Tuesday, May 17, 2011

M.W.C., C.P.P. {New Braunfels Photography}

Acronyms define each industry from within. If you're a journalist you know what AP style is and you know that SPJ is a worthy organization and PEJ is leading the field into the next generation. That sentence makes no sense to you if you are not in the media.

Doctors, accountants, truck drivers -- every field has its own list of acronyms that make no sense to most of us, but they are simple and straightforward to those within the industry.

Among photographers there are a few that I'd like to share with you. The first is C.P.P. It stands for Certified Professional Photographer. Just like C.P.A. is Certified Professional Accountant, which I'm sure you've heard.

As of yesterday, I'm allowed to put C.P.P. after my name on my business card. I'm excited about it. It means a lot to me. I blogged about my journey toward certification in the past (also here and here) so I won't repeat all of it now.

Basically, there are fewer than 1,800 CPPs in the country. That's about 8% of all professional photographers. Being certified is a designation that tells the public you know what you're doing. When hiring an accountant, many people look for that CPA designation. It's how they can be assured this person has met certain professional standards.

Now I'd like to introduce you to another acronym in the world of photography, and this one is not so flattering. MWC or GWC. Mom With Camera or Guy With Camera. I hear the phrase repeatedly at the photography conferences I attend as well as online when I peruse the professional photography forums. A MWC is a person (in this case a mother) who picks up a camera and decides "I want to be a photographer," and then hangs out a shingle, so to speak, and starts charging a small (very small) pittance for photographing families. No photographic training, no professional equipment, no knowledge of the use of the "manual" mode on her DSLR. She doesn't use a multi-light set-up (depending instead on her pop-up flash) and often wouldn't know a reflector from a frisbee. I am a Mom with a Camera, but I am not a MWC, and you know what -- so what if I were. There are plenty of MWCs who produce fine quality work -- just as there are plenty who produce crap -- and have no desire to learn otherwise. But who am I to say at what point she stops being a "MWC" and becomes a "professional photographer." Most will never stay in business long enough to advance past a minimum skill level. But for every MWC who closes down, another three pop up.

It's ironic, but I've been called a MWC, by the same men who probably were in about junior high when I was pushing film in a professional darkroom in the early 90s -- before the ease of digital photography and Photoshop. Looks can be deceiving. Mom plus camera does not equal MWC in the derogatory sense. The face of professional photography is changing. It's the MWCs who are standing up and taking charge. It's the MWCs who are learning the ins and outs of the business. It's the MWCs who are leading photography seminars, working towards their CPP, and eventually their M.Photog. (Master of Photography -- there's another acronym for you) or their Cr.Photog. (Photographic Craftsman).

I support these women and I encourage them to get educated. You want to be a photographer and that's great! Take some classes, talk to photographers you admire, learn from them. Get knowledgeable about it. And don't be afraid to get that certification. Yes, it's challenging, but three years ago it was something I thought I would never do.

But I'm not done learning yet. Every single session I come away from I see where I can improve. I see my weaknesses and they frustrate me, but I keep at it. Each time learning from past mistakes. Some day I'll have M.Photog. after my name as well. That's my hope. I have a long way to go. I have a fear of photographic competition and I need to tackle that fear. It's the only way to improve my skills.

I am a mom and a I have a camera. And I use it. A lot.

Lisa On Location Photography

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