Qualifications within the British Photographic Industry have always been a contentious topic, and I guess they always will be. Plagued by such questions as "How can you judge an Art form?" or "What exactly are the rules?", the system can never be perfect. And yet, we try to apply simplistic criteria at the base levels that are designed to accredit an acceptable degree of competence upon which the general public can rely when engaging the services of a "Qualified" photographer.
All organisations that represent working photographers in the UK have virtually identical structures in their qualifications systems so this outline should prove useful.
As the term suggests, these are people within organisations who as yet have not submitted their work for appraisal and accreditation. Everybody has to start somewhere no matter what dizzy heights he or she may achieve later in his or her careers. This group contains many skilful photographers and should not be dismissed out of hand simply because they have not got around to preparing a qualifications submission. We at the SWPP are keen to encourage all our members to take the first steps on the qualifications ladder but we cannot force them to do so.
The general public tend to regard this, our lowest level of qualification as a "Licensed" photographer and in many ways this is not an unreasonable analogy. As far as the SWPP are concerned, we draw our judges for all levels of qualification from amongst the most skilful practitioners in the World. They are trained to look at this level for a consistent standard of imaging that a client could reasonably not take issue with. If you like, a base level of professional competence or in the terminology of Trading Standards departments, "items of merchantable quality". Of course we also look at aesthetics and imagination but at this level they are not crucial factors.
At this standard, we are viewing images that not only display a high degree of technical ability, but also portray imagination and creativity in execution and presentation. These are important factors that often go hand in hand with higher prices as this qualification is held by the top 10% of practitioners, who coincidentally are often impressive image makers and astute businessmen.
Our ultimate accolade and is held by the top 1% of the memberships of most of the UK's representative bodies. These select few have achieved the highest professional standards in imaging, creativity, presentation and behaviour. As with the judging criteria for "Associateship", never bestowed lightly but only after constant submission of work to their mentors, rigorous examinations and many years in professional practice.
So, to our members, we encourage you to achieve qualifications that benchmark you and your work within the photographic industry.
And to the general public, we can confidently say that the SWPP continually strives to raise the standards of imaging available to consumers through the provision of some of the world's best education and training programmes for professional photographers.
Read the article: To be or not to be? – (Qualified) – The final question!
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