ASSOCIATION NEWS

FEBRUARY 2009 | by Aaron K, Executive Director

Welcome to the first AIPA News column for 2009. I hope everyone had a great summer break, with plenty of time to recharge the batteries.
 
First up, I would like to congratulate Auckland assistant Kristian Frires and Unitec student Rebekah Robinson who won their respective categories in the inaugural Sony/AIPA Assistant and Student Scholarship competition. The overall standard of entries was very high, and it took longer than anticipated for the judges to choose the individual category winners. But in the end it was a combination of exceptional print quality and outstanding conceptual vision that sealed the deal for the two talented scholarship recipients. Both winning portfolios can now be viewed on the AIPA website.

Thanks to all of the assistants and students who entered the 2008 competition. We will be running another Assistant and Student Scholarship competition later this year – so keep shooting. And a word of advice for all potential 2009 entrants: Concept is King! A portfolio that communicates a well considered idea will always make a strong impression. While a random selection of unrelated photos or a series with no underlying intent (other than looking pretty) will fall short by comparison.
 
Moving on… according to practically all media reports 2009 is going to be a very tough year financially as the recession comes into full effect. With this in mind the AIPA is looking at various ways in which we can help our members during these troubled times. First and foremost we intend to increase our promotional efforts on the back of the new AIPA website. The Association will be utilising its resources to reach a wide range of photography clients (both locally and internationally) in an effort to attract new business for our members. In addition, we will be doing all we can to keep everyone upbeat, inspired and motivated with a series of events and presentations throughout the year. So despite the current financial forecast, I believe AIPA members can look forward to another great year, with plenty of new opportunities for development and growth.

Photo above: © Simon Devitt

MARCH 2009 | by Aaron K, Executive Director

With the end of the financial year fast approaching now is the time to start putting together a budget for your photography business in 2009-2010. Although this tends to be one of those tasks I put off until the last minute, afterwards I always find the exercise extremely useful and ultimately very rewarding.

This year, with the threat of hard times ahead, I will be setting aside even more money for promotion and marketing. I'll be the first to admit that in the past I've been rather slack in this regard. Like most photographers I have no qualms about spending money on the latest and greatest camera, lighting, computer, or software - after all, those new bits of kit are essential, right? But when it comes to spending my hard earned dollars on marketing material or advertising I find it easy to come up with numerous excuses for why I shouldn't do it. For some reason I have an aversion to investing in the future growth of my business - which, when you put it like that, sounds completely insane. I have no doubt that this bad habit has been holding my business back.

I've recently been reading "Tell the World You Don't Suck: Modern Marketing for Commercial Photographers" by internationally renowned photo consultant Leslie Burns-Dell'Acqua. In this book Leslie recommends that photographers should spend 10% of their previous year's gross billings on marketing. So that means if you billed $100,000 gross in 2008 you should be spending $10,000 on promoting your business in the coming year. To me 10% seems like a pretty sizeable chunk of cash (especially considering how little I've spent on marketing in the past) but it also makes a lot of sense. If I really want to grow my business I actually need to promote that growth.

I imagine you're wondering why I've chosen to discuss this issue in an AIPA News column. Well, for one, if you're a pro photographer then joining an association like the AIPA (or NZIPP) is a brilliant form of promotion. If you only consider the online exposure through the Association's website to thousands of potential photo buyers each and every month, it's exceptional value for money. Scoring a single commercial job as a result will easily cover your annual membership fees (and then some). All of the other benefits of membership are just gravy really.

The second reason I chose this topic was just to highlight the overwhelming reluctance that NZ professional photographers have about promoting themselves (an attitude that our ‘humble Kiwi' character trait accentuates I suspect). Many of us have a tendency to undersell ourselves - we say "no thanks" to some great opportunities that could seriously improve our financial prospects in the future. Ultimately, this short-sightedness limits out creative potential as well.

