5 Steps To Starting A Photography Group In Your Area

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photogroup1

image credit: Fried Toast

For beginners and pros alike a photography group can be an excellent resource.  It’s a wonderful opportunity to share ideas, ask questions, practice new techniques and significantly accelerate your learning curve.

Recently a friend of mine, Jan, approached me about wanting to get a photography group started started and though I must admit that I have never personally started a photography group before, I was obviously happy to assist!  Jan is a local amateur photographer who has attended a few of my photography classes.  She is eager to learn all she can about photography and has brilliantly discovered early on what an important factor networking is in this industry.

Getting Started:

contacts

image credit: Weizhong

1.  Contact List:

  • Obviously you’ve got to start with a list of relevant candidates to approach about joining the group.  Start by emailing everyone in your email list (bcc PLEASE!  cc’s are so tacky!).  Because the price of semi-pro grade digital cameras is consistently dropping, more and more people have developed photography as a hobby, so you may be surprised at how many of your contacts are actually interested.
  • Jan was smart to inquire about my contact list as well.  Don’t be afraid to contact a local pro, or even an educator at a local college or camera shop who may have some relevant contacts to share with you. Though I wasn’t comfortable giving out my list of contacts, I was happy to email all of my class attendees and inform them that a local resident was interested in starting a type of photography club with the end in mind of learning and growing as photographers.  I gave my students her information and told them to contact her if they were interested.  The response was significant.

2.  Make a Group Email List:

  • For a group like this to succeed there has GOT to be an open line of communication and I know I don’t need to tell you this, but a reminder won’t hurt: THE PHONE TREE DIED BACK IN 1999.  All hail Google and the “Google group”!  It would be a really good idea to start a google group (or similar) so that all members of the group can have open discussion about all things pertaining to group activities etc.  If you get people talking and sharing ideas etc on a regular basis, they start to feel ownership of the group and then are more likely to stay committed to it as time goes on.

3.  Group Blog:

  • For Jan’s group I helped her set up a blog where group assignments, critiques, agendas etc can be posted and easily shared.  We went with Blogger for this as it’s completely free and remarkably user friendly and intuitive.  Once I created the blog, I invited all those interested in joining the group to become authors and granted select members administrative privelages as well.  We decided to make the blog open only to authors so beginners would feel comfortable posting without the fear of embarassment as they practice and learn the technical aspect of their passion.
  • The wonderful thing about creating a blog for your group is that friends who don’t live in your area but are still interested in an open dialog relating to photography can easily join.  Jan’s group is based out of our little town on the North East shore of Oahu, however there are quite a few members from all over the island and even one friend is currently residing in the Middle East!

4.  Meet:

  • Deciding on location was tricky, at first we went back and forth about the possibility of hosting in someone’s home.  Once all was said and done we decided against that as it adds another variable to the equation.  If ever the host is unable to host that month, you’ve got the juggling around of the whole group which is likely to equate to people not showing up. Jan had the wonderful idea to contact the local library and inquire if there was a slow night when a group of photographers may be able to come in and discuss photography.  The librarian was INCREDIBLY accommodating.  Tuesday nights just happen to be slow nights, so she reserved a corner of the library for Jan’s group 1 Tuesday night a month . . . FREE OF CHARGE!
  • When discussing how often to meet be sure to take into consideration that too short a gap doesn’t give people with busy schedules time to complete assignments etc. Too great a gap between meetings can also be problematic as people tend to be forgetful or continually put off getting assignments completed because they feel like they have an endless amount of time to complete them.  We felt once a month was a good starting point for a group meeting.
  • There are many different things you can discuss at your meetings.  The possiblities are endless.  You may want to consider giving everyone a chance to submit ideas for discusssion just to gague the interests of the members of your particular group.  If you wanted to be really gungho you could also put together a survery over at surveymonkey or another similar site to gather information from your group.
  • Jan’s group has decided to have members take turns teaching on various subjects.  For the first meeting Jan was the presenter and she simply shared information from various articles she’d read on the web and gave a review of a photography book she’d been reading.  All the info she shared was centered around the same photography related subject. It was wonderful.  There was open discussion, questions were asked, ideas were shared. . . At the end of the meeting the group decided on an assignment to be completed by the next group meeting.  Everyone is to post their images from the assignment on the blog for other members of the group to critique in the comment section.  The meeting was simple, enjoyable and efficient.

groupshoots1

image credit: mikebaird

5.  Group Shoots:

  • At the end of the group meeting the group decided to also hold a monthly group shoot. I think this was a great idea.  It’s a wonderful way to learn because if you do get confused or have a question while you’re shooting, you don’t have to waste all kinds of time experimenting to figure it out, or wait until you get home to look it up.  You’ve got resources right there with you so you can truly learn as you go with more efficiency!
  • I highly recommend that you make the group shoot a part of your group’s agenda.

