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Exposure and light go hand-in-hand so you will need to have a firm understanding of how you are using light in order to estimate your possible scores in this category.

If your exposure is consistently good using simple lighting situations (like soft frontal light or flat light), but you have blown highlights or other exposure issues in challenging light, you will receive a score of 4 out of a possible 6 points. 

To receive a score of 5, your exposure must be excellent on virtually every image including those made in challenging light (backlight, side light, etc.).

A score of 6 comes when exposure is excellent in all lighting conditions. In addition, aperture, shutter speed, and/or ISO are used for artistic effect. In other words, your exposure becomes part of the narrative and contributes to the story of the image. 


The very best image makers learn to use light in a way that is masterful and compelling, often making the light a seamless part of the overall story. Light, while judged on its own for the purposes of the evaluation does, in fact, influence the other categories.

Reflected light, for example, can impact accurate color balance while different lighting conditions affect the exposure triangle. Do your subjects have catchlights in their eyes? Do you showcase a variety of lighting and only occasionally use flat light? If so, you will receive a score of 4 in this category.

To achieve a 5 requires a combination of both technical and creative skills. Your images have contrast and depth and your subjects are consistently well lit (technical). Light should also contribute to story or mood often (creative).

An exceptional score (6) goes to the photographer who uses light in a remarkably beautiful way. There is depth and dimension in every image and light is used effectively to contribute to the mood or narrative of each photograph. In other words, light becomes as much as part of the story as the subjects.

Use of Light

As you examine your set with color and white balance in mind, be sure to consider how other elements may be affecting your score. Often color and white balance are impacted, both negatively and positively, by processing decisions. If you are noticing issues, take a look at those processing choices
to see if that is where the problem lies then re-edit to ensure your color and white balance is accurate.

A consistent and global white balance and/or skin tone issue (such as images that are slightly warm or cool) coupled with occasional issues like reflected color or shadow undertones will result in a score of 4 of 6 points in this category.

To achieve a score of 5, skin tones should be accurate most of the time, but if there are inconsistencies they shouldn’t detract from the integrity of the image. Color and white balance is accurate the majority of the time and any mixed light or reflected color is managed well.

**You are not required to have any colored images within your set. In the absence of color images, your Use of Light score will be doubled.

Color + White Balance

While some categories require that you pay attention to your camera settings, this category requires that you pay attention to everything in the frame. Every detail in a well composed image is intentional, from where you place the light source to where you place your subject, to what else is in the frame. Nothing is accidentally cut out, or included. How you pose your subjects is also important. Not only must the pose be flattering, your subject should look comfortable and relaxed.

The highest score in this category is awarded when the maker demonstrates the powerful use of design elements and compositional devices, as well as outstanding balance within the frame. The composition clearly enhances the mood or story and when compositional rules are broken, they are done so deliberately and effectively. Posing is deliberate and designed to both flatter the subject as well as advance the story.

This category often proves challenging for many photographers. Taking the time to learn more about what advanced composition is and how to effectively pose your subjects will not only help you view your image set more accurately, it will also help you create significantly more compelling imagery


Whether your image is almost perfect in-camera or you are using processing to help remedy an error or two, how you choose to finish your image is a very important final step in the image making process. And while sometimes presets can truly be one-click-wonders, it is rare to have a preset work for every image in every lighting scenario without any need for adjustments.

One of the defining markers of a Click Pro is the ability to use editing software, including presets, as a way to strengthen an image-- the artist defines the outcome of the image, not a preset, action, or trick.

When your set is filled with flawless, remarkably beautiful processing that contributes to your overall style and vision, you will receive an exceptional score. In these sets, the processing is so well done it is almost not noticeable to the viewer, it fades away and supports the overall story and mood.

Processing + Cohesion

Obviously, focus and depth of field are important elements in every image. Focus directs the viewer’s eye and helps share the photographer’s vision. Depth of field (your aperture) is an equally important skill to master as it also contributes to the story and mood and controls the depth or intimacy of an image.

You will receive a score of 4 out of 6 points if focus is frequently accurate in your set of images. In addition, depth of field may occasionally be insufficient to keep details in focus, or it may not effectively isolate your subject. In other words, your depth of field selection is occasionally discordant with the story you are telling. 

