Joining a Photo Club – The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful

I’m a fan of pho­to clubs, that’s not a secret. But why should you join one as well? Let’s find out.

Global Photo Club

The Good

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.

Global Photo Club

The Bad

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.

Global Photo Club

The Beautiful

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.

Global Photo Club

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