An association is a conglomerate of professionals engaged in the same profession working toward goals that promote the best practices, ethical behavior, and provide services for the general welfare and common benefit of all members.
But what happens when an industry starts losing jobs, as is the case in photojournalism?
Photographers, artists and videographers have experienced a 43 percent decrease in jobs since 2000, dropping from 6,171 to only 3,493 jobs in 2012 — the largest difference faced by newspaper staffers, according to the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE). Reporters and writers were next in line, with jobs dropping by 32 percent. Copy editors, layout editors and online producers lost 27% of all jobs.
However, while there are parts of the industry shrinking photography usage is at an all time high.
This year, according to the market research firm InfoTrends, global consumers will take more than one trillion digital photos.
The growth in the number of photos taken each year is exponential: It has nearly tripled since 2010 and is projected to grow to 1.3 trillion by 2017. The rapid proliferation of smart phones is mostly to blame. Seventy-five percent of all photos are now taken with some kind of phone, up from 40 percent in 2010. Full-fledged digital cameras now represent only 20 percent of the tally, and are expected to drop to just 13 percent by 2017, InfoTrends said.
Photographers produce and preserve images that paint a picture, tell a story, or record an event. To create commercial-quality photographs [photos people will pay you to take], photographers need technical expertise, creativity, and the appropriate professional equipment. Producing a successful picture requires choosing and presenting a subject to achieve a particular effect, and selecting the right cameras and other photographic enhancing tools.
I think each professional photographer either consciously or subconsciously look at an organization as a way that will help them grow professionally and socially. The question about these organizations is can they meet those needs/wants and relationships that are desired by professional photographers.
NPPA, ASMP & SWPJC provided: [they didn’t do all these each of them, but collectively for me they did]
- Health Insurance
- Camera Insurance
- Discounts with vendors
Before the internet these organizations were pretty much it when it came to those services. After the internet and specifically when it became easy for people to create their own websites and share photos/videos then there was a lot of World-Wide competition.
Here are some people that put more on their websites for free photography education than the organizations ever offered:
Others came along and took their production of the content up to higher levels and then charged for their services. The biggest name in photography doing this was Scott Kelby who started PhotoShop World and KelbyOne. More recently Jeremy Cowart tells you to not spend money on a four year college, but spend it with his online See University. By the way that isn’t accredited school.
While I have been much appreciative of all the work ASMP and NPPA has done on copyright protections, none of this helped me with keeping any staff job or for that matter any assignment.
Professional Photographers would be lining up to join the organizations if the advocacy was helping the average photographer.
I am sure the lawyers and leaders of those organizations can point out how protecting copyright is necessary. However, for the last 20+ years more and more clients are now more copyright savy and now asking for all rights or asking you to work-for-hire. We did a great job of empowering those hiring us and little to do in protecting our incomes.
I am also sure that without all this help from the lawyers we would be even worse off. But the Advocacy is seldom realized in a tangible way for a professional photographer to join an organization. You see they need help getting jobs and knowing how to keep them.
Today with social media we are more connected than ever before. We can organize with other photographers in our communities for free.
The one thing an organization/association can offer is some requirements to be a member and due to those standards offer a quality environment for it’s members. This is one of the huge benefits of an association. There is a filter so that those in the group are what you are looking for to meet up with.
It is quite difficult to get discounts without having an organization that can negotiate this with vendors. The vendors want the access to the membership and the members need help keeping their costs down.
The question people must ask is “Why?”. Why do I need an association? Associations need to be asking why they exist?
Once an organization can tell you in a sentence as to their purpose then people can easily decide if that purpose meets their needs that they have to survive.
Associations today haven’t caught up with where their membership lives. They lack focus that services their members needs.
The one thing people are looking for more than anything else is relationships that are truly enriching their lives. First of all they want to be accepted by people as they are. They want those relationships to help them grow. Challenge them to get better and be there when things are difficult for them.
When an organization works hardest at treating people with honor, dignity and respect–They will grow in membership.
Why did so many photography associations shrink? First of all many jobs disappeared in traditional places. Second I believe the members were not all treated with honor, dignity and respect.
People want in a relationship not so much getting something, but rather being allowed to give. Not everyone was welcomed or cherished.
The big secret is that people are looking for relationships. The question is how respectful will we be to nurture this so they and the organizations will grow?