Board of Directors: Don Dickson
Chairmen of the Board
PPA Member Since 1981
Shoots: Commercial, Portraits, Weddings
Location: Plainview, Texas
- Read his bio.
- Read his Board Spotlight interviews (August 2008, October 2006), featured in Professional Photographer magazine.
His senior year in high school, Don photographed and published his first church directory. His first prom to photograph was his own senior prom. After going off to college to get a degree in business, he opened Don’s Photography Studio at the age of 20. Dickson said “I look back now and wonder what was I thinking, both my parents were school teachers and I had never heard of a trade association. All that I knew about photography and the business of running a studio, I learned on my own.” It was that first year in business that a friend invited him to a Texas Professional Photography Association convention. That first convention led Dickson to a lifetime of association work.
He received his Master of Photography degree from PPA in 1988, the youngest recipient at that time in the state. He was also the youngest President of the Texas Professional Photographers association, the largest PPA affiliate in the country.
His love of education was expanded when he joined the staff of the Texas School of Professional Photography as registrar in 1990. After working as registrar for 5 years, he was elected as the executive director, a position that he still holds today. He has developed the Texas School from around 140 students to over 900 in 2005. Dickson continues to claim, “Photography education is critical in our ever-changing industry. The only way to get ahead and prosper is to continue to learn and study what the new technology has to offer. This is the most exciting time our industry has ever seen.”
After serving with the Winona Trustees and PPA education committee, he was elected to the Board of Directors in January 2005. He is respected in the entire industry as a leader in the education field. Don received the Gerhard Bakker award in New Orleans at Imaging USA in 2005. This award is PPA’s highest award for excellence in education. His love and passion for photography shows in all the aspects of his life. He has been married to his wife Charlcey for 26 years and has two children, Kyle and Suzanne.
Don’s career began in a darkroom (in his parents’ bathroom), turned into owning a photography business at 19, and continues today as a pro photographer and member of the PPA Board of Directors. So how has he managed to stay successful in this long career? Don holds up education as a force without which no one can survive.
“Education is what creates our difference from the amateur photographer,” Don adds. “We have to make our services and products different.” While you can research ongoing education on your own, Don still sees the most value for your money as the Affiliate Schools and Imaging USA. In fact, he has been to every Imaging USA since his first time (about 1979)!
Such education and willingness to look beyond the norm can help create the needed desire for photography services, which is another challenge Don sees in the industry. In his mind, photography is not just about the technology now. It’s the art—the lighting, composition, and other artistic elements—that sets you apart. “We have to redefine ourselves at artists, not just technicians,” Don says. “After all, to sell a photograph at a premium, it has to be an artistic piece.”
Yet another approach Don uses to remain successful is volunteering. Think about it: working within your community not only helps you meet new clients, it also helps you better your relationships. Rather than only seeing people for business reasons, you establish common ground by volunteering together.
“When I take a day to volunteer, it pays two to ten times more,” he says with a laugh. “The more I’m involved, the more business that develops. Everyone needs photography eventually…they are all potential customers.”
Along with his continuing success, Don has never lost his appreciation for his great profession. In his words, “Most of the people we see are at a high point of their life (weddings, families, graduating seniors, etc.). And we can make them even happier with our products.”
Board Spotlight, October 2006
When Don was only six years old, he received his first camera from his grandmother when she returned from a trip to Guam. He shot his own high school prom when he was a senior and went on to college to receive a business degree. After graduation, he jumped head-first into what was his passion: photography.
With a solid business education behind him, he successfully built several businesses – real estate, a Hallmark gift store, and even a one-hour photo lab, which he owned for 20 years. Of course, his biggest success, photography, goes right back to where it started as his first true love. Don believes adequate and qualified education is imperative to success, “especially in this time of definite change in the industry,” he explains. “There is still money to be made, and education is the key to that.”