For many photographers, joining a professional organization can be one of the most beneficial actions they can take in their career. Professional organizations can provide support, a network of like-minded photographers and great educational and training opportunities, among many other benefits. Each of the professional organizations has their own sort of “take” on the medium and the business of the medium and most all of them have (discounted) student memberships available.
Here are a few of the most prominent organizations:
ASMP http://www.asmp.org/ American Society of Media Photographers is primarily for editorial/assignment photographers and has one of the best legal/educational components of all of them.
“Founded in 1944, the American Society of Media Photographers (originally the Society of Magazine Photographers and later the American Society of Magazine Photographers) is the leading trade association for photographers who photograph primarily for publication. ASMP promotes photographers’ rights, educates photographers in better business practices, produces business publications for photographers and helps buyers find professional photographers.”
PPA http://www.ppa.com/ Professional Photographers of America is almost exclusively for studio portrait and wedding photographers.
“Today, Professional Photographers of America (PPA) is the world’s largest nonprofit association for professional photographers, with more than 20,000 members in 54 countries. This association seeks to increase its members’ business savvy as well as broaden their creative scope, advancing careers by providing all the tools for success…as they have since 1880.”
EP http://www.editorialphoto.com/ Editorial Photographers
“Editorial Photographers (EP) is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the health and profitability of editorial photography. Our mission is to educate photographers and photography buyers about business issues affecting our industry, and in the process raise the level of business practices in the profession.”
NPPA http://www.nppa.org/ National Press Photographers Association is for journalistic photographers.
“The National Press Photographers Association is dedicated to the advancement of visual journalism, its creation, practice, training, editing and distribution, in all news media and works to promote its role as a vital public service.”
SAA http://www.stockartistsalliance.org/ Stock Artist’s Alliance is for stock photographers.
“SAA is the only photography trade association focused on the business of stock.” SAA was active in the Universal Photographic Digital Imaging Guidelines (http://www.updig.org/), published the Metadata Manifesto (http://metadatamanifesto.blogspot.com), and most recently launched the PhotoMetadata site (http://www.photometadata.org/).
APA http://www.apanational.com/ Advertising Photographers of America is for advertising photographers.
“APA’s mission is Successful Advertising Photographers. Our goal is to establish, endorse, and promote professional practices, standards, and ethics in the photographic and advertising community. We seek to mentor, motivate, educate, and inspire in the pursuit of excellence. Our aim is to champion and speak as one common voice for advertising photographers and image makers to the advertising industry in the United States and the World.”
SPE http://www.spenational.org/ The Society for Photographic Education is for photo educators, photo students and people interested in photography
“The Society for Photographic Education is a non-profit membership organization that provides a forum for the discussion of photography-related media as a means of creative expression and cultural insight. Through its interdisciplinary programs, services and publications, the society seeks to promote a broader understanding of the medium in all its forms, and to foster the development of its practice, teaching, scholarship and criticism.”
Women in Photography International http://www.womeninphotography.org/ is an organization devoted to… you guessed it, women photographers.
“Founded in 1981, and reorganized in 2000 as an online resource center, Women in Photography International serves the needs of photographers, photo educators, photography students, gallery owners and photographic organizations around the world.”
WPPI http://www.wppionline.com/ Wedding and Portrait Photographers International primarily serves wedding photographers.
“The organization was formed in response to industry-wide demand for an organization devoted solely to the special interests and needs of wedding photographers.”
So… to make any of this make sense, you really need to research what *sorts* of photography (and photographers) each organization tends to support/promote and then relate this to the work that you do, or the work you want to do. There really isn’t a way for anyone to say that any one of them is any “better” than any of the others, mainly because the organization’s value is directly tied to how the photographers it attracts relate to what you do. Spend some time on each org’s website looking at what they “do.” Each will have some sort of a mission statement and each will have some sort of a gallery of member images and each will have some sample “stuff” that they use as the benefit of membership.
Most all of them offer up some group insurance of some sort and most all of them offer up some basic business training (our pro practices course is modeled on a curriculum put forward by the ASMP). Many of them have national organizations and branch regional organizations. The larger ones will have national conferences and, if they have regional organizations, they’ll have regional conferences, too. For example, ASMP has a Chicago chapter that meets regularly and has seminars, guest speakers, etc. SPE has a national conference in the spring and regional conferences in the fall – one for each of the 8 regions in the organization. This blog had a post about the Midwest Regional SPE conference a few weeks back.