Learn how the Camera Clubs are Organized on a Local, National, and International Level
Photographic Club and Societies relationships

Learn how the Camera Clubs are Organized on a Local, National, and International Level

Let’s clear up some con­fu­sion, shall we?

When I joined a pho­to club sev­er­al years ago, I didn’t know how clubs are orga­nized in New Zealand (where I live) or any­where in the world.

New Zealand

I slow­ly got an under­stand­ing that we have local clubs, regions (which is a more geo­graph­ic bound­ary than a legal enti­ty), and a nation­al soci­ety. In New Zealand, that is the Pho­to­graph­ic Soci­ety of New Zealand (PSNZ). But there is also a dis­tinc­tion between pho­tog­ra­phers and pro­fes­sion­al pho­tog­ra­phers. Pro­fes­sion­al pho­tog­ra­phers have addi­tion­al (also paid) access to anoth­er nation­al body, which caters for the needs of pro­fes­sion­al pho­tog­ra­phers only (NZIPP).

Have a look at this high­ly sophis­ti­cat­ed illus­tra­tion, that might help:

Graphic to explain relationship between local, regianal, national and international photographic clubs and societies.

Affil­i­ates of PSNZ can be

  • a pho­tog­ra­ph­er (all lev­els, includ­ing professionals)
  • an affil­i­at­ed pho­tog­ra­phy club

Mem­bers of NZIPP can only be a pro­fes­sion­al photographer.

There is anoth­er pho­to­graph­ic soci­ety in New Zealand, and that is the ‘Nature Pho­tog­ra­phy Soci­ety of New Zealand’, but they cater for a small­er spe­cial­ized sub­set of the club orga­nized pho­tog­ra­phers. And they are not affil­i­at­ed with FIAP, see below.

New Zealand is a small coun­try, but it already gets com­pli­cat­ed with the struc­ture. So imag­ine coun­tries like USA, France, UK, Ger­many or Aus­tralia; they have a much more involved mesh of clubs and rep­re­sent­ing bod­ies. But the over­all struc­ture is sim­i­lar to what I out­lined above for New Zealand.

Sin­gle pho­tog­ra­ph­er -> local cam­era club -> (region­al organisations/federations) -> nation­al organization/society -> inter­na­tion­al body: FIAP


On a world lev­el, we prob­a­bly only have to look at “Inter­na­tion­al Fed­er­a­tion of Pho­to­graph­ic Art (FIAP) Fédéra­tion Inter­na­tionale de l’Art Pho­tographique” as the over­ar­ch­ing fed­er­a­tion for all affil­i­at­ed soci­eties of the par­tic­i­pat­ing coun­tries. There is only one mem­ber organ­i­sa­tion allowed per coun­try as a full mem­ber, oth­er local or nation­al bod­ies can be affil­i­at­ed, but only with reduced rights. There are 92 coun­tries rep­re­sent­ed in FIAP, with 1.5 mil­lion rep­re­sent­ed indi­vid­ual photographers.

  • In New Zealand, we have PSNZ affil­i­at­ed with FIAP.
  • In Aus­tralia we have the APS (Aus­tralian Pho­to­graph­ic Society)
  • In the US, we have the Pho­to­graph­ic Alliance of Amer­i­ca (PAA) as a Mem­ber of FIAP.
  • In UK, the Pho­to­graph­ic Alliance of Great Britain (PAGB) is affil­i­at­ed. Inter­est­ing­ly, Scot­land is affil­i­at­ed sep­a­rate­ly with the “Scot­tish Pho­to­graph­ic Fed­er­a­tion”, and Wales with “The Welsh Pho­to­graph­ic Fed­er­a­tion”. But Wales is also a mem­ber of PAGB, so that is all very con­fus­ing. Can some­one from the UK give me a run­down on why not only PAGB is affiliated?
  • In Ger­many, it is the “Deutsch­er Ver­band fuer Pho­tografie (DVF)”.
  • In France, the “Fédéra­tion Pho­tographique de France”.

