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Camera Clubs, Pros and Cons...

Updated: May 13, 2019


In the nearly 7 years since I retired, I have lived in a number of different towns around the western USA, and have been a member of 3 different camera clubs. They have ranged from small ( 10-15 members ) to very large ( over 325 members ). The clubs had advantages and disadvantages, which I will share with you in this blog.


You may not think you want to be in a club. After all, photography is a very individualistic endeavor. You have an idea for a photo, or you see a scene in your own particular way, and no one else knows that until you show them the finished photograph. It is certainly not a team sport like football. But my overall impression is that being a " team " member of camera club is a good thing. Here is why I make that statement.


Being a club member will accelerate your photography education. You will have access to more educational programs, and it will stimulate your to ambitions to take great photos. Most camera clubs have field trips for photo shoots, often with members sharing their knowledge and experience. These can be places you would not have thought of, or otherwise had access to, if you weren't in the club.


Most camera clubs have some sort of photo sharing session at their meetings. This can be an informal discussion of photos presented by members, or it can be as formal as a competition with judges hired by the club. This is a great way to get positive feedback and ( hopefully ) constructive feedback. It also shows you how much more you can improve, especially when one of the masters in the group brings in a " National Geographic " type photo.


Camera clubs are a great way to network with people with similar photographic interests, both locally and nationally. I attended a day long seminar put on by the camera club I belonged to at the time; it had 2 nationally known speakers. Each of these speakers had websites, books, and one had an emailed blog. Since they both spoke on landscape/travel photography, my areas of interest, they are now 2 of my go to references.


Camera clubs can be very good at presenting opportunities to show your photos to the general public. The small club I belonged to made arrangements with the local library to have a month long showing in their lobby's glass cases. The large club frequently presented opportunities thru state magazines, local photo events, etc.


Now for the downsides I encountered. Most came with the larger club which I no longer belong to. The photo presentations can be very competitive. There were about 40 photos per class ( intermediate, advanced, masters ) for each presentation, and only a 1st, 2nd, and Honorable mention awarded for each class. 3 people went home happy, 37 went home with some degree of disappointment. Most of the hired judges were fair and competent, a few, not so much. You could ask to have your photo critiqued by the judges; one judge rated one of my photos low because he " did not like my dog ". The other two judges ranked me higher because they liked my dog. Go figure.


The club had a "lottery system" for most field trips, usually in the range of 10-15 people. With a membership of over 300, not many got to go on these trips. And there was usually a substantial fee if you won the "lottery". On one trip I remember, you had to pay for your own lodging, food, transportation, and it clearly was stated " This is not an teaching trip" You got to pay $70 for the privilege of their company, I guess. This club seemed to be all about the money. Pay for the field trips, pay a yearly membership of $55, pay $ 210 for a Lightroom class presented by one of the members. ( I found a 220 page ebook online covering the same subject, for $ 29). I could go on, but I won't . I moved on to another club that better suited my needs.


And here is my concluding suggestion to you. Try a club and if it doesn't seem to be a good fit, find another. Either locally, or online. For local clubs, google " camera clubs near me". You may have to travel a moderate distance, but if it is only once a month, it may be well worth the drive. Online, there is a digitalphotographyschool.com site from Australia that is a good place to look online. They have weekly photo challenges and the members give feedback. And they have tons of educational posts.

I hope this has been more positive than negative regarding joining a camera club. Give one a try, pick up on the positive elements, improve your photograph, enjoy your hobby more.



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