Wedding photography Hengrave Hall

Do wedding photography qualifications matter?

I asked an innocent little question on facebook the other day. Something I was pondering as I looked through wedding submissions for the blog. I’m not a photographer. I’m wouldn’t call myself an expert. I see a lot of weddings; I think I can tell a great wedding photograph… but how can I really be sure I’m choosing the very best wedding photography for my English Wedding blog?

Wedding photography Hengrave HallSo then I thought about helping brides and grooms out there who might be wondering the same thing. And my photographer friends came to my rescue and explained how to choose the very best wedding photographer. They shared advice which applies to me, brides, grooms – anyone out there looking for great wedding photos. It’s easy to choose the perfect wedding photographer for you – and this is how (with advice from the experts!):

Do wedding photography qualifications matter?

My friend and expert wedding photographer Chris Hanley had lots of advice to share on the subject of wedding photography qualifications. My thanks to Chris for explaining how the various types of wedding photography qualifications work – and for sharing his opinions and helping me understand what really matters!

There are 2 types of qualification a wedding photographer might have. I’ll explain each one in turn:

1. Industry qualifications from associations such as the SWPP (Society of Wedding and Portrait Photographers), BIPP (British Institute of Professional Photographers) and the MPA (Master Photographers Association). There are various associations like this in the UK wedding industry and worldwide. Some are worth more than others. Some charge a fee to be a member and anyone can join (and get a shiny logo to put on their website). What do they really mean? In some cases it’s nothing more than a panel of self-important, impressively rich people sitting in judgement over wedding photographers’ work.

Charlene told me on facebook, “We just wanted to love the images. The photographer we went with had albums that took our breath away, he also shot on actual black&white film which we love. Although it turned out money doesn’t buy you good customer service, at the time we did love him. Our photographer was part of the BIPP. It took a year to get our album and we had been so focused on getting that I couldn’t even take in what we had got when he turned up at our door. The album itself is a disappointment. For his experience and skill we had very high expectations and they have not been met. After the day can be as important as on the day. Not knowing what was happening ate us up inside and we felt completely hopeless. Honesty is very important.

Don’t choose a wedding photographer solely on the basis of an impressive looking membership like this. At the very least, investigate what membership means: how exclusive is the association and do they hand out awards and badges like candy?

2. Educational qualifications from universities and colleges teach technique. Qualifications and letters after his or her name mean your photographer understands about light and composition, and has been taught about creativity and the core principles of photography.

Kristin from Struve Photography says, “I spent 3 years at college studying photography before I started. Having been through college, I did come out feeling a lot more confident about my ability, I have good editing and workflow ability; I’ve been pushed and challenged by my peers and tutors, and having learned lots of different photographic styles and had the benefit of meeting some amazing photographers and photo industry experts. A lot of the skills from the different things we studied are things I take with me to weddings.  However, I do think it depends a lot on the student, the course (and the time frame) and the course provider. Some self-taught photographers are incredible; some educated photographers are… well, bland at best. Also, it doesn’t necessarily improve your interpersonal skills, which are absolutely vital for any wedding photographer. There’s no “right” way, I think, in a person’s path to becoming a good photographer.

ARJ Photography wedding photographer CheshireQualifications are certainly not a bad thing, but there’s a whole lot more to wedding photography. And there are so many ways to learn about photography techniques, from books to online resources and a wealth of magazines in your local newsagent. A lifetime’s experience of taking photographs is just as valid as a 3-year degree course, if you ask me. (Internationally renowned photographer David Bailey left school aged 15 and worked his way up from Fleet Street to photographing the biggest stars in the world.)

Jessica’s facebook comment was an eye-opener: “I spoke to a highly qualified person, but I’ve never been so spoken down to in my life. He made me feel childish, stupid and quite frankly pathetic. I’d rather have someone with no qualifications but talented and friendly then someone with qualifications and end up with stiff pictures because the photographer was awful to work with. Just because me and my fiancee are young does not mean we deserve to be ill treated by people who ‘know more about weddings’ as the photographer stated to us.

So a photography qualification on its own does not make a great wedding photographer. Wedding photography requires some very specific skills: being able to work amongst large groups of people. Having fractions of seconds to capture a crucial and emotional moment. Lacking control of circumstances – unfamiliar venues, bad lighting, numerous distractions and more.

