Disadvantages and Advantages of Joining an Photographic OrganizationJune 16, 2016
There are lots of organizations out there which support photographers. You could join the BPPA, for example, if you are a British photojournalist, or the NUJ. US residents could join the Professional Photographers of America (PPA) and the Wedding and Portrait Photographers International (WPPI), to name just a few. Even on a smaller, local scale, you are likely to find societies and unions that you can become a member of.
There are both advantages and disadvantages to signing up for membership in almost all cases, and you will want to think carefully before you join. Not only do you need to decide whether you should be a member of an organization or not, but you also have to weigh up which one is best for you.
Most organizations are themed by the type of photography you do, but some can have a broader scope, such as being location-based. Whatever the case may be, here is a run-through of some of the things that you should consider.
Let’s take a look at the negatives, first.
- Fees: Most organizations will charge a fee for you to join. This may be a one-off membership price, an annual fee, or a fee on a sliding scale depending on how many events you attend or so forth. Either way, you will need to make a financial contribution to call yourself a member. You might be able to get a discount or even free membership if you are a student, but professionals normally need to pay full price. This could take away some of your profits each year.
- Commitment: When you belong to an organization, it’s important that you commit to getting the most out of it. That means going to meetings, reading the newsletter, and taking part in events. If you don’t do these things, there may not be any benefit for you in remaining a member. But if you do do them, that means that you will have a significant drain on your time and resources. Especially if you are juggling full-time photography with family life, that could be a commitment you are just not able to make.
- Association: What if the organization makes a press statement that you do not agree with? If they take a political or moral stance on a certain issue, then that reflects on you in a professional light. You may not want to be associated with their particular ideology. To take an example from a different field, look at PETA, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Many people believe in the prevention of animal cruelty, but a large percentage of those also disagree with PETA’s militant approach, which has at times caused scandals. If you are already a member of a society when they make headlines for the wrong reasons, it may be too late to back out.
- Exclusivity: It may be difficult to get into certain organizations, in an effort to keep the membership standard high. You may need a degree or even a Master’s degree, for example, or have proof of published work. You may need to have a certain number of years in your field, or a recommendation from an existing member. This makes it more difficult to join even if you want to.
Now let’s take a look at the advantages, so we can decide whether they outweigh those negatives or not.
- Networking: One of the great things about getting in touch with other people within your industry is that you may all be able to help each other out. One photographer may not be able to provide a certain service, but will recommend potential clients to you instead. They may be able to help you with skills or equipment that you need. All of this can be very useful, not to mention that it’s very fulfilling to spend time with like-minded individuals.
- Society benefits: Often, organizations will offer specific and relevant benefits to members. These may include society magazines, free legal advice, access to locations, discounts on goods or training, access to seminars, and much more. It all depends on the particular organisation.
- Finances: You may also get access to apply for grants or financial aid for your personal work. Awards and other types of recognition may be awarded to members, and there may be exclusive competitions for you to enter.
- Advocacy: You will be able to strengthen your area of photography through advocacy, through connecting with other photographers, and through upholding a recognised industry standard.
- Recognition: Your clients may see you as being of a certain quality once they know you are a member of a well-known organization.
Whether or not the benefits cancel out the negatives is down to your personal view. There are a lot of organizations to choose from, so researching a particular choice will help you see whether or not they could help you more than they cost you.