I’m proud to announce that I’ve been elected to serve on the board this year for ASMP Alaska. My main job will be editor and communications director, which largely means driving the social bus and handling newsletter, press and mailing list duties, although I’m sure that they’ll find other things for me to do.
Although I haven’t always been an ASMP member during my long photo career, I’ve always been an advocate of what they do for our industry.
Since we photographers are prevented under US law from forming any kind of cartel, we can’t price fix and establish “set” rates for our entire “group.” Essentially, we’re all on our own when it comes to making business decisions, figuring out what to charge and dealing with things like contracts, agencies, model releases and other important issues.
Being the creative types that we are, the truth is that we don’t always make the best business people. That’s why it’s so important that we rely on the experience of others in our field. And while a photography organization like ASMP can’t legally tell another what to charge, they can create a forum by which photographers freely share advice and insight with each other as to what they’ve done in the past, or what they “might” do in a similar situation.
This kind of thing is the lifeblood of our industry and it’s how ASMP operates. When you’re just starting out, you ask questions, and then later, when you’ve got some experience under your belt, you become one who can actually share advice and insight to the newer emerging photographers.
ASMP essentially provides the roundtable for this kind of open and ongoing discussion about the issues that we face. In addition to the national organization, there are individual chapters around the country. If you’re a working photographer, or if you aspire to be a pro, then I would encourage you to check and see if your region has a local chapter and see what they have to offer.
Local chapters are a great place to meet and share info with other shooters in your area that probably have experience dealing with the same types of clients that you have, or area hoping to work with. They also sponsor events and bring in nationally recognized speakers, not only help you become more knowledgeable about the industry, but to help you become better photographers as well.
I would encourage any working or aspiring photographer to join and become an ASMP member, which gives you some great benefits. (There are 6 levels of membership.) However, even if you don’t join right now, I would highly recommend that you at least pick up a copy of the ASMP Professional Business Practices in Photography book. Consider it required reading for any photographer who wants to make money with his or her camera.
As I mentioned above, I haven’t always been ASMP during my career, but through the years, I’ve owned multiple editions of this book. The seventh edition, which was published in 2008 and is completely up to date, contains a wide range of relevant and essential information and insights about how to conduct yourself as a professional photographer and an ambassador of our industry.
With 12 chapters, the book provides a full overview of what it takes to succeed as a professional photographer in this day and age. It starts off with Understanding Licensing and Copyright, and then moves on to topics such as Assignment Photography, Stock photography, Model Releasesand Paperwork. There are even sections on Marketing, Negotiating and Digital Business Essentials.
ASMP Professional Business Practices in Photography is filled with interviews, case studies, and example forms. It not only tells you what you need to do, it explains why you need to do it in the context of how the photography industry really works, giving you the tools necessary to turn your passion into a successful career.
The hard truth is that each and every photographer has made at least one bad business decision at some point, and probably more than one. If they were made in every situation, these decisions, would be career damaging, and could potentially do damage to the industry as a whole. The only way to avoid those mistakes is to arm ourselves with information so we can make good business decisions.
We’re often told that the photography industry is being lost to lowball pricing and over-saturation of imagery, about how our business model is unsustainable for the future. However, with increasing demand for visual content, there’s no reason to believe that we can’t continue to build a healthy, sustainable industry for ourselves. We just need to make sure that we’re all educated and on the same page when it comes to how we conduct ourselves professionally.
ASMP Professional Business Practices in Photography lists for only $35, although you can get it for less online (there’s even a Kindle version), and the information contained inside is absolutely essential. Even if you don’t want to join ASMP right now, at least go pick up a copy of this book so you can go from being the person asking the questions to the person answering them.
Finally, if you’re an Alaska photographer, I look forward to serving on the board this year, doing what I can to help you advance your professional aspirations, and of course, learning from your experiences as well. You can follow ASMP Alaska on Twitter and Facebook.