This is where experience comes into play, alongside creativity and style. Jonny Draper is a Manchester wedding photographer whose work I’ve featured on English Wedding before.

He told me, “You can have all the qualifications in the world but if you’ve never shot or worked a wedding before then you need to be upfront and honest with your clients. Experience is massively important…how much experience/qualification do you get for your money? I think it’s fair to say that if someone is charging you £250 for the day then you may not expect a huge amount of either (that’s not to say you won’t get lovely photographs of course!) but if someone is charging £2k-plus then you’d be entitled to expect a little bit more for you money in all aspects.”

A ‘professional’ wedding photographer?

The very definition of a ‘professional’ wedding photographer can be misleading, and is very much linked with this discussion. The word ‘professional’ used to be directly linked to a level of qualification. A qualified doctor or solicitor is certainly a professional. It’s a grand-sounding word, but its use has changed over recent decades. Professional is now widely used to imply high standards; to distinguish full-time workers from those who work part-time, for example.

I’m not saying this use of the word ‘professional’ is wrong, though. In my opinion (my background is partly in linguistics) it’s simply an example of the way our language changes over time. As an interesting aside, I understand things aren’t so simple everywhere: in Austria, for example, it’s illegal to call yourself a professional wedding photographer and go out shooting weddings without a professional qualification.

buckinghamshire wedding photography by Geoff Reardon

If qualifications don’t count, what does?

Experience is the most important thing you should look for in a wedding photographer. Photographing real weddings has more value than any qualification ever could. It’s about learning where to be to get the best shots throughout the day. It’s about knowing which lenses to use; which settings work in which circumstances. How to shoot in dark churches; how to get great images of the first dance with disco lights. How to watch for that moment when the groom’s bottom lip begins to go… how to be unobtrusive, how to know when to back off for a second if the bride is nervous before the ceremony.

Only time and experience will prepare a photographer to shoot weddings with sensitivity and skill.

Wedding photographer Jo Blackwell also shared her thoughts on facebook: “when I started second shooting, then going it alone, I brought my life experience to the table and my people skills – in my opinion this is where some of the more technically fixated pros fall down. A wedding is about emotion and story-telling, not whether the highlights are blown on the groom’s button hole!… I’ve looked into qualifications as I want to be the very best I can be, but there are a lot of impressive-sounding organisations out there that don’t seem to be very well regulated. I think that when choosing a wedding photographer, looking at their work and talking to them, seeing if you actually like them is a better indicator of whether they will deliver what you want than letters after their name.

Creativity is important in a wedding photographer. We all want our weddings to be memorable and unique, to be special and reflect our personalities. So experience isn’t the only thing to look out for: Bob from Bob’s Wedding Snaps might have shot 100 weddings at your venue already… but is he taking the same photos each time, just with different faces in?

Nicky Chadwick is a Yorkshire wedding photographer, and she told me on facebook, “I have had three brides in the last 12 months who have come to me after their wedding day to see if ‘there is anything I can do’ with their pictures!!

I think ultimately the couple have to feel comfortable with the photographer from the start and they have to like their work. If a photographer won’t answer your questions or can’t show you a good body of work then look at others who can. Get a contract from them and make sure it covers you as well as them should the worst happen. I do have qualifications from years ago, but like a few others have mentioned these only really help you technically, not with the customer service. I can honestly say I’ve never been asked what my qualifications are, maybe that’s because many people wouldn’t know what would be good qualifications anyway?

Every wedding photographer has their own style. Don’t settle for the first photographer you see: find someone whose portfolio you love! The wedding photographer’s personality will often shine through in their images.

I loved Martin Roe’s facebook comment: “So many highly qualified photographers seem to be so hung up on perfect exposures, composition and pixel counts, that their flair and creativity fly out of the window along with their sense of fun. To me, if you have a keen eye a sense of humour and people skills you’re more than half way there. The rapport that I have with my clients is to me the singularly most important factor in obtaining photographs that will mean something to them and create an album that captures the personalities and atmosphere of their day.”

wedding blog photography by Brett SymesThere are wedding photographers whose images have timeless beauty and elegance. Some will focus on formal or traditional images while many wedding photographers work in a photo-journalistic or documentary style. Some wedding photographers will spend half an hour or so with the bride and groom getting styled or natural portraits of the couple; others will leave you to simply enjoy the wedding celebrations. Each of these styles will appeal to different couples – it’s up to you to choose which is right for you.

