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How to Get the Most out of Membership in Facebook Photography Groups

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You can’t avoid them. Photography Facebook communities are everywhere now. Most photographers belong to at least one. You don’t even get a choice – people just add you to groups, and before you know it your newsfeed is just one long stream of photography chatter. And, let’s face it, the quality varies!

Becoming an active member of a great Facebook group can be a fantastic source of inspiration, support, motivation and friendship. It can be a wonderful, life-enhancing experience. I have met true, like-minded friends via these groups over the years.

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I used to be a member of a zillion Facebook groups. I tried to engage with all of them before realizing that I was losing weeks of my life interacting with stuff that didn’t really add any value to my photography, or to my life in general. So, I made the decision to cull the groups that I didn’t get much from, and just removed myself without a second thought.

Out of the groups that remained, I chose just three in which to be active. These were the groups I felt strongly connected to. I had become a core member of each and truly enjoyed the people and the chats.

This left a small number of groups in which I decided to become a silent member. I didn’t feel a bond with the group, but I was still getting value from the content. Yes, in some groups, I am one of the lurkers.

I don’t contribute. I might click Like occasionally if I see something wonderful, but I don’t post, but I am not alone. In larger Facebook groups the majority of members are silent. However, you are looking and reading, this doesn’t make you any less important. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. I am admin for a fabulous Facebook group of learning photographers, and I often get private messages of thanks from members who have never once contributed to a thread. These lurkers are actually very important to me. I know they are quietly consuming the content in the background.

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But there is another type of member. They attempt to engage but others don’t respond. They post sporadically in different groups, get dejected, and sometimes even defensive when their posts do not get the engagement that other active members enjoy. No one commented. No one even pressed Like.

Some will grump in silence and decide never to post there again. Some are a little noisier about it…

It is human nature to feel this way. If we go to the effort of putting ourselves out there, then of course we hope for a positive response. When we don’t get one, we feel disappointed, or even rejected. They may think:

  • They are cliquey.
  • They are unfriendly.
  • They have not accepted me.

Sometimes stuff just gets missed. People are busy, posts get buried – that’s life. However, often the reason for the lack of response (or maybe the negative response) is much more to do with you than you might want to believe.

Let’s say you have found a photography Facebook group that you like. It just ‘fits’. You feel an affinity with the other members, the ethos of the group works for you and the content is pitched at your level. Maybe you have just joined or maybe you have been lurking for a while and now you would like to enter the fold.

How do you go about doing that? Especially in a well established group?

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I have seen many newbies join Facebook groups and become much-loved members within a few weeks. However, I have also seen others try, only to crash and burn. Here is what I have learned from those who manage to succeed.

1. Take your time. Don’t ask for something straight away.

I see this all the time. A newbie’s first ever post is asking for something from the other members. It might be a request for critique, or a question about a challenge they are having.

Asking for something at this point is not ideal. The other members don’t know you. They don’t feel compelled to help you yet. Not because they don’t like you, but because you haven’t given them a reason to want to help you.

So how do you make people want to help you?

2. Introduce yourself (but your life story isn’t necessary).

Tell everyone who you are, that you are glad to be there, and that you’re looking forward to getting involved. Don’t post an image. Don’t ask for anything at all.

Keep it short and sweet. No one wants to read a random stranger’s autobiography on their newsfeed, however interesting you may think it is.

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3. Give of yourself and watch it come back.

If you don’t take the time to respond to others, why would you expect them to respond to you?

Find images you genuinely like and compliment the photographer, or ask them a question about how they achieved it. Photographers love to be congratulated on their work and they enjoy talking about how it was created.

If there was a question posted that you know the answer to, then take some time to craft a response.

If you can identify with a challenge someone else is having, say so. Empathize. The person on the receiving end of your time will be grateful, and they will remember.

4. Engage selectively.

Don’t misinterpret number three above. I am not saying that you should hop onto every thread gushing about everyone’s images, answer every question, and agree with every statement. People-pleasers never win. Not only would other members see right through this, but you would also have no time left in the day for anything else.

Engage with posts which add value to the group and ignore the nonsense (there will be some). Be present in interesting discussions, and frame your responses with respect and intelligence.

You will be remembered.

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5. Reach out to like-minded individuals.

We live in a new world. A world where it is actually possible to have good friends you have never met in person. Making friends online can be similar to making friends the traditional way, in that we gravitate towards those we have something in common with.

Look for those people in the group. Maybe they have a similar style to you, or they seem to get your dry sense of humour. Perhaps, like you, they love to geek out on equipment specifications, or they are struggling with the same issues that you are.

Connect with them within the group at first (in a non-stalker way) then later send them a friend request.

