Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Peer Interaction and the Sharing of Information

It has been my experience over the years that photographers tend to be very closed mouthed about business practices, client information, fees, etc. Unless you were a member of one of the professional trade organizations like ASMP, PPofA, EP, or APA and had an active chapter operating in your area, there was little opportunity for frank talk among colleagues regarding business and other issues that affect our careers on a daily basis. 

Here in Hawaii and on the island of Maui in particular, we photographers tend to play our cards very close to the chest. Perhaps it's a fear that, on a small island,  there is a limited amount of work to be divided amongst us and we are afraid to divulge any information to others that might lead to giving anther photographer a lead to an art buyer they didn't already know about. I know also from experience, that we sometimes make deals with clients that are non-supportive of the industry in order to turn a fast buck. 

As a result, many of us whom have chosen photography as a career operate in an information vacuum, unaware of the value of our work on the world-wide marketplace, unaware of standard use fees or even standard business practices. Many of us, myself included, have felt the fear when asked to provide an estimate or bid a job for a client, stuck in a mindset that the lowest bid always wins the assignment. One of the biggest lessons I've learned is that the lowest bidder does not always get the assignment, that there is no one else out there that will place real world value on your work other than yourself, that you can and should license & limit use for the work you produce for clients in accordance with their budgets, there are times when saying "No"is the only appropriate action to take and information/knowledge is power.

Ever since the dawn of the web based information age, the information & communications vacuum for photographers has been somewhat shattered. There are now numerous website forums where photographers can share information, ask questions of more seasoned professionals, learn about marketplace value, learn techniques and even develop relationships among colleagues. Organizations websites for ASMP, PPof A, APA & EP are incrediblt great resources for information on copyright registration, business practices, legalese,  contracts, delivery memos and much more.

Below, I am posting some links to some of my favorite websites. I hope you find them informative & helpful also...

The American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP):  http://www.asmp.org

ASMP is the organization that originally began developing a set of guidelines and business practices for photographers. Even without joining the organization, you can find a wealth of information here. Take a few moments to browse thru their publications, white papers and position statements. ASMP has an active local Hawaii Chapter, centered in Honolulu.

Professional Photographers of America (PPofA or PPA):  http://www.ppa.com

PPA is another educational in information sharing organization for photographers. Most of PPA's membership seems to be photographers working in the more consumer oriented niches of the industry. Wedding & Portrait Photographers make up the bulk of the membership though they do claim a large number of Commercial Photographer members also. There was at one time a local PPA chapter operating on Maui. I have no idea if it is still in existence.

Advertising Photographers of America (APA):  http://www.apanational.com

APA is another educational and advocacy organization. It's membership is comprised mainly of photographers working in the commercial/advertising niche of the industry. There are several active regional chapters (none in Hawaii unfortunately) with their own membership website in addition to the national website linked above.

When talking about membership to national organizations of photographers, I should note that at one time, one of the great benefits of such a membership was access to discounted insurance rates (liability insurance, marine/equipment insurance, errors & omissions insurance, etc.) Not long after Hurricane Iniki hit the islands about 13 years ago, most of the insurance underwriters participating with these organizations pulled out of the State of Hawaii, leaving us to fend for ourselves when seeking coverage.

Other sites I like:

A Photo Editor Blog:  http://aphotoeditor.com

Rob Haggert was the photo editor for Men's Journal and Outside Magazine. I recently found his blog and found it to be one of the most informative out there for photographers seeking editorial assignments. Rob candidly discusses issues ranging from getting your foot in the door, what makes a successful marketing campaign (from a PE's point of view), things he takes into consideration when handing out assignments, etc. Funny, sometimes shocking, always illuminating... check it out.

Photo District News Online:  http://www.pdnonline.com/pdn/index.jsp

PDN Online is just that... an online version of the magazine. There's some useful information here if you don't already subscribe to the print version of the magazine. There are also a couple of interactive forums where users can ask and answer questions relating to business, technology & equipment, etc.

Photo.Net:  http://photo.net

There's everything here... newbies & amateurs, serious hobbyists, experienced professionals and everything in between. There are galleries for members to post their photos,  new equipment reviews, industry news and a pretty good interactive forum, broken down to individual categories of interest for easy browsing.

Commercial Photographers International:  http://www.mycpi.com

A site run by well know Commercial & Editorial Photographers Gary Gladstone & Jack Reznicki. This site requires membership for access. The good news is that membership is free. The site has a Creative Referral Directory for Art Buyers, Assistant Referrals Directory, Equipment Classifieds and lots more. There a very good interactive forum at this site also (membership required) where some real industry heavy weights check in from time to time, offering their help & wisdom.

Digital Truth Photo:  http://www.digitaltruth.com

There's lots of resource information here, an interactive forum too. One of the best resources I've found at this site is the link to the "Massive Developing Chart", the world's largest and most complete film and paper processing guide for those of us that still like to get our hands wet in the darkroom. The MDC lists chemical & film processing guides for nearly every know film and developer known to man.

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