The OBSERVER Series - Part 1 - The Pre-accreditation Process

The OBSERVER Series – a series of articles for PPOC Observer Members

Part 1 – The Pre-Accreditation Process

About 4 years ago, BC Branch began a service they refer to as pre-accreditation. The idea is you submit 15 of your images that you feel are ready for accreditation in front of a group of regional judges, and they rate and comment on them.

This year, the process has been adopted at a national level. I write this article as your Alberta Pre-Accreditation Review Publisher. I am excited about this process! While it has been advertised, I have to say, I could not be happier to see such a critically important process being taken up by our association. I would call this the closest we’ve come to creating a modern digital “mentorship” program.

As a photographer who makes his living outside of the field, I am driven by projects. Accreditation and both provincial and national salon DRIVE me. They are the projects that take me to the next level. The projects that make me want to become a better photographer…

I have one accreditation, and have not been successful in attaining two others that I applied for. As a creative, I can’t lie to you. Rejection and critique is a huge short term drain on my creative spirit. Of course, we’ve all been rejected enough to make it short term (also describes my high school dating life) , and then turn it into a drive for success. That’s what I do. I loathe the judges (not really, but you know what I mean) for a short period of time, and then I re-read the comments. Then I sleep on it. Then I look back at the pictures. Sometimes, after much reflection, I still don’t agree with them! I don’t have to! But at the end of the day, they are the judges, and I put myself in front of them for critique, whether I was ready for it or not!

Now, with pre-accreditation, you can increase your chances of success, or at least decrease your chances of disappointment!

15 images get submitted (unless it is a resubmission) and are reviewed by a number of provincial and national level judges. The judges look at each image and rate on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being not likely, and 10 being likely. 5 is “on the fence”. The ratings are not necessarily where you will get the best bang for your buck. Most of the judges will put comments on why they rated it the way they did. For example, I had one that had “shadows that were too harsh, didn’t transition well”. I thought the image was fine, but on review and reflection, they were right. I corrected the image, and it will be resubmitted at the next accreditation.

Other comments bring up things that you just miss. I was shocked to see sensor dirt on a clear sky. More shocked to see a portrait with an object clearly growing out of my subjects head. There is an entire free education here that many of us should take advantage of.

The last and most valuable part of this process is the overall review with a consulting judge. This is where you can correspond with the consulting judge, who will receive the same package as you with all of the ratings and comments, and they will give you pointers and thoughts on how to make your accreditation stronger, if it isn’t already there.

For those of you who have never failed an accreditation – kudos. But for many of us, that’s not the norm. Increase your chance of success by taking advantage of this service.

For PPOC Observer members, USE IT. I am not kidding, this is why you joined. At last count, there are 74 different categories for accreditation. Each of us approach which one we wish to attain and how we are going to attain it a bit differently. I always have two on the go. One is something I am good at, and the other is something I want to be good at. I have attained my first for what I am good at (Performing Artists) and my second one, not yet attained, is for what I want to be good at (Portraiture). The funny part is, the one that I WANT is the one that is teaching me the most about things I take for granted – posing, facial features, “good sides”. My point is, if you don’t have an accreditation, and you are not a full time photographer, get started! It’s a painful but highly rewarding process.

For veteran members, use it two-fold.

Firstly, this is a very valuable education from nationally recognized photographers, offered only to our members. When I speak to Observer members, I highlight this. When I speak to non-members, I highlight this. Sell our association with this service!

Secondly, use pre-accreditation to expand your own portfolio, and learn from someone else. We could all use a bit of a refresher. There is a tendency to become a bit stale in our way of thinking. I am as guilty as the next guy. I try to attend monthly meetings. I try to correspond with fellow members about photography and talk to them about stuff they are working one. They are usually extremely supportive, even if they know you are competing against them at Salon!

To close, I will relate one of my favourite PPOC experiences, not about pre-accreditation, but along the same lines of learning from my peers. Recently, I decided to enter a Feature Album into National Salon. I had the subject, the plant, the story – but not the template, or layout. I reached out to John Ratchford, across the country, and winner of quite a few Feature Album awards. I never met him, but had seen his work on our National website. I asked him for his guidance, and he responded quickly and provided me with examples of his albums! Those were an education in and of themselves, and I credit John’s generosity with getting first ever Feature Album submission accepted at National Salon.

Let’s close this out – Pre-Accreditation Review – Use it!!! If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

And a big thank you to Rob Salmon from BC Branch for his tireless efforts and training on this new offering from your National PPOC!

Gerald (Gerry) David