Nobody knows better than the bride and groom

So wedding photographers don’t need qualifications. It’s wise to look for someone with experience, and it’s great if you can find someone whose work you fall in love with. At the end of the day what all of this means is that

you are the experts!

And why are you the experts? Because it’s your wedding day. Because the day is about you. The wedding photographs will be of you, your friends and family. Every wedding really is unique, as is every wedding album.

When you’re choosing a wedding photographer, have the confidence to go with your heart, but use your head too!

Budget for the best wedding photographer you can afford. Photographs will be the lasting memory of your wedding day: so think what you want to remember – those priceless little glances across a crowded room? The kiss at the altar? The way she looked at you as she walked down the aisle? Or how handsome he looked? What about all the handmade decorations you’d poured your heart and soul into making? The detail of your dress? The figure you’d worked so hard for all year before your day?! Find a wedding photographer whose portfolio shows they have a natural eye for whatever is most important to you.

Braxted Park wedding photography by Martin Beddall mcbweddings

More help finding a wedding photographer

If you’re looking for a wedding photographer, I’ve shared a quick list of my 10 top tips over on the English Wedding Showcase. And if you’d like to share advice of your own, do pop over there and contribute your tuppence-worth via the comments!

Finding a wedding photographer: top 10 tips

I’d love to hear from you if you have thoughts about wedding photography qualifications too. Have your qualifications helped you more than your life experience, or vice versa? What do you think makes a great wedding photographer? Pop a comment for me in the box below!


Claire Gould

Claire spends her days writing - either in beautiful calligraphy or online. She lives on the edge of the English Lake District only minutes away from the beach, where she loves to escape and unwind. Claire's calligraphy can be found at Claire launched the English Wedding Blog in November 2009 - it's been a top 10 UK wedding blog ever since, with a regional focus we hope you LOVE.



  • Hannah
    9 years ago

    Brilliant article, with some great points. I’m a qualified film maker – which has helped me enormously in composition and story telling – but I’ve learnt about photography and wedding photography through experience, working with fantastic photographers that I admire greatly and working hard to teach myself and find my own style – as well as finding the couples who want that style and want to work with me.

    The best advice I would give to couples choosing a photographer is to remember that your photographer is the one person you’ll be spending most of the day with – make sure you get on with them! They’ll see you at your most nervous, you don’t want someone who is going to make you even more stressed! Love the work of the photographer you choose but don’t get hung up on a logo on a websire, or the amount of money they’ve spent on training courses. Make sure the person you choose is right for you and you can’t go far wrong.

    • Claire
      9 years ago

      Thank you Hannah – and a lovely piece of advice about finding someone who won’t make you more stressed! There’s a lot to be said, I think, for a wedding photographer who is calm, professional and ready with a smile or prepared to retreat when needed on your big day!
      Claire x

  • Angela Ward Brown
    9 years ago

    I reject the assertion above that if you are qualified you are unable to capture emotion etc., very odd, in fact logically the converse would be more likely to be true!

    I am a photographer who holds a degree in photography. Did that degree make me a better wedding photographer? Absolutely, because it made me a more thoughtful & critical photographer in general. But many “unqualified” photographers don’t need specific education in the subject to achieve that.
    There are fantastic photographers with no qualifications, and very average photographers with lots of qualifications & professional memberships. Its great to have, but is it necessary? No.

    At the end of the day you want someone who you like, whose style you respond to, and whom you have seen can respond well & consistently when faced with challenges such as the venue, the weather etc.

    • Claire
      9 years ago

      Thanks for your comment, Angela.

      No one has said if you’re qualified you can’t capture emotion. But the two don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand. (Doesn’t mean they can’t; only that technical ability doesn’t guarantee sensitivity and an instinct for capturing romance and emotion. Like you say, there are very average photographers with qualifications & professional memberships.)