When I was first getting started in photography I felt completely like a fish out of water, and the really scary thing was that there wasn’t a soul in sight to help pop me into the bowl and get me swimming again!  I was desperate to learn, but didn’t have a clue to where to begin.

As I got further along on my journey I again wished I’d had a network to help me along the way.  I could have avoided so many pitfalls and detours and saved SO MUCH time and even more money if I’d had someone to help me along.

Now, as I’m just beginning to feel settled into my career as a photographer, I’ve learned to rely heavily on the help and support of other professionals to keep me afloat.

I was amazed about how quickly Jan’s group was formed and how very successful it has been thus far!  If you’re really serious about learning more about photography, give a photography group a try!  If you’re not excited to go to all the work of putting it together, try a Google search, there may already be one formed nearby!

Happy Shooting!

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Natalie Norton

is a writer and a lifestyle wedding and portrait photographer who shoots across the globe. She is based off of the North Shore of Oahu and out of Gilbert, Arizona. Enjoy more of her photography and writing at www.natalienortonblog.com. You can also connect with Natalie via Twitter or on Facebook.

  • Getting involved in groups is an excellent way learn. I’ve been a pro photographer for twenty years and I still like to work with groups at all levels and abilities. Everyone learns something.

    I’ve found great local groups at meetup.com

    Rosh

  • What are your (or anyone’s) thoughts on overlapping groups? I ask because in my area, there are technically two photography groups already. One is strictly film, however (which rules me out) and the other incredibly large (200+ people all vying for the same 30-50 slot walks and sessions). I don’t feel the personal touch in that group. Do you think I’d be frowned upon by the members of either group if I were to try to form a third group for photography in the area?

  • D. Travis North,

    It’s tricky, because you don’t want to overstep, however if neither is serving your needs, I don’t see how creating a third would be problematic. Let us know how it goes! N

  • Joel Davidson

    Natalie,

    Is there any open spots in this group, Im live in Oahu and will be coming home from Iraq in a few weeks and would love to meet some people that share my passion for photography.

  • D travis North
    i would say if you can start your own group but make it a specific type of photography(nighttime, Black and white, portraits, flowers etc) but doesnt mean thats all you shoot but its the main focus of the group.
    Like i run a “strobist” group in San Diego its been a good group, numbers arent too consistent
    but the one thing that is consistent is we meet the last sunday of every month even if only two people show up
    (which hasnt been the case yet) and its been steadily growing.

    Great article
    our group is a low discussion high shooting group most discussions happen on our flickr group.

  • Some great tips, Natalie. Thanks.

  • I recommend checking out Meetup.com. They are a site that specialize in helping local groups form on the Internet for the purpose of meeting in real life. As a group organizer they provide a message board, calendar, mailing list, file hosting, and photo hosting. They also make it is easy for people to find your group through their site (as well as Google and other search engine). There is a fee to the organizer of $19 a month (or as low as $12 a month if you sign up for 6 months). There is no fee from Meetup.com for members (although individual groups may charge dues to cover the site costs and other group activities).

    @D. Travis North

    I’m an organizer for my local photography group (at the aforementioned Meetup.com). I know there are other groups in the area and I know members of our group participate in these other groups. In my opinion this is an opportunity rather than a problem. In other words by keeping an eye on what they are doing I get ideas for my own group. I’ve even promoted other groups to my group members because to me it is about meeting with people and taking pictures. The only thing I would do is try to avoid conflicting scheduling wise with other groups in the area. In other words if your planning on have say a regularly monthly meeting don’t do it on the same day as the other group. This doesn’t mean you have to check with the other group every time you try to schedule something though. If you decide your going to the local park on the 15th and you find out the other group is going to the beach you don’t have to change or even avoid the conflict, leave and let people do what they want. Just don’t make your members feel like it is an us or them thing, let them do what they feel is most interesting to them and encourage them to share photos and experiences regardless of what they are doing.

  • F. D. Bryant – do you ever do joint events or cross-group promotions? I imagine that in some situations – souch as Kevie’s case where he runs a strobist group – it would be appropriate if there was some inter-group relations.

