  

It was a 35mm Nikon and I was so excited to begin making professional photos. 

They weren't professional.  They were better than the average point and shoot camera, better than a lot of cell phone photos being produced by the billions today, but they weren't professional.  Neither was I.  

18 years ago, I didn't even know there was a thing called CPP, or Certified Professional Photographer.  Armed with a Mr. Willard F. Patterson's 1945 copy of 'This is Photography - Its Means and Ends,' and a few more Trade Day finds from 1973 and 1982,  I set out to learn photography the right way.  Learning with film photography wasn't cheap and it didn't revolve around instant gratification or being able to easily fix your mistakes or ignorance in Photoshop.  To be better than decent with film, you had to have a pretty good working understanding of exposure, shutter speed, aperture, film speeds, and more.  And you had to get it right the first time, or at least within a shot or two.

I'm going to zoom through this and fast-forward.  I began 18 years ago with a film SLR, read books, took classes in Atlanta, worked for one of the best photographers in the state, took photography jobs, got a digital SLR, made lots more photographs and was finally getting to a point a few years ago to really try to be an actual, real-life professional photographer, with credentials.
I joined Professional Photographers of America (PPA) in 2016.  PPA is the world's largest nonprofit organization for professional photographers.  This thing is 150 years old.  I'd say they know a thing or two about what it takes to become a professional photographer!  So I signed up, began taking classes again geared toward a set of technical standards and knowledge by which one may become certified.

The CPP Mission Statement: “To acknowledge and validate a consistent standard by which professional photographers can achieve and maintain a recognizable mark of excellence.” (from 

I knew that, in today's time, I needed to really shine to thrive in the business of photography.  I needed to be able to produce intentional, well-thought-out, technically expert, stunning imagery in order to prove that there is a difference in the wannabe photographer I was 18 years ago (and everyone else with a camera or cell phone), and a true professional. 

Guys, this is heavyweight boxing right here.  You can't just pick up a camera and become certified.  The certification process alone took two years of intensive study, putting these principles into my client work (while maintaining that relaxed and natural atmosphere within each session), a written examination and then the ultimate test - image submission! 

You don't just get lucky with the image submission portion of certification.  You have to submit 15 images, 9 of which must come from paid client work and must have been created within 24 months of your submission.  Each photograph submitted must pass a rigorous set of unique criteria per photograph.  Most people do not pass on their first try, that's why PPA gives you 3 chances at submission within a two-year period, before you have to start all over from scratch.  

Want even more fun and excitement throughout the process? (JK) Subject yourself to an online critique group and painstakingly have one image right after another deemed unworthy of being in your image submission portfolio!  So painful! But so worth it.  You will grow through this process, as I did.  You will reach heights that you never imagined possible when you began your journey.  You will have work that you are proud to present to your clients, work they are happy to pay for and happy to display and you will have an easier time creating gorgeous images because you know what you're doing! 

I became a Certified Professional Photographer on November 6, 2018, 18 years from the day I picked up my first SLR camera.  

Is that the end? Nope.  I have to re-certify every three years!  As long as you see this logo by my name, you can rest assured that I am still learning, still growing, still trying to achieve new levels of excellence in my craft.  

If you've ever wondered why you should hire a pro, I invite you to