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.
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!
- 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.
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!