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According to a recent (unscientific) Facebook poll, it’s clear: Almost no one cares about your photography certification, but you and other photographers. It’s practically meaningless in your client’s decision-making process. It’s your portfolio that matters to clients.

Tim Harvey, a consumer from Atlanta, said, “When I’m looking for a photographer, I’m looking for an artist… The only way I can determine if I would hire them is through their past work… I can’t imagine anyone being impressed by a piece of paper verses a picture. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words.”

Nearly 100% of poll respondents said that a “portfolio of past work that shows quality and consistency” was more important than a certification in choosing a photographer. In comments, respondents mentioned that references and reputation trumped certification as well.

“I like personal recommendations, but [the portfolio] is more valuable than [the certification] to me. Both [the portfolio] and [the certification] will tell you something about basic competence, but [the portfolio] also tells you if they share your sensibilities,” says consumer, Greg Johnson.

Mimi Gunn said, “No matter how many certificates a photographer has hanging in their studio, I will always put their work they have hanging on the walls first. The images and art they produce are much better indications of their raw talent than any certification could ever be.”

Further, respondents say that a “professional” icon or seal on a photographer’s web site does not influence their decision-making process – even when portfolios are equal. “It might catch my eye and make me view that photographer’s work before others, if I had several to view, but ultimately the actual work is what would get my vote,” said Karen Butcher.

“[Photographers] can have awards and certificates… and still suck. 99% of what I would look at is previous work,” said consumer, Kegan Barker.

Over the last 10 years, there has been a push among photography organizations and photographers for more certification in the field. Some have even called for a required certification process to use the label “professional photographer.”

The certification process takes time, effort, and hundreds of dollars initially. To stay certified, a photographer must pay an additional fee (or attend the national convention three times) and acquire a particular number of continuing education points by attending conventions, workshops, and seminars or retake the certification examination every three years.

If potential clients don’t care about photography certification, then why bother?