Three Little Letters…..Big Meaning.

Three Little Letters…..Big Meaning.

Three weeks ago, I became a CPP. a Certified Professional Photographer.

As a professional photographer, I belong to PPA (Professional Photographers of America) and continue to improve my craft through various workshops, lectures, and seminars. PPA’s “Be More” slogan and campaign resonated with me and in April of 2014 I declared my candidacy to begin my CPP certification pathway. Certification is a three step process: you declare your candidacy, pass an extensive written exam, and submit a portfolio for review. This is not an easy task. The study course takes you down many paths, and in the process, you can’t help but become a better photographer in so many arenas of the profession. This intensive program measures artistic and technical competence. Only after you have passed the written exam, may you submit your portfolio for review. While exams are held numerous times and places throughout the year, the portfolio review submission periods only happen five times annually. The portfolio review includes three specific mandatory images, three compulsory images taken from a provided list, and nine client images from your last two years of work. Portfolios are reviewed by a panel of five judges. Your submitted body of work is first viewed all together to insure the color balance is right throughout. If it is not, the judges do not proceed judging your portfolio. If all looks right in the overview, the second step is for the judges to closely inspect your mandatory images. If just one of these judges does not approve this step, your portfolio will not pass the review. After the mandatory images, the compulsory images are next up, followed by the client images. Minimally, three of the five judges must approve your body of work in order for your portfolio to be approved and for you to receive your degree. Many folks struggle through one or both of these steps. If you are a professional photographer, one who knows their craft, passing this exam and portfolio review should come fairly easily to you. You will probably learn a few additional things that help you become an even better photographer along the journey. If, on the other hand, you are a self proclaimed photographer who hasn’t invested in any educational programs, you will more than likely have a difficult time earning your CPP. Those who continue the journey (retaking the written exam and resubmitting their portfolios) learn and develop their craft with the outcome of truly being a professional photographer.

As I already stated, my CPP journey began last April. I purchased my books and study guides in hopes that I would have the chance to study in the following months. At the beginning of November, I attended a 3-day certification course held at PPA headquarters in Atlanta, GA instructed by Eric Richards. At the end of third day, we took the written exam. I am pleased to say that all but one of us in the class passed. I began preparing my portfolio right away even though the next submission period wasn’t until the end of February. On March 19, 2015, emails were sent out all at once to everyone who had submitted portfolios. As I read my email, my heart was in my throat. It starts out…”First of all, thanks for taking part….” and then, there were the words I had been hoping to see for the last three weeks, “CONGRATULATIONS! Your images passed…” I was relieved and thrilled. On March 31st, a gold colored tube arrived in the mail from PPA headquarters. In it was my official certification certificate, my CPP Certified pin and other relevant materials.

There were many reasons I decided to pursue this certification. First and foremost, I did it for myself…to prove to myself that I could indeed earn this degree. That even though I am basically a self taught photographer who has been in the business for over 14 years, that I do have the knowledge required to truly call myself a professional. I did it for my profession as well…to show my commitment to the pursuit of excellence in the field of photography. I wanted to show the public my qualifications to be the best photographer possible for them. Education is the key, the more you learn, the better you become. You wouldn’t hire an unlicensed plumber or electrician, so why hire a photographer who isn’t certified when you have the choice? There are currently less than 2,500 CPPs. Should the government ever require licensing for photographers, it is my hope that those of us with CPPs will be grandfathered in. And just so you know, CPP designation is only good for three years before you must re-certify. Re certification is done through educational merits. This means that a CPP is always learning by attending current workshops and programs. We don’t just stop learning once the certificate arrives in the mail.

I am so grateful and humbled to join the ranks of CPP photographers throughout the world who want the very best for our profession and our clients. Currently there are only 31 CPP’s in the state of Connecticut. I am proud to be counted amongst them.

CPP…three little letters with very big meaning.

Be More.   Start your CPP journey today.