So when you sit down to create your budget for the upcoming financial year, don't forget to set aside a decent amount for marketing - and then actually spend it on targeted marketing! If you plan to be in business for the long haul you won't regret it.

Photo above: © Arno Gasteiger

APRIL 2009 | by Aaron K, Executive Director

In last month's NZIPP News column in The Photographer's Mail Chris Parker brought up the very important issue of pricing photographic services. I couldn't agree more with his assessment that far too many photographers are letting their clients dictate their rates of payment - rates they accept without question.

This problem is especially prevalent in the editorial sector where fees have remained stagnant for two decades. If you take inflation into account, then editorial photographers in 2009 are working for less than half what photographers were being paid in the eighties. Anyone who works outside the confines of the publishing industry would find this statement truly shocking. But most editorial photographers I mention this too simply shrug their shoulders and reply "That's just the way it is - what can you do?"

Well, for a start, it would help if editorial photographers simply started asking for more - and not just occasionally, but every single time the rates on offer are too low (which at present would be practically all the time). It is highly unlikely that any photographer will lose a job just because they ask if the budget could be increased. However, I believe that if all photographers made a point of asking for more with every single magazine assignment it would send a clear message to the commissioning parties - i.e. you need to start allocating more money for photography. (And by posing the question there is always a chance that the shoot budget will be increased. Sure this is rare, but certainly not unheard of.)

Now a far more powerful message would be if photographers demanded more. But if recent history has taught us anything, it's that this will never happen - not while photographers continue to live in perpetual fear of losing these low paying assignments to an even more desperate competitor.

I'm not going to deny that there aren't numerous photographers out there who will work for next to nothing (or less) for a photo credit. We all know that the market is flooded will ill-informed and unprepared new entrants. Tertiary institutes continue to churn out far too many photography graduates - far more than the industry can possibly support, and many of them without any knowledge of business basics or even a rudimentary understanding of professional practices. This is a tragedy, but there is no point crying over spilt milk.

Where the current education system is failing our profession we need to step up and fill the breach. We must assume a greater role in educating up & coming photographers - and as Chris pointed out, that starts with better communication (especially between generations). Pricing has always been considered a taboo subject by many. This attitude needs to change, and fast. How can we possibly expect new entrants to price their work appropriately when we ourselves refuse to provide any points of reference on the subject?

With this in mind the Association is currently compiling a database of ‘real world' pricing examples - i.e. information taken from actual invoices issued by AIPA photographers working across a variety of disciplines. Soon all members, including students and assistants, will be able to access this database via our website. I believe this new initiative will prove invaluable as an educational tool - and maybe, just maybe, help us break the cycle of ever decreasing photography rates.

Photo above: © Stephen Langdon

MAY 2009 | by Leon Rose, President

The AIPA has recently been monitoring the effects of microstock on the professional photography industry. Many photographers report losing work to microstock images and seeing an increasing number of microstock watermarked images appearing in client briefs.

A microstock image website is one which sells images on a royalty free basis (one time fee) at very low prices, often starting as low as $1-2. Perhaps the most well known microstock site is istockphoto purchased by Getty Images in 2006 for US$50 million. Many other microstock sites exist and new ones are appearing, including some in New Zealand.

Primarily these sites are owned by non-photographers and are supplied with images by amateur or ‘semi-pro' photographers who, unlike professional photographers, do not rely on the income from the sale of their images. Meanwhile microstock websites provide millions of downloads of thousands of these photographer's images and have become incredibly wealthy (hence the influx of new microstock websites).

The AIPA believes that in a small volume economy such as New Zealand, microstock can have no benefit for an individual photographer and that the overall consequence of microstock in general is to devalue commercial photography. Research out of Germany has shown that the worldwide stock photography market has not grown since 1990 when it was estimated at US$2 billion. This lack of growth has been attributed to the advent of royalty-free photography in the mid-1990s. Evidence suggests it could have grown to US$6 billion by 2005 if there was no royalty-free, and that the destruction of potential future value growth in the industry will continue with microstock.

