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Make sure your photographer is a member of a professional body

Photography and in particular wedding photography is one of the few professions that is not regulated by a government body.

Accountants, solicitors, nurses, the list of professions that are regulated it long but for some reason – despite many years of dissent and protest from the industry – photographers are not bound by any professional regulation or qualification.

Unfortunately that means that anyone (no matter how skilled or more importantly unskilled) that they are can set themselves up as a photographer.  The first thing that they usually do is create a website and put in large bold letters across it “Professional Photographer”.  Many of these people have no qualification or training in photography or indeed in running a business properly, are often uninsured and are not registered with HMRC.  They may have bought a camera as a hobby and decided to make a few extra pounds on their income from their regular job or, as often happens,  they’ve been told by friends and family that their photographs are great and that they should “become a photographer”.

What defines a professional photographer?  That question has gone back and forth for decades and is a complicated one to answer.  The Oxford English Dictionary has the following definitions of the word professional :-

  • Relating to or belonging to a profession.
  • Engaged in a specified activity as one’s main paid occupation rather than as an amateur.
  • A person engaged or qualified in a profession.
  • A person competent or skilled in a particular activity.

Now these definitions are open to a number of varying interpretations but the important words rather stand out.

Qualified.  Competent.  Skilled.

Choosing a wedding photographer (or a photographer in any discipline) is going to be determined by a number of factors, you’re going to want to get on with someone who you spend the whole day with, you’re going to have to like their work and their style of photography, their work has to fit within your budget and you are going to have to trust them implicitly with the important job that you give them.

Choosing a photographer that has joined a professional body (association, trade body, society) is an important part of recognising a professional from an amateur.  Joining one costs money, requires commitment if you proceed down that societies qualifications route and most importantly perhaps means that your photographer is more likely to hold the professional insurances to protect you against any unforeseen problems that can and do occur with photography.

Both myself and my second shooters are registered members of professional body’s, in fact I am currently the Chairman of The National Photographic Society in the UK.  I am also a registered member of the International Federation of Professional Photographers.

Make sure that no matter who you choose they are able to prove membership of a recognised professional society, you don’t want to find out after a problem that they weren’t.