I am a member of the Professional Photographers of America, the largest photography organization in the world that was founded 150 years ago. Have you ever seen the Ken Burns documentary about the Civil War? All those battlefield images were shot by Matthew Brady. He was a founding member of the PPA.

One of the things that this organization does is bestow “degrees.” There are three you can earn.

PPA Degrees

Photographic Craftsman
This degree is for teaching. It requires 25 merits: 13 must be from teaching and 12 from any source. You typically get 1 merit each time you teach a seminar, etc. I received my Craftsman several years ago because I travel and teach quite a bit.

Master Artist 
The “photoshop” degree. This degree is for your art. You don’t even have to have shot the photo. It requires 25 merits: 13 must be from the International Photographic Competition and 12 from any source.

Master of Photography 
This degree is for your photography (with a generous helping of photoshop in most cases). It requires 25 merits: 13 must be from the International Photographic Competition and 12 from any source. To be clear, it is considered a big deal if you can merit all 4 images in the competition. It takes years to get the 13 you need. I’ve posted about these competitions several times..

PPA degree ribbons
These are the degrees. Photographers wear these ribbons and medals to conventions and such

There are 30,000 members in the PPA. Last year there were 95 awarded the Master of Photography Degree.

It is generally acknowledged that the hardest images to “merit” in competition are wedding images. We don’t have the time on a wedding day to be as “perfect” as a portrait photographer. We also have no control over location, time of day, clothing, subject… and there’s a severe time limit. For years I have been a very vocal critic of how wedding photographers are treated in the competition. So vocal that it’s a running joke among my fellow photographers, “Oh God, don’t get Booray started about Image Competition!”

And so, when the day came that I finally had accrued the 13 merits (10 with wedding images) that I needed to become a Master, all my friends breathed a sigh of relief that I would finally shut up about wedding photographers not being judged correctly for the Master of Photography degree.

Because I had been such a whiner about competition for so long, my friends decided to make sure that I had the loudest cheering section in the hall when the time came for me to get my degree. Everyone should have friends like these.

Master of Wedding Photography

But here’s the best part. The day before I received my degree I voted for a new degree to be added with it’s own competition at PPA. The Master Wedding Photographers Degree! Now there will be FOUR degrees including one specifically for the wedding photographers, the “Iron Chefs” of photography who work under extreme pressure in extreme circumstances and produce incredible images. Hopefully, in a few years, I’ll be announcing that I’ve received THAT degree as well. :)

Getting “hung” as we call it, on stage at the National Convention in Atlanta last January

So, this last year has been a wonderful experience for me. I became a Master of Photography and I helped create a new Master of Wedding Photography degree in the hope that my fellow wedding photographers will be recognized for the unique skills required to be truly good at this very special type of photography. I’m proud to have my Masters but I’m even more proud to have participated in creating something new and long overdue for my peeps!