Wednesday, July 15, 2020


Story by Mike Wing. I've only been a member of the Eastern Ontario Branch of the PPOC for one short year. Despite being new to the organization, I have a lot to share about my experience, which could help anyone considering membership. I'm going to share a little about how I found the PPOC, what made me join and my experience since becoming a member. Finally, I'll share some tips on what has helped me find success in the organization. Hopefully, they will help you overcome some of the growing pains that come with being a newcomer to an established professional group. So let's dive right in!


About this time last year, I worked in the design industry with my workload split between design and photography. I was going through the tough decision to leave design work entirely to pursue photography full-time. In the midst of that, I studied successful photographers to see how they made it to the level they're at now. In an interview I found, Dixie Dixon talked about how she got a lot of great leads early in her career from joining professional organizations. She said it opened doors through exclusive opportunities, and she built valuable relationships that progressed her career. I quickly started researching professional organizations in my area and in Canada that might help me gain those same benefits and help me build my career.


In my research, the most prominent option seemed to be the PPOC, but what put it over the top was the accreditation process. As a graphic designer, I was no stranger to being undercut by self-taught designers who weren't at the same calibre, making it harder for people to see value investing in a trained designer. As a self-taught photographer, I want to prove that my work holds up against traditionally trained professionals at the top of their field and that I'm devoted to maintaining a standard for myself and my work. Being an accredited member helps me show my clients my dedication and helps them feel that they've made the right choice in working with me.


After I became a member and introduced myself to other members within my local branch, I started to uncover what the organization is genuinely all about, and that's a family. Cheesy, I know, but it's true. I was welcomed into the organization with excitement and encouragement right out of the gate! Everyone I spoke to was supportive and quick to extend a helping hand in getting me involved and helping me reach any goals I had for my membership. My only goal was to get my accreditation, and I was immediately introduced to several people who could help me attain my first accreditation in my chosen field. I was mentored through the process and given fantastic feedback on the work I had planned to submit, which ultimately ended in me receiving accreditation from my first application.


No matter what your initial goals are when starting your membership, you will quickly learn that there are so many other opportunities that you didn't expect. Something I never intended to do was compete in the photographic arts. Mainly because I didn't know such a thing existed. I was encouraged to get involved in competition by my fellow members, which landed me with an accepted image, a merit image and best in class at the national level. Again, this entire process was met with encouragement and comradery with the end goal of making my work as strong as possible. Competing with the talent in this organization was a fantastic honour. To have come out of it with the recognition I did was the cherry on top, and I owe it all to my local branch for their encouragement and help to prepare. To any member new or existing, I highly encourage you to consider competing! If you're new and want to test the waters, do it. If you've been on the fence about it for years, do it! The worst-case scenario is you end up with feedback on how to make your work better. The best-case is that you have a new award for putting in the trophy case.


Now that you've heard my life story, we should get to the good stuff. I promised some tips on how you can get the most out of your membership with the PPOC, so here they are. I'll run them down in point form with a follow up to keep my points clear and as helpful as possible.




Something I luckily got over quickly when becoming a member, was looking at other members as colleagues rather than competition. This organization is about building you up and making you a better photographer, and that machine doesn't work unless every component runs in unison. We're all striving to grow, and when one person is trying to tear others down, we all suffer.


The second application where this applies is in critiques of your work. If you're simply looking to be a part of the group and meet new people as an observing member, this won't apply as much. However anyone who has accreditation or has competed will tell you, the ego is quick to get bruised if you don't let it go. As rewarding as these processes can ultimately be, there is also the opportunity to find yourself disappointed with how the judges view your work. As creatives, we pour our heart and soul into what we do and hearing it doesn't make the cut can sting. I may have gotten my first accreditation in one shot, but my second was not as pretty, and I may have done well at nationals, but I had images that did not, and if you can't accept that feedback, you will find yourself frustrated for no reason.


Full disclosure: I was heartbroken and frustrated when I got my first pushback from accreditation. Once I took the time to reevaluate my images with the feedback, I quickly saw how this would better my images and ultimately make me a better photographer. Once you shift that mindset, you will really start to progress!




If you're planning on paying your membership fee and letting the benefits flood in, you will most likely be disappointed. So much of the PPOC benefits happen when you build relationships and dive in headfirst. Get out to your local meetings (or pandemic zoom calls) to meet new people and develop those friendships. I promise you will learn more from a seasoned member than trying to rough it on your own. Getting involved also earns you merits towards your Craftsman Of Photographic Arts (CPA) and Master Of Photographic Arts (MPA) designations... But get involved anyway, trust me.




Some members may scoff at how things run in the organization or may find themselves frustrated with the speed in which they are achieving or not achieving accreditation. Each branch has a local board for you to voice thoughts and ideas on how the organization can better support photographers, and there is no shortage of members who have been in your shoes. So, anything you have going on, I'm sure there are plenty of people who can relate to and help you through anything going on. Just remember to be kind and respectful because we're all here to help each other.




This point is less of a tip and more of a disclaimer. I want to touch on the fact that everything mentioned in this post is my experience, my opinion all from my perspective. You may see different values in the PPOC, such as the benefit plans and insurance packages and whatnot but don't dismiss the community. Also, I came out of the gate with a bang regarding accreditation and competition, which may not be the case for everyone, but if it's not, stick with it and build those relationships! Your work will only get better the more involved you get.


Submited by Mike Wing.

Mike operates Wing Studios out of Kingston, Ont. He is Accredited in Product Illustration. You can find his work at



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