Perhaps your focus is consistently accurate and there is some use of creative (de)focus in your images. If so, you have met the criteria for a score of 5.

Does each image demonstrate perfect focus, sharpness and clarity? Is there an appropriate and varying depth of field from image to image? Are focus and depth of field used as an element of storytelling? If you answered yes to each of these, your image set is in the exceptional category.

Technical Basics

A technically well executed image is nice to look at, but an image that is technically and creatively excellent is something infinitely more incredible. When the photographer’s vision shines through, it elevates an image from ordinary to extraordinary. This category evaluates the intangibles that go into making a portfolio stand out.

Have a friend help you evaluate your images in this category. You know what story you want to tell but your viewer does not. Having someone else let you know what they think you are saying will help you learn if you are effectively communicating your vision.

The highest score is reserved for those whose style is distinctly identifiable as belonging to that photographer. The work cannot be mistaken for that of another image maker. Images elicit an emotional response, inspire and captivate the viewer.

Creativity + Intention

Yes! We have some exciting things happening soon and will be introducing a new tier to our membership. To make space for what will become our first membership offering, Click Pro, we "leveled up" our current application-based membership and members to CLICK PRO ELITE members! 

Wait, did your name change? What is the Elite in Click Pro Elite?

Our Standards were create at the inception of Click Pro Elite in 2010, evolving into what we have today. Applicants are required to submit a 150 image portfolio of work that is critiqued in seven categories. The applicant's portfolio is reviewed by three panelists, including the Click Pro Director, Courtney Larson. An overall average of 32+ points (out of a possible 42) is required for admission.

What is the basis for the portfolio evaluation?

Applicants are required to show us 150 images with little restrictions on the HOW. You may submit your website or use another program such as Flickr, Pixiset, Shootproof, etc. 

How should I organize my portfolio?

Not at all! Anyone is invited to join, though our current mission is the advancement of women and non-binary artists within the photography industry and we are actively pursuing change through creativity, community, and conversations. 

Is Click Pro only for women?

Our CLICK PRO ELITE program is a non-refundable application fee of $85 with a yearly membership fee of $150 with a whole new slew of amazing benefits and opportunities. 

What is the yearly membership fee?

Your portfolio should represent the best of what you do as a photographer. As such, we don’t have any requirements surrounding the genres you work in or the techniques you demonstrate. Some of our pros shoot senior portrait sessions, while others focus on personal documentary work, and still others are fine art or landscape specialists. Similarly, some shoot only film, while others shoot exclusively in black & white. Show us who YOU are as an artist, whatever that means to you.

What kind of images should I include?

We do not have any restrictions on how long you must wait before applying again. We encourage you to look at the feedback you received and submit again when you feel confident in your work.

I applied and was denied. How long do I have to wait before applying again?

No, you do not! Email the Director to get instructions on how to rejoin.

I used to be a Click Pro Elite but let my membership expire. Do I have to apply again?

We require all business owners to have a business license or equivalent based on their state/country requirements if they are collecting funds.
Our association believes this isn't having high standards, but the most basic and foundational step every working photographer should take. 

I do not have a business license. Can I join?

Our association for advanced photographers does NOT require members to have a business and is open to both the hobbyist and business owner.
Not an advanced photographer? We recommend joining our sister company, Click Community and gain the knowledge and skills to get there!

I don't own a business. Can I join?

Click Pro Elite is our advanced membership, only accessible through a rigorous portfolio review.
Applicants are required to submit a 150 image portfolio of work that is critiqued in seven categories. The applicant's portfolio is reviewed by 1-3 panelists, including the Click Pro Director. An overall average of 32+ points (out of a possible 42) is required for admission.

What is Click Pro Elite?

You can use the login link at the top of any page or the link HERE

Your username is the email address you used upon registering. If you forgot your password, there is an option to reset it on the login page. 

How do I login to my account?

Learn about the Click Pro Elite Standards in our helpful PDF guide.

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Learn about the Click Pro Standards in our helpful PDF guide.


Get our Standards Guide