Craftsman – and what a slog to get there!

Last November saw the culmination of two years hard work, many days in a field with camera and lighting, hours at the computer, long disheartening conversations with my mentors and a very VERY tense hour at the Epsom HQ during a photography seminar. Whilst moving house, the run up to Christmas in the Post Office I owned, and suffering from depression, I submitted a panel of photographs in the hope of becoming a Craftsman with the Guild of Professional Photographers. You have to be there for the submission of the panel, and as I was moving to Skye I figured that this was my last chance to attend a panel judging while the travel costs were in the region of ok. To save  you reading a whole load of background as to what the qualification system is all about I have written a bit at the end to explain, so that if you are interested, and can be bothered, it’s there for you, but you can ignore it if you are not!

It’s a long and sometimes painful process. For me it was about proving to myself that I am a good photographer, I have learned my craft, and in the eyes of my peers I have something to offer. I am hoping to offer photographic retreats and tuition to folk here on The Isle of Skye and feel I need to be able to demonstrate that I can offer a reasonable level of knowledge at any events or courses that I run. I want to be able to say that I know my stuff, and I am not just someone who fancies herself with a camera. All the gear and some idea!

My chosen genre for the 36 images I presented was Environmental Portraits. This is what I love and it translates into my wedding and lifestyle portrait work. A number of these had to be shown as large, high quality prints and the rest digitally. I had to write a bit about my work and the submission and how it fits together, prove that I am insured and show a product that I would offer my paying customers. The prints had to be laid out in a way to show how they work together as a submission. This is probably one of the hardest parts, as arranging them to show them at their best takes hours! Choosing the ones for printing took forever and then making sure they are as perfect as possible, with no bad editing, perfect composition etc and that they look like they belong together takes another age! Oddly enough I was advised to remove two of the images as they were too good and brought the others down… make sense of that! (I did though, as all together they stood out from the rest and the over all completeness was lost!).

I was to submit 20 prints but they arrived late (the day before) and the print quality on some was poor so I had to submit just 12, the bare minimum allowed. This meant rearranging the whole panel again at the last minute and was the cause of many a tear! The stress levels were rising. Thankfully I was at Epsom HQ and they printed a couple out for me to show it was the printing that was the issue, not my work. My digital back ups were required and my customer product included some prints, again demonstrating the printing problem. I was also called into the judging room the explain the situation. The judges (all Fellows and highly respected in the industry) took ages to deliberate and come to a decision while I tried to concentrate on the speakers at the seminar that was going on.

To cut a long story short, I passed. My words on hearing the news are not repeatable.

Oddly enough I wasn’t elated, just relieved. I was disappointed about the printing problems as I had wanted to wow the judges, which was not the case. I didn’t really want to share the news, I just wanted a long drink and a good night’s sleep. I have spoken to others who have obtained this level and many agree that it is not the great high moment you get when you get the lower level qualification (there are three levels, this one is the middle one – for more info see below). This one is a slog. Apparently I am not alone in never wanting to see many of the images again as long as I live. I really should ave made the most of it, sent out press releases etc ad it is a bit of a big deal in many ways, but I was moving house, busy at work and it was just one more thing that could have gone wrong. After a year and a bit I now feel I can share them with you.

The first picture is the layout of my prints. The  pictures themselves and the supporting images follow in no particular order. I hope you enjoy them. I put my heart and should into them and am proud to say that I am a Craftsman with the Guild of Professional Photographers. My work with my wedding and elopement couples reflects this style of work and I still shoot models for fun and to practice my skills.

Here they are!



A huge thank you to Nedine Backman O’Brien, who held my light and spent too much time in cold water for her liking, Gary Hill and Kevin Pengelly for their mentoring and support, my gorgeous models: Joel Hicks, Stephanie Dubois, Mel Tongue, Alicia Conder, Chris Leach, Tillie Feather, Ella Rose Black, Lisa Marie Thompson, Darren Sealy, Jen Brooke, Ivory Flame, Zsu.

Background Stuff about Qualifications (if you are interested and can be bothered!)

Are qualifications form professional photographic bodies worth anything? This is a hotly debated topic within the photographic world. Some say it is about improvement and bettering themselves, some think it gives their customers an idea of their worth, some feel it gives them standing amongst other photographers and some (quite a few!) think they are a waste of time and money. I don’t think for one minute my customers care. I doubt they would understand the system of awards and I am pretty sure it means little to them when deciding whether to hire me.

The qualifications I am talking about are not GCSEs, degrees or HNDs etc. If a photographer belongs to one of the many professional bodies associated with the industry such as The Royal Photographic Society (RPS), The Society of Wedding and Portrait Photographers (SWPP), The Master Photographers Association (MPA), the Guild of Professional Photographers or one of the others that I cannot think of from the top of my head, they pay to be a member. As part of their membership they can have their work judged (for a fee)  and awarded qualifications set by the body they have joined. On the whole the qualifications are transferable, but they are only valid whilst you are a paying member of that professional body. It is possible, as I have found, to be awarded a qualification by one and fail with another organisation. Photography is pretty subjective and the judging criteria can vary between the different bodies.

Broadly speaking there are three levels of qualification: Licentiate, Associate and Fellow or, in the case of the Guild, Qualified, Craftsman and Master Craftsman. For Licentiate level you need to demonstrate a good understanding of your craft, show that you know how to use a camera properly and understand composition and basic lighting. For Associateship you must refine your skills, show a definite style that is yours and demonstrate that you really know your stuff including how to use Photoshop etc. Fellows are masters of photography, with as close to flawless work as possible.

1 Comment

  1. Paul

    Stunning work Penny………I just wish I could have been there for you to help in some small way…… sounds like you have had a tough journey…..but I’m glad you are getting settled in Skye…..I too love my photography…mostly wildlife, birds especially… qualifications though….

    I hope we can talk soon…..
    Dibs x


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Penny Hardie is a Wedding & Lifestyle Photographer

based on the beautiful Isle of Skye