      The rest of your comment I do understand and it bears out what most photographers have told me. Your final point about finding a wedding photographer whose ability and skill you’ve ‘seen’ – I realise you might not have meant it literally as in ‘seen them in action’. But it has made me think: for a bride and groom, having seen a photographer at a friend’s wedding as well as viewing their portfolio has to be the best possible way to choose.

  • Jonathan Bean
    9 years ago

    Great article, with some excellent advice for clients, and nice advice from Hannah above. my own qualification is a degree in Film, video & Photographic Arts, but interestingly this was an almost entirely non-technical course, focused (no pun intended) instead on the critical and theoretical study of photography. I spent as much time reading Freud and Foucault as I did on f-stops and ISO’s.
    When I shot my first wedding (as a favour for a friend) more than 20 years ago, I was scared stiff, nervous and totally unprepared. To make things worse, the day was interupted by a bomb scare and a controlled explosion at the reception venue, meaning we all ended up in the pub instead! It was a real eye-opener! I’ve now shot a great many weddings and while I think a qualification is a good marker to look for, it will in no way match up to experience.

    • Claire
      9 years ago

      Ooh now there’s another interesting point. I imagine there are some very diverse photography degrees out there. Yours sounds like a brilliant degree course – more from the point of view of it being fascinating study material! I’d love to do that…
      And talk about baptism by fire! We all start somewhere, it has to be said. Those first steps into self-employment and a creative career can always be tricky. The harder the situation you find yourself in, the faster you learn to think creatively and the more you learn from the experience.
      Thanks for sharing that Jonathan – interesting comment.
      Claire x

  • I would like to add a quick note to your section about having a university qualification….
    A friend of mine just recently got his photography qualification from a good university in the South West. The thesis behind his final project (comprising the last 2 years of his course) was ‘Bad Photography Can Be Beautiful’. He spent 2 years taking photos which were poorly exposed, badly lit, shaky, blurry and otherwise out of focus. In the end he got a first.

    I love my friend dearly, but his photography degree is an ART degree – which focuses more on poncing on about your concepts than being technically proficient (I can say this as I am married to a man with an art degree…lol). He can’t photograph his way out of a box.

    Qualifications only matter if the course is geared towards the kind of work you are commissioning and if the portfolio and customer service are all up to par as well. Think of qualifications like the gravy – they are nice to have – but they aren’t the point. Having a qualification without a good portfolio and good rapport is like having a big bowl of gravy without the mash.

    • Claire
      9 years ago

      Jaye, your comment is brilliant. (I’m taking notes on commenting as an art from in itself here!) Another eye-opener about the various shades of educational photography qualifications for me. Thanks for sharing.
      Would I be right to surmise that there are photography degrees which are more custard than gravy, and that gravy is fine if your wedding is mash, but you could make a delicious custard and totally mess things up by pouring it on said mash?

  • Sarah
    9 years ago

    I am a completely self-taught photographer who has only recently started doing weddings and portraits. Because I wanted to better understand the technical aspects of photography, I’ve started putting myself through a study-at-home course but, truly, I’ve done most of my learning through actually doing.

    When I’m meeting with couples who potentially want me to photograph their wedding, at the moment I only have a very limited portfolio to show them. But people are taking me on regardless, and one couple told me why the other week. They said they were impressed not only with the small amount of photographs that I showed them, but also with my obvious passion for photography. They liked the fact that they found it easy to talk with me, that I listened to what they wanted and they liked that fact that, whilst I don’t have a huge amount of experience with weddings, I am excited about what I do and am keen to do a good job for them.

    And that’s what it comes down to, I think… I am absolutely determined to do the best possible job for each of my couples, because I know how important people’s wedding photographs are to them. The fact that I don’t have any formal qualifications will probably put some off of hiring me, which is a real shame, because while I may not be a technically perfect photographer, to date the photographs I have produced for people have put smiles on their faces and a ‘thank you’ on their lips for me, so I must be doing something right, right?!

    • Claire
      9 years ago

      Hi Sarah, and thanks for sharing – it’s great to have a comment from someone just starting out. Sounds to me like you’re going about things in just the right way: your passion is hugely important and you’re building on that by studying and getting experience. Yes, I think you’re doing something right!

      I’m off to read The First Brick. Sounds interesting!

