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AIPP to broaden membership, fix communication

The AIPP plans to roll out major structural change that will introduce new membership categories, give State Councils more autonomy, improve the financial situation and fix communication issues.

Melissa Neumann AIPP president
AIPP president, Melissa Neumann, spoke with Inside Imaging about the Institute’s future.

The changes have either already been implemented, or will take effect before the end of the year.

Inside Imaging reported on the AIPP’s restructure in May 2018, following the closure of National Office.

Since the closure of the National office, AIPP volunteers and part-time staff have worked behind-the-scenes to modify the institute.

‘We were left with quite an interesting place when we came back onto the board for the first time (following the closure of National Office),’ AIPP president, Melissa Neumann, told Inside Imaging. ‘So we’ve gone, and continue to go through, the Institute piece-by-piece to see what’s bringing members value or joy. Then we consider what’s the best way forward. There may not appear to be a lot happening externally, but internally there is a lot going on.’

The AIPP National Board is working with numerous committees – such as Membership and Accreditation, Compliance, Education, Constitution, Awards – to review and draft new policy where it’s deemed necessary.

The AIPP will introduce a new ‘General Membership’ category for anyone and everyone interested in joining the Institute. Melissa said there are no prerequisites to join as a General Member.

The proposed changes are still being formulated, with the Membership and Accreditation Committee consulting with the National Board.

General Membership will provide an option for people who don’t fit into the current available membership categories.

‘There are people like retouchers, printers, and all sort of people who make up the photo industry who just aren’t able to be members of the AIPP,’ Melissa said. ‘General Membership will give them an opportunity to be part of the community.’

Melissa said the new category will incorporate the current Emerging, Enthusiast and Retired Member categories. Emerging Membership was designed to serve as a stepping stone for aspiring professional photographers to earn full accreditation, and General Membership will still offer this pathway.

Melissa says the Institute wants to encourage everyone with a vested interest in the business of photography to be able to join the AIPP. This includes people like her partner. He isn’t a professional photographer, but does attend AIPP events, such as the APPA dinner and local business types events, yet is unable to receive membership ticket prices and pays full non-member fees.

Accredited Professional Photographer membership remains strictly for part-time and full-time working photographers, with new specialist sub-categories under proposal for newborn photographers, drone operators, and photo tour operators.

The purpose is to ensure safety and regulatory standards are met for these categories. Specialist accreditation will certify that the photographer knows how to legally and ethically operate within a specified field.

For instance, an Accredited Newborn Photographer will have experience at posing babies and creating a safe studio environment, and be vaccinated for disease; drone photographers will have Civil Aviation Safety Authority commercial drone licence and experience operating unmanned aircraft; and photo tour operators will hold a Tour Operator Licence. Other genres of specialist accreditation are also open for consideration.

Melissa said she expects some backlash against the Institute, and stresses the changes are designed to ensure members meet professional standards.

‘Photography is an unregulated industry, and what people need to understand is specialist accreditation isn’t required to call yourself a professional in these areas. We’re just trying to set standards in areas where there are safety issues. These changes are what members have asked for, and it will allow them to build the community they want.’

Student membership, currently only open to students studying specific photography courses, will soon be open to any student card holder regardless of the course.

State Councils
‘The main change we’ve made within the [state] councils is they now have their own bank account,’ Melissa said. ‘A percentage of the membership money is redirected into the Council’s bank account.’

In the last financial year the Institute put aside $70,000 in membership fees – 50 percent of this was split evenly between the State Councils, and the remaining 50 percent was allocated based on the number of members in each state. Payments are made into State Council accounts every three months.

AIPP Council account
Council bank accounts, as of May 2019. Source: AIPP Journal.

‘This provides State Councils more autonomy. The National Office previously required each State Council to run a profitable budget, and some of that money went back to National Office. We’ve sort-of done it the opposite way, by providing money to State Councils. Of course, we don’t want them running everything at a loss, but this gives them money to subsidise what they want to do.’

The new Councils Bylaw permits State Councils to operate an event at a loss ‘where considered prudent’ but generally to aim to run an operational profit. Events with an expenditure above $1000 are required to have a budget approved by the AIPP national treasurer, Sara McKenna.

State Councils are expected to host a minimum of 10 non-award-related events per year, and encourage involvement from both regional and metropolitan members.

‘There is a bit of a myth out there that the AIPP is just about APPA. We have been looking at increasing the amount of events outside awards, to focus more on photography and business.’

Financial health
In May AIPP treasurer, Sara McKenna, published a mostly-optimistic financial report in the Institute’s monthly online magazine, The Journal. However a membership income graph shows the primary income stream is down compared with previous years.

AIPP membership income
After membership income rose in April 2018 it then sharply fell. In 2019 income has remained steady. Source: The Journal.

‘We are still in a rebuilding phase. We don’t have as much in the bank account as what we use to have, and I imagine that once APPA is over we will probably get to the lowest we’ve been in some time due to the outgoings from running the event.’ Melissa said.

