The OBSERVER Series - Part 2 - Journey to Accreditation

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

Part 2 – Journey to Accreditation

I wanted to write a series of articles that would help PPOC Observer members feel welcome, and help them get excited about moving on to the next level with confidence. My first article in this series (before it was a series) was called The Pre-Accreditation Review Process. Read it, it’s fascinating (insert smiley sarcastic face here).

I received quite a few emails after that article. Most were from Observer members thanking me for highlighting the service and asking for more information on the process. It was these emails that prompted me to want to write a series. After all, it wasn’t two years ago that I was an Observer member.

Having covered off the Pre-Accreditation Review Process in my prior article, I wanted to move naturally to the next level: Accreditation.

I spoke a little bit about it in the last article. I thought I would discuss it by going through my own thought process, or workflow, and how I have approached my multiple attempts at Accreditation. Not every person approaches it this way, so take the time to talk to your fellow members at Branch meetings, and ask them the question: how do you approach Accreditation?

First things first: I am a project guy. I love projects. I approach almost everything as a project, with a timeline, a beginning, a middle, and an end (product). I have adapted this methodology for Accreditation.

Second, this article is written for Observer members, as well as the members who may not be full-time photographers (present company included). When you are not a full-time photographer, your portfolio may be sparse. So some parts of this article will not be applicable to full-timers.

Timeline – Some may not agree with me on this, but I look at an Accreditation as a term project, not as a one-shot deal. And for my first Accreditation, I gave myself the longest amount of time allowed. You are allowed to keep your Accepted images and only have to resubmit the number of not accepted images for up to two years. So I gave myself two years. That means I can submit once as a submission, and another 7 times as re-submissions, before I have to start again. This may seem extreme, but Accreditation can be much more challenging that some Observers think. There is a 2-3 month period between accreditation judging. That leaves you 2-3 months to adapt. You may have to adapt your post-processing. You may have to adapt your shooting. If you shoot part-time, you may not have enough in your portfolio to submit to the next accreditation, so you will actually have to shoot more, and adapt you shooting. That’s where this process makes you a better photographer! You are now shooting more! You are seeking out subjects, and approaching them differently.

The Beginning – This is where the Accreditation process kicks off: choose a category. As I stated in the last article, choose wisely. Choose something that you enjoy, and that you love for your first accreditation. Choose something that you won’t mind spending a lot of time shooting. I chose Performing Arts, because I am also a musician, and regular festival go-er. This meant that I was surrounded by my subject matter, making it easier to build up my portfolio (see prior comment on part-timers).

The Middle – part 1 – The middle is the shooting. I have a category. Now I begin to shoot. For example, a Canine/Dog Portrait (Category 10) Accreditation has a requirement for 10 different dogs, in 10 different situations, with 4 indoors and 4 outdoors. There has to be at least 3 different breeds. When I decided to attempt this Accreditation, I posted a notice on Facebook. I am not a dog photographer, so I had 2 decent images of Canines in my entire portfolio. From that posting, I kept a list of people who responded with their breed of dog. I then contacted them individually, and discussed their dog’s nature – easy-going, active, princess, etc. I culled the list down to 15 choices, and began setting up appointments. For each person who gave me their time, I promised them a single image. Why? Why not just provide them with an entire series? Well, I am doing this for Accreditation. There are people who do this for a living. My experience taught me that there are those that volunteer to be a model (or volunteer their dog as a model) to help me, and those that volunteer to get something for free. I will compete with my fellow photographers, but nobody can compete with FREE. So, I don’t turn the volunteer help into a free photo shoot that takes work away from my full-time peers. I turn it into a QUEST – a quest for a shot that I believe will be accepted at Accreditation (or maybe even SALON!). And the single portrait is simply a thank you.

The Middle – part 2 – The next part of the middle is Post Processing and organization. I am not going to get into post-processing workflow. This is not an article on workflow. But I will give this advice – be extremely organized with your photos. I cannot emphasize this enough. When you waste 30 minutes trying to find a picture that you took 3 months ago, you will understand. I work in Lightroom, and I have a folder for each Accreditation I attempt. In that folder goes sub-folders with each shoot that I do. The winning photos go into a collection that is named PPOC 10_Canine, or something of that nature.

The Middle – part 3 – The middle, part 3, is dedicated to Brian Lee. I could not imagine the patience of a man who has to review every single accreditation submission, and review them for naming convention as well as Colour Profile, Quality, and Format. All of us make the odd mistake, and Brian very kindly brings us back on track. I can tell you that it should only take one reminder to get it right next time. However, a second reminder is possible. A third is unlikely! Remember, he has to through EVERY submission!

Your images have a way to be presented, whether portrait, landscape, matte, outline, etc. None of this matters so long as the following 4 criteria are met – Naming convention, Colour Profile, Quality, and Digital Image Size. The rest is up to you. If you want to present on a white background, or put an outer glow on the image, it doesn’t matter. So long as you name it right, and save it with a proper colour profile in the correct size, in an appropriate format/quality.

IMPORTANT NOTE – There are different conventions for Pre-Accreditation for all 4 criteria. The reasons lie within the limitations of the engine we use for the Pre-Accreditation process (Survey Monkey). While this may be frustrating to some, please learn and use both sets of criteria independently, as they are not interchangeable. One day, they may be, but not at this point.

The End – The end is a combination of Pre-Accreditation and Accreditation Submission. The key with the end is timing. I will give you the 2 mistakes that I have made, and seen made, at various times. For Pre-Accreditation, there is a deadline that is several weeks before the Accreditation deadline. Why? It takes up to 10 days for the process to go through its cycle. If we didn’t have a deadline, you would not have enough time to adapt your submission. While Pre-Accreditation is open year round, there is a massive spike in Pre-Accreditation submissions 2 to 4 weeks prior to an Accreditation deadline.

For Accreditation, the deadline is Eastern Time Zone. As a Calgary resident, I missed this deadline twice (yes twice) thinking it was 5 pm, Mountain Standard Time. Now I get my submissions in the night before.

The Aftermath – I include this closing paragraph for those that, like me, are sensitive souls. You may not get accepted first go round. As a matter of fact, it’s unlikely. You can spend 24 hours enjoying the pity party, but remember, this is a term project. Pore over your submission and its results. Read the comments carefully. Attend a branch meeting and hunt down a judge. GET FEEDBACK.

One of the benefits enjoyed by all members, including Observers, is camaraderie, and mentorship. Although we are a competitive bunch, nobody wants you to fail. Everyone wants you to become the great photographer that you are supposed to be. And we are all there to help you get there. Find some people at Branch meetings that are good at the category you are going for, get some email addresses, and start discussing your work with them.

I hope this helps Observer members set their sights on that next level. You are welcome to call or email me directly for any help I can offer! Happy shooting!

Gerald (Gerry) David