Instructor, Eric Richards,M.Ph, Ph.Cr. CPP, with the November class of CPP students at PA Headqaurters in Atlanta, GA. this past November. (Susan Goralski on far right in second row.) The CPP certificate, pin, and other materials arrived on March 31st.
Instructor, Eric Richards,M.Ph, Ph.Cr. CPP, with the November class of CPP students at PA Headquarters in Atlanta, GA. this past November. (Susan Goralski on far right in second row.)
The CPP certificate, pin, and other materials arrived on March 31st.
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Imaging USA 2015 – Nashville

Goals are good, although something I am not particularly good at.  As it turned out, 2014 was a year of setting photography goals for me. In April of 2014, I declared my candidacy for CPP (Certified Professional Photographer) and began my studies.  During  the same time, I ended up missing the North East District print competition deadline by two hours. (One step forward, two steps back!)  As August approached along with the International Print Competition (IPC) deadline, I entered four images without the benefit of the critiques I could have received had I made the NE District submission deadline. In 2013, I had submitted three images in the IPC. One went Loan, one went General, and one, well…went out the window. As luck would have it, my photographic and Photoshop skills allowed all four of my 2014 images to merit, placing all four in the IPC’s General Collection and earning me a 2014 Bronze PPA Photographer of the Year Award.  Which brings me to this year’s 2015 Imaging USA. This would be my second year of attending the annual convention….a bonus of which for me would be being recognized on stage during the Grand Imaging Awards ceremony as a Bronze Photographer of the Year!

My flight to Nashville was slightly delayed due to winter storms but I arrived just in time Saturday night to connect with a couple of the photographers I had met in November  when we all attended the 3-day CPP study course in Atlanta at PPA headquarters. All three of us had taken the written exam and passed. (There are three steps to becoming a CPP: first is declaring your intentions; second is to take and pass the written exam; and third is submit a portfolio for review by 5 judges.  As I write this today, I am within one week of learning my portfolio review status and possibly earning my CPP by the end of the month.) It was great to meet up with Vanessa and Hank for dinner. We talked all things photographic: from the CPP exam and portfolio review, to the array of classes and speakers at IUSA, and speculated over what would be seen on the Trade Show floor.  After dinner, Vanessa and I popped into the PPA Charities Celebration where we purchased benefit tickets in the hopes of winning a $35,000 full studio setup, the components of which were donated by various photography related companies. It was my pleasure introducing Vanessa to PPA speaker,  friend and incredibly talented Photographic Master Artist, Thom Rouse, as well as to one of the “about to be appointed” PPA Board members and excellent Photographic Craftsman, Jeff Dachowski.  The charity event is a great place to connect with everyone and is a fun pre-convention event.

Trying to choose the classes to sit in on is one of the most difficult decisions to be made during the IUSA convention. For any one time slot, you are deciding from a list of 6-7 seminars conducted by some of the best professionals in the creative field.  Maybe you want to follow a Portrait track, a Business track, a Photoshop/technique track, a Wedding tract, an Inspirational tract, a School Sports or a Senior portrait track.  Always, at least once a day, you are forced with deciding between 2 or 3 seminars in the same time slot that you desire to see.  Since splitting yourself in two doesn’t quite work, and time travel isn’t a current available option, figuring which course will be best is a far from easy task with so much talent and knowledge on the line.

Welcome to Imaging USA!
Welcome to Imaging USA!

The first two I had to choose between pitted my talented friend Thom Rouse and “The Case for Fine Art” against Audrey Wancket’sBeauty and Grace of the Classic Portrait“.  This was extremely difficult for me as I absolutely love Thom’s creativity. In the end, I chose Audrey’s class. The deciding factor being I had seen Thom speak a few times and had attended one of his workshop’s a few years earlier, and with my CPP portfolio review on the horizon, Audrey’s Classic Portrait class would assist me in creating my portfolio.  Audrey’s class did not disappoint .

