Earlier this year the AIPP had a chance meeting with Victorian Minister for Consumer Affairs, Marlene Kairouz, to discuss the need for a legal regulatory body for professional photography.
The meeting took place in June at Victorian Parliament House, after a local Victorian MP contacted the AIPP to commend the photos publicised during the State Awards.
AIPP executive officer, Peter Myers, jumped at the opportunity to arrange an informal meeting, to discuss how the Institute may work on such a long-term core strategy.
The Victorian Minister for Consumer Affairs dropped into the meeting, and Myers, along with former AIPP PR manager Kristina Keaney, found themselves pitching the concept of formal regulation for professional photography.
‘Marlene advised the AIPP to use local area councils to approach each State Government with the same strategy,’ Myers informed ProCounter. ‘If several State Governments are considering to implement this as policy, then it has the potential to be streamlined as Federal Government legislation through what’s called a COAG meeting.’
It’s a long and complicated process. The AIPP has to draft a regulation strategy outlining professional photography standards. In theory, the AIPP would require all photographers to meet these requirements and pay a licensing fee to call themselves professional.
Myers understands both non-AIPP and AIPP photographers may strongly oppose the concept of their profession being formally regulated. But he says that, with the proliferation of amateur and ‘unprofessional photographers’, there’s a growing concern the entire profession will be smeared, should a horrendous and unthinkable case of malpractice occur.
The general public could turn against professional photography, he says.
The AIPP wants to reduce the frequency and severity of professional malpractice – it won’t be sending squad cars to arrest ‘Uncle Bob’ for photographing a family member’s wedding.
The solution to a problem
Myers told the Minister the AIPP identified financial and personal malpractice as the two primary areas of negligent professional behaviour within photography.
Both areas relate to the ‘business to consumer’ photography sector, where photographers deal directly with a member of the public – family portraiture, weddings, events, and so on.
He told the Minister the profession traditionally had natural barriers to entry. The cost of gear and required technical expertise made the profession a small and tight-knit community, that was ‘almost self-regulating’ through peer pressure, competitive relationships, and trade support.
After technology went digital, anyone could easily label themselves a professional photographer. It only requires a DSLR camera and post-processing software, along with an online business presence through a website and social media.
‘We are now living in an age where literally thousands of “wannabe” photographers are operating as part-time, unqualified, and in many cases, incapable professional photographers. Unfortunately with the ease of entry into this unregulated profession, we are also seeing an increase in the number of unscrupulous operators, taking advantage of an unknowing public.’
Financial malpractice is when a photographer fails to deliver a satisfactory service.
ProCounter has reported several instances of unqualified Australian photographers disappearing with clients’ deposits, delivering low standard work, and jeopardising unrepeatable life events such as a weddings.
While Australian Consumer Law exists to protect the rights of consumers in the marketplace, the long tail of disgruntled, often desperate consumers who find their way to our Readers Comments section whenever we run such a story indicates there are some dreadful rogues out there representing themselves as professionals.
Myers said Kairouz had more concern for personal malpractice, which occurs rarely but has a greater potential to tarnish the industry.
Popular family portrait and event photography – particularly birth, child, boudoir, family portraiture – have no regulatory requirements. Photographers aren’t required to obtain police checks, or working with children checks.
Unscrupulous individuals can, and do, use their photography business to commit criminal acts.
There also aren’t any regulatory guidelines for child handling, baby posing, or other measures to protect children.
There’s widespread concern from those in the newborn and baby photography circles that new photographers may not know how to safely pose infants, or operate in a medical environment.
The AIPP strategy
The AIPP is years away from becoming any sort of legal regulatory body. If there was a timeline to track the process, it would currently be pinned at the beginning.
‘We will try to come back to the Minister in 2018, with this proposal. That proposal will require us, the AIPP, to be the regulatory body, and we will define the standards necessary for the legal status of professional photographer. This would then be validated by the ACCC, as our current accreditation process currently is’ Myers said.
Myers was cautious not to provide too many suggestions as to how legal regulation could work. That will require further consultation with members and the broader industry. But it’s possible different fields of photography would have different requirements.
To have a basic idea of what the AIPP would require, Myers listed the following for Business to Consumer photographers:
– Mandatory Police Checks
– Mandatory Working With Children Check certification
– Comprehensive public liability insurance
– Comprehensive professional indemnity insurance
– Trust account management for holding and refunding deposit payments
– Development of guidelines for child safety and baby handling
– Development of guidelines for working with the birthing industry
– Enforcement of mandatory contracts for all B to C photography
So, what do you think?
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