ImagingUSA 2017 Part II: Image Competition Merits and Medal Awards

Lori Unruh Photography Education, Studio Events

PPA Award & Degree CeremonyOur previous post, “ImagingUSA 2017 Part I: The Convention”, was posted last month.  In that post, we explained a bit about ImagingUSA, the annual convention hosted by Professional Photographers of America.  In this post, we’ll explain a little more about the image competition Merits and Medals that are awarded at the ImagingUSA Award & Degree Ceremony.

What is a Merit?

PPA recognizes photographers for their continued efforts at growth and learning.  Photographers can earn merits in one of the following three categories:

  • Exhibition Merits are earned for receiving a score of 80 or higher on an image submitted to the International Photographic Competition.  Photographers may submit a maximum of 4 photographic images and/or 4 “artist” (digital composite) images each year for image competition.  The set of 4 images is referred to as a “case”.
  • Service Merits are earned with volunteering and continuing-education activities such as attending conventions.
  • Speaking Merits are earned for speaking at PPA events and conventions.

Merits are hard-earned records of a photographer’s growth and service to the industry.  Generally speaking, it takes years to accumulate merits, as each event earns only one to two merits at a time.

photography lessons wilmington

Photographers earn Speaking Merits for teaching their craft to others at PPA-approved events

How Exhibition Merits are earned in the International Photographic Competition

An Exhibition Merit is awarded for each image that receives an 80 or higher in the International Photographic Competition, or image competition.  A panel of 46 judges scores the images up to 100.  A score of 75-79 reflects “Average Professional Work”, which means the majority of images entered fall into this score range.  Some score even lower.  A score in the 75-79 range is considered a compliment, as the judges are saying “Yes, this is solid professional quality work.” To receive an 80 or higher, the image must be deemed to be “Above Average”; as in above what the average professional photographer can create.  As you can imagine, being awarded a Merit by the country’s top photographers is quite an honor.

PPA image competition Merit Image

PPA Merit Image “Goddess of the Mist” by Lori Unruh Poole

Merited images are also considered for an additional honor: to be accepted into PPA’s traveling exhibit called the Loan Collection.  An image that “goes Loan” will earn 2 merits instead of 1.  If earning a Merit in image competition is exciting, “going Loan” will get a photographer positively giddy.

Medal Awards for Image Competition

In addition to earning individual merits for each image a photographer submits to image competition, s/he is also evaluated for an additional honor based on all four entries in his/her case. A photographer must merit all 4 of his/her submitted images to be considered for a Medal, a feat in and of itself.

If all 4 images merit in image competition, the photographer earns a Bronze Medal Photographer of the Year award.  If 4 merit and 1 of those 4 goes Loan, s/he earns a Silver Medal.  Four merits with 2 Loans is a Gold; 4 with 3 is a Platinum.  If a photographer merits all four images, and all four also go Loan, that photographer earns the very rare Diamond Medal.  These medals are awarded in the form of pins that each photographer wears to conventions to show their progress, growth, and knowledge.

image competition Loan Collection Image

PPA Loan Collection image “Shades of Grey” by Lori Unruh Poole

image competition Silver Medal image competition Gold Medal

In this past year’s image competition, both Jeff and I merited all four images in our cases, and had images go Loan.  Jeff earned a Gold Medal, and he was one of only 102 photographers worldwide to do so.  I earned a Silver Medal as one of only 139.  This is a huge accomplishment for each of us individually and for our studio to receive such high honors!

If you’re a photographer who wants to learn more about image competition, please come join our Facebook group titled “Image Competition with Jeff and Lori“.  Each week we host competition challenges and critiques to help photographers grow and prepare for the annual competitions.

Stay tuned for future posts in which we discuss the PPA Degree system… the ultimate goal of accruing all these merits throughout our careers.