Should the photography industry be regulated?

Mick Cookson: The Undercutters

We’ve had a huge response to Mick Cookson’s article about Weekend warriors in the September issue of Professional Photographer. The issue of part-time or amateur photographers undercutting full-time professionals with cheap wedding packages is one that many photographers have an opinion about. One of the people who reacted to the Weekend Warrior debate is Richard Southall, who suggests that it’s time for the photography industry to be regulated.

He writes: “I welcome competition from any newcomer to the industry and I feel potentially that both clients and myself benefit from the fresh challenges and new creative bars which are raised by their entry. However, I want a level playing field and so do my compatriots. Over the last 10 years, photography has become far more accessible and affordable to new entrants and there is a perception (spread by some magazine editors of photo mags) that there are easy pickings to be made.”

Southall then suggests a list of possible criteria that part-time photographers or Weekend Warriors could be asked to adhere to in order to be recognised by a regulatory body:

“The things I would like to see through regulation are:

  • They have Public Liability Insurance
  • They have Public Indemnity Insurance
  • They provide Employers’ Liability Insurance to anyone who helps them undertake a commission (2nd photographer/assistant)
  • They are registered and have declared their part-time earnings to the Inland Revenue
  • They pay type 3/4 national insurance contributions
  • They are registered for VAT if their earnings are above the threshold
  • They have notified their car insurers of their secondary occupation
  • They’ve notified their landlords/mortgage company/council that part of their abode is being used for a part-time business and that they are complying and paying the additional monies due.
  • They have given guarantees to their clients about safe, long term data storage solutions of their commissioned images
  • They have produced and provided COSHH risk assessments of how they work safely and their affect on others in a public environment.
  • They have the requisite health and safety equipment if required
  • They have all their electrical equipment (lighting, chargers, computers etc.) annually PAT tested
  • They have a stated policy on copyright and licencing of images produced
  • They get regular Enhanced CRB checks (would you want anyone near your young children without one?)”

Southall adds: “I feel it is about time the professional trade organisations stood up and stated what they expected as the minimum core standard of a professional (part-time or otherwise), seek the appropriate legislation and then seek to monitor/certify/enforce that all practitioners comply.”

Do you agree with Richard Southall’s proposal? Have you got other criteria you think should be part of a minimum requirement enforced by a regulatory organisation? Or do you think the invisible hand of the market should be left alone? Tell us what you think in the comment box below.

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  1. Unfortunately, in today's world, the bottom line is cost, and whilst I feel that the 'serious' part-timer might comply with these regs, the bride with only ?300 to spend won't give a damn if he's 'legit'...

    Comment made by: StudioFiveFour
    18.01.12 09:28:22

  2. What you are asking for here falls into two categories:

    1. What is already the law regarding registration of a business and taxation etc
    2. The choices that consumers must make when employing someone such as the relevant insurances and checks

    With regards to the legal operation of a business, maybe photographers who are being undercut should simply report those who are breaking the law to the relevant body (HMRC etc) because that's what you'd have to do if regulation were to become possible.


    Comment made by: dg28
    18.01.12 11:08:04

  3. "They are registered for VAT if their earnings are above the thresholdThey have notified their car insurers of their secondary occupation"
    Not to do this would have HMRC down on them like a ton of brick anyway VAT is (or was) customs and you dont mess with the customs man

    "They have given guarantees to their clients about safe, long term data storage solutions of their commissioned images"
    This is a dangerous game a photographer would have to have a full redundancy back up strategy including on and off s

    Comment made by: Drabble
    18.01.12 11:23:04

  4. I've thought this for some time. Isn't this where the likes of the BIPP, MPA and other Professional Photography bodies and organisations should be getting together to put together somekind of regitered regulatory system a little like the CORGI plumbers?

    But it is up to us as members to insist and lobby for such measures, as any organisation is only as good as its members. I don't think we will ever get away from the weekend warriors, how many other trades do we all know of someone doing a bit on the

    Comment made by: LWoolston
    18.01.12 11:27:40

  5. COSHH? In the digital age I didn't think we used many Substances Hazardous to Health?! I can't think of anything we use that would require a COSHH data sheet.

    Comment made by: AndyStraw
    22.01.12 22:46:36

  6. I think a legitimate addittional one to add is that they should have a properly compiled business plan that has been reviewed by an accounting professional with knowledge of the creative industries, to ensure that it is viable. At the end of the day, a lot of the things above are, as some one else said, existing legal obligations anyway. If you want to stop someone messing up the industry, just report them. A lot of issues however that occur are, I suspect as a result of people diving head first into the

    Comment made by: PeterD
    24.01.12 11:56:10

  7. I am insulted that to be part time I am deemed unprofessional and that the context of this article is driven at saying I under cut and act illegally.

    I propose that most of the full people passing these comments should take an in depth look at their competitors, my last investigation showed that I was charging a significantly higher rate and better equipped and covered then the average full timer.

    It also showed that the people who are selling at ?100 a pop and the people buying would never even take a

    Comment made by: junglehopper
    24.01.12 12:01:23

  8. I dont think most professional photographers would meet all of that criteria, in fact I would say that between 85-95% would fail. It would be the responsibility of the BIPP and MPA but neither of them want the industry regulated, it would cost them far too much money. I have just had to do a COSHH statement for a secure site I am working at, but that's the first in 15 years. The PAT testing is easy, most people simply go to Screwfix and buy the labels, they dont get the leads tested (and it is only the l

    Comment made by: marklawrence
    24.01.12 12:19:06

  9. I think we've seen this time and time again across many industries what starts out as a way of legislating comes back and hurts all those in the industry putting extra costs and rules that aren't really there to benefit anyone other than perhaps an elite few.
    And whilst I understand the need for some rules to put that many hoops to jump over could have the opposite effect of what the desired result is, imagine if there was only one or two shops to buy food from, the prices would hike and i believe the c

    Comment made by: smudgeshot
    24.01.12 17:59:28

  10. I am not particularly worried about the ?300 undercutter, there will always be a place for a budget and probably inexperienced photographer in the big wide world. My concern is the degredation of the industry by "self taught professionals" who produce poor images but get lauded by their friends and somehow build a reputation as being good! This diminishes the creation of good imagery. We all as professionals strive to better ourselves I hope, and that isn't evident in the massive majority of images I

    Comment made by: Picornish
    25.01.12 10:49:41

  11. I could have a field day with this! Yes we do everything by the book and employ 11 photographers in various specific areas. We do our own regulation and as a limited company EVERYTHING is done by the book for every customer.
    2 comments I wish to make, 1st would be that car insurance "can" be cheaper with business mileage attached by around ?40 a year per vehicle. 2nd, you need to move with the times, brides want good packages for very little money, if we can make a ?250 wedding pay a profit anyone can!

    Comment made by: danielslade
    25.01.12 11:39:55

  12. You hold the brush, you are a painter. You hold the camera, you are a photographer. Commercial value of the final image is open to a discussion with paying client. Ah... and there is always that uncle that will take few photos for free. These are realities of capitalist economy and I can't see any alternative way out of it, yet.

    Comment made by: henkeimages
    26.01.12 16:15:46

  13. I think such regulation would be exceedingly helpful to part-timers, particularly if assistance was given in the form of proformas, helpful links and guides to acceptable practices. As someone who is exploring the possibility of becoming a part-time pro (after being a full-time mum/homemaker for many years, rather than working in industry) I have struggled to find out everything I need to do to be legit. There's a couple of things on the list that I had totally missed and will be checking out now I kn

    Comment made by: GertyX
    28.01.12 12:18:18

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