In the way you’d expect a doctor, lawyer or accountant to be suitably qualified, the same should apply to your choice of photographer.
Unfortunately, whilst there are many photographers who label themselves ‘professional’, the industry is not held accountable to the same legal standards and regulatory requirements as other professions are.
The Australian Institute of Professional Photography (AIPP)
The AIPP is the only recognised professional imaging membership body in Australia. They encourage budding photographers to undertake a thorough accreditation process to earn the title of an Accredited Professional. This includes:
- Demonstration of experience via practicing the art for at least 2 years
- Supply of written references and evidence of satisfied clients
- Demonstration of skill and ability by assessment of portfolio of work
- Agreement of maintenance of skills and business practices via yearly professional development
Designed to give you confidence
According to the AIPP, their accreditation is “designed to give you, the consumer, confidence that your Professional Photographer is a proven, experienced, technically capable, professional practitioner, who complies with all legal business requirements, has appropriate insurance and who is willing to agree to the mandatory Code of Professional Practice and to the requirement to continually improve their photographic skills by committing to continue their professional development.”
The risk of not using an AIPP Accredited Photographer
Anyone can buy a fancy looking camera, set up a website and claim to be a professional photographer. It’s a sad fact that there are a lot of dodgy practitioners out there who believe they can get away with unscrupulous practices.
Take for instance the case of the four brides whose photographer did not show up at their weddings, as detailed in the report from ABC News last year. Although awarded damages, it’s unlikely they’ll get their money back. And worse yet, one of the most important days of their lives has been ruined.
You get what you pay for
I am continually dismayed by the devaluing of creativity in our country. People will spend thousands on an event, but want to skimp on the all-important ‘capturing’ of that event. It’s blatantly clear by the end results when an amateur has been employed to do the work of a professional. The same applies to graphic design, video and other creative endeavors. At least with design, you can spend the money to have it done again. You cannot say the same about wedding photography.
The AIPP awards and recognition of achievement
I personally have a long history with the AIPP. I joined in 1993 and have been a continuous member ever since. Every year the AIPP hold State and National Awards, in which I have won in excess of 70+ Gold, Silver Distinction and Silver Awards and several State categories including Portrait, Illustrative and Travel.
National Awards have more significant meaning, as from these members gain the status of Associate, followed by Master of Photography and beyond. This process occurs as follows:
- Photographers enter four images abiding by the ever evolving rigid rules, conditions and specific presentation requirements to the catogory of choice.
- The images are judged by a panel of five professional photographers of Master level or higher (the prints are anonymous to the judges).
- Each judge scores out of 100, related to creativity, print quality, composition, technicality and originality
- The aggregate of the five is your final score
Depending on your score, points are obtained towards a status level:
- 80-84 Silver = 1 point
- 85-89 Silver Distinction = 1 point
- 90-94 Gold = 2 points
- 95-100 Gold Distinction = 2 points
- 5 points are required within 5 years to attain Associate
- 10 further points within 5 years for the next level Master
- 10 further points for every Gold Bar beyond this (again within 5 years)
I’m proud to say that I have Master of Photographer III after my name, which means I have gained my Master and three Gold bars. I am on my way to my fourth.
On receiving your fifth Gold Bar you become a Grand Master, a title I would love to be awarded.
The AIPP Licentiate – recognition of respect and experience
In recent years, the AIPP has introduced the Licentiate, having been Accredited for many years, this designation is a mark of respect and recognition of seniority and experience and is only awarded to Accredited Professional Photographers (APP) who have been members of the AIPP for 15 years or more.
“A licentiate is a person who has a formal attestation of professional competence, borne from experience, to not only practice a profession, but also to teach, educate and mentor others in the profession.”
Apart from gaining awards, which is a very small part of being an AIPP member, it is the community spirit of the AIPP that has given me life long friendships including photographers from all over Australia whom I count amongst my dearest friends. It has allowed me to grow and continue to learn, to rub shoulders with some of the worlds best, and call them friends. Australia is home to many of the world’s finest professional photographers. The AIPP is like family in many ways, to those devoted to the craft.
Using an Accredited Professional means you are working with a professional whose status has been formally validated and recognised. You’re working with someone you can trust and with someone whose creativity is contantly pushed and developed.