In my journey to obtain my master’s designation from the Professional Photographer’s of Canada, I have to submit portfolio’s of images for review by a panel of master photographers. Each portfolio is reviewed and either accepted or rejected, if the portfolio is rejected, each image is reviewed and those that are not good enough are thrown out. The portfolio is then sent back to me and I can resubmit it with new images added in place of the rejected ones.
I now hold 11 accreditations, so 11 times I have submitted a portfolio of images for review. I hold accreditations in commercial, portrait, child/infant, family, studio, high key, wedding story, digital manipulation, grad, school and now environmental portraits. I have to tell you, for each of these accreditations, I have held my breath and waited with my eyes cringed for the judges review. Some of these accreditations were accepted on the first submission, and some of them had 1 or 2 images rejected and were accepted on my second try. Two of them however, were incredibly difficult for me to obtain – family and environmental. These two accreditations however, have been the biggest reason for my growth over the past few years as a photographer.
Three years ago, I submitted my environmental portrait accreditation. I was pretty sure I’d get it without any troubles, after all, I held several accreditation at that point in time, and hey, I graduated at the top of my class from Hallmark! I actually got to sit in on the judging for this accreditation and I have to say, it was a good thing I did for it changed a lot of things about myself and my photography!
One of the judges, who is, by the way, a very talented commercial photographer and instructor in photography, stood up after viewing my portfolio and addressed the audience. He said, I just need to point out here, accreditation is not something you just randomly submit images to. It takes skill, knowledge and some artistic talent to pull together a successful portfolio. This portfolio here, (and he pointed at my images), looks like a beginner photographer. It has technical errors that only new photographers make. Before you submit, you need to show your images to an experienced photographer and get some feedback folks so you can work towards the level of photography we expect to see in accreditation. I then watched every single judge reject every single one of my images. I have never had a portfolio fail so abysmally.
To say I was crushed was an understatement. I was embarrassed, my ego took a huge hit, and I was mad. How dare he insult my images so horribly? Call me, a graduate of Hallmark and a Best in Class award winner at print comp, a new photographer making classic new photographer mistakes? I was done. I mean come on, what did he know about environmental portraits when he was a commercial photographer?
Once the anger went away, I hit bottom. I was crushed and felt like my photography all completely sucked. I forgot about my accomplishments and instead focused on the one area that I was called out on. I stopped submitting images to accreditation and I just mulled it over for awhile. When I finally got over myself, I took those images back to that judge and asked him to point out exactly what I did wrong so I could change it, improve and build upon it.
What he did point out, was obvious and something I already knew. It was one of those light bulb moments, the sheepish kind where you know you should have known better but you thought you’d take the easy way out. Why carry twenty pounds of gear on my back when I could get away with just two pounds? Why do only two portrait sessions a day when I could squeeze in five? He called me on what really was the issue, me, taking shortcuts in my work. Calling something good enough when what I really need to be doing is looking it over with a critical eye and wondering if I nailed the technical components of each image. Was I photographing at the right time of day (which maybe means not squeezing in another session at noon), did I have the right gear with me and was I using it? Was I taking the time to make every image stand up to accreditation standards, or was I cheating myself and my clients by taking the easy way out? Was I using a critical eye when pulling out images for my portfolio and was I running those images by a few master photographer’s to ensure I had pulled together a good portfolio?
It took me a year and a half to redo this portfolio, and when I submitted it again, I had ten much stronger images. Three of those were still rejected, but this time it was for a small technical error by an experienced photographer rather than a “new photographer’s” inexperience. For these three images, I took the time to make sure I nailed them, and when I resubmitted them, I was truly proud of the work I was showcasing.
Last week, I just received word that my images were all accepted, one of them with a “very good” rating. It is now a very different photographer saying that I am accredited in environmental portraits. I was knocked down from my pedestal, I got mad, I got humble, and I learned from that process. Once I dusted myself off, I went out and did what I should have done in the first place, I created images for my clients instead of just letting the image happen.
It is this accreditation that I am most proud of!