Have you heard of ASMP before? If not, you could be missing out on a valuable resource that can have a huge impact on your career as a photographer. But, with all the fantastic resources on the Internet these days, are professional organizations worth it anymore? Yes, and here's why.
When I was in college (a long time ago), one of my professors told us that if we were serious about earning a living as a photographer that we needed to join ASMP (American Society of Media Professionals). It was how we would find an internship or our first job as an assistant. It would be through those experiences that we would really learn how to survive in this industry. At first glance, you might think you don't need to be a member of something like ASMP with all of the educational resources available online, but there is lot going on that you could be missing out on. Read on to find out more.
Why You Should Join a Professional Photographer’s Organization
In short, the benefits far outweigh the cost of the membership. Things like educational series, portfolio critiques; online listings; discounts on travel, insurance, and gear; comradery; professional validity; and learning from other pros in your market are just some of the benefits.
Learn From Peers in Your Market
Regardless if you’re new to photography or have been in the game for decades, joining the local chapter of a professional photographer’s organization in your market can have an incredible impact on your work and business. Sure, there are plenty of online resources out there, but a lot of the content you will see online, while very useful, doesn't always translate to your local or regional market, especially when it comes to things like pricing.
Understanding what the market will bear is an incredible asset to making sure you’re being paid appropriately. Not sure how to bid on a prospective job? Just starting out and have no idea how to price your work? Being a member of ASMP, PPA, or any number of groups can point you in the right direction. The organization itself can’t give out specifics about what you should be charging (that would be price fixing and against the law in most places), but participating in your local chapter will allow you to build relationships with other experienced photographers in your area who may be willing to give you advice. That advice may mean the difference between landing a job or losing it.
Meetups, Educational Series, and Networking
For me, this is the best part of being in my local ASMP chapter. Every month, our local chapter hosts events for members and non-members alike. Our Pints and Pixels is an open event where people are encouraged to bring in recent work to share with the group after an hour or so of socializing and enjoying the cocktail of your choice. We’ve brought in photographers like Clay Cook and Nick Fancher for a State of the Industry panel discussion. A couple months ago, we had an SEO expert from Detroit walk us through some of the most useful information I’ve ever gotten on the subject. It’s also at these events where you can find your next freelance assistant, digital tech, or even intern. You can’t beat that kind of ROI, which in reality isn’t even all that expensive. ASMP’s annual membership is only about $350.
Representation on Capitol Hill
Whether you’re a member or not, there are people out there right now lobbying Congress on your behalf. Our copyright law in the U.S. is in need of reform, and groups like ASMP and PPA have been working diligently to make sure that any proposed legislation benefits the small guys too, not just the large corporations that can easily afford legal teams to defend their intellectual property. The more members our trade organizations have, the more our voice as a community is heard. It’s kind of a big deal.
With this one, your mileage may vary, but it’s worth noting that when you join (at least PPA and ASMP), you’ll be included in an online directory where you can provide information about your services and show examples of your work. Personally, I’ve only ever gained a few leads off of my listing on ASMP; I don’t think many creative directors are searching for a photographer through sites like this. At the same time, someone completely unfamiliar on how to search for a photographer for a specific job may find this resource incredibly useful. So, you never know. At the very least, it provides an inbound link to your website, which could help with your SEO ranking.
As with all things in life, you’ll get out of it what you put in. So, if you do join a trade organization, and I recommend that you do, be an active member. Try to get to as many meetings as you can, learn from your peers, share your advice with less experienced shooters. Help build a stronger photographic community in your market. After all, a rising tide lifts all boats.