I’m a fan of photo clubs, that’s not a secret. But why should you join one as well? Let’s find out.
Photo clubs are a place where you find like-minded photo enthusiasts and you can talk shop, show off your latest gear, learn about photography from other people, and look at beautiful images. You can use club gear you would normally not have access to, visit places you normally would not have access to. Learn about secret photo locations only known to locals. Teach others who are less advanced. Have a good time with friendly people. Find friends. Get in contact with people who know other people who can help you reach your photography goal. Or if you don’t have a goal, you can just show off your latest holiday images, or images of your grandchildren. They do not win contests, but they still add color to the club life. You get ideas for your next photo project. You learn about the practical side of photography from actual people who can show you how things work, without paying a fortune. If you look at it as an investment, I think it is the best investment you can do if you want to learn photography.
But you have to also put in some work. Be willing to learn. Give back. Be kind, with others and yourself, especially at competition nights. Be thankful for all the work the committee is doing behind the scenes, and try to help. Grow as a person, prepare a talk for the members. You learn public speaking in front of an audience, but with friendly people who have a genuine interest in the topic. Not always. But mostly.
Politics. And consumer mentality. And ego.
That’s it in short. So nothing unusual if you have been a member of any club in the past. Everything I have seen is basically part of the flip-side of the club life. It is hard to get people to do things for the club. There is the idea that if you pay fees, then that is the end of your obligation. Unfortunately, no club runs on money alone, you always need people who do the work to run a club. Plan outings / field trips. Prepare the meeting room before each meeting, clean up afterwards. Competition administration — which is a full-time job. The committee does planning / organising the program. Take care of finances. Run a website. Communicate with the members. Do PR work. Organise speakers. Do sausage sizzle fundraiser. That stuff. But it is always a struggle to find people to do all that. It is not a photo club specific thing; I guess that is true for most clubs.
So if you want to join a photo club, be prepared to help.
And then we have the ego of people involved. The monthly competitions are an interesting arena to watch people react to being criticised. The judges offer their opinion, but several photographers take it personally, and the reaction can be accordingly. We had most dramas in the club because of competition events / judging of images. Even worse, if the judge is someone from the club. All that drama might be the reason some clubs just don’t do any competitions to avoid the friction.
And then we deal with people. All sorts of people. People who don’t like other people and talk behind their backs. People who try to push their own agenda, people who don’t care about rules. Just normal people. Members come and go, and people who don’t feel at home at the club leave after a while. Every club has a specific ‘culture’, grown over years and influenced by some more vocal people. If you find yourself in a club where you don’t like the culture, then most of the time that is the reason to leave and search for a different club (or go online and search for an online club). The alternative is to change things in the club, but that is most of the time an uphill battle. If you want to change things, prepare for a long journey.
The beautiful part is the memories you collect with all the hours among friends, doing what you love to do (photography), talking about what you love to do (photography), and watching beautiful images, created by beautiful souls.