‘Sara has been working through our previous accounts to rebuild the Chart of Accounts to allow accurate reports to be generated from our books more easily.  This coming financial year we will be able to look back on last year and know where every single dollar has gone.  This is something we struggled with in the first year – trying to decipher the books and work out what money went where.’

Melissa says the Institute is being cautious with spending, and is working on establishing a good system with a solid savings plan.

‘While we’re not overly concerned about the financial situation, I wouldn’t say we’re comfortable just yet.’

Based on a graph in Sara’s report, the AIPP’s largest expense for 18/19 is administration, which takes over a quarter of expenses, followed by IT infrastructure at just under a quarter and then accounting/legal.

While the AIPP no longer has a physical National Office, there are eight part-time employees working in administration.

aipp expenses
Source: The Journal.

IT System and communication
With IT infrastructure taking up a significant chunk of expenses, the outdated system will be revamped to cost less while providing a modern touch with improved communication capabilities.

‘The IT system is incredibly expensive. It was tailor-made for the AIPP, but is now not doing what we need it to do,’ Melissa said. ‘For instance, our e-mail list is unable to be segmented to enable members to opt in or out opt out from selected notifications lists. Nowadays that’s a stock standard.’

The new system will come at a financial cost, Melissa says, but it’s estimated to have an ongoing cost that’s about half of the current system.

‘The new system will be a lot more efficient when it comes to communications. One thing we’ve struggled with over the last 18 months is the ability to talk not only to members but also ex-members and non-members. The current system doesn’t allow us to keep in touch with people after they leave us. We have their information, but doesn’t allow us to contact them.’

– The new changes are expected to be rolled out after APPA (August 10-12). Melissa says the AIPP is ‘looking at an outward reach in a fast-changing industry to make a difference for our members and all photographers’.


  1. DW DW July 12, 2019

    Isn’t doing the same thing over and over again but expecting a different outcome the very definition of insanity?
    Massive whole scale changes a few years ago (including new categories of membership), didn’t work out that well as I recall! And as for opening up membership to all-comers, well, surely that is utterly counter-intuitive to the whole idea of the institution?
    The key is in the name people – it’s time to concentrate on maximising the returns of PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHERS. That means adopting hardline, pro-photography policies and lobbying for stronger recognition and protection of the industry at national and state level. This new approach seems like another cash grab which will further reduce the legitimacy of the body and the industry as a whole.
    If the board is looking for ideas, they should look at what PPA are doing for examples of how to promote professional photography and protect the legitimate businesses that operate in the field.

  2. Jane Doe Jane Doe July 12, 2019

    As a long time true pro I don’t regret no longer being a member. This is either an association for professional photographers or the national camera club. You choose. Actually, the organisation chose a while ago not to be professional and most of the working professionals I know are no longer members. However you are inclusive. The focus on awards rather than correct pricing and standards has alienated a few of us.

  3. The One The One July 26, 2019

    I say bring on the FAPPA awards!

  4. John Doe John Doe July 26, 2019

    The chain on my bicycle broke and now I’m stranded in ACT, stranded I tell ya!

  5. Bill Hicks Bill Hicks July 26, 2019

    I have it on good authority they eat native fauna and then laugh about it. Can anyone confirm?

  6. Sam Peterson Sam Peterson July 26, 2019

    There are people on the current board who are directly responsible for why people have left the AIPP in the past.

    If you have been in the industry long enough, you would have heard this all before. I have lost count of how many times the AIPP has said “we are going to be different this time”

    Its lost all meaning, no one believes it, its all lip service.

    The AIPP is a social club, its not a professional body, perhaps if they embraced being a social club instead of being something they are not, then things would improve.

    Until they get rid of the financial incentive some members have by way of making money off other members for awards, like mentoring awards submissions, printing, workshops on how to win at comps and all the other ways they gain financially, then things will always be rotten.
    There are currently too many people who have a strong self interest in keeping the status quo, its a cash cow for them.

    If you want to change, be honest, be upfront, stop telling people they cant speak up, make the minutes to ALL board meetings public, stop making the awards the benchmark by how you deem someone worthy and stop creating division within the entire community.

    But the biggest point is, stop thinking you are relevant, there are far more Non members than there are members, you are the minority, you don’t represent the majority of photographers and the general public doesn’t know about you or care about you. You have no value to the public or the wider photographic community.

    Decide what your relevance is and then try and sell it to the photographic community.

  7. Jim Beam Jim Beam July 26, 2019

    I know you guys are probably missing funds in the bank hence the creation of these new memberships. But WHY would anyone who is not a photographer be allowed to join the so called “Australian Institute of Professional Photography”

    Any person with a vested interest can have a membership? What the hell?! So because I use an accounting software and I kinda know how to do my books I am going to be allowed to be a chartered accountant?!

    We constantly see the impact and consequences of how unregulated our industry is, but know we are just inviting everyone who might have no freaking clue of what they are doing, someone who probably won’t even be a photographer to come and join us.

    So is this like a club now? Hahaha. Get your sh** together people. If you want to be taken seriously act accordingly.

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