ImageNation 2012

Depending upon your point of view the Advertising & Illustrative Photographers Association (AIPA) is either complementary or in complete competition to the New Zealand Institute of Professional Photographers (NZIPP). As the name implies AIPA represent commercial photographers who mainly shoot for corporate clients and do not concentrate on such areas as personal portrait or weddings. The reality is that New Zealand is so small a market that very few people truly specialise in a single area and therefore many commercial photographers belong to both organisations.

Each year AIPA host a two day conference in Auckland called ImageNation. Basically they bring together a range of photographers who are the top of their game to share some of their approach.

I saw the 2011 programme too late to really take advantage of it but decided that I would try to get to this year’s event. By luck I was able to schedule a work trip to Auckland that took care of travel costs so I only had to pay the $161 early-bird registration which for a full two day event is extremely reasonable.

So you may ask how is attending this industry conference relevant to someone who is not full time employed as a photographer. The answer is really simple. It provides you with inspiration and ideas that can be easily translated. I say this because while the majority of the speakers shot commercially, the images that they showed also included images that they had shot personally.

The whole gamut of photography was covered including fashion, landscape, architecture, sport, travel and people. The styles covered everything from macro to abstract to documentary. In fact weddings was about the only area not covered.

At least a third of the audience was made up of students from the photography courses in Auckland so many of the speakers angled their talks with tips for them. As most of these are pertinent to the way we shoot I have outlined them.

  • With portraits do not immediately leap to using a wide aperture to blur out the background. Instead see if the background will add to the image and if so place your subject so the background and subject support each other.
  • You really have to push hard to turn what you have visualised in a shot to turn it into reality.
  • It’s often the mistakes where the magic happens so don’t be too hung up about always getting it right.
  • Don’t be snap happy. Aim to shoot the best 20 images. When selecting images to show someone be ruthless and only show you top one. Don’t give the client too many images to choose from.
  • It is important to shoot self-projects for yourself on a regular basis as this ensures the passion stays.
  • Don’t try to be something that you are not. If you are asked to shoot something you have never done before be honest in your ability.
  • Never give away the copyright in an image. Even if you are not charging for it, make sure it is clear that you are giving away a free licence to use the image.

And for those of you who do make some money from photography:

  • The value you bring to the marketplace is the difference between what you and the client knows.
  • Never give a price out over the phone and never reduce a price given without the client giving up something.
  • Be prepared to say “No” because the act of saying “No” will actually build your business.

One thing that may interest some (even if the conference doesn’t) is that each year they run a competition for submitting a photo essay. This is a set of images that portray a story. The grand prize is worth around $5,000 but there are a lots of other smaller prizes. More information on the conference and the competition can be found at their website (

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