For clients using microstock, especially in a low volume economy such as New Zealand, there is a very real danger of using an image that is concurrently being used by one of their competitors. Or worse still, the image they select may also be used by a company with ‘conflicting values' (think male impotency ads, phone sex ads, political ads, etc) which would cause public embarrassment and damage their brand identity.

Amateur photographers and semi-professionals looking at ways to gain fame or fortune from supplying microstock websites should consider the following:

1. Clients using stock photography are solely interested in the image and the price - if they were interested in using an image because of your reputation, they'd Google you.
2. Editorial clients generally only publish the name of the site they've downloaded from - not even your Mum will see your name in lights. Pick up a magazine and see how many times istock appears in photo credits with no accompanying photographer name.
3. At a commission rate of around 30% and an average download fee of between $5-$10, you have to sell a huge volume of images to make even a small income.

So the winners are the clients and the microstock companies, while the losers are clearly the photographers who supply microstock sites with images.

The AIPA strongly recommends photographers seeking to make an income from stock photography work with a reputable library that licenses images at values which reflect the quality of the photos.

Photo above: © Hannah Richards
 

JUNE 2009 | by Aaron K, Executive Director

Last month the Association held what must have been its 30th Annual General Meeting. As with many previous AGM's this event will likely prove to be another turning point for the AIPA, as we now have a new leader at the helm.

After two years as AIPA president, and four years as Auckland vice-president, Leon Rose made the decision to step down from executive this year so he can concentrate fully on his family and business. During the 6 years Leon was on the executive team our membership doubled. This amazing growth is due in no small part to Leon's efforts. It was Leon who was the driving force behind the award winning Workspace sourcebook in 2006. In the following year he led the Headspace exhibition committee and somehow managed to inspire his small team to produce the biggest project the Association has ever undertaken. Both of these initiatives were great successes - building the AIPA brand and attracting more members.

With his infectious enthusiasm and easy going manner Leon was a very popular president. His contribution to the AIPA up to this point has been significant (to put it mildly) - but thankfully that contribution is far from over. Leon has assured me that he will continue to play an active role in the Association as we move forward under the mantle of our new leader.

Stepping in to fill Leon's rather large shoes is a man who really needs no introduction - but I'm going to give one anyway. Tony Drayton is one of New Zealand's top advertising and fashion photographers. In fact, many would say that when it comes to commercial fashion imagery Tony sets the bar by which everyone else is measured. With over 20 years experience he is well known and highly regarded throughout the advertising and editorial industries. As the incoming president of the Association I'm confident that Tony will be able to use the same management and leadership skills that have taken him to the top in his field to drive our organisation forward.

Also bowing out at the AGM was Auckland vice president Phil Simpson. For me personally Phil was a great guy to have on board the Executive, working behind the scenes to ensure that we kept moving in the right direction. His international experience, attention to detail, and skill with the written word were major assets for the organisation. Like Leon, Phil has also offered to continue offering assistance when and where he can, which is fantastic.

Replacing Phil is the AIPA's best kept secret - Mike Farrelly. After many years working tirelessly as our secretary/treasurer Mike has now generously agreed to take on the role of Auckland vice-president. With his in-depth knowledge of the Association (its rules, history, structure, and members) Mike is the perfect person to have in the V.P. position.

I look forward to working closely with both Tony and Mike as the Association continues to grow and develop over the coming years.

Photo above: © Murray Savidan
 

JULY 2009 | by Aaron K, Executive Director

I've been writing these AIPA News columns for a few years now, and every month it gets a little bit harder. The reason for this is because I usually feel obliged to try and write about something different each time, but the reality is that I often end up covering the same issues again and again. I get bored writing about these re-occurring topics over and over, so I can't imagine reading about them for the umpteenth time is very inspiring either.

