MY EXPERIENCE AS A PPOC MEMBER
“YOU SHOULD JOIN PPOC, IT WOULD BE REALLY GOOD FOR YOUR CAREER.”
THAT’S HOW IT ALL STARTED: WHEN MY FRIEND AND FELLOW PHOTOGRAPHER CLAUDE BRAZEAU FIRST SUGGESTED TO ME THAT I SHOULD JOIN THE ASSOCIATION IN ORDER TO GROW MY BUSINESS. BACK THEN, I THOUGHT PPOC WAS ONLY A PORTRAIT AND WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHERS’ ASSOCIATION. IT WAS THE ONLY THING I COULD SEE AND I MUST ADMIT THAT THE YOUNG PHOTOJOURNALIST AND EVENT PHOTOGRAPHER THAT I WAS THEN COULD NOT SEE HOW I COULD FIT IN WITH THE STYLE OF IMAGES PRODUCED IN THIS ASSOCIATION. NEVERTHELESS, I TRUSTED MY FRIEND AND JOINED.
I’ve learned quickly how PPOC would affect my business and how much I would grow as a photographer with the help of the Association. My first revelation was when I realized that PPOC was made for its membership, and not the opposite. The style, the decision, how it is managed: it’s all done by and for the members. It’s in constant evolution. I soon realized that what I thought was the “style” of PPOC was simply the image of what the current membership was aiming for. It could not be “like me” since I was not a part of it yet. The more like-minded people would join, the more we could shape the Association with our own voices and do our part to make the Association grow. I remember the first time I entered the National Competition and was surprised to see that we were authorized to retouch images in the press class. Being from the photojournalistic world, I could not understand how this could be the case so I talked to the NEC about it. I was not the only one with that concern and that class was modified a few years later to reflect what press photography essence was. How could the NEC (or anyone else) know that if nobody with that perception was there to ask about it and voice their concerns? This is the part that is always the hardest to explain to non-members. They never seem to understand how a selfemployed professional would want to share “secrets” with other photographers. The truth is that we’re all different and we’ll always end up reaching our own clients according to who we are and what we have to offer. There’s nothing to lose and so much to gain in learning from other’s experiences. I can’t count how many times I’ve avoided silly mistakes by asking a fellow member about how to approach a specific job or to have an external opinion on how to more efficiently retouch an image in Photoshop. After a while, I was also the one helping others by offering advice based on my own experience. That camaraderie starts with sharing knowledge in order to make everyone around us better, but it also reflects in who we decide to refer for specific jobs that we’re not able to accomplish. Since I believe in our Accreditation process, referring someone outside of PPOC has become very difficult. I always try to find a photographer inside the Association before anyone else. If a client of mine needs headshots of some employees in Vancouver, I know who to send it to in all confidence. The same goes with specialties I won’t do, like newborn photography. The Association made it very easy for me to find capable photographers who excel in their field and be able to refer those photographers with confidence. I’ve made some really good friends along the way. Mainly because I’ve always preferred taking advantage of the strength of many instead of staying alone in my own bubble. I even share a studio space with other PPOC members for the past three years! We know what are the strengths of each of us and we won’t hesitate to refer one another. I also have complete trust in those colleagues and I would not hesitate to have them work with one of my clients knowing that it will benefit me in the long run. My friend Claude has worked “for me” on several occasions, especially when I was on tour with a band last year and I couldn’t provide my services for my other regular clients. That help was really precious for me since I was gone for several weeks at a time. If I did not have that assistance, I could have lost several clients over this over the months. Personally, I feel like each year I get way more than my dues worth out of the Association. All the help, the knowledge, that I’ve gained. All the mistakes that I avoided over the years. All the referrals I got from other photographers… and that’s not mentioning the benefits that we also get as members. Sometimes, you just have to look at it from a different perspective to understand the true value of PPOC. Almost two years ago, I switched from Canon to Nikon. While I was in transition between the brands, I got a lot of help from Nikon NPS: they even loaned me some gear while I was selling my Canon equipment so I could keep on working without any issues. They’ve also always been very kind and understanding while I was asking many questions and trying out their gear in all the trade shows I’ve been to! All this help was only possible because I’ve met the representative of the company in several PPOC events and developed a relationship with them over the years.
Sébastien Lavallée, MPA Sébastien Lavallée is a commercial photographer based in Gatineau (QC) but who worked all around the province in the last years. He’s been working as a full-time freelance photographer for almost twelve years. His work focuses mostly on events, architecture and corporate portraits but he also does video and photojournalism.