Why I love being a member of the Professional Photographers of Canada (PPOC)

March 18, 2017  •  Chelsea Weiman

I have been meaning to write this post for a while, and I think I have been putting it off because I have so much to say...how do I condense it into something that maintains a readable length?

Here goes... why I am a member of the Professional Photographers of Canada.

The Professional Photographers of Canada (PPOC) is an organization for photographic artists of all genres to come together for the development of their crafts and businesses as well as to promote high quality photographic services for clients all over the country.  It's vision is "To be Canada’s leader in developing and maintaining the highest level of photographic excellence." The mission is, "To qualify and support photographers to become industry leaders and to inform the public of the value in hiring an Accredited Professional Photographer." This organization has been around since 1946...that is a long time!

What is in it for the client? PPOC members have to reach standards with their photographic art to become Accredited in over 60 genres of photography. There is a Code of Ethics that the photographers have to adhere to that also protects the investment of the clients. If someone is looking for a photographer that specializes in a certain area of the craft, they can search for a local accredited photographer though the PPOC website and know that this photographer has met standards to be an accredited member and follow the code of ethics.

What is in it for the professional photographer? Well, I'll link here to the Member Benefits on the website because I know I won't be able to capture it all in this blog post. The educational opportunities, mentorship, networking, publications, discounts at vendors and on insurance, competitions, advocacy for issues such as Canadian copyright law, etc. just scratch the surface. I know you can click and read the link, so instead I'll share my story of how I joined the organization, and how it has become such an important part of my life. 

My story with the PPOC: I started as "professional photographer" in 2010. When I say "professional" I mean I was being compensated for the photographs; the very basic definition of what separates an amateur from a professional. Was I a good professional photographer? Let's just say I had an artistic eye and people were paying me to push a button but didn't have a shred of insight into what I didn't know. Knowing what I know now, I would not have hired myself back then but hey, every professional was an amateur once and we all got to start somewhere. I was taking a class on portrait photography with Tracy Grabowski when I think I heard her speak about the PPOC for the first time. It kept coming up through my classes and in 2011 I decided to join as an Observer level member. Being quite involved in animal rescue initiatives at the time, I had a lot of photographs of dogs. Eventually I mustered up the courage to apply for my accreditation in Canine photography in 2013; it took me a couple tries but I had my ten Canine photographs accepted and became a full Accredited Member of the PPOC that year. 

  

Some of those initial photos make me cringe now; but I suppose if you don't dislike some of the images you created in the past, then you haven't grown as an artist. Pictured above are 3 photos from my first accreditation. They also happen to be my fur babies, Bear Winston Weiman-Jones, Nickita Danger Jones, and Vincent McPatrick O'Jones.

I stayed pretty quiet in the organization. I felt like a bit of an imposter. Sure, I was technically a "professional" photographer, but I was a part-timer amongst these Canadian photography greats that hailed from my own province. The amazing work these artists create looked like an absolutely unattainable dream... I never thought I could even come close to creating those images. I didn't know how. I didn't know where to start to LEARN how. Surely these photography masters would think I was an absolute joke. Initially I was really intimidated and scared to put myself out there. In my brain, I felt like they wouldn't even talk to or acknowledge a phoney like me.

I mentioned I was a part-time photographer. I still am (and plan to always be). The day job is that of an occupational therapist. So imagine how freaked out I was when I saw Chris TT on my patient schedule for the day. Holy crap. This dude is on the Alberta board. One Step Beyond is a photography company that I follow and admire. Should I let him know I am a fellow member? Will he laugh in my face? I was totally fan girling and the receptionist couldn't understand why I was a sweaty nervous mess before that appointment. 

Chris had a case of lateral epicondylitis (fancy word for tennis elbow). For photographers, this is pretty much a textbook overuse injury. I was able to get the courage to tell Chris that I was a fellow member of the PPOC, and that I was a fan of his work. He lit up and immediately started taking about the PPOC and photography. He showed genuine interest in where I was at in my craft, and what my goals were. His enthusiasm was refreshing and challenged my preconceived notion of what "real" professional photographers were like.

I don't think I was very helpful for his elbow.

What came out of that conversation was a total revelation. It turns out I had built up these false pretences and somehow forgot that these amazing artists were actually human beings; and nice ones at that who truly love photography and want to share it with others. There was zero judgement, just an enthusiasm to help others improve and a total faith in this organization. I may have been just starting out, but that didn't matter because I was there, I was trying, I was learning, and I was determined. They were willing to help me achieve my goals and improve as an artist and businesswoman. 

Fun Fact: Almost half of the PPOC members in Alberta are Part-Time photographers. 

This meeting also lead to Chris teaching me how to use Lightroom which completely revolutionized my post processing skills and made those images by other photographers that I admired so much a little more attainable. As well, after a totally botched attempt at a Military Life Accreditation which completely threw my confidence and made me second guess myself, he was able to mentor and assist me with achieving it on my second try. 