  • Love the idea of a local photography group – I find shooting with other people can be very rewarding. And you get a useful supply of people who understand your need for models from time to time :-P.

  • jen

    I’ve joined an informal photography group via Flickr. When I joined a local Flickr Group I also read the discussions and discovered that the do meetups so have now been on a few meetups.

  • Tony W

    I am a member of a camera group and find it great to be able to converse with other photographers in a face to face environment, as well as having shooting partners.

    In a lot of countries there are already camera groups setup, for a list of formal camera groups in Australia see

  • Tony W
  • I have been wanting to do something like this for a while, and now you have made it look so easy I Am wondering why it has taken me so long!
    Guess what I’ll be doing on the weekend…

  • Natalie,
    Thankyou so much for the tips! I’m an aspiring photographer and really would like to meet more photographers in the area.
    May I suggest creating soem flyers and posting them in local photography shops/studios (with permission, ofcourse!) may be a good idea?
    I really hope to get a group started for the summer! Possibly even a junior group (for those like myself who are under the age of 18) could be pretty creative. I’d love to see what a group of 8 or 9 teenagers could come up with 😛

    Thanks again for the tips!!

  • Regina

    Thanks for this. Although, I wish I had found this a few weeks ago. I had a local photographer contact me about starting a group in our area. I basically started the group just the way it was reviewed here. It is the only group of its kind in the area and so far we already have several people interested in being a part of this group. we are going out on our first meeting together in a couple of weeks. Thanks for the info here.

  • Polly

    I belong to 4 photography groups in the Tampa Bay area. One if for general photography, one is for wedding and events, one for models and finally a strobist group. I am an assistant organizer to 3 of the four groups. Ours are all organized through Meetup.com. I have met some great friends and some fabulous photographers through these groups and highly recommend everyone checking that website for a photo group in your area.

  • Jan

    I started a small group using FaceBook three months ago. We are ten members now and hope to grow. Once a month we get together at a location and shoot to our hearts content. Afterwards we post our best ‘5’ on the group page and have a little competition. The winner gets to chose the next location for the following month, a little prize and their winning picture on the group page for the month. We don’t meet at the same place every month, just get together for coffee/tea afterward and talk about the day and get to know each other.

    I’ve contacted a local professional who’s willing to do a lecture of sorts and an outing with us for minimal cost. But getting everyone to commit time and money is difficult. Anyone have any other suggestions as to how to increase the membership and get everyone more involved?

    If you’re in the Southwestern Ontario area you are more than welcome to join my group for the fun of it!
    http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=62530886911.

  • K.Ghraoui

    i just started a group last week, on flickr. and inviting people to make the group bigger.
    so the article came in the right timing.
    i am located in Doha. Qatar which there is no much people are doing this, so i thought of starting one.

    thank you

  • Joel,

    You could contact me through my blog and I could get you the info on Jan’s group that meets here on the North Shore.

    Natalie

  • Steve Geronazzo

    We recently started a photography group at work and it went pretty well. We decided to have a session from January to June since many people will be away on vacation and will start up again in September. We meet every second Tuesday and structured our group around the principle of alternating one outdoors photo shoot and one theoretical meeting indoors. We use YAHOO Groups as a central part of our photography group since it has an agenda, albums, links, messages and places to attach documents relevant to photography or any other subject. The YAHOO account is free and can be open to the public or reserved to the group’s members.

    Steve Geronazzo
    Quebec City

  • I’ve been considering forming a group for quite a while that would refer “double bookings” out especially in the case of weddings. I’d love to hear some thoughts on whether this might work or not… I might keep the group small and private ad it is sometimes hard to refer those you don’t know very well.

    Craig
    http://www.lusterstudios.com

  • Natalie,

    I’ve actually started up a group myself, mainly among coworkers and friends. And I can affirm that having a group (especially for newbies such as my friends and I) really helps when it comes to tackling our new-found hobby.

    We’ve never actually all met and gone on shoots or anything yet, as our work schedules have deterred us from doing so, but hopefully soon — our nice, sunny weather on Oahu should be conducive to good group outings.

    What’s your friend’s group’s web page? Maybe I’ll take a peek and see if I can pick up a few pointers.

