Professional Photographers of America

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Prof Photog America logo.jpg
Established1869 (1869)
Typeprofessional association
HeadquartersAtlanta, Georgia
Cost: $194 – $323 per year

Professional Photographers of America (PPA) is a worldwide trade association of professional photographers. As of 2018, PPA has more than 30,000 members in 60 countries.

PPA is an association that seeks to help its members advance their careers by increasing the members' business acumen as well as broadening their creative range. In fact, their mission is as follows:

The Professional Photographers of America, Inc., a worldwide association, exists to assist its members in achieving their professional, artistic, and fraternal goals; to promote public awareness of the profession; and to advance the making of images in all of its disciplines as an art, a science and a visual recorder of history.

°Alex the Photo Guy

In its early years, the association established a tradition of continuing education for members by providing annual forums for noted photographers, including Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Weston, Dr. C.E. Kenneth Mees, and Edward Steichen. This tradition continues to this day with continuing education classes held nationwide and at the annual Imaging USA convention, taught by the leading names in the photography industry. PPA members can become certified, earning the title of Certified Professional Photographer (CPP). The following degrees are also offered through PPA: Photographic Craftsman (Cr.Photog.), Master of Photography (M.Photog.), Master Artist (M.Artist), and Master of Photography and Photographic Craftsman (M.Photog.Cr.).

History (pre-1900)[edit]

National Photographic Association logo circa 1869

The association began in December 1868, as the National Photographic Association, in an attempt to bring together photographers from around the world and "for the purpose of elevating and advancing the art of photography, and for the protection and furthering the interests of those who make their living by it."[1] The group's first goal was to unite against Ambrotype patent restrictions. Although succeeding in preventing the reissue of the patent, the Executive Committee of the N.P.A. became discouraged, and, the group disbanded in 1876 because of lack of interest.[2] PPA, as it is known today, was officially formed in April 1880 as the Photographers Association of America, Inc.[3], by members of the Chicago Photographic Association and the former National Photographic Association. The new association's goal was to combine the best minds of the profession, promote an exchange of ideas and knowledge, and eliminate narrow and prejudiced opinions regarding photography as an art and science. In their first April 1880 meeting[4][5], PAA elected John Ryder from Cleveland, Ohio, as its first president. A group of 237 photographers attended the first convention in Chicago on August 23–26. This is a huge feat considering the lack of technology and communication available to spread the word. At that 1880 convention, a special PAA committee gave demonstrations of the gelatin dry plate, a then-revolutionary imaging process. Their subsequent reports, based on member experiments, established the dry plate as standard professional material. Also present at early PAA conventions were many American daguerreotype pioneers, including John H. Fitzgibbon, who began making daguerreotypes as far back as 1841. The daguerreotype was the first practical and profitable photographic process, which had been introduced in 1839-40. The conventions run annually to this day and now go by the name, Imaging USA.

History (20th Century)[edit]

In 1909, the membership installed its first governing body, the Congress of Photography. The Congress was composed of delegates from around the country who transacted official association business. Previously, all association business had been conducted by those who happened to attend conventions, resulting in problems of organizational continuity. The Congress continued until 1929 when the National Council became the official governing body, representing 37 associations and clubs nationwide.

By 1913, the photography association had grown to 725 members, expanding to 2,272 members in 1916. When World War I began, many PAA members contributed to the United States effort by joining the photography section of the Signal Corps. After the war, all photographers of the section were made honorary PAA members through the Liberty War Section of the association.

PAA newsletter from 1922

In 1921, The Daguerre Club of Indiana donated to PAA a building in Winona Lake, Indiana, for the purpose of establishing a photography school. Thus was born the professional school which was to become the Winona International School of Professional Photography. Winona operated classes for professional photographers each summer until 1984 when the school relocated to its Mount Prospect, Illinois campus, where it operated until 1994 when it was relocated to Atlanta, Georgia. Thousands of photographers from all parts of the world have attended Winona classes to update their skills or develop abilities in other fields of photographic application under the guidance of some of the nation's outstanding professional image makers. The school changed its name to the PPA International School of Photography in 1999.

Just as PAA celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1930, the Depression hit. Despite efforts to boost membership and provide new programs, the Depression took its toll. During these years (1931–34), the association suffered along with the country. Budgets were cut, memberships were canceled, and no conventions were held. By 1934, association leaders were spearheading a drive to build membership and combat rampant price-cutting under the National Recovery Act, which was signed into law that year. They developed the Code of Fair Competition for the Photographic and Photofinishing Industry, which would require every person or firm selling photographic products or services to comply with certain requirements as to wages, hours, prices, and trade practices. The tool now existed to revitalize the association and improve the profession so that it could do its part in returning the country to prosperity. These hopes were soon dashed when the National Recovery Act was declared unconstitutional, affecting all such codes under its jurisdiction. The association suffered a further setback when World War II erupted.In spite of this difficult period, PAA continued to offer new benefits to its members, including the Directory of Professional Photography, which made its first appearance in 1938, and the degree program, which awarded its first Master of Photography degree in 1939.

