Life these days looks like a bowl of alphabet soup –everyone knows their acronyms! In this complex society we are defined in part by our associations. Your business as a photographer can also be shaped largely based on your affiliations – are you PPA (www.ppa.com) or WPPI (www.wppionline.com)? As independent small business owners we are responsible for our own continuing education and often that means travel and expense, so we choose carefully and look for the best value. One of the best pieces of advice I give new photographers is to affiliate with the organizations that have members with similar interests and start learning from them!
Back in the day, you could open your doors in a community with a few solid community contacts like Rotary Club and the Chamber of Commerce. Just get to know your neighbors and voila’ your photography business was on it’s way. Just change your props once a year and invest in some of those lovely wrinkled muslin backdrops and you had your “look.” The lab was in charge of making your images look good and things just didn’t change much from year to year.
The internet and digital photography changed all that, of course. Now you must stay on top of the latest trends and to say there is a lot more competition is putting it mildly. You have this thing called workflow to think about and all these tools that cost lots of money –so you better know how to use them because that’s what people expect from a professional. The point is, we all rely heavily on our forums, trade organizations and fellow photographers to stay on top of it –the days of getting it all from a book at a library are over!
So where do you get your information? What forums do you belong to – do you lurk or contribute? Do you search out new groups? Every organization I join has something to offer. Let’s start with photography forums –there are so many it’s hard to know where to start- and they are all a bit different. I joined ProPhotogs (www.prophotogs.com ) a couple of years ago specifically because they had a pet photography forum. It was absolutely the best $100 I ever spent. Besides, it’s where I met my fellow Unleashed instructors!
A great free forum with lots of serious amateurs and great technical articles is Photo.Net (www.photo.net) For every 15 minutes you spend contributing something in a forum, I’ll bet you get 10 times the amount of time back in shortcuts and information you don’t have to dig up yourself.
Since I also shoot people, I have also visited or joined:
I love Photography www.ilovephotography.com
and the Digital Wedding Forum www.digitalweddingforum.com
Some forums that have professional pet photographers are:
The Nature, Wildlife and Pet Photography Forum (www.nwpphotoforum.com)
Check out the great interview they just did with our own Bev Hollis!
Finally, since the labs have put us in charge of our color correction, image editing and special effects, we have to get smart on Photoshop. Each new version brings a dizzying array of books, tutorials and DVD purchases. To stay even halfway current a photographer needs to spend a few hours a week just memorizing shortcuts! One of the best resources is the National Association of Photoshop Professionals: www.photoshopuser.com
Become a member for $99 and watch training videos, get their magazine, and get juicy discounts on all sorts of things. And please use this link to join, so they’ll know we sent you – plus you get a free DVD
The moral of the story is join an organization of professionals you admire, then contribute and learn. You and your business will profit enormously. Photography as an art form has never been more exciting, accessible or more wide open for your creative ideas.