Should You Join a Photography Club?

Should You Join a Photography Club?

As a photographer, you are probably a participant in a number of online groups or forums that discuss photography. But have you considered joining your local photography club? Let’s look at the value of joining one!

Online communities are a great way to talk about photography on your schedule. Communities like Fstoppers bring current news, events, and photography-related releases with the speed we are used to with the internet while providing a place to share images and engage in discussion within article comments. However, local photography clubs also bring tremendous value to photographers of all types and skill levels. 

This article is in the context of my local photography club, but my local group does several things very well and are things you can look for in your own local club. Or, even use the ideas here to start your own local photography club in your area!

Local Opportunities

While it is fun to share our images online, there is something even better about sharing your work in print for display in public. Photography clubs can be an excellent way to learn about local opportunities to display your work. Sometimes, it is an open call for a juried show in a local gallery, and other times, the club will put together a proposal to share the club’s work at a community gallery.

Being a photography club member has helped me be more aware of local galleries, open calls, and participating in group showings than I would have otherwise. In addition, this has helped me learn more about what work people select for open calls to help me tailor what I present for consideration, even for opportunities outside the group.

Image Critique

My local photography club has an image critique section of the meeting. Members of the club are invited to share up to three images that are presented and open to critique from the other members. Often, there is a monthly theme - for example, dappled light, reflections, or some different theme - a challenge of sorts.

The level of critique varies depending on the person presenting their work, as a wide range of skill levels are at the meeting. Some simply want to share images, some want a softer critique, and others request critical analyses - all reviews are welcome.

Beyond having my own images critiqued, I also appreciate the moment to view other photos and think about what works in the image or doesn’t work and then immediately hear other people’s thoughts on images in real-time during the meeting. 

Looking at other photographic works and participating in the critique helps strengthen my images over time.

Share Your Knowledge

The skill levels vary at my local photography club, from beginner to advanced. But small sections of each meeting are dedicated to "Through the Lens" talks, short 15-minute introductions to various topics from other members in the club. This could be lighting, tripod selection, basic editing processes, and more. 

This often shows a different way to do things or think about things that a photographer might not have considered. Even though I consider myself well-versed in editing in Lightroom and Photoshop, seeing how someone else does it sometimes reveals a new technique I can adopt in my own work. 

These "Through the Lens" talks also offer the opportunity for members of the club to practice their speaking and instruction skills. Preparing to talk about a topic often helps you learn even more about the subject to present it well. 

I have presented several topics to the club over the years and have appreciated the experience it has given me.

Join Your Local Photography Club

These are just a few of the things my local photography club offers that I find valuable. Online communities are great, but meeting local people who participate in the same hobby and activity you do helps make even stronger connections in your community.

Are you a member of a local photography club? How has your experience been?

Jeffrey Tadlock's picture

Jeffrey Tadlock is an Ohio-based landscape photographer with frequent travels regionally and within the US to explore various landscapes. Jeffrey enjoys the process and experience of capturing images as much as the final image itself.

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There is no photography club in my community, mostly because it is a tiny town and there aren't enough photographers to warrant the existence of a club.

However, in the nearest large town, Wenatchee, 98 miles south of me, there is a club. It is rather small, with no more than a dozen members, but it's still worth the almost 200 mile round trip to attend the monthly meetings. Face to face meetings and discussions are a gazillion times better than online interaction.

I'm so lucky to have a club right in my suburb even, I don't even have to go to the larger city we are a suburb of.

And definitely agree, there is definitely something to be said for in-person communities as opposed to only online.

I am a member (and recently VP) of the Morris PhotoColor Club in Morristown, NJ. I joined the club some years ago because I wanted to elicit honest, constructive and educated feedback on my photography that would help me improve.

Our club meets twice a month from September through May, alternating with presentations on various topics, conducted by club members or outside presenters. The other times we run competitions. Members submit up to three images, which are judged and scored by an outside judge. In the end the makers of the winning images are revealed and everyone claps.

Personally I learned a tremendous amount from participating in the competitions, hearing the judges comments on my images as well as on those of the other participants. It helped me understand what makes a good image, where are distractions, how to deal with them. Over time, after having seen dozens or hundreds of images being judged and commented on, patterns will start to emerge on what makes a given image a winner and what doesn't.