The name was changed to Professional Photographers of America, Inc. (PPA), in 1958 to distinguish the association from emerging amateur photography organizations. That same year, PPA joined the Mississippi-Alabama Associated Photographers (later renamed the Professional Photographers of Mississippi-Alabama) and the University of Mississippi to hold the first conference on professional photography with joint participation from a local association, national association, and major university.

In 1993 the Association moved its headquarters from Chicago to Atlanta.

PPA in the 21st Century[edit]

In 2001, PPA began taking a more active role in protecting photographers' rights with the creation of the Copyright and Government Affairs Department. PPA is actively lobbying on behalf of photographers on Capitol Hill.

In 2013, PPA announced their newest benefit, PPAedu, a customized online educational platform. PPAedu started with 170 educational videos and now has over 300 HD videos available to stream 24/7. The videos are tailored to each member's needs based on their responses to a "self-assessment" quiz also available on the PPAedu website. "A common request from our members was more education," said Scott Kurkian, PPA's CFO. "So we came up with the idea to bring them a personalized education platform that really targets their specific needs and helps them get grow their studios in particular and their craft in general. The PPAedu instructors are renowned photographers and they're sharing tips and secrets to benefit the industry. That's what PPAedu is for, and that's why PPA exists."

In 2015, PPA acquired PhotoVision, an online educational platform that offers photographers education and solutions through cinematic HD videos from some of the biggest names in the industry. PhotoVision and its library of 800+ educational videos are now offered as a member benefit.

Professional Photographer Magazine

PhotoVision and PPAedu combined offer PPA photographers more than 1,100 videos to browse through and continue to learn from.

Imaging USA 2016

Professional Photographer Magazine[edit]

PPA publishes Professional Photographer magazine, which celebrated its 100th year in 2007. Born in 1907, Professional Photographer is now the largest paid circulation magazine in the professional photographic industry and the official publication for Professional Photographers of America. No other magazine offers a more influential presentation of the people, trends, products, and photographs changing and defining the portrait, wedding and commercial photography landscape.

Imaging USA[edit]

Also shown: A medal of the exposition in Minneapolis in 1888

Imaging USA began in 1880 as the annual convention and trade show for Professional Photographers of America and is the longest running national photographic convention, expo and image exhibition in the United States.

It was at the 1888 convention that George Eastman introduced his Kodak camera and film processing service, winning a first prize medallion and special certificate of honor. The following year, 1889, Eastman Kodak Company demonstrated the new transparent celluloid roll film. In 1908, color photography was under development, causing quite a stir at the convention in Detroit. At the Golden Anniversary in 1930, the first artificial lighting, consisting of mercury tubes and electricity, was demonstrated.

The concept of "photographic salons" was developed at the 1906 convention. The salons consisted of 25 photographs, selected by a jury as representing the best shown that year, paving the way for the present annual International Print Exhibition and its prestigious traveling Loan Collection, which each year is seen by thousands of viewers worldwide.

Over 10,000 attendees at Imaging USA

Imaging USA provides a forum for professionals to network with and to learn from the best photographers in the world. The accompanying trade show offers a look at the latest technologies and products available to the professional photographer. In 2006 Imaging USA became home to two new conferences: SEPCON (the Sport and Event Photographers Conference), the annual conference of the Society of Sport and Event Photographers, and the Commercial Photography Conference, the annual conference of Commercial Photographers International. In 2006, Imaging USA also welcomed Adobe as an official sponsor of the Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom for Photographers track.

Usually falling in January, and with a 600+ booth industry expo, 65 educational sessions, and the International Photographic Competition exhibition, Imaging USA has established itself as the first major photographic event of the year.


  1. ^ Philadelphia Inquirer, May 12, 1870.
  2. ^ "Edward Livingston Wilson. The Photographic Times and American Photographer. July 6, 1888.
  3. ^ H. Snowden Ward (Oct 1893). "Photographers' efforts at Union". Wilson's Photographic Magazine.
  4. ^ Appendix to the Congressional Globe. July 1, 1870; p.744.
  5. ^ Philadelphia Inquirer, May 12, 1870.

External links[edit]