A talk with Stephen Best, CEO of the APA (American Photographic Artists)

Note: This is an excerpt from a complete Q&A that will be included in the 2012 Photographer’s Market.

Several years ago I had the opportunity to work with Steve, who at that time was the studio manager for Ambrosi San Francisco. This was one of the best experiences I have had in my 30 years as a photographer. I was not surprised to hear that he was chosen to head up the APA. Under his watch I am sure that great things will happen for this organization.

The following is a bit on Steve’s history and his thoughts on some of the subjects we have covered and will cover in the coming months.

Talk a bit about your education?

My BA from Emory & Henry College, Emory, VA, is an interdisciplinary degree in history/sociology/economics. My photography training was not art oriented but technical. Associate of Science – Photography, Randolph Technical Institute (now Randolph Community College), Asheboro, NC. I also went back to school in 1997 and earned a MBA from Georgia State University, Atlanta.

How does the APA go about marketing?

We use websites, email marketing and social media extensively. Sponsorship and partner programs are also important to us for cross promotion to the photo industry. We also have partnerships with private, photo social networks.

In recent years there has been some talk about developing a set of professional standards to govern the business photography, what are your thoughts on this subject?

Business standards or best practices are very much needed. Learning from the experience of others is great. There may not be set standards that are usable for everyone but guidelines are good to have.

What are your thoughts on the subject of licensing photographers, akin to other professionals such as contractors, CPAs, and the like?

I’m mixed on that. I do think the public can see a credential or certificate as a positive. Wedding, portrait photographers may gain from that. In commercial / advertising work, I don’t think it would mean that much. Art buyers look at portfolios and want to personally connect with someone working for them.

Talk a bit about your thoughts on style development and specialization as a photographer.

Style is a personal matter. I think style can be something that crosses over between specialties. My photo experience was great from small product illustration to large room scenes, jewelry to pots and pans, fashion to cars, location to studio. Through all that I think I had a style that can be identifiable as my work.

Specialization can be successful but I’ve heard from several photographers that they have to be more varied in their work in today’s economy. I think you can be diverse in your work and still maintain a style that is unique to you.

I would like to thank Steve for taking the time for this and for his insights. For anyone interested in the APA there are regional chapters across the county, follow this link to the national site to find a chapter near you. Remember, for the complete interview with Stephen Best, look for the 2012 Photographer’s Market in August 2011.

As always I welcome your thoughts, comments and ideas.

Happy Holidays and best wishes for a great new year to all our AMO blog readers . I’m taking a break next week to spend with friends and family after a productive and very busy year here at F+W, so I’ll see you in 2011.

Thank you,



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