Another important lesson for me was that in a competition the image has to stand on its own. The judge doesn't have the same emotional attachment to an image that the maker might have. They neither know nor care how dueling the hike was to the sunrise, or how difficult it was to get the shot. For us as makers it is important to have that distance in order to be able to somewhat objectively judge our own work.

I have written an article a slightly more in-depth article on my website if you're interested:

Sounds like a great club! My local club only meets once a month. We share images, but not in competition style. But I agree, listening to critique, seeing what images make it the furthest can all really help improve your own photography from all the objective feedback.

And I think that point of a judge not knowing what went into getting the image is an excellent one. I know I am guilty of having some of my favorite personal images almost as much because I know the story behind it than the image standing on its own!

I belong to the Winnipeg South Photo Club, been the VP and President. We meet twice a month in person and once a month virtually. The virtual meeting is our monthly image review. Like Alex's club, we meet September through May.

We do a few field trips a year and do at least one public exhibit a year. We aren't competition oriented however. There's another club in town, the Manitoba Camera Club that is very competition oriented. I've been a judge for several of their competitions.

Both clubs join together to bring in a national/international photographer to put on a presentation on one day and usually, a field trip of sorts to do a shoot with the presenter.

We have around 45 or so members, but the numbers have been slowly shrinking. It's nice to talk shop with like minded people.

Interesting — that’s two clubs now that meet twice a month. We’re once a month, but do meet throughout the year.

My club is in a suburb, I’d guess we have around 25-ish regular members (more that belong to the mailing list, participate in our FB group, etc). I don’t think we’re shrinking, but adding people is difficult and we are aging!

The year I joined, we had 72 members. There is a core group of about 25 that regularly participate and can be counted on to be at meetings. And there's a smaller core that will participate in exhibits. As I mentioned, our club does at least one a year, but our members are invited to display their prints at libraries and such.

Photography clubs are boring. I’ve belonged to them in the past. They sit around arguing the merits of jpeg vs raw. There is always a faction that says “if it doesn’t come directly out of the camera, it is photoshopped.” This is because they don’t want to spend the money for post processing software. There is another faction that doesn’t want to understand or explore the rich history of photography before digital. During the film days, they had a modicum of merit. Not so much in today’s world. I find that engaging with painters and mixed media artists is much more worth the time for me. There is a tendency to discuss things like composition and visual artistry across multiple disciplines.

That has not been my experience.

With that said, I think there is a tremendous amount to be learned from painters and studying painters and their approach - so I certainly don't disagree in that point!

Thanks for your comments

I run a small club, in a very small community, that meets weekly. We all love the weekly meets, and often just go out shooting together. We have a big mix of skills, but there are only 10 of us total (we were 12 but two members had some health issues).

In Australia, we have something called Men's Sheds. Our photography club is part of the Men's Shed. It was easy to start, with interest coming from the shed at first, but growing to some outside members very quickly.

We're in a rural community and the club has given us opportunities to exhibit our images, to invite guest speakers, to explore the favorite shooting locations of others. It's been excellent.

Sounds like a great club! I think it is good to practice photography in real life with others - no matter how big or small the group!

I'm a member of the Dudley Camera club, in the West Midlands, England. We meet weekly with a break in the Summer
I was spoilt for choice with about 6 or more clubs in a 20 mile radius.
We are all encouraged to submit both printed and projected digital images (PDIs) for our club competitions. These are judged by visiting judges from up to about 30-40 miles away.
When we had the COVID lockdowns we were restricted to PDIs, but we also enjoyed some international judges through Zoom meetings.
There are also interclub competitions again with a neutral judge where we visit other clubs.
Practical nights are held covering most genres of photography.
Skill levels vary from international competitions winners to novices deciding what camera system to buy.
The last event was a walk about covering night time street photography.
There's an annual dispose of kit you haven't used event to raise funds for the club.
I can recommend joining or forming a camera club, it really helped me in my main hobby, which is the National Auricula and Primula Society (Midlands and West), where I maintain the website and take pictures of the exhibits at the shows.

Wow! Six clubs all that close - very cool!

I really like the idea of sharing images in print form as well. The projector at my club's meeting space isn't the greatest at showing what is seen on the normal computer screen. Prints would be a great way around that and help people learn how prints differ from seeing images on the screen.

Esprit de corps,

One of those clubs that I wish you would mention was local professional photographers of America affiliates the local groups of the national PPA that have local meetings similar to what you talking about while geared towards professional there are many that are non professionals involved.

I have never heard of local groups of the PPA. Thanks for making us aware. Do