IPA Photographers

The International Portrait Artists take pictures that swoon the heart and make the spirit glow! Or tail wag, in the case of this engaged couple.

The International Portrait Artists (IPA) is a curated group of the best portrait photographers in the world. This is the Top Gun of portrait photographers: only the best make it.

*** Quick read to photographers: For the next 90 days, use coupon code KERN15 to save $59 on membership. Code doesn’t guarantee acceptance into IPA. However, it does guarantee a $59 discount if accepted! (woot woot!) ***

I applied recently, and did this just before making the leap (also my jumping into cold lake mantra):

“Big. deep. breath. in. Big. deep. breath. out.”

You see putting art work out into the world takes confidence. Experience helps build that confidence. Yet, guts are what makes my squirrel brain think: J-U-M-P-!”

This Minneapolis portrait photographer (me!) is excited to have been selected! Yippee!

What makes IPA special?

It’s high in octane. Creative octane. I’m not compensated to say that either.

Seriously, IPA has top talent. Talent I’d be honored to sit in front of for a portfolio review, with notebook in hand.

Get this: IPA is the only portrait photography organization with a strict application process which you must submit images for review, have either a sponsorship or references required, and their application must be approved by existing members. Not easy. Once accepted, members agree to operate by a Code of Conduct which to includes four important components: integrity, quality, professionalism, and discretion.

This means no doomstayers, no image stealers, creative slackers, or name-callers. No pushing clients in front of the social media bus, either. Let’s not forget you’ll need business insurance and licenses, too (who doesn’t???). Stuff they teach that in Jedi Knight training 101.

When clients hire me, for example, they can trust knowing I plan to exceed expectations. After all, falling in love with the right photographer should never be a hard sell.

One thing matters most: 100% trust!

A Rising Tide Raises All Ships

Melissa Laggis, an Alaska-based photographer since 1993, is the brains behind IPA which launched earlier this year. I like her. She loves dogs, too!

We spoke on the phone earlier this week to learn more about IPA and she was very open and enthusiastic. After encouragement within the photo community, she created an environment for portrait photographers like ISPWP (Go, Joe!) and Fearless Photographers (Go, Huy!) to showcase their specific genre in portraiture (putting subjects in the best light, making them feel confident) which may differ from a strict photojournalistic, documentary approach (no posing, little camera awareness).

As a member of both of these top photo organizations, they feature talent which garner industry-recognition, offer opportunity for critique and improvement of work (via contests, mentoring), and help with search-engine optimization (free advertising).

Of course, getting work peer-reviewed always is a bit nerve racking. The bonus: The entire industry enjoys a boost of quality!

This concept aligns to my creative politics! You know, stuff that makes impossible dreams happen.

The Portrait Art Mindset

Establishing a portrait photography business takes a certain mindset. While, I focus on weddings, I enjoy portraits, too. Especially with dogs and families. I’ve chronicled details of my journey in my “Going Pro” 7-part blog post series.

My Cliff Notes version resembles this (bonus points if you find the bottle of IPA):


1. Create Niche Work. The first  step in the marriage between passion and philosophy. Creatives do this best (as long as we are ‘happy’). Years of experience burning the midnight oil and dreaming… our work becomes apart of us, one of the reason our unique fingerprint, well, makes us stand out.

2. Attract Qualified Clients. Because others don’t do it quite like us, we get hired (just as long as what you offer isn’t watered down to please the masses). Our platform allows us to get paid what we need and is the uber valuable to the artist for long-term sustainability.

3. Sustain Healthy Business.  No one will see passion and philosophy with a defined process, one of the reasons “walking the walk” defines creative business.

It’s not all about rainbows and puppy dogs.

Sure, dogs help. However, there is a ton of work and time and cost and equipment and stress and frustration and endless joy that is all in the mix of a career I love.

And because a blog post is ALWAYS better with photos (with dogs, too), here are ten images that comprise my ISP portfolio:


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