It seems like I’m always spending money on something. I’ve got yearly fees for Dropbox, Vimeo, websites, and plenty of other services. Don’t get me wrong, these services are necessary and help me run my business, but there’s still this sting every time I see $200 come out for this and $400 come out for that. There is one yearly fee that I pay and it doesn’t really bother me, and that’s my dues to be in Professional Photographers of America member. It is so worth it. If you’re not a member, you really should at least look into it, so here are 5 reasons photographers should join PPA.
5 Reasons Photographers Should Join PPA
Before we start, I know that some of you have already stopped reading because you simply aren’t in America, so you can’t join an American organization. I completely understand that. Others of you may simply want an organization focused on your type of photography. I understand that as well. If you find yourself in either of those situations or if you are just interested, here’s another Improve Photography article that talks about professional organizations, and besides having plenty of great points, there is a list of organizations at the bottom of the article. Either way, I’d still suggest you continue reading and see what PPA has to offer.
1. PPA’s Protection for Photographers
Most organizations are started to help out and protect a certain group of people. PPA offers an amazing amount of protection for photographers. Over the years, they’ve added more and more protection, so things keep getting better and better.
When I joined 6 years ago, the only real reason I did it was for the gear insurance. At that point, I had purchased a good collection of equipment and I was starting to do lots of sessions, so I wanted to make sure my gear was all protected. If something crazy had happened and I lost $8000 worth of gear, my photography life would have been over. Luckily, I found out about PPA’s equipment coverage, so I could go out there and take photos and not be worried about my gear.
PPA’s equipment coverage is pretty awesome. First, the basic coverage comes free with your annual subscription! That means if you simply join PPA, you will get this for free, plus all the other benefits. That by itself is worth joining. Second, it’s a large amount of coverage. You get $15,000 for equipment or computer hardware. I wouldn’t necessarily use this coverage for every issue because there is a $250 deductible for the first time and then it increases. I would only use it for an expensive item or if everything got destroyed at once.
If you’re like me and you’re consistently bringing over $15,000 of gear with you or if you’re just paranoid, they also offer even more equipment protection in the Photo Care Plus package. There are some really big differences in this package.
First, the deductible is now a flat $250. That means you can have multiple claims throughout the year, and you’re still paying that same fee. Next, the reimbursement is now replacement-cost instead of the depreciated cost of the equipment. Basically, this means they will pay to replace the equipment instead of just paying you what that item is worth now. That’s a really big deal. Let’s say you bought a lens 5 years ago. With Photo Care, you might only get 70% back because the lens is older, but with Photo Care Plus, you’ll get the amount you need to buy a new lens. Besides that, you’re also now covered from theft from an unlocked vehicle, drones are covered, and so are employees! The cost will vary depending on the amount of equipment you want to ensure, but it does seem like a good deal. There is a quick quote calculator on the site, and it said for $10,000 it would be $214 a year or $15,000 would be $321. You can see a full comparison of the two plans here.
The only thing that scares me more than breaking all of my equipment is getting sued. I’m not sure what it’s like all over the world, but it seems that Americans are sue crazy. You have people suing over hot coffee, tripping on your walkway, and about everything you can think of. On many occasions, you might not have done anything wrong, but still, the cost, time, and emotional stress of dealing with it can be overwhelming. PPA also has several Liability options for those of you that fear being sued like I do.
Accidents happen, and I really don’t want my photography business being destroyed by a simple mistake on my part or someone else being clumsy. Several times at weddings, I’ve had guests bump into or trip on a light stand. I’ve been lucky so far, but if someone had fallen or the light stand had hit someone, I’d be in trouble.
PPA’s General Liability has me covered for these type of things. I get up to $1 million coverage and it covers things like bodily harm, damage to property, or even if I get mouthy and say something bad about a person or company I get all of this for $258 a year. Yes, that’s another thing I have to pay for, but if it saves me from having to shut down my business, it’s worth it.
Have you ever been hit by a 20-pound piece of metal flying at 30 MPH? Me either, and I’d really like to avoid doing that to other people. I know not everyone out there is a drone pilot, but it is getting more popular every day. There are plenty of people out there flying without a license and not following the FFA guidelines. Don’t be like those people!