These orga­ni­za­tions do basi­cal­ly the same, on dif­fer­ent lev­els: they pro­mote the art of pho­tog­ra­phy and help their (pay­ing) mem­bers in achiev­ing their pho­to­graph­ic goals. They pro­vide var­i­ous ser­vices to their mem­bers, and one of them is award­ing hon­ours dis­tinc­tions to mem­bers who present their pho­tog­ra­phy for assess­ment. It is basi­cal­ly a recog­ni­tion sys­tem for pho­tog­ra­phers who want to dis­play a cer­tain pro­fi­cien­cy. There are a lot of dif­fer­ent sys­tems in place for gain­ing these hon­our awards, and every pho­to­graph­ic soci­ety has their own spe­cial way of doing it. E.g. in New Zealand there is a three-lev­el sys­tem (Licen­ti­ate-LPSNZ, Asso­ci­ate­ship-APSNZ and Fel­low­ship-FPSNZ). You can gain these hon­ours dis­tinc­tion by pre­sent­ing a port­fo­lio of images to the hon­ours board of PSNZ. The board then comes togeth­er once a year to assess the appli­ca­tions they received for the three lev­els, and awards the dis­tinc­tion (or not). You can read an arti­cle about this year’s results on page 11 of the online PSNZ pub­li­ca­tion “Cam­er­aTalk”. The whole ‘let­ters’ sys­tem of the pho­to­graph­ic soci­eties is a top­ic which deserves more space, so I will write a sep­a­rate arti­cle about that soon.

Anoth­er ser­vice of the nation­al and inter­na­tion­al bod­ies is to engage in com­pe­ti­tions and exhi­bi­tions. There is an online book about all of the activ­i­ties of FIAP here:

If you want to par­tic­i­pate in FIAP approved com­pe­ti­tions, you can col­lect points towards a FIAP dis­tinc­tion, if you were suc­cess­ful. The dis­tinc­tions are also a sys­tem to rec­og­nize an advanced lev­el of pho­tog­ra­phy for a pho­tog­ra­ph­er, but on an inter­na­tion­al lev­el. If you are inter­est­ed in these kinds of recog­ni­tions and com­pe­ti­tions, get in con­tact with a FIAP liai­son offi­cer of the affil­i­at­ed organ­i­sa­tion of your coun­try to find out how that works for you.

FIAP also orga­nizes a world cup for pho­tog­ra­phy clubs and a FIAP Bien­ni­als com­pe­ti­tion and exhi­bi­tion.

The last thing to notice here about FIAP in this overview arti­cle is the online pub­li­ca­tion (dig­i­tal mag­a­zine) they pub­lish reg­u­lar­ly. You can find it online:

Fiap News | FIAP

When you look at the orga­ni­za­tion struc­ture, it is not meant as a con­trol struc­ture. The nation­al or inter­na­tion­al bod­ies do not con­trol their mem­bers, they pro­vide ser­vices. I think that is impor­tant to under­stand. They still have some pow­er by pro­vid­ing guides or prac­tices which are wide­ly adopt­ed by the affil­i­at­ed cam­era clubs, but the rela­tion­ship dif­fers from a mul­ti-nation­al cor­po­rate struc­ture of a busi­ness enti­ty. Also, most mem­bers of the cam­era clubs and orga­ni­za­tions are not paid and work as volunteers.

Global Photo Club

Where do I start?

Most peo­ple start their club-orga­nized pho­tog­ra­phy life by join­ing a local club, not car­ing about any affil­i­a­tions and nation­al or inter­na­tion­al clubs or orga­ni­za­tions.
Then after a while the paths split. Some pho­tog­ra­phers have no inter­est in com­pet­ing with their images, and that’s great! It’s not a com­pe­ti­tion to get into competitions.

Oth­ers enter com­pe­ti­tions, first at a local club lev­el, then with expe­ri­ence and more con­fi­dence, at a region­al or nation­al lev­el. If that is suc­cess­ful, FIAP com­pe­ti­tions are a nat­ur­al pro­gres­sion. But it is not manda­to­ry. Our small local club has a wild mix­ture of lev­els and par­tic­i­pa­tion lev­els in com­pe­ti­tions. Only very few enter their images into nation­al com­pe­ti­tions, and I believe we only have maybe one or two look­ing at FIAP lev­el com­pe­ti­tions. I am at a lev­el where I am think­ing about par­tic­i­pat­ing more on a nation­al lev­el, and I read about require­ments for FIAP com­pe­ti­tions. I did the first lev­el of hon­ours dis­tinc­tion (so I gained my LPSNZ let­ters) last year, and I will con­tin­ue to work towards my sec­ond sub­mis­sion for next year (that will then be the APSNZ lev­el). I think it is fun to do and push­es your bound­aries by giv­ing you a chal­lenge. For me com­pe­ti­tions moti­vate me and are a vital fac­tor in get­ting bet­ter at pho­tog­ra­phy, but that is just me.

As always, have fun cre­at­ing images! You don’t have to com­pete with your images. But I believe com­pe­ti­tions and eval­u­a­tions help in pro­gress­ing your pho­tog­ra­phy level.

Global Photo Club

Frithjof Moritzen

Photography Club Enthusiast

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