Rod Evans High Fashion Lighting for Seniors was next on the agenda followed by a quick run through a portion of the Trade Show to receive a cherished autographed print from Thom Rouse at the Hahnemuhle booth on my way to the IPC Merit Cafe for their mini talks on various aspects of print competition.  Using Titles to Your Advantage was being discussed by Larry Lourcey followed by the topic of The Judging Process was offered by Donna Goodhale and then  Print Presentation demystified by Carl Caynor.  I picked up some good tips and look forward to using them in my next set of competition prints.  Perusing the Award Winning Images both on the computer monitors and those that were hanging is something that always inspires and awes me. Creativity and technical expertise prevail throughout these meriting images. It is an honor to have four of my images included and I feel humbled by the experience.

Thom Rouse at the trade show. Larry Lourcey & Carl Caynor at the IPC Merit Cafe.
Thom Rouse at the trade show. Larry Lourcey & Carl Caynor at the IPC Merit Cafe.

Ben Shirk wrapped up my first full day at IUSA. His image collages, montages and composites are incredible. Ben shared several good tips on extracting and masking. He is such a talented man with great vision. Being able to view his award winning images in the IUSA Merit Gallery both last year and this year has left an indelible mark in my mind.

Day Two started with a bang to my brain as I listened and watched Kira Freidman & Nathan Rega discuss and give a live demo on “Photographing Ideas – The Unconventional Path of Conceptual Portraits“. Their brainstorming and pre-visualization work on commercial accounts was stimulating and the finished images were mind-blowing!

I stopped in briefly to Russ Harrington’s seminar on “Music & Celebrity Portraits“.  The amazing Julianne Kost was just one room over.  I have seen her present before…actually at IUSA in Phoenix the year before. She is witty, over-the-top knowledgeable in Photoshop – as in off-the-charts intelligent.  I couldn’t resist leaving Russ’s seminar to attend Julieanne’s on “From Camera to Client – Winning Workflow for Success” and I was not sorry. Julianne gives so many useful “nuggets” I wish I could speed write: particularly so, after looking at my nearly indecipherable notes! This woman is AMAZING.

A trip to the trade show allowed my brain to slow down a bit all while being barraged with the sights and sounds of new products and live demos. A true cornucopia of photography related items, the IUSA Trade Show is really one of the best I’ve attended in years.  Even though it is slightly smaller than the PDN Photo Plus Expo held in New York every fall, the live demos and wealth of information available at IUSA’s trade show is so much better….and the vendors are friendlier.

Another stop at the IPC Merit Cafe enabled me to catch additional presentations on print competitions by Ryan Brown and  Jeff Dachowski. Topics ranged from, Recognizing Impact to the 12 Elements of a Merit Image. Each day I was able to network with photographers whether it was grabbing a quick bite to eat at lunch or while waiting for a seminar to begin. Back at the IPC Merit Cafe, I listened to Gabriel Alonso speak on Becoming A Master Photographer while Doran Wilson captivated us with “What the Heck is the Artist Category?”

I missed the last seminar slot of the day which included Hanson Fong  in order to get dressed for the Grand Imaging Awards ceremony where I was recognized as a Bronze Photographer of the Year. How honored I was to stand on stage with the likes of Jeff Dachkowski, Madonna Lovett Repeta, Dennis Harmon, and so many more talented image makers! It was amazing to witness the makers and their images as the higher awards were revealed. The works of the Grand Imaging finalists are outstanding and I congratulate each and every one of them. Several U.S. photographers are in the running to receive the International  Grand Imaging Awards being decided upon this April. Best of luck to you all! For me, a celebratory dinner was in order following the ceremony with my friend and fellow photographer Vanessa Picard.

The Grand Imaging Awards Ceremony. GeminEye Image's Susan Goralski at far left in the center top photo.
The Grand Imaging Awards Ceremony.
GeminEye Image’s Susan Goralski at far left in the center top photo.

The third and final day of Imaging USA dawned bright and early with a stellar line up of speakers. First up for me was Bry CoxBringing out the Best in Every Image – Quick Retouching for the Most Common Situations & Adobe Solutions“…real world examples and crazy shortcuts for tweaking portraits were some of the gems we left with.  Bry is a great speaker injecting plenty of humor into his presentation.

