family farm wedding photos under a tent in Victor NY

Certified Professional Photographer – PASSED!

What is a Certified Professional Photographer and how in the heck did choose to go down this path?

Well, As many of you may know, I am the 2010 President for the Greater Rochester Professional Photographers (GRPP) and last year I was the Program Chair and really started leading the group in a very positive direction.

So much so, that we received a few new volunteers to the Board and now our group is as strong as ever! Membership is up, attendance is up and we have a full set of Board members for the first time in years. So exciting!

So, I decided to ride this upward wave and begin 12 week rolling study groups for the Certified Professional Photographers (CPP) exam given by the Professional Photographers of America (PPA).

Having a lot of new photographers in our group and as well as a lot of seasoned professionals who haven’t taken the next step, I thought it was a great way for our members to set aside time to improve their craft and to get to know other GRPPsters.

There are currently only 4 CPPs within the Rochester area!

I was in the first study group and was hoping to learn more about digital printing and non-destructive file adjusting. After all, I did graduate from RIT right when digital and the internet were just coming out! Old school!


The twelve weeks began somewhere in November, which is really our busiest time of year in the wedding industry, however I carved out the time to meet once a week with 6 other Photographers. After all of this time has passed, we have all gotten really close and have bonded in ways you would never expect! The most exciting aspect is that we ALL took the exam at the annual Photo Northeast Convention in Albany last weekend!


The exam was a little harder than I expected it to be, considering I knew almost everything in the study book plus all of my years of experience. That being said, it was an excellent exam! If I don’t pass, I’ll be really disappointed in myself for not knowing studio lighting a little better. That was my weakest area on the exam because there was a lot of gear listed and if I didn’t know what the gear was, then I didn’t know what it did for the different situations listed. Aside from that, I feel very confident. My years of color correcting at the photo lab certainly helped me ace parts of the exam. I am happy to say though that this exam is truly applicable to Professional Photographers and really sets us apart from the friend of a friend and Uncle Joes with a camera that are at every wedding and also shooting weddings at little or no cost to the Bride and Groom. It even sets apart the other Professional Photographers from the ones who haven’t studied for the exam.

Each one of us in the study group learned a lot of new techniques and worked through some technical issues that we were pondering! I know two Photographers in my group who grew leaps and bounds as Photographers just through the course of this 12 weeks…. and we continue getting together regularly to play and learn!


The next round of CPP study group members have already started and they have a leg up on us because they were right there at the Convention when we finished our exam! Now they know exactly what type of questions to think about and how the exam is worded and formatted. Our group had no idea what to expect, so we spent as much time learning the darkroom and negatives as we did with digital and lighting. Lucky them!

Anyway, it will take at least another week before I find out how I did on the exam and if all of my years of being a Photographer paid off! {fingers crossed}….


The next step is an image review. I have to submit 20 images from paying clients that represent my work and show my competency. They don’t have to be my best or most creative work.



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about Heather McKay and McKay's Photography


15 thoughts on “Certified Professional Photographer – PASSED!”

  1. Congratulations!!! Thank you so much for sharing!!! I have been searching and am unable to find any information regarding the length of the written exam. Were you able to complete the exam in one day, or was it completed over a two or three day period? It would be so much help to me if you are able to answer my question because unfortunately, the exam is only offered one time in my residence state of Florida between now and January 2011…it happens to be this weekend and I do not feel I am prepared quite yet, so it looks as though I will be traveling to another state to take the exam.

  2. Dawn, the exam was a simple 100 questions and was timed…. 2 hours. Most of us finished in around an hour. The study guide is the book Photography by Upton and Upton. Excellent book! The questions change depending on what type of photography you do (portrait or commercial or sports). I took the Portrait exam and so my questions were heavy on the side of studio lighting and gear. There was color theory and all the other stuff a Photographer should expect. 70 is a passing score.

  3. Fantastic!! Enjoyed the article. I definitely would like to take the next step and become a CPP! I am looking forward to learning everything I need to take me to the next level 🙂

  4. hi my husband and I are partime photographers…he would like to obtain his CPP…what should be his first step?

  5. Heather, congratulations as well!!! I am scheduled to take the exam next month. Could you send me a link ( to the study guide you’re referring to? Thanks !!!

  6. Keila,

    I would say the next step is to get a study group together. With GRPP, we have 12 week rotating study groups. Being part of a group will keep you focused and give you a deadline. Also, you will have people to ‘play’ with. We used the first 12 weeks to read the book and practice the study questions, then we continued to meet once a month to just practice what we learned. All of us improved a great deal through the process (including me and I’ve been a photographer since I was 10!).

    Here is the PPA link to CPP resources:

    Find your local PPA affiliate and start there.

    Stanley, I didn’t find the study questions that we use (based on the Upton & Upton book) were very helpful. Real life experience will get you through. You need to know your studio lighting… ratios, reflectors, metering. You also need to really understand color theory. Good luck!

  7. I understand that there is Twenty (20) photographic images required. if they dont all pass…do they point out the ones that did, and would you only have to replace those that didnt?…what exactly are they judging when viewing the photos…is it recommended to complete that part first prior to taking the test? we have a fan page on face book…search it under DK photography (yellow and black letters) or using this link!/pages/Allentown-PA/DK-Photography/113212012034012

  8. you might want to copy and paste the doesnt seem to be working properly when clicking on it directly…
    Thanks for all of your help!!

  9. Hi Keila,

    If you go to the link I attached above, you can download a PDF going over the image submission process, including what they are looking for. They want to see 20 different jobs and an accurate reflection of client work (not merit worthy prints). One of our group members found info about the rejections, however I can’t find that email. I think you have to request a review to find out what was rejected and why. it seemed like you could just replace those images. I chose to pull images that represented not only my style, but also a variety of lenses and lighting ratios. Figured I would cover my bases since I had so many images to choose from. Other less established photographers did pass as well…

  10. Arnold M. Wilson

    Really beautiful photos. It is going without saying that a photographer is a professional master of the art. I like the way the photographer works with people, the way emotions of people and beauty of wedding atmosphere is shown on photos provided here. Very creative pictures!

  11. Thank you so much for your kind words, Arnold. Through this process, I really rediscovered my love and passion for photography in general. As a small business owner, it is easy to get bogged down with marketing, pricing, networking, taxes, etc. This process of getting certified, and finding images for it, was so rewarding. When photographing weddings, a lot of great images get lost in the hustle and bustle of getting the wedding to the client. Each one of these images makes me smile and feel like I do a great job.

    Your comment reminds me why. Thanks!

  12. Thank you, Kraig! This is a custom template based off of an old Mac iWeb template. I like the snippets of posts on the main page.

  13. I am sorry to hear about this. It must be a WordPress glitch. I’ve upgraded WP, so hopefully they fix the problem.

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