6. When posting or commenting, consider motive, wording and tone.

So let’s say you have done everything in numbers 1-6 above. Now your fellow members are much more likely to respond positively to you! They have seen your name pop up for some time now, alongside your considered comments. Maybe they have even been on the receiving end of some of your genuine praise.

They still have to feel inclined to engage with you though. Your motive, wording and tone will all contribute to whether other members interact positively with you.

That, however, is a whole other article…

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Do you belong to a Facebook photography group? What makes you decide whether to become a part of that group, whether to remain a lurker or whether to leave?

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Julie Christie is a Scottish portrait photographer who has made it her mission to teach photography in the simplest way possible with minimal tech and science. She believes that you can learn photography on your tea break and incorporate the practice into your day-to-day life. You can subscribe to her FREE crash course: Auto to Manual in 10 Days, or you can learn with her via the podcast: Tea Break Tog Photography.

  • Andrea Lythgoe

    I would add: Use the search tool before asking your question. It’s probably been discussed before, and most groups have a wealth of information in the archives. Make use of it!

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  • CameraLends

    Awesome tips, Julie! Thanks for sharing 😀

    In case anyone’s interested, we put together a great guide for the top Facebook groups for beginning photographers. Check it out on our blog – http://blog.cameralends.com/2015/05/12/the-best-facebook-groups-for-beginning-photographers/

  • Julie Christie

    So true Andrea! It works well and can save repeated threads! ?

  • TheBigS

    Seems silly that one might need an article like this, but unfortunately, I’ve seen some bad behavior in these groups, so it’s needed. I’d add (because I’ve seen all of this, some of it over and over):
    1) Unless the group rules specifically say differently, limit yourself to one to three photos a day. Give other members a chance to be seen.
    3) Unless the group specifies differently, post your actual photos, not links to them on another site. No-one wants to go to the trouble of clicking through to your site, and it doesn’t look good when you try to make us. You can put a link at the bottom of your description, in case people feel like following it, but only if it’s attached to post with an actual photo.
    3) Remember that photo groups are for photographers. You are not the only one who takes photos and wants them to be seen. This is why we post just a few a day and actually post photos, not just links to our websites. Have respect for other photographers and their time.
    4) If you ask a question, read it over and check whether your meaning is clear. Also check for typos.
    5) Always assume that not only the photographer, but possibly also the model and even the model’s parents can see your comments. Be respectful.

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  • Julie Christie

    Yes, hijacking a group with your own posts and photographs is definitely not recommended ?

  • Julie Christie

    Great list!

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  • Luis

    Also, watch and see what the vibe is before you post. Check to see how others respond to certain posts, and don’t do things that annoy them. Don’t do an intro post or a bragging ‘look at this great shot I took’ post if the vibe of the group is not one that appreciates those. Same with trying to advertise, or to recruit people to work with you or for you for free, when you might be in a group of professionals.

    And the most important thing: don’t get huffy when you ask for feedback and get it. In every group I’m in, there’s always one person who posts to ask for feedback or ‘cc’ and when the response is actually constructive feedback on how to do better, they get huffy and think they’re being attacked – because these people (typically women who got it into their heads that they wanted to do weddings, kid, or baby photos and went out to buy the cheapest DSLR they could find) exist in an echo chamber where all their friends and family think their average to below-average shots are good (usually because they’re not used to seeing DSLR quality shots on Facebook), and are so unused to being told anything but how talented they are.

  • Rosalind Philips

    The negative comment about women invalidated your post.

  • Julie Christie

    I understand your point in the main Luis. We should never ask for CC unless we are willing to accept some real critique.

    I would add, however, that those giving CC should be mindful of their wording and tone as well as matching their critique to the stage the photographer is at in their journey.

    I am not sure that women are any worse than men in reacting badly to CC.

  • Rob Bixby

    You hit a nerve with some women, but, in my experience, it was an accurate assessment.

  • Rob Bixby

    One way to keep friends in a group is start, and end any critique in a positive way. Another is to critique technique, not style. One of the things that I love most about photography groups, is the variety of styles you see. I can comment about a really distracting part of the background, even if I think the bloody gore of a vampire shoot is over the top. I also enjoy being around the new photographers. I enjoy teaching about our passion. Not only does sharing help the industry, it also keeps me sharp on basics. I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve been asked a basic question, and had to stop and think about a very basic concept, I hadn’t thought about for decades. And watching someone that is trying to learn, what part of the camera you point at the subject, become a very accomplished photographer is amazing.

  • Christine

    It’s a good article. I think sometimes people forget that interacting with groups online is not so different than interacting with people in person. You wouldn’t barge into a group in person and try to take it over, and online, it’s the same. It’s nice to see these tips in one place -thanks!

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