      Claire x

  • Paul Riddell
    9 years ago

    As much as I want to say yes. The answer in many ways is no.

    But education, skill, knowledge and understanding of photography along with experience is absolutely paramount.
    And sadly as much as I relish education, I am seeing way too many photography students, with no real skills, but a head full of the attitude that their qualification makes them an instant quality professional photographer, which it so rarely does.

    This leaves us with the sad reality of the many birdes who have recieved awful, unusable photos taken by a newly qualified photographer.


    • Claire
      9 years ago

      Thanks Paul. Your first comment strikes a chord: I began researching this blog post with the view that surely qualifications should matter… and was promptly set straight by almost everyone I asked – which changed my mind completely.

      A great point about photography students’ attitudes: along with being taught technique comes the conviction that on leaving university you’re already top of your game. Easy, at 20-something to believe what your tutors imply. And that’s another reason why experience is so crucial, as you say.

      It happened to me – not with photography but with my marketing degree. We were given the impression we’d all be company directors by 25. How naive and foolish I must have been, looking back 10 years on!

      I love that all these comments are making me think. Thank you.

  • Chris Jackson Photo
    9 years ago

    Speaking as a wedding photographer who has BA (Hons) Photography degree, an a-level, second shooting experience and the last 2 years experience of running my own wedding photography business I feel I can offer a little insight…..

    For wedding photography my degree has helped in almost no way at all. Sure, the whole technical aspect of this is how to light etc etc is great, but I’m not one of using studio lighting at weddings. And even without a degree you can tell wether the detail is in the image or if it has been blown out. My point is as a wedding photographer a degree doesn’t teach you to capture emotion, anticipating the moments, knowing (or not in most cases) what is around the corner and being able to handle it without breaking a sweat.

    Photography associations may suit people down to the ground, however I find alot of them are the people obsessed with technicalities and are far more concerned with these than producing images with emotion and story telling. I looked into them, and then decided that wasn’t what it is about.

    Second shooting was obviously a fantastic benefit. I worked alongside 6 wedding photographers, most of whom are continuously winning awards for their images with the above associations. This doesn’t mean that I agree with all of their techniques, styles, methods etc. But what this did give me was a chance to see weddings as a photographer, not as a guest and not as a hobby. I picked up several tips of course, but how you use this information is what can differentiate you from everybody else. Again, this only gave an insight into photographing the day, which is of course very important, but without any bookings you can’t be there to photograph the wedding.

    So finally, as mentioned above – personal skills. This is a people orientated industry, and everybody is different…everybody want’s something different. Personally, I love to find out all of the details about a wedding when meeting clients, they see how interested I am in their wedding and it put’s them at ease when I ask them questions regarding thing’s they hadn’t even thought about. They understand that experience brings knowledge, because degree’s, books and awards distributed by people which the majority of, even I don”t know who they are, so why would the bride & groom care. They want someone who they like, get along with, aren’t afraid to email or call to ask a few questions and somebody who they trust with this no-second-chances day.

    To everybody else above, some very interesting points, most of which I agree with, sorry if I have repeated anybody else’s points.

    • Claire
      9 years ago

      Thank you Chris, it’s great to hear your perspective from both sides of the fence, so to speak. And very interesting to hear about your experience as a second shooter and what you gained from that.

      Everything you’ve written has got me thinking: about the industry bodies not being what it’s about; about seeing weddings as a photographer, and about this being a people orientated industry.

      You’re spot on, I think!

  • Jo Rutherford
    9 years ago

    I have to say that I am quite shocked at the one sided nature of this article! To say that qualifications don’t matter is a sweeping statement, we all know that there are excellent photographers with and without qualifications and letters after their name. I fully understand that creativity , passion, etc are things that are difficult if not impossible to teach but I also know that striving for a qualification, gaining mentorship from others, can improve your skills in all areas of photography.
    I certainly realise that one of the main reasons for reacting to this article is the premise that associations such as BIPP could be nothing more than a ‘ panel of self important and impressively rich people sitting in judgement’ . I have just been awarded my Associateship from this organisation, had over 50 images critiqued, received valuable mentorship and I am certain that this process has dramatically improved my photography. I am not saying that you HAVE to be qualified, but please do not dismiss those who choose to gain qualifications. Being part of one of the major organisations also comes with a huge amount of protection, not only for the photographer, but also for the general public who can seek advice from them.