If you do fly, you want to be protected. Following the rules is always the safest way, but still, accidents do happen. I’ve had a drone lose connection before, and it was one of the scariest moments of my life. That thing could have flown off into something or fallen to the ground. I would be responsible for any damage that was done.
The general liability doesn’t cover drones, so this might be a good option to look into as well. You can get $25,000 or $50,000 coverage, and it costs either $100 or $150. The only catch is you also have to have the general liability insurance and be Part 107 Certified (which you should be anyway!).
Data Loss and Malpractice
Have you ever had a drive fail, lose a photo, or just have an upset customer? All of those things can be heartbreaking for you and your customers and can even lead to a lawsuit. If you’re a PPA member though, you have the Indemnification Trust. This is another free (yes free!) benefit for PPA members.
Equipment does mess up and we all do make mistakes, but that doesn’t mean we should pay thousands of dollars for that. The Indemnification Trust will protect you by giving you advice, pay for part of data recovery services, pay for legal counsel, and pay for settlements or rulings.
One Quick Warning
I know, I know, I’ve been going on about insurance forever. Trust me, I know. This stuff is important, though. One mistake could completely ruin your business. One last quick warning before we move on, read and understand your policy. You need to make sure you understand all of the rules and situations that apply to your policy. I’d hate for you to think you’re protected and not be.
Education can make the difference for photographers. Obviously, you believe that or you wouldn’t be on Improve Photography and reading this post. PPA is a great source for education and again, most of it’s free if you’re a member.
One of mine and other photographers’ biggest struggles is the business side. We all love taking photos and have an artsy eye, but that’s not everything. You have to know numbers and marketing and sales techniques or you won’t survive. I’ve often wished I had majored in business, but that didn’t happen, so I’ve been trying to learn as I go.
PPA has done something awesome for photographers that struggle like me with business. They have a 12-month program called the Business Challenge.
Now, this isn’t just a bunch of word documents that you read and try to figure everything out. You are actually part of a group of photographers, and you have a teacher that guides you through the whole process.
During those 12 months, you have weekly and monthly activities that you complete that are preparing you to run a successful business. Most of these activities you post in a forum, so you get to interact with other photographers and learn from them and see their struggles. There are also recorded webinars that you watch as well as live webinars. It really is an amazing program, and it’s all based on the research they’ve done with successful photographers all over the country.
Besides having webinars for the Business Challenge, there are also general webinars for PPA members. Just in July, I saw that they had 4 different webinars with two of them focusing on sports. There’s one in September about organization and marketing that I’m looking forward to as well as another in October about IPS.
The great thing about webinars is that they are video and they are live. This means you can watch it like a video, but you can also interact. I’ve been in webinars before where I typed in a question, and the presenter actually answered right then and there. That’s awesome!
Some people love talking and can easily learn from others. The Loop is the PPA’s forum where people can chat with each other and ask questions and leave opinions.
At any point, there might be 30 different conversations going on. It’s a very active forum. I know I’ve posted questions in there before, and within the hour, I’ve received some really helpful tips.
Not everyone likes to read, so learning through articles or forums isn’t for everyone. Some people, probably a lot of photographers, like to learn through seeing. PPA has a video library called PhotoVision that is available to its members.
Once logged in, you can look at the videos on the front page, or you can search based on criteria such as family, boudoir, marketing, weddings, and studio lighting. I didn’t look through all of them, but it looks like there are at least 100 videos in there. These aren’t just random photographers either. These are some of the big names like Sue Bryce and Anne Geddes.
I’ve subscribed to a few different video websites like KelbyOne and CreativeLive before, and I ended up spending several hundred dollars each year. I just want to point out again that these videos are free!
Now, if you really want to have a great time and learn a lot, you need to go to Imaging USA. It’s PPA’s yearly convention. Out of all the education I mentioned, it is the only one that costs anything. It’s only $209, which is nothing compared to so many other events out there, and during your first year of being a PPA member, you get to go for free!
The event is in January, so that’s usually the slow time for most photographers. I highly appreciate that! It also changes location from year to year. Mainly from what I’ve seen is it is in Atlanta and Nashville.
