Photography is one of the only professions that I can think of where you don’t need formal qualifications to practise. This really makes me think. Especially when you consider some of the random ways of making a living that these days require qualifications of some sort before you can start.

 With my training hat on this is great news. It means that I can train people to become professional photographers from beginner level but also ensure that they have some skills and experience before they start working with the public (Amazes me how many requests I get to teach camera skills to people already taking paid work!).

 On the other hand, it also means as a qualified photographer ( 3 years degree study plus 2 years masters) with 20 + years of industry experience I am also out there competing with people who bought a camera yesterday and can sell a convincing story on their ability to use it.

 But they have a good web site with some great looking pictures on it.

 This may be true, but are they images from ‘real shoot’ situations or are they set up with models on training sessions? There are an abundance of portfolio days on offer, particularly with ‘mock brides’ – but I’ll cover wedding photography on another occasion.

 Anyway, I thought it might be nice to mention a few of the letters that you may come across displayed after photographers’ names. These organisations work in similar ways. You join the organisation for a yearly fee, and then have the opportunity to submit some prints (usually 10 or 20 prints again at a fee) for their experts to evaluate. If they consider them good enough they allow you to use their letters after your name. If not, you are encouraged to have another go.

 It is usually a three tier system, often starting with Licentiate and then moving on to Associate and Fellow. As far as I am aware, you need to be a Licentiate first and then submit more images to upgrade. Some of these organisations allow degree qualified photographers to use the Associate Letters and diploma qualified to use Licentiate without going through the submission process, providing you pay the year’s membership fee.

 In no particular order:

 LMPA, AMPA, FMPA Master Photographers AssociationLSWPP, ASWPP, FSWPP Society of Wedding and Portrait Photographers

 LBPPA, ABPPA, FBPPA British Professional Photographers Associates

LBIPP, ABIPP, FBIPP British Institute of Professional Photography

LRPS, ARPS, FRPS Royal Photographic Society

LNPS, ANPS, FNPS National Photographic Society

Qualified, Craftsman, Master Craftsman, The Guild of Photographers

Qualifications are often transferrable from one organisation to another. i.e. if you are an associate with one, and would like to switch or join a second it is worth telling them of your existing status. The Guild of Photographers doesn’t appear to have a letter system, but does allow you to submit the first set of images free of charge, providing you have public liability and indemnity insurance.

So, are they worth spending money on? Well having just done a random search on for photographers I found very few who actually displayed letters after their name. If you have formal training it’s worth including this on your site. If you haven’t then letters may give you a competitive edge. But spend the money on insurance cover first.