    • Claire
      9 years ago

      Thank you Jo. (It’s good to read your thoughts in more than 140 characters.)

      Let me qualify my points in view of your comment. I don’t intend to dismiss your skill, qualifications or their importance to you. (bear with me) But I do question their relevance to brides. I try to keep sight of my blog’s readership of brides and grooms. And for the majority, I don’t think the qualifications / approval of the industry associations matter.

      I think brides and grooms are looking for images they love. They’re looking for a photographer they get along with, one whose work inspires them, and whose experience gives them confidence. I think a photographer who ticks all of those boxes could have all the qualifications in the world and it wouldn’t make the blindest bit of difference to a bride and groom.

      What you have made me realise is that self-confidence, pride in one’s skill and ability and the need for continuous learning and improvement is a separate thing. I do admire anyone who continues to push themselves in their career, to master their craft if you like.

      I think it’s a matter of perspectives – qualifications can mean the world, but they mean very different things to different people.

  • Jo Rutherford
    9 years ago

    Claire, I have been following this with interest today and I have to say that I am really impressed with the way that you have engaged with everyone, it’s good for all of us to have different opinions and it’s good for our clients that we have somewhere to air those views, you have been supportive and fair and diplomatic, and did not just leave this post ‘hanging’ in mid air.

    • Claire
      9 years ago

      Thanks Jo.
      I agree – and I’d be the first to say I don’t know everything: the comments and responses here all made me think around the issue and I’ve really enjoyed the discussion.

  • Amy Sunley
    9 years ago

    I just wanted to say what an excellent and balanced article that I thought this was. Thank you!

    I am just starting out on my journey as a photographer. I am not professionally qualified, as much as I would like to be had my circumstances been different and I hadn’t thought it was a good idea to train to be an accountant at 21… I started out with creative photography evening courses at my local college which helped with the technical sides of light, composition, camera control etc… I was lucky enough to be able to follow this up with 18 months worth of wedding second shoot experience with a local photographer, which enabled my very first clients to trust in my ability and take me on.

    I have looked into the many routes I could go down to become ‘qualified’ but currently I can’t see how a degree, or similar qualification, would help my business. I have chosen, for the moment at least, to spend my time and money on seminars aimed particularly at wedding photographers. I hope I have made the right decision!

    In the meantime I find that the best thing I can do is be totally honest with the couples who contact me. They all know that I am a new photographer, how I got into the business and what experience I have. Hopefully from talking to me they see the passion that I have not just for photography but also for their wedding.

    So after all that waffle I guess what I am saying is I agree with you! There is a place for qualifications and they are certainly valuable to those that have worked hard to get them; however there’s more than one way to skin a cat!!!

  • I do love this! You’ve heard my thought on my own photographer! 😉 I have worked with a lot of photographers in my short 2 years in weddings and the ones I get on with and make the day go without a hitch are the ones that can smile. It sounds so simple but I’m still surprised at how some togs ooze arrogance but in a bad way! Ok, I’m a videographer so I expect them to be wary of me at first-some of the stories I’ve heard would put me off having a wedding video-but if you can have a team that keep you smiling and calm in the morning then it’s the perfect start to the day. I’ve found myself doing button holes and fastening bras and I’ve seen some togs run a mile in those situations yet those are the moments that every Bride thanks me for. The moment when the Mum’s hands are shaking so much she can’t even fasten a hook and eye! 🙂 I think being nice and helpful will get you far in this industry, having a ‘nothing is too much’ attitude is something I am becoming known for but (as my husband says) you still need the skills to pay the bills! 😉

  • Great article, well written with more than a few truths.

    When you engage a wedding photographer, you have no idea if you are going to love what they do for you or not, and any decent photographer will expect a commitment of £2,000 or £3,000, so you are going to want some reassurances.

    I have to say that qualifications, academic and professional are all vital ingredients along with everything else you have listed.

