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How to Become a Certified Professional Photographer

Dec 19, 2022 · 4 minutes to read

There’s more to being a photographer than just buying a fancy camera. Clients want to hire someone who is talented and really knows their stuff. You’ll first need to master technical and creative skills to help build a stellar portfolio of work.

A photographer working in his studio

This quick guide will outline how to start a career in photography, including:

  • Photography qualifications and education
  • Photography certification
  • Photography insurance and videography insurance

What is a professional photographer?

A professional photographer uses technical expertise, composition skills, and creativity to produce and preserve images. They may work with traditional film, digital files, or a mixture of the two. Some photographers also offer drone-based photography and basic videography services to their clients.

Photographers can work with a variety of clients, depending on their specialty. They might take family or individual portraits, offer engagement and wedding photography, shoot commercial images, work as a photojournalist, or take photos using a drone. Of course, these are just a few of the areas you could specialize in—the options are almost endless!

How to become a professional photographer

There’s no one way to become a photographer. As long as you have the skills necessary to get the job done, you might have no trouble booking clients! However, there are some steps you may consider to increase your chances of success.

1. Education

There are several ways to learn photography. Many photographers earn a bachelor’s degree in photography from a university, an associate degree from a community college, or a certificate through a vocational or technical school. However, you can also learn photography through free resources online or at your local library.

Operating a camera is only one part of professional photography. You might also take courses in editing to learn how to use software to digitally touch up your photos.

2. Certification

You might also decide to earn a photography certification. Becoming a certified photographer is a way to back up your photography skills. Certification can give clients extra confidence in your knowledge and expertise. This may allow you to charge more and advertise your certification to help you stand out from the competition.

Professional Photographers of America (PPA) currently offers two certifications:

  • Certified Professional Photographer
  • Certified Drone Photographer

To earn a PPA certification, you will need to join PPA and complete the chosen program(s). You must also pass an exam online or at one of their testing centers.

Do you need a license to be a photographer?

The answer to this question may depend on how your business is set up, where you are filming, and how you process your film.

While there is no specific photographer’s license, you will likely need a business license to get started. Getting a business license varies from state to state. Check with your state or local government website to understand the steps in your area.

You may also need specific permits depending on where you plan to film. A Photography/Motion Picture Permit may be necessary to shoot on state property. Additionally, you may need a Photo Processing Permit if you process non-digital film using “silver only” hazardous waste.

Protecting your photography business

Business insurance is one way that certified professional photographers protect their small businesses. There are many types of photography insurance and videography insurance available to choose from, including policies to cover:

  • Your equipment
  • Injury and property damage claims from clients, vendors, and third parties
  • Your professional reputation

With BizInsure, it’s easy to get photography insurance to fit your business’ needs. Compare policies online, choose what works for you, and buy coverage—in as little as 10 minutes! Get your free online quotes today and help protect your career in photography.

As with any insurance, coverage will be subject to the terms, conditions and exclusions contained in the policy wording. The information contained on this guide is general only and should not be relied upon as advice.
The number of quotes provided varies between products, occupations and other underwriting factors determined by the insurers.
This information is a general guide only and does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. Always check with your local licensing board when getting or renewing your trade or professional license to ensure you are meeting their current licensing requirements.
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