  • I have been wanting to start a photography club here in my home town..with weekly contests.
    I would love to get people together to share ideas and snaps. OKC is to far for some to drive. and yukon is more for pro level photogs.
    SO this is my problem.. how do I get started? i have 3 people me included that have questions about gallery shows, sponsorship, promotions. the latest in digital and so on. can you please help me..
    my server out in California went down so I lost my personal page. vanarchy.com

    thanks a bunch janice

Some Older Comments

  • janice m woodring August 11, 2013 11:53 pm

    I have been wanting to start a photography club here in my home town..with weekly contests.
    I would love to get people together to share ideas and snaps. OKC is to far for some to drive. and yukon is more for pro level photogs.
    SO this is my problem.. how do I get started? i have 3 people me included that have questions about gallery shows, sponsorship, promotions. the latest in digital and so on. can you please help me..
    my server out in California went down so I lost my personal page. vanarchy.com

    thanks a bunch janice

  • jonas June 28, 2010 01:01 am

    Natalie,

    I've actually started up a group myself, mainly among coworkers and friends. And I can affirm that having a group (especially for newbies such as my friends and I) really helps when it comes to tackling our new-found hobby.

    We've never actually all met and gone on shoots or anything yet, as our work schedules have deterred us from doing so, but hopefully soon -- our nice, sunny weather on Oahu should be conducive to good group outings.

    What's your friend's group's web page? Maybe I'll take a peek and see if I can pick up a few pointers.

  • Craig October 14, 2009 03:56 am

    I've been considering forming a group for quite a while that would refer "double bookings" out especially in the case of weddings. I'd love to hear some thoughts on whether this might work or not... I might keep the group small and private ad it is sometimes hard to refer those you don't know very well.

    Craig
    http://www.lusterstudios.com

    -

  • Steve Geronazzo June 6, 2009 08:58 pm

    We recently started a photography group at work and it went pretty well. We decided to have a session from January to June since many people will be away on vacation and will start up again in September. We meet every second Tuesday and structured our group around the principle of alternating one outdoors photo shoot and one theoretical meeting indoors. We use YAHOO Groups as a central part of our photography group since it has an agenda, albums, links, messages and places to attach documents relevant to photography or any other subject. The YAHOO account is free and can be open to the public or reserved to the group's members.

    Steve Geronazzo
    Quebec City

  • Author: natalie norton June 6, 2009 05:28 am

    Joel,

    You could contact me through my blog and I could get you the info on Jan's group that meets here on the North Shore.

    Natalie

  • K.Ghraoui June 5, 2009 07:53 pm

    i just started a group last week, on flickr. and inviting people to make the group bigger.
    so the article came in the right timing.
    i am located in Doha. Qatar which there is no much people are doing this, so i thought of starting one.

    thank you

  • Jan June 5, 2009 05:57 am

    I started a small group using FaceBook three months ago. We are ten members now and hope to grow. Once a month we get together at a location and shoot to our hearts content. Afterwards we post our best '5' on the group page and have a little competition. The winner gets to chose the next location for the following month, a little prize and their winning picture on the group page for the month. We don't meet at the same place every month, just get together for coffee/tea afterward and talk about the day and get to know each other.

    I've contacted a local professional who's willing to do a lecture of sorts and an outing with us for minimal cost. But getting everyone to commit time and money is difficult. Anyone have any other suggestions as to how to increase the membership and get everyone more involved?

    If you're in the Southwestern Ontario area you are more than welcome to join my group for the fun of it!
    http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=62530886911.

  • Polly June 5, 2009 05:41 am

    I belong to 4 photography groups in the Tampa Bay area. One if for general photography, one is for wedding and events, one for models and finally a strobist group. I am an assistant organizer to 3 of the four groups. Ours are all organized through Meetup.com. I have met some great friends and some fabulous photographers through these groups and highly recommend everyone checking that website for a photo group in your area.

  • Regina June 5, 2009 04:27 am

    Thanks for this. Although, I wish I had found this a few weeks ago. I had a local photographer contact me about starting a group in our area. I basically started the group just the way it was reviewed here. It is the only group of its kind in the area and so far we already have several people interested in being a part of this group. we are going out on our first meeting together in a couple of weeks. Thanks for the info here.

  • Serephinex June 5, 2009 02:33 am

    Natalie,
    Thankyou so much for the tips! I'm an aspiring photographer and really would like to meet more photographers in the area.
    May I suggest creating soem flyers and posting them in local photography shops/studios (with permission, ofcourse!) may be a good idea?
    I really hope to get a group started for the summer! Possibly even a junior group (for those like myself who are under the age of 18) could be pretty creative. I'd love to see what a group of 8 or 9 teenagers could come up with :P

    Thanks again for the tips!!

