By: Will Nunnally
Spring and Summer are a time for hope (see: Cubs/Sox, Chicago), evaluation (see: cleaning, spring) and renewal (see: Membership, ASMP). Renewal and upgrading a membership is especially important for recent college graduates and newer ASMP members who are weighing the cost-benefit of continuing their membership at a higher fee. Many established professionals find ASMP provides access to incredible tools for expanding their business, growing their client base and unlocking discounts that will help them save money.
Hopefully on the advice of dedicated professors or mentors, members join early in their careers at the Student Associate or Emerging Associate level where for a discounted membership fee they get access to all of ASMP’s benefits that can further their education beyond the classroom.
One of those students is Emerging Associate, Clint Hoatling. Based in southern Wisconsin, he is transitioning to photography full-time after studying at Edgewood College in Madison. His fine art program didn’t focus on the business side of things and he’s supplemented that education using ASMP resources.
“Getting the proper paperwork in place, knowing how to estimate and what my cost of doing business is...that all came through ASMP for me,” he said. “Learning how to calculate it all and make sure when I get paid, I get paid enough, was crucial.”
Associate member Andrew Miller has found a lot of work assisting through the Find an Assistant database. Beyond providing steady income as he works on establishing himself as a photographer, Miller finds assisting ASMP members yet another opportunity to learn from established professionals.
Miller said, “The last photographer I worked with said, ‘I still get nervous before shoots and I’ve been doing this for 15-20 years.’ For me, that advice is really helpful. It’s like yeah, of course. Nerves can kick in since you can’t anticipate things that may happen on a shoot and you just try to not show it and do the best that you can do.”
Associate member Amanda Lancour, who continues her membership after relocating to Lake Geneva from New York City, thinks education can go beyond how she runs her business and has a larger impact on the photography community.
“[ASMP] educates photographers in the industry and maintains industry standards, so the integrity of professional photography isn’t lost,” she said. “I try to run my business in a way that is helpful to other photographers and without ASMP I believe it would be hard to know what those standards are.”
Outside of education, ASMP is a great chance for photographers to connect with their peers. It’s a lonely business, especially when you’re stuck in the office doing outreach to new clients or worse, editing on the couch in between periods of a Blackhawks game. Through event programming, like ASMP Chicago/Midwest’s recent critique with internationally renowned fine art photographer Jane Fulton Alt or at our monthly Industry Nights with fellow pros, members have a chance to show work and talk shop with people who have established themselves in one of America’s largest markets.
Hoatling said, “It’s a business of connections. The more connections you can make, especially with potential clients, the better. Even outside of photographers, there’s a lot of secondary connections you can make through referrals. Through the network of photographers, you have a network of clients.
“I value the discussions and the events that ASMP produces,” Lancour said. “That’s accessible to all of its members and non members and it stimulates conversation about photography, which a lot of people lose sight of once they leave college. It kind of rallies the ‘troops’ and creates a sense of community and continuing the conversation.”
For those who are ready to make the leap, they can become a Professional member after three years of full-time photography work and with two Professional member sponsors (FYI, the Board is a good source of sponsors, if you don’t know a ton of your fellow members). With professional membership comes a listing in Find-A-Photographer, a searchable portfolio database that agencies and other potential clients use to locate talent.
“For me it’s important to become a Professional member because it’s difficult a lot of times to find work on your own,” Miller said. “You can only do so much because you have to spend time creating work as well. Being able to be associated with an organization where your name is in a searchable database, where you’re able to talk about your work or show it so clients can find you...that’s huge.”
Of course, for all members, there are a myriad number of discounts available that will help save you money on the things you need most: new equipment, insurance, workshops, web hosting, marketing and travel. All-in-all, there are 100 ways to save money with your ASMP membership listed on the ASMP website. If you haven’t checked in a while, you may even find a few new ones.
Through its 71 years, ASMP has been a leader in the photography business. Through its 39 chapters across the United States, it’s influence is broad and opportunities, on a personal, community, and national level for members are limited only by each member’s expectations/input.
“As [members] become more involved I think they’ll see the value in [continuing their membership], myself included.” Lancour said. “I mean I’m a little bit removed from it right now here in Lake Geneva, but my goal is to become more involved with the Chicago/Midwest Chapter, as I was in New York. I think as people become more involved they will see the value in it.”