The problem is that the same old issues keep coming back to haunt me. Despite the enormous amount of extremely useful and relevant information about the business of professional photography that is currently available (much of it for free, like this column) a significant proportion of photographers simply choose to ignore it - and bury their heads in the sand instead. Even when presented with an incredibly valuable opportunity, or a vital piece of advice, these photographers will blissfully walk on by. They have no interest in the business of photography - they just want to create 'art'.

Using the AIPA Terms & Conditions to retain copyright is a great example of this (here I go repeating myself again). I have honestly lost count of the number of times I've advised your typical ‘laid-back/don't care about licensing/just want to take pretty pictures' photographer to always use the T&Cs to protect their business. In response I usually receive a blank stare or a really lame excuse (like "I don't want to alienate my clients by using contracts" or "I shoot fashion so copyright isn't important"). Almost without fail I will receive a phone call from these photographers within a few months or a year, asking for my advice about a sticky situation they've encountered that could have easily been avoided if they'd just bothered to use the AIPA Terms.

Some photographers learn from this kind of experience, while others continue to follow their 'ignorance is bliss' business philosophy. As you can probably imagine, dealing with the latter is enormously frustrating. Apparently you can lead certain photographers to logic, but you can't make them think!

Of course, if you're actually reading this column then you're probably not the sort of photographer I'm talking about - which brings us to the crux of the problem. How do we get the right information and advice to the people who really need it (i.e. generally the photographers who are too cool (or too poor) to join a photo association), and then somehow empower them to use it?

I honestly don't have an answer to that question. I'm not even sure if one exists. However I do know that the AIPA will continue to broaden its reach and explore new ways of interacting with non-member photographers. The American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) has been extremely successful in this regard - particularly with their Strictly Business seminars and accompanying blog (www.asmp.org/strictlybusiness/). We look forward to following the fine example they have set - in our own uniquely Kiwi way of course. Until then, watch this space!

Photo above: © Giona Bridler

AUGUST 2009 | by Aaron K, Executive Director

Last month the AIPA held its second Industry Panel Discussion at Studio 3D in Auckland. This time around we decided to have a more focused panel, so with the assistance of The Pond we brought together four top creatives and an art buyer from the local advertising and design community.

For two hours these leading industry insiders answered questions about the current state of the market, upcoming trends and new developments, plus a variety of other important issues facing commercial photographers. Not surprisingly this event was extremely well received by a large audience of both members and non-members. As a result we will be running an Industry Panel Discussion at least once a year.

Looking ahead, the AIPA has two significant events planned for the coming months. The first will be a major seminar / conference in Auckland. Unlike your typical photography seminar the focus of this event will be split equally between art and commerce, with a series of lectures from some well known and highly accomplished local practitioners. There will also a couple of high profile international guest speakers taking part. We're still nailing down the details so I can't give too much away at this point. Needless to say, this will be an event that you definitely won't want to miss.

Work is also well under way organising the 2009 Sony Alpha / AIPA Student & Assistant Scholarship competition. Following on from last year's highly successful (and imitated) event, the 2009 edition promises to be even bigger and better. This time around Sony will be providing Alpha d-SLR cameras for the winners in both categories. There will also be a raft of other great prizes on offer, plus some rewarding work experience opportunities.

I'll have more details for you next month about both the upcoming seminar and the Student & Assistant Scholarship competition.

Photo above: © Charles Howells
 

SEPTEMBER 2009 | by Aaron K, Executive Director

Following on from last month's column I can now provide some more detail regarding two significant AIPA events that will take place before the end of this year.

Firstly, the highly anticipated Sony /AIPA Student and Assistant Scholarship competition is up and running once again. This event aims to reward photographic excellence and help better educate the next generation of professional shooters. The two category winners will each receive an incredible prize package that should help set them up for future success in the industry.