    Academic courses are not generally designed to teach technique. Since photographic education was revolutionised in the seventies, the emphasis has been put on the why as opposed to the how. Most photography degree courses are student centred, they are about research and understanding, it is up to the student to resarch, develop and adapt technique to fit a concept or outcome. There is also a strong element of critical theory and history on these courses, how can you progress until you understand what you are progressing from?

    The next important stage in the career of a young professional photographer is the internship, apprenticeship or assisting work. I didn’t know David Bailey worked in Fleet Street but I did know that he was apprenticed to John French who was one of the most notable fashion photographers of the 1950’s. This is when the journeyman learns their craft. Being interned to a good photographer is vital, not just for technique but to learn the business and, in the case of people photographers, those all important people skills you mentioned in the article.

    The distinctions offered by professional awarding bodies, (the two with the most respect in social photography are the BIPP and the MPA) are an indicator to a photographer’s technical and aesthetic standard. Both of the above named bodies award a three tier standard, Licentiateship which shows competency, Associateship which takes that to a higher, more advanced level and Fellowship which, in the eyes of the BIPP and MPA, is a recognition of the height of excellence.

    By the time a wedding photographer has achieved all of those things they are clearly experienced, and that is the fourth qualifier.

    In answer to your question… Do Wedding Photography Qualifications Matter? Yes of course they do but only once you are past the initial pull of the portfolio.

    If you love what you see on the site, you have been reassured by the photographer’s academic, professional and empirical qualifications and you get on, you’ve found the right photographer for you.

    As an aside, members of the BIPP and MPA are bound by a code of conduct and are required to carry Professional Indemnity and Public Liability Insurance. So there again is some reassurance.

  • To be perfectly frank, and speaking as someone who has ‘proper’ qualifications, I don’t think they matter in the grand scheme of things. They certainly help in creating a solid foundation on which to build one’s career, and kick start the development process, but there was nothing I learnt in three years at photoschool I couldn’t have done by myself given the time and inclination.

    Having said all that, if someone asked me about the best way to get started, I would absolutely recommend taking a full time tertiary course. (I’m not up to speed with courses here in the UK, but my National Diploma covered both technical and theoretical subjects – both the how and the why).

    My feeling is that some people now only wish to pursue the easy option. The formulaic.
    Go to store, buy camera, buy Photoshop, buy actions, read blog, set-up website and presto – instant ‘pro’ photographer. They cock a snoot at spending time learning all they can about the art of photography, both the technical and the theory. As for the history? Well, who wants to read about crust old farts in stove pipe hats when you can follow JStar’s constant Twitterings?

    This does not only their clients, but themselves a disservice. If they aren’t prepared to take the time to learn about their profession and find their own voice – how will they ever hope to achieve a uniqueness in their craft?

    The landscape has changed dramatically since I was a student. In those days you had to actively seek out and discover information. Even a basic books like Ansel Adams series ‘The Camera’, ‘The Print’ and ‘The Negative’ were hard to find – and then devoured when they were..

    Now everything you ever wanted to know about photography is out there at the click of a mouse. Its history, its future, its visions, its techniques, its language – in short everything you need to develop your own style.

    The internet is the greatest classroom ever – I just wish more people took the time to learn their craft rather than slavishly copy the current ‘Big Thing.’

    Qualifications don’t matter to your clients – they matter to you.
    That qualification can come from a recognized course, or it can come through self-discovery by seeking out an learning the words that will create your photographic voice.

  • Johnny Bean
    9 years ago

    This has been a really interesting discussion. Thank you.

  • Jamie Emerson
    8 years ago

    Really interesting discussion, due both to the questions and opinions in the original post, and the diverse comments thereafter, from the whole gamut of the industry.

    I come from a uni background too (BA Hons) and would have to disagree with the chap who reckons his degree course has been no help at all to his photography career. My course was very arts oriented – I deliberately chose a photography degree course based within an arts school, and visited several institutions around the UK before making an informed decision about where to study. Yes, the content was very conceptual and art history made up a large part of the course, but I don’t see that as a bad thing. I learnt huge amounts about how to light subjects from studying paintings for instance.

    Add to that, that uni is a great place to experiment, push the conceptual boat out and generally make huge mistakes in a (relatively) non-pressured environment, and I would say it’s a good way to start a career in photography. If I had my time again though, I’d do a joint honours in photography and business!

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