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The Path to Completing a PPA Degree

3 Ways to Acquire Merits

A total of 25 total merits is required to earn a PPA degree, and there are several ways to earn them.


To earn exhibition merits, a photographer submits photographic digital files or digital albums for Merit Image Review. Submissions are reviewed by a panel of trained jurors who evaluate images against a standard of excellence called the 12 Elements of a Merit Image. Exhibition merits recognize photographers for their artistic skills, technical proficiency, and ability to produce images that meet the highest standards of excellence.

To earn a master of photography degree, photographers need to amass 13 merits through Merit Image Review plus an additional 12 exhibition, speaker, or service merits.

Those seeking a master of wedding photography degree should submit images for Merit Image Review that were created in connection with an actual wedding, meaning all the elements of the final submission must have been captured at the wedding, and the submission should reflect both the personality of the subject and the technical and artistic skills of the photographer. For the master of wedding photography degree, photographers must obtain 13 of these merits and an addtional 12 exhibition, speaker, or service merits.

Earning a master artist degree requires photographers to submit handcrafted images to Merit Image Review for evaluation of computer-applied techniques and proficiency. All processing, manipulation, artwork, and rendering must be done by the photographer. A total of 13 artist exhibition merits are required for the master artist degree plus an additional 12 exhibition, speaker, or service merits.


To acquire speaker merits, photographers share knowledge and experience through instruction at events or schools. These merits are essential for earning the photographic craftsman degree, as a combination of 13 speaker merits and 12 additional exhibition or service merits are required to obtain it.


To collect service merits, photographers contribute to the PPA community through volunteer work. For example, service merits are awarded to those who serve as volunteers at Imaging USA.  


If you’re seeking merits toward a PPA degree, Merit Image Review is one place to start. Members can submit up to four images each month, 10 months out of the year. Submissions are evaluated by a panel of five trained jurors. When you opt in for a critique, you’ll receive expert video feedback on how to improve your image. These tips can be applied to future images and improve your overall craft. If an image doesn’t merit, don’t worry—you can make changes and resubmit another month.

Reprinted with permission from July 2023 Professional Photographer, ©Professional Photographers of America 2023


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