Stop Going It Alone: Why I Stopped Being a Photographer Hermit

Stop Going It Alone: Why I Stopped Being a Photographer Hermit

For many photographers, photography can be a solitary pursuit. Many of us run a single person business where the majority of our time is spent by ourselves. Sure there are times when we collaborate with clients, talent, and assistants, but this isn’t the same as socializing with our photography peers. I’ve been fortunate enough to find an excellent solution for my isolation and highly recommend it to all photographers.

First a little background. Years ago when I was just starting my photography business, I, like many others, read every article and watched every video I could find on the internet concerning photography. And while sites like Fstoppers.com were terrific, and still are for learning, they lacked a sense of human interaction that I was looking for. One day a video by Jay P. Morgan changed all of that for me for the better. Morgan mentioned the organization American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) and how he thought it was a terrific photography organization. Of course, I was aware of numerous photography organizations, but they all seemed to be more national and not active on a local level. However, when I looked at ASMP, I immediately noticed they have many local chapters. Plus one of the chapters was located right near me in Connecticut; It’s a small state after all.

While many of the other national photography associations are well known and are fine organizations in their own right, I wasn’t interested in just joining an organization and listing my membership on my website and business cards. I wanted to interact with other photographers from my area of the country. So before I slapped my credit card down to join, I reached out to a board member of the Connecticut chapter, Adam Coppola. Since Coppola lived only about 40 minutes from me, he suggested that we meet for some coffee and I could ask him questions about the Connecticut chapter. After our meeting, I knew that I was joining that day, and I’ve happily renewed every year since.

So why have I happily renewed each year? Well, there are many reasons that include not only the social aspect I was looking for, but also educational, networking, and promotional opportunities. First, let me start with the educational aspect. Our chapter holds regular monthly programs throughout the year, though during the summer the chapter usually takes a break from formal events. Each month a different topic is addressed and many times experts from outside the chapter are invited to lead the discussion. For example, last year the chapter hosted an event that focused on how to market to and work with ad and marketing agencies. Owners and employees of several agencies provided individual presentations and then participated in a question and answer session with the chapter’s members. A recent event held just a few months ago had various chapter members provided presentations on their pricing approaches and as usual a question and answer period followed. These events are well attended by not only the Connecticut chapter members, but even with members from other ASMP chapters in the region participating.

Of course, every photographer wants to get their work in front of potential buyers, and our chapter once again assists each year with a campaign that showcases the vast talent and photography styles of the chapter members. Each year the chapter encourages all members to submit up to five images to be judged and selected for the chapter’s photo annual. The photos are included in the chapter’s photo annual that is printed in booklet format and distributed to over 400 potential buyers. The booklet not only highlights the individual photos contained in the booklet but also provides an overview of the multiple styles and types of photography the chapter members specialize in. The photographs are also featured on the chapter’s website for the year. The chapter then holds a reveal party where the photos that were selected are revealed to the chapter. This provides a fun opportunity for the members to socialize and for everyone to see the work of others.

Each year the chapter sponsors a portfolio review for all members who want to participate. The chapter invites numerous reviewers from numerous fields such as photography editors from magazines, ad agencies, and art buyers to name a few. Since the members of the chapter do not all shoot the same types of photography, the reviewers are selected from many different fields, and the members can request to be review by a particular reviewer that best fits their photography style. 

While the chapter is always looking for ways to provide benefits for the members, it also offers opportunities for both the photography community and the general community. One event that benefits the photography community is the Assistant Bootcamp. This event is aimed mostly at younger people may be in school or just starting out in their career, and want to assist photographers to earn a few extra dollars, and also to gain some experience. The event provides education on what is expected of an assistant, how assistants are compensated and of course demonstrations and hands-on experience with lighting, grip equipment, database management, and all the tools an assistant should be familiar with.

This past year the chapter also helped the general community by teaming up with one of the local outfitters, Denali, to feature an evening with Taylor Stableford, a Canon Explorer of Light photographer. The proceeds from the event were donated to The Cove, a Connecticut center for grieving children.

As I initially mentioned, one aspect of joining the Connecticut chapter of ASMP for me was for a social perspective. I wanted to socialize with other photographers to hear what was happening in the local photography industry. To listen to their stories and share some of my photography related stories. I have to say this has been accomplished many times over and continues to be a driving force for maintaining my membership.

So if you are looking for something more to complement your interest in photography and to gain some real benefits, then perhaps joining a local photography association that is active in the community is the thing to do this year. If you already belong to such an organization, what are some of the benefits you’ve been able to enjoy by belonging to the organization? What type of events or activities does your organization do?

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3 Comments

Kirk Darling's picture

For sure the primary benefit of PPA to me (as a retail portrait photographer) has been the other photographers I've met and become friends with. Importantly, so many of them weren't my peers, but were far above me in photographic acumen and business savvy, yet welcomed me to their studios as mentors.

Douglas Turney's picture

I will second your comment and say that the photographers I met at ASMP were/are above me in talent and business savvy too.

Philip Smith's picture

Good Article!! I've been looking for an organization to join - I'm just over the northeastern CT border into MA - so your article was very timely for me. Would love to pick your brain for more info Re: ASMP vs. PPA & other local groups (PPARI, etc).