So many more people seem to be getting into photography, or are realising that they’ve got a swanky DSLR but don’t know how to get it off. While there’s lots of online guides and courses, sometimes you need the practical aspect and learning from other people and that’s where photography clubs can help.
I’ve done a couple of online courses, and am signed up to a few challenges and newsletters which provide tips and ideas for improving your photography. But I know there’s a couple of things I struggle with using on my camera, so I’m looking to do a quick couple of hours with a photographer locally to get these things ironed out. That’s harder said than done if you work or have children, because the local courses near us are few and far between, or are intensive over a full weekend. I still have on my list to find a photographer to take me out for a practice and lesson, but in the meantime I’d been chatting a lot to my colleague I sit next to at work.
It turns out she wanted to do more with her camera, and we decided to set up a photography club at work. Yes, there is a photography club in our town, but it seems very professional, and a bit stilted to just join for a bit of fun and practice. So setting up an informal photography club seemed to be the answer.
So far, we’ve had a lunchtime session each week, we’ve had some project campaign photoshoots to help out the business with some of their website images, have set up an intranet site for the club including resources and hints and tips, and have a monthly theme where people can submit and show their photos. It’s very informal, people attend when they can or if there’s a topic they feel strongly about, and photo walks are arranged amongst club members as and when they want to.
We have around 11 members (not bad out of 100 workers), and we’ve got lots of other ideas on how to keep it going.
If you’re interested in learning more about photography, but want to do it offline and don’t have an approachable club near you, then why not find some like minded people and set up your own group.
How to set up an informal photography club
1. Ask around to see who is interested
If possible find someone to share the founding and responsibility for the group. Ideally you want at least 4 people joining or attending on a regular basis. Get people signed up, and ask for some initial feedback on what people want from the group.
2. Agree how often you want to meet.
We decided on monthly for official sessions of an hour at lunch times, but have encouraged people to go out on photo walks as and when. If you have lots of topics, or people to come in and do talks, then you might want to meet more, if you’re all busy you might want to meet every couple of months for a longer session.
3. Set up some kind of online resource.
While you want the club to be offline to get the most value, you’ll want somewhere to share resources, tips, session details, photos etc. A Facebook group is an obvious one which you can keep private to the chosen members, or you might want to have a website – although that needs more upkeep and fewer people are likely to be able to have access.
4. Have a launch session
Invite everyone to a launch session, discuss people’s feedback and wants for the group. Record any questions people have or issues with their photography because you can use these for session themes in future.
Agree what your sessions will cover – will they give the opportunity to do practical photography or just discussions and sharing learnings. If you have sessions 2 hours+, then you could combine the two. Have the theory of the topic first, followed by putting it into practice.
5. Create the opportunity for photo sharing.
This is where the online resource is useful. Facebook is brilliant because you can all share photos, and have discussions, although you could use Flickr, Instagram (set up your own group hashtag so people can find and view each other’s photos easily). Alternatively at each meeting you could all bring along your favourite photo taken that month – to a theme or not and stick them all up to look at.
6. Invite experts
Decide if you’re just going to learn from each other, or want to get experts in, or
7. For each session, research the topic first
While it’s great to share your experiences, you might find there’s a topic that noone knows about. So if you can’t have an expert, have someone agree to do some research first and bring along some resources to get the discussion going.
8. Theme of the month
Like a book club who would all be reading the same book each time, why not have a theme for photos that month? Ask for ideas from the group, then publish them at the beginning of the year, so everyone can take photos throughout the year that fit before sharing them in the relevant month.
This helps people move away from what they always take photos of, which is often a good reason for joining a photography club.
9. To fee or not to fee
Setting up a club can be easy and cheap to do, especially if you’re holding the sessions at work, or rotating round people’s homes. But if you’re meeting in a hall, then think about the costs you need to cover. It might be that you charge a small fee to cover this and refreshments.
Ideas for photography club topic discussions or activities:
Getting off auto
It might be that your club starts and stays small with just some friends involved, but you might want to grow it bigger and make it more formal. There’s lots of guides and resources online from other photography clubs or general photography websites like Digital Photography School.
How do you progress your photography? Do you have informal photography meet ups or belong to a club? Let me know if you set one up or if you’ve any other ideas to add to my list.