Mike Paterson Professional Master Photographer

Several weeks ago I had a discussion with a photographer about getting a designation with a national photography organization, then two weeks ago another photographer came in asking almost the same thing and again last week another photographer asked how to get a designation like Professional or Master Photographer.  I thought this was funny then today while reading a news feed I see a photographer using the designation of Master Photographer so I did some research on what does all this mean – names like Professional or Master when it comes to photography.


A few years back I did some research on the name Master as it related to being a printer and found out that a Master Printer was “A person that owns their own print making equipment”,  If they did not own the equipment they were called an apprentice.

So that was an easy explanation for a printer but like most things in photography there is no easy answer.  Yes you can go to school to get a degree that will say Master Photographer or you can then use the term professional but most of these schools are not really mainstream and some are very shady!!  Joe’s Photo School of ABC town USA is not a school that I would want to spend money at or a degree from XYZ school that all you need to do is pay your tuition and fill out a skill testing form (name, address, phone number) then send $199 to them for your degree is again something that I would not put a lot of credence in.  I guess if you wanted to get a designation before your name this is one way to do it.

What is a master?

So I did some more research and found a few things that were interesting. Some people feel that to be able to call yourself a professional you must earn a high percentage of your income from a certain trade. Like being a full time photographer.  If you earn say 70% of your income from photography then you are a professional.  Other people say that you need to go to school to get a professional designation.

But I found that to be called a professional photographer is actually not even a designation that exists.  Like one person wrote. “Doctors, lawyers and preachers went to school to get a professional designation but that was all that was available. There were no degrees in other trades or areas other than the mentioned three”.  Today we have professional photographers, sales people, baristas, and garbage collectors. But there is really no qualifications to say one is a professional or another is.

Now for the Master part, this gets more confusing – if you can believe anything could be more confusing :- ) .  It seems that certain groups award this designation and it is usually after you meet a pile of requirements. Many of them that they have laid out. Many of these requirements cost you money to achieve AND it only lasts as long as you pay your membership.

If you stop paying your membership you loose the designation.  So being a master is something that is variable with each group. depending on the group it can be easy or hard to get.  Again I found a group that will award a Master designation to just about anyone if you pay your fees.  I found another group that you need to be a member for a certain number of years. Acquire so many points from submitting prints and doing work for the organization. Then you have a right to apply for the Master designation.

Should I???

So do I think that it is worth the time and effort to get a Professional or a Master designation?  Honestly no.  As there is not one set of rules that apply to the designation across Canada, the US or the World. Let alone standards from group to group. I think this is a waste of time and money.  Also because you can get a Master designation from a group that is less than honest what good does it do you? I know this will never happen but I would love to see all photography groups and organizations get together to create a universal designation. Something that is policed and enforced so that we could have something like a “Master of Photographic Arts and Retouching” only available from reputable sources.

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