Next up…back to another of Julianne Kost’s seminars. Yesterday’s class was a reminder of just how much I totally love this woman’s classes. This one was on “Mastering Selections, Layers, Masking and Typography to Create Seamless Composites“.  How I wish I could spend a week with this woman learning Photoshop, but then I think my head would explode! In the meantime, I can get my “Kost-fix” and try my best to keep up with her on the Adobe blog.Now if I could just get a recording of her singing the Photoshop A,B,C’s!   🙂

One last lunch with CTPPA photo friends, Marie and Glenn Curtis, before my final trek through the Trade Show. The drawing for the $35,000 studio was taking place and that area became a magnet for people as the excitement built. I didn’t win but the man who did was present at the drawing! He was overwhelmed and so grateful. It was delightful to witness and partake in that joyfulness. The Texas School booth always draws a lot of attention as well. I hear that it is a phenomenal school. One of these days I hope to attend.

Bry Cox & Julieanne Kost presenting on the final day of Imaging USA. The $35,000 Studio Raffle caused a last minute ticket buying frenzy.
Bry Cox & Julianne Kost presenting on the final day of Imaging USA.
The $35,000 Studio Raffle caused a last minute ticket buying frenzy.
Trade Show fun with Clay Blackmore at Canon's Booth and the great lighting exhibit from Sigma.
Trade Show fun with Clay Blackmore at Canon’s Booth and the great live lighting demo from Sigma with Jim Schmelzer.

I struggled to decide which photographer would receive my undivided attention for the last seminar I would be attending that day. Would it be the charming and mesmerizing personality and talent of Peter Hurley? Or would it be the gentle soul and amazing pet photographer Barbara Breitsameter who’s personal story is just as compelling as her animal portraits?  In the end, Barbara’s presentation “Best in Show – Creating Fine Art Pet” won out over Peter’s “From Zero to #SHABANG!”  I have been working with an animal rescue organization for the last seven years.  Having recently seen a Creative Live workshop with Peter Hurley, I thought it would serve me best to attend Barbara Breitsmeter’s class. Her class was inspirational to say the least. This is one amazing lady who’s fine art pet portraits knock your socks off and who has persevered through some very rough times physically to emerge a true winner. I was truly sorry I had to pass on Peter’s class but as luck would have it, I met him in person at the Closing Party later that night.

Day three did not disappoint! What an incredible educational day filled with warmth, humor, compassion, and artistry. A real winner capped off by the PPA Award & Degree Ceremony and the Imaging USA Closing Party.

PPA Degree Awards were bestowed on the last night. Congratulations to friend and talented photographer, Ella Carlson. Madonna Lovetta Repeta photographs me photographing her while Vanessa Pickard joins in on the merriment.  PPA - BE MORE!
PPA Degree Awards were bestowed on the last night. Congratulations to friend and incredibly talented Master Artist photographer, Ella Carlson. Madonna Lovetta Repeta photographs me photographing her while Vanessa Picard joins in on the merriment.
PPA – BE MORE!

A couple of quick closing notes…..the IUSA Closing Party was held on multiple levels. Having arrived there fairly early on, we didn’t realize there were “things” happening in different areas so we did miss out on some of what was going on.  The complex that the convention was held at,The Gaylord Resort and Conference Center in Nashville, is a 58 acre enclosed resort. Although the garden area was lovely (complete with indoor waterfall) this was one of THE most confusing complexes I have ever stayed at.  I have been fortunate enough to travel throughout the world including being on various cruise ships of all different sizes. Never…and I do mean never….have I ever gotten so confused trying to get from point A to point B. Trying to access the convention center via the hotel hallways was like being in a rat maze. I was not the alone in this observation.  It seemed to be the convention joke. I do hope that PPA will reconsider holding future events in this space. Other than that, the 2015 IUSA Convention was a success from my point of view. Great speakers…good trade show….fun closing party.  I’m looking forward to the 2016 IUSA scheduled in Atlanta next January. With any luck, I will have earned enough exhibition merits to receive my Masters Degree and will walk the stage as a new CPP.  Goals are good.  🙂