As far as the event goes, it’s a 3-day convention and there is so much to do. There are tons of class throughout the day, and there’s variety, so you can always find something you want to learn. I’ve been very impressed with the people they’ve brought in. They’ve had big names like Jerry Ghionis, Robert Valenzuela, and Vanessa Adams.
Part of the day, there are no classes, and this is a great time to go down to the trade show. This is where they have vendors set up everywhere. The great thing about this is you get to see a lot of companies and products you might not have heard of while getting a chance to ask questions. They also will have educators at different spots teaching at the trade show. This is another great opportunity to learn and allows for more direct conversations with the educator than with the formal classes.
I know this doesn't really have to do with education, but they also have some amazing parties at night. There’s food and alcohol, dancing and music, and a lot of opportunities to make new friends.
Another great source for education is the monthly magazine. I don’t have any other subscriptions, so it’s always fun to get a real magazine. It’s a high-quality production and has articles that I haven’t found on the site. One of my favorite things is seeing the product reviews each month and the images with the lighting diagrams.
3. Photography Resources
Besides all of the normal education provided by the PPA, they also give you a ton of resources to make things easier and faster.
I hate creating forms and documents. I’m not a graphic designer, so anything I create ends up taking forever and looking cheap. It’s always nice when I can get a template and just go from there. PPA provides 15 different contract templates, so you can find one for about any situations. Please remember to run it by your lawyer first before using them because each state is different.
PPA’s newest mission is fighting for copyright protection. With the internet the way it is, people can easily steal someone’s photo and either use it without paying for it or even worse, take credit for it.
PPA has been fighting for photographers’ rights in Congress, and they’ve also created several resources to help photographers. They have webinars focusing on copyright, documents about copyright, and a tool that will give you advice after a few questions.
See the Difference Campaign
Unfortunately, people are hiring amateur photographers over professionals. Part of the reason is cost, but I think that a lot of the problem is education. These people don’t know the difference between an amateur and a professional, so they don’t see any reason to spend that extra money.
PPA’s See the Difference Campaign is aimed at educating customers so they know there is a difference between pros and amateurs and so they can tell the difference. There are some great resources you can print out or put on your website. There are side by side comparisons so you can see an image from a professional and a similar one from an amateur. You can also use quizzes and tips and FAQs to get that information out there. Once a consumer is educated, they are more likely to understand the difference and go with the professional.
4. Awards and Degrees
Every professional organization that I know of has some form of awards or degrees to recognize success or achievement. This is how you know who the best of the best is and what to expect from people. Think about it. Who would you trust more with your health, someone straight out of high school or someone with a doctorate in medicine? Photography is the same way. When you earn degrees or win awards, it’s a way to tell others you know what you’re doing.
With PPA, you can earn certifications or degrees. With the certifications, they have two options: photographer and drone photographer. To get the photography certification, it costs $200, and you have two years to pass a test and image submission. There are three degree options: Photographic Craftsman, Master Photographer, and Master Artist. Each degree focuses on a different goal, but to earn any of them, you have to accumulate 25 merits.
If you’re the competitive type like myself, you can always try to win some photo competitions. PPA has different competitions at the district, state, and even international level. If you win, that’s awesome and something to tell everyone. If you don’t, that’s ok too because you’ll get some feedback on your photos and be able to improve.
We’ve finally made it to the 5th and final reason why you should join the Professional Photographers of America. I mean, just by the fact that it took me so long to describe the benefits should be enough to convince you, but I’m not done yet. PPA can also save you money on photography related products that you’d buy anyway.
Once you’re a PPA member, there is a whole page dedicated to discounts. These aren’t companies you’ve never heard of either. You can get 20% off Animoto, special deals on Apple products, equipment from B&H, and Triple Scoop Music. Depending on how much you normally spend, just by using these discounts, you could probably pay for your PPA membership.
I know PPA might not be for everyone, but it does have so much to offer. Really, any one of these 5 reasons would be enough to join PPA, but when you put them all together, it is a crazy deal. You get all of the things I mentioned above (with a few additional costs here and there) for $323 a year! If it helps you sell one extra canvas or get one extra shoot, it is completely paid for, and I bet it will do more than that for you!
I’ve been a PPA member for six years now, and I have no intention of stopping. I’d love to hear from other PPA members and their experiences. Feel free to comment below!