As a professional photographer, I have been a member of the Australian Institute of Professional Photography (AIPP) for nearly ten years. Yet in that time, while I've promoted the virtues of my AIPP membership to my clients, I've never fully appreciated the benefits to those clients until recently. I have often wondered what it is like being the customer of an AIPP member. Does it really make a difference? Sure, the benefits of being a member of Australia's peak body representing professional image makers is clear to me, but does it actually make a difference to the client? Are AIPP members really that much better than non-accredited members? Recently I had the chance to find out.

Last year I became engaged and over the ensuing months before our wedding earlier this year, my now wife and I went through the process countless other engaged couples have gone through before us - selecting a wedding photographer. As a landscape photographer, I don't naturally pay much attention to the work of wedding photographers. But, as an AIPP member and judge I've come to be exposed to the work of some of Australia's best wedding photographers over the years and to get to know many of them. This had given me an appreciation of who to choose, but for my fiancé the path wasn't so clear. We visited multiple wedding fairs, viewed countless websites, read brochures and reviewed more photos of other people’s weddings than I can remember.

One thing was clear through this entire process. Those photographers that were AIPP members were consistently a cut above the rest. I'm not saying that AIPP membership alone distinguished the photographers we gravitated towards (we clearly dismissed some AIPP members) but on reflection we never entertained choosing a photographer who wasn’t an AIPP member. In reality, my fiancé and I didn’t care whether our photographer was an AIPP member or not. What we did care about was having confidence that who we chose could deliver high quality images that captured a true reflection of our day and us, was someone who was professional, we could relate to and easily get on with on the day, and capture photographs despite whatever challenges our wedding would put forward. Without a doubt, the process showed us that in the photographers we shortlisted, their AIPP membership and active participation in the AIPP had pushed them to another level. They not had only high standards and photographic skills, but the experience and professional business conduct we expected of a professional wedding photographer.

It wasn't an easy choice. In the end we chose photographer Kelly Tunney. Kelly is one of Australia's best wedding photographers, multiple winner of wedding photographer of the year for the ACT and a previous Telstra / Marie Claire Young Business Woman of the Year. I’ve long been a fan of Kelly’s photography and we were both awarded the title of Master of Photography together back in 2012. Our choice of Kelly though was really justified on the wedding day. Our wedding was held in the Hunter Valley in the midst of some the worst weather in the Hunter for years and where it seemed to rain the entire day. Yet, Kelly and her second shooter James Thomson pulled off what would have been impossible for many, capturing magical images that reflected not only us, but the occasion with our friends and family despite the inclement weather and challenging surrounds.

Shortly after our wedding, Kelly went on to win the ACT wedding photographer of the year with a photo from our wedding in her portfolio. I see this as testament not only to her abilities and talent, but equally testament to the professional development the AIPP has enabled her and the many other AIPP wedding photographers to be amongst the world’s leading photographers that they are.

My wife and I received our photos recently and can’t stop looking at them. There are so many great captures. As a photographer, I understand the challenges that our two photographers faced on the day and am so glad we chose professionals that were able to handle the difficulties of the day and deliver us amazing quality images as memories of our special day. True it wasn’t cheap, but as they say you get what you pay for.

This experience of being in front of the lens and more importantly as a client has reinforced the value that AIPP accredited professionals bring to their clients. Many others out there might be lower cost, but they’re cutting corners that ultimately either result in a diminished customer experience, unmet expectations or images that simply aren’t as good as they might have been otherwise. With a wedding and often commercial photography you only get one chance. My clear lesson, don’t risk it. Choose an accredited AIPP member - someone you can trust. Someone who is an accredited AIPP professional is trained, skilled and educated. The AIPP is committed to improving the standard of the profession and the status of an AIPP accredited professional is recognition that your photographer is equally committed. So based on my experience, next time your choosing a photographer, take my advice and choose an AIPP accredited professional.

About an AIPP accredited professional. An AIPP Accredited Professional is trained, skilled and educated. An Accredited Professional is a member of the AIPP who meets the AIPP’s high standards for skill, experience and professional business conduct. The AIPP continually monitors its accreditation requirements to ensure that the standard for accredited membership is appropriate for the profession of photography in 2015 and beyond. 

An AIPP Accredited Professional:

  • Is Assessed and Proven. Accredited members are judged by an assessment panel to ensure that each accredited member achieves and maintains an expected level of craftsmanship.
  • Is Professional. Operates a registered business, with a business and experience pre requisite which must be met before applying for accreditation.
  • Is Professional. Has liability insurance, as appropriate to their business.
  • Is Professional. Agrees to follow the AIPP Code of Professional Practice and AIPP Terms and Conditions of Membership.
  • Is Professional. Agrees to abide by the AIPP Accredited Membership Business Requirements.
  • Is Experienced. Every Accredited Member must have a minimum of two years industry experience before applying for Accreditation.
  • Is Experienced. Has the skill, creativity, style and ability to get the job done on time and on budget.
  • Never Stops Learning. Through the AIPP Continuous Professional Development (CPD) program, all Accredited Members must take part in workshops and seminars throughout each year to ensure they continue to develop along with the industry, maintaining up to date skills and business practices each year.