This time around both the top student and the top assistant will receive a fantastic Sony Alpha d-SLR camera - but this is really just the tip of the iceberg! Just like last year there will be a raft of other great photographic products and services up for grabs. And then of course there are the special ‘career enhancing' opportunities included with each prize package. The student winner will receive 5 days of on-the-job work experience with leading AIPA photographers in a speciality of their choosing. The assistant winner on the other hand will receive a personal portfolio consultation with leading photo agent Christina Force, and an entire year of one-on-one mentoring with the Executive Director of the AIPA (that's me). Furthermore, both winners will have their winning portfolios published in NO Magazine - one of New Zealand's leading fashion/art/contemporary culture publications.

If you're a tertiary photo student or an assistant and you'd like to know more please visit the AIPA website for further details (including a complete list of prizes, entry requirements, terms and conditions, etc). The deadline for entries is Friday, November 13 - so start planning your photo submissions now, and then get shooting!

The other big event on the horizon is an entirely new AIPA initiative called Image Nation. This two day photography conference will be held at Unitec in Auckland on Saturday October 11 and Sunday October 12. Like the AIPA Scholarship competition Image Nation will have a dual purpose - i.e. to provide entertainment and inspiration while also delivering practical and up-to-date business advice. Obviously this is a fairly tall order, so we're going to pull in a number of "heavy hitters" to make sure we deliver the goods. So far the speaking roster for this event includes Georges Antoni (from Sydney), Arno Gasteiger, Phil Simpson, Becky Nunes, Ian Batchelor, Rob Lile, Kristian Frires and Tom Roberton. Even more speakers will be announced shortly.

The range of topics covered at Image Nation will be diverse - but the overriding aim is to explore the relationship between art and commerce in professional photography today. So attendees can not only expect to see some astounding photographic presentations, they'll also hear about how each photographer has managed to develop their career to the point where producing such incredible imagery (and being paid well for it) is a daily reality.

If you have any involvement with the photographic industry then this is clearly an event you won't want to miss. To avoid disappointment I would strongly recommend that you secure your seats early.

Photo above: © Nick Servian
 

NOVEMBER 2009 | by Aaron K, Executive Director

For some unknown reason the deadline for this column always seems to come up when I'm frantically busy with either photographic work or AIPA commitments. This time around the Association's Image Nation photography conference is only days away, so you'll have to excuse the brevity of this report.

In November the main event for us will be judging the Sony/AIPA Assistant & Student Photography Competition. This year there is over $14,000 in cash and prizes up for grabs - which includes state-of-the-art Sony Alpha D-SLR cameras (with lenses) for both category winners. The winning entrants will also be featured in NO Magazine in 2010, receive a raft of cool photographic products, and gain invaluable industry experience and support. With such an amazing prize package we're expecting a large number of portfolio submissions from young, aspiring pro photographers up and down the country.

The deadline for entries is Friday, November 13 - so if you're an assistant or student reading this and you want to take part then you'll need to get cracking! CLICK HERE to download an entry form with submission guidelines and conditions of entry.

On the evening of Tuesday, November 17 the AIPA will be holding its final General Meeting for 2009 at Russell Meek's studio in Eden Terrace, Auckland. This time around we've gone for a Fine Art focus and invited two special guest speakers. Paul McNamara (from the McNamara Gallery in Wanganui) will be flying up to talk about his gallery, as well as other areas of interest such as photographic history, ethical issues, image conservation, edition details, factors affecting pricing, etc. Following Paul will be Ann Shelton, a well known and highly regarded art photographer whose work is exhibited on a regular basis in public galleries, artist run spaces and dealer galleries within New Zealand and internationally. I'm really looking to hearing from both Paul and Ann as I've always wanted to gain more of an insight into the rather mysterious and intriguing world that is "Fine Art Photography". No doubt, it will be a fascinating, inspiring, and highly informative evening for all in attendance. I look forward to seeing you there!

Photo above: © Alex Wallace