  

Completing a Military Life Accreditation also helped me realize that I am way too much of a wimp for the military. Also, Sledge Hockey is fun. If you are interested in trying it  and in and in the Edmonton, contact me!

After that initial meeting with Chris, I had the courage to show up for some Alberta PPOC events, talk to other photographers, seek out mentorship, attend conferences, join the member Facebook pages, and even volunteer at some trade shows. I entered the provincial competition and the national competition that year. I had my first image accepted in the PPOC National Salon in 2014. I was able to meet some of the best photographers in Canada who are from Alberta such as Peter GoldMark LaurieRobert BrayRenee RobynAllan BaileyKristian BognerJen Alston, etc. etc. I participated in seminars led by them but also was able to speak to them over a cup of coffee or beer at social events and conferences. I am continually floored by how accessible these amazing photographers are. With their resumes and accomplishments they COULD say they are too busy to help others just starting out, but their passion for helping others and improving Canadian photography as an industry is so apparent when you listen to them speak. These members and others have not only inspired us with their own work, but critiqued our work in a constructive manner and mentored us to improve our craft and our businesses. 

  

My first image accepted into the PPOC National Salon. Huge milestone for me! I still didn't understand how to mat an image properly at that time, so thank goodness the judges looked past that!

Which brings me to my next point; photography is hard; running a business is harder. The education and mentorship that I have received from this organization and the fantastic members is priceless. Not only has it assisted with better financial success so my business is even viable, but I have also received educations and assistance with insurance, income tax, and contractual issues. The legal assistance and education provided by the membership is worth it alone (not that I ever aspire to require it, but in any business it is a necessary backing to have). The vendors they recommend and provide discounts with are fantastic. I can provide better products for my clients because of this. 

The advocacy and education on copyright in Canada is another area where the PPOC is benefiting the whole industry of photography in our country; not limited to the only members of the PPOC. I am proud that our organization played a role in that. I have a much more thorough understanding of contracts, licensing, pricing, and copyright thanks to this organization. If I have a question about anything photography related, it is usually just a Facebook post away in our Member groups.

I am having ankle surgery sometime in the next few months. My fellow PPOC members in Edmonton have my back! I feel so much better knowing that I can send any potential clients to these other photographers for the time I have rehabbing and trust they are going to get amazing images and service. When natural disasters have hit, such as the floods in Southern Alberta and the Fort Mac fires, the PPOC came together to help those affected members so they could continue to practice their craft and continue make their livelihoods through photography despite the loss of equipment and buildings.

I am incredibly excited to attend the International Photography Conference in Ottawa, ON this year. This is the PPOC's National Convention. I am excited because it is a few packed days of incredible speakers, technology, and networking with my favourite photographers from, not only Canada, but also the United States. Every year I leave inspired with a brain full of new ideas and knowledge...and usually with an empty wallet because I bought more gear. The packed weekend also has some great social events with these awesome people; I am not sure when I am going to sleep that weekend!

Where am I now with this organization? I am always trying to recruit other professional photographers so they can benefit from the organization.  Teann Dhaliwal is one such photographer who is already vey well established (I am a client of hers) who I can't wait to mentor for her first accreditation (she has it in the bag in my opinion and doesn't need my help). I have done some writing for Gallerie Magazine which is one of the fantastic publications from the PPOC. This also allowed me to interview Joe McNally (cue the sweaty, shaky, nervous mess again)! I am now on the Alberta Board of Directors and in charge of the newsletter publications for the province. After my Canine accreditation, I was able to attain 7 more and by the end of 2017 I hope to add at least 2 more to the count. I just went 4/4 at the National Salon with my images which is something I truly never thought I would be able to achieve. Next year, I hope to achieve the next designation of Craftsman of Photographic Arts and participate in a judging clinic. I love viewing and participating in competitions whether it is for accreditation, provincials, or nationals. I am not afraid of putting myself and my work out there anymore as I know this is how you get better; the confidence the members of this organization have helped me gain is one of the most invaluable things of it all. 

 

 

I am proud of my images being accepted into the National Salon this year. Of course there is still much more to learn and improvement to be had, but I can see that I have come a long way since I joined the PPOC. 

This organization has allowed me to better my craft and service to my clients by inspiring me to set goals and put myself out there to achieve them. Of course there is still much more for me to learn and improvement to be had in both my art and business, but I can see that I have come a long way since I joined thePPOC. I do not know what I would have done without this great organization. I stand behind it, am proud to give back to it, and will sing its praises to anyone who will listen. I have been a part of other photography groups and organization and this one has by far the best people, value, inspiration, and opportunity.  Thank you to all those members along the way who have helped me and continue to assist me through my photography journey! See you in Ottawa!

If you are a professional photographer, you should absolutely join as an Observer Member even if you are just starting out in your journey into the photography business. It is worth it!

Original article can be viewed at http://www.vitalityimages.ca/blog/2017/3/why-i-love-the-professional-photographers-of-canada