Six Photography Credentials to Set Yourself Apart


To win new photography clients, it’s important to be able to distinguish yourself from the competition. Obviously, you hope to achieve this with the quality of your work. But sometimes, credentials that illustrate your professionalism can be just as persuasive.

Here are six photography credentials that can make the difference in securing a new client:

1. Your experience. Many clients are interested in your accomplishments and work history. It carries weight to tell the client, “I was a staff photographer at a major metropolitan daily for 10 years.” Or you can speak specifically to the client’s needs: “As you can see from my online portfolio, I have significant experience shooting the kind of photos you’re seeking, for a variety of companies in your industry.”

2. Your knowledge. If you know a client is considering several photographers for a shoot at, say, a downtown hotel, you can establish your credentials by sharing your knowledge of the venue. You might tell the client, “Oh, we’ve worked in that ballroom several times, and are very familiar with it. The location is tricky for a variety of reasons, so be sure that any other photographer you talk with has worked there before.”

3. Your gear. Rightly or wrongly, sometimes your credentials are your gear. For example, I spent my formative years as a photographer switching seamlessly between my Hasselblad and my 35mm film cameras. For weddings, I actually preferred the 35mm autofocus because it made it easier for me to catch fleeting moments than the manual focus Hasselblad. But more than a few wedding couples insisted on a medium-format camera — and wanted to be sure that I had one. They associated this with a higher level of professionalism.

4. Professional certifications. In 20 years as a photographer, I have never had any client ask if I have a college degree, let alone a degree in photography. But clients often do pay attention to professional designations. You feel better when you see that CPA designation after your tax accountant’s name, for example. For photographers, the Professional Photographers of America has a Certified Photographer program that enables you to earn designations like CPP, which stands for Certified Professional Photographer. The key is not just to collect these credentials — but to market them to prospective clients.

5. Association memberships. Tell your prospect that you are a member of the American Society of Media Photographers, or the National Press Photographers Association, or the Advertising Photographers of America. Each of these memberships distinguishes you as a professional, to one degree or another, and demonstrates your commitment to being a full-time professional photographer.

6. A certificate of insurance. When I talk to a prospective client for an advertising shoot, I might say, “Of course, we’ll have a certificate of insurance for this shoot in case there is an issue. I encourage you, as you’re talking to other photographers, to be sure they have one, too.” My experience is that about half of the photographers I compete with have no idea what a certificate of insurance is — or how to get one.


10 Responses to “Six Photography Credentials to Set Yourself Apart”

  1. I find 1 and 2 out weigh the other 4

  2. An article covering certificates of insurance would be nice.

  3. Agreed. You state that "My experience is that about half of the photographers I compete with have no idea what a certificate of insurance is — or how to get one." How about some information on HOW to get one!

  4. FLP and Linda G -- good idea. We're now planning to put together a post on this topic.

  5. John, it's been my experience that NONE (OK, maybe one) of the photographers I've competed against have any insurance. One guy said, "What do you need insurance for? You're takin' pictures."

    Everyone needs insurance. Even the insurance companies.

  6. "The location is tricky for a variety of reasons, so be sure that any other photographer you talk with has worked there before.”

    Best piece of advice in the article. This is a great way to set yourself apart from other photographers, and make them think twice about going with another photographer. Really great phrasing.

  7. Dont kid yourselves that insurance isn't important. A colleague after shooting an expensive wedding in NYC is headed back to his car when he is mugged. Laptop, two Canon 1D MkIIs plus the usual lenses...one of which was my fave 70-200 f.2.something...

    Took it all including is new Macbook. All in all? $30k worth of gear. This week he was sued by the bride and groom for losing the images of the wedding. Bottom line is that he carries General Liability Coverage (CGI) and something called Inland Marine Coverage (for the media). He is being defended by his carrier and will be damaged, but not nearly to the extent it could have.

    Why did he carry this? Because as his friend, as an insurance lawyer a long time ago and a photojournalist, I told him he had to get it and who to call. He bitched, he moaned, he bought the coverage. A thank you six pack came yesterday.

    Don't toss it off, the right coverage can save you from professional ruin.

  8. I am retired from Insurance Investigation Specialists, where a good part of my work was Forensic Photography.

    I can agree that General Liability Insurance can be a good thing, and, in many cases, mandatory to work for top clients. I would also like to stress that each State has its particular requirements and extent of Liability. One area to explore is the "Executional Exemptions" of each area in which you work. That will help in determining your potential liability.

  9. Hello

    I am intereasted in the line of becoming a phographer however dont want to become an average back yard nobody taking pictures for screeming kids and fake smiles.I love to travel so if work asks me to say go to Africa I GONE!
    Many of my friend/family said Im realy good at capturing nature at its finest all be it I have only a digital........they all still think I should persue this avenue however Im just a novis who loves nature and canned moments.......how do I turn a hobby into something profitable?

  10. Hi There, I have a home studio and have liability insurance, but do I need a special insurance? and if so, can you tell me where to get one? also, I have been in business over 20 years and I would like to have some "acronyms by my name" how can a get certified?
    Thanks for your info.

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