Serving families of children with special needs
through exceptional photography

Photo: Laura Popiel

Accreditation Training

Special Kids Photography of America offers accreditation for completion of workshop training and other course requirements. SKPA-Accredited photographers may be accessed on this website. Workshops are available in-person or on CD. Check current training dates on our Training Dates page. SKPA-accredited photographers must show work that reflects professional skills and achievement.

Accreditation Requirements

Accreditation is awarded to photographers who have demonstrated their ability to fulfill all the requirements designed by SKPA to prepare a photographer to meet most session challenges with children who have disabilities most commonly encountered in today's society.

Part One (Training)

  • Complete the 1-day in-person training course offered by Special Kids Photography of America
  • Complete the training offered on CD. Information may be carefully and studied at the student's own pace by printing the pdf pages offered on the CD

Part Two (Test)

  • Successfully complete the 2-part test following the in-person course or the "test on demand" following study of the CD. One part covers material about working with special children and the second part deals with basic photographic skills (not covered in the training).

Part Three (Submission of Photos)

  • Following successful completion of the test, submit 4 professional images according to submission requirements. Both hard copy prints (8 x 10) and digital images are required. The digital images are electronically submitted to the review panel for evaluation. Images will be evaluated for basic photographic proficiency such as lighting, composition, capture, etc. In other words, "Does the work reflect professional excellence?" Of course the disability of the child may be shown, wheelchair may be in the photo and the child may be with mother, sibling or within an entire family group setting. Check the SKPA standards section to view photographic examples of what is acceptable and what is not.

Part Four (Applicant's Website)

  • The applicant's website is evaluated for quality of overall body of work. Only the best images should be shown on the website. Less of quality is better than posting a variety of work that does not meet or beat professional standards.

Rewards for Achievement

Photographers who achieve SKPA accreditation are better able to serve parents and businesses that seek professional portraits of children who have serious illness or disability. Many businesses have accessed the photographers on the SKPA website for various photographic needs. Therapy centers, special schools, hospitals, clinics, support groups, retail stores and other concerns can all benefit from use of photographs depicting special children. A photographer from Texas had one of her images projected on the famous marquee in NYC Times Square in commemoration of Down Syndrome Month. But more than monetary gain, photographers achieve delight and satisfaction from providing parents with a heart-warming portrait of their child.

Certificate of Completion

  • Photographers who successfully finish all requirements receive a certificate of completion

Use of Logo

  • SKPA-accredited photographers photographers can use the SKPA logo on their website, business cards or other marketing materials

Professional Sales

  • SKPA-accredited photographers have been contacted by local and national entities for professional photographs of special children
  • Check out these examples of photographic assignments that were commissioned by various businesses:

Houston Down Syndrome Assoc. Calendar
Laura Popiel, Houston TX 

Hoping for Help Poster
Kerri Kirshner, Bothell WA

Healh Publication Cover
David Koster, Rehoboth Bch DE

Series of  framed wall art for Special Ed School
Sally Harding, Elisabethtown, K

Down Syndrome Poster
O Leary, Newfoundland

Souls: book, calendar, DVD on Autism
Also billboards, ads and other accounts
Thomas Balsamo, Barrington IL


If you need help learning how to be a pro or to pass the photo review process:

We are all on a road to photographic excellence. A wise photographer once said, "Do your best, correct your mistakes, have a thick skin and move on." Creative people, such as we are, most often put our hearts and souls out in the open like on a tray of appetizers, making it easy for others to devour. We love what we do; we put everything “we know” into an image and feel proud of what we have accomplished. The key to that last statement is “what we know.” We are all at different levels of knowledge and technique. Do not take other people’s criticism as a lack of your talent. Those who love photography constantly ask themselves, “What can I do to improve this photo?” We never stop learning! That said, we need to acquire enough knowledge to actually know what is good and what is not up to par as far as photographic excellence is concerned.

Photography is not the easiest way to make a living; the last thing you need to do is question your own ability. Art is a subjective craft. Remember, judges’ opinions are just that, opinions. However, do not misunderstand; I believe we owe our clients our very best work. Mediocrity has a firm foothold in the photography industry; each one of us needs to create work that aims for industry excellence. That’s why we include evaluation of your website as part of your accreditation process. IMPORTANT: Ask a professional mentor (at or at a photography convention or photo school to evaluate your work. Then work to improve it through actual photographic sessions. Remove all “soft” images or otherwise poorly presented images from your website. Display only your best work.

Take corrective criticism as a way of learning, not defeat. Learning from those who have succeeded in this business helps us grow. If you feel you have a lot to offer this profession—your clients and especially families of special children—keep learning. Keep exploring. Keep your chin up! Keep your eyes focused on your goals! Continue to create images that show compassion for a special child, but make certain they are technically sound. Submit only your best work, according to industry standards.

Here are a few suggestions from professionals. These are ways they achieved success themselves:

  • Go to national and regional photo conventions (ImagingUSA, WPPI). Use a search engine to find them.
  • Take lighting seminars or child photography workshops that include basic photographic skills, etc.
  • Have your photos reviewed by another proven professional.
  • Join PPA, WPPI, CFPA or other professional photographic organization and attend their meetings.
  • Enroll in a professional photo school or classes at a local college.
  • Enroll in free workshops; buy the ones that will benefit you the most.
  • Identify a qualified mentor who knows the profession well and ask for help to improve you skills
  • Subscribe to professional photography magazines such as Rangefinder or Professional Photographer
  • Subscribe to free e-photo magazine called
  • Learn from the plethora of photo information sites on the Internet, i.e.,, etc.
  • Search for specific technical help on the Internet, i.e., natural lighting photography) listed on Youtube
  • Purchase or study books from the library on lighting, composition, photographing children, etc.
  • Purchase a professional camera and LEARN HOW TO USE IT ON MANUAL SETTINGS.

The more you invest in yourself the better you will become. Become known as the photographer who doesn’t settle for second best. Do this, and you will be proud to look back one day and see just how far you have come. 

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