Why professional organizations are imperative to your growth {For photographers}

I have had many photographers comment on my growth in the last year. Many, many have asked HOW I managed to turn my baby business into an established studio that has a wait list and a reputation and a “name” for itself in only it’s third year, while still charging a price that is fair to myself, my family and my peers (ie, not “giving it away”).

I always, always, always answer that my good friend invited me to the VPPA and I have not looked back once. VPPA stands for Virginia Professional Photographer’s Association, and it is full of VERY experienced photographers, most holding both their CPP (certification) and varying photography degrees. And here is the kicker: they are begging to share their knowledge with you!

Twice a year the VPPA gathers it’s members for FREE…that is right FREE (with your dues paid, of course) education that is days long. From sun up to late at night. On top of the structured classes, there are print judges galore that will happily walk around with you and tell you what is holding your work back. There are rooms full of your peers at midnight that will answer any and all questions for you, over a glass or three of wine (but be warned… this makes 7:00 am classes near impossible to attend…lol..). Because they know that the undeniable truth is: strong photographers make a strong industry, which means we all win!

The thing that boggles my mind… and this will probably be unpopular… is that people look at me like I have two heads. I suppose that everyone wants an easy fix or a quick fix or just to think that I am lucky. Sorry, guys… there are no easy/quick fixes in life and my luck tends to run on the other side. But I am fortunate and I am ridiculously hard working. And when you combine that with the right tools, well… awesome things happen!

The fact of the matter is: there is a right way. Yes, we all develop our own style. Yes, we all have our own aesthetic. But there are rules to photography and if you don’t actually know them, then you are not breaking the rules to fit your style, you are practicing a craft that you don’t really know the rules to…and that is something very different. I am a 100% gal and I would rather fill my heart with knowledge and my wall with every degree I can obtain if I am going to run a business. Because to me, when you hang your shingle and say “Here I am, I am a business!!” you are also saying “I am the expert. I know what I am doing. Your investment is safe with me!”

Joining the VPPA set me on that path and it has literally changed my life. Because owning a successful business feeds my soul. Working every day at a craft that I love, makes my heart so full. And earning an income for my family makes life so much more comfortable for us all. It eases any tension in my marriage that stems from money worries. And when people ask what I do, I proudly say that I am a professional photographer. That feels awesome.

I believe that everyone owes it to themselves and their families to do the same. I hear a LOT from photographers that soandso down the road is undercutting them. {I even have felt this way.} The fact is, there are THOUSANDS of new photographers. Many are not legal. Many do not pay taxes. Many have entry level cameras instead of professional gear. But you cannnnnot worry about that group, you can only establish yourself as the “real deal” by learning everything that you can. To grow. To educate yourself. To add credentials to your name. To charge what you are worth, not what you think you have to charge because the girl down the street gives away the farm. Because I *do* lose clients to a local woman in town who charges 10x (literally) what I do. Do they choose me because I am less expensive? No. They choose her because she is MASTERFUL at her craft. Everyone appreciates quality. BE quality!

My clients understand that I am not the cheapest gig in town. But I know what I am doing. I am worth every penny. By surrounding myself with professionals, I know this to be true. You owe it to yourself to feel the same way! I cannot recommend enough that you join your own organization (here in VA it is vppa.org but every state has their own PPA) and educate yourself! And if you do join, I will see you at the summer seminar!

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