  • Caro June 5, 2009 01:59 am

    I have been wanting to do something like this for a while, and now you have made it look so easy I Am wondering why it has taken me so long!
    Guess what I'll be doing on the weekend...

  • Tony W June 4, 2009 03:44 pm

    doh stupid xhtml

    http://www.a-p-s.org.au/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=123&Itemid=188

  • Tony W June 4, 2009 03:43 pm

    I am a member of a camera group and find it great to be able to converse with other photographers in a face to face environment, as well as having shooting partners.

    In a lot of countries there are already camera groups setup, for a list of formal camera groups in Australia see

  • jen June 3, 2009 10:29 am

    I've joined an informal photography group via Flickr. When I joined a local Flickr Group I also read the discussions and discovered that the do meetups so have now been on a few meetups.

  • Lenslicker June 2, 2009 08:06 pm

    Love the idea of a local photography group - I find shooting with other people can be very rewarding. And you get a useful supply of people who understand your need for models from time to time :-P.

  • D. Travis North June 2, 2009 03:24 pm

    F. D. Bryant - do you ever do joint events or cross-group promotions? I imagine that in some situations - souch as Kevie's case where he runs a strobist group - it would be appropriate if there was some inter-group relations.

  • F. D. Bryant III June 2, 2009 11:12 am

    I recommend checking out Meetup.com. They are a site that specialize in helping local groups form on the Internet for the purpose of meeting in real life. As a group organizer they provide a message board, calendar, mailing list, file hosting, and photo hosting. They also make it is easy for people to find your group through their site (as well as Google and other search engine). There is a fee to the organizer of $19 a month (or as low as $12 a month if you sign up for 6 months). There is no fee from Meetup.com for members (although individual groups may charge dues to cover the site costs and other group activities).

    @D. Travis North

    I'm an organizer for my local photography group (at the aforementioned Meetup.com). I know there are other groups in the area and I know members of our group participate in these other groups. In my opinion this is an opportunity rather than a problem. In other words by keeping an eye on what they are doing I get ideas for my own group. I've even promoted other groups to my group members because to me it is about meeting with people and taking pictures. The only thing I would do is try to avoid conflicting scheduling wise with other groups in the area. In other words if your planning on have say a regularly monthly meeting don't do it on the same day as the other group. This doesn't mean you have to check with the other group every time you try to schedule something though. If you decide your going to the local park on the 15th and you find out the other group is going to the beach you don't have to change or even avoid the conflict, leave and let people do what they want. Just don't make your members feel like it is an us or them thing, let them do what they feel is most interesting to them and encourage them to share photos and experiences regardless of what they are doing.

  • iheartfilm June 2, 2009 07:01 am

    Some great tips, Natalie. Thanks.

  • kevie June 2, 2009 03:52 am

    D travis North
    i would say if you can start your own group but make it a specific type of photography(nighttime, Black and white, portraits, flowers etc) but doesnt mean thats all you shoot but its the main focus of the group.
    Like i run a "strobist" group in San Diego its been a good group, numbers arent too consistent
    but the one thing that is consistent is we meet the last sunday of every month even if only two people show up
    (which hasnt been the case yet) and its been steadily growing.

    Great article
    our group is a low discussion high shooting group most discussions happen on our flickr group.

  • Joel Davidson June 2, 2009 03:45 am

    Natalie,

    Is there any open spots in this group, Im live in Oahu and will be coming home from Iraq in a few weeks and would love to meet some people that share my passion for photography.

  • Natalie Norton June 2, 2009 03:24 am

    D. Travis North,

    It's tricky, because you don't want to overstep, however if neither is serving your needs, I don't see how creating a third would be problematic. Let us know how it goes! N

  • D. Travis North June 2, 2009 03:01 am

    What are your (or anyone's) thoughts on overlapping groups? I ask because in my area, there are technically two photography groups already. One is strictly film, however (which rules me out) and the other incredibly large (200+ people all vying for the same 30-50 slot walks and sessions). I don't feel the personal touch in that group. Do you think I'd be frowned upon by the members of either group if I were to try to form a third group for photography in the area?

  • Rosh - New media photographer June 2, 2009 01:26 am

    Getting involved in groups is an excellent way learn. I've been a pro photographer for twenty years and I still like to work with groups at all levels and abilities. Everyone learns something.

    I've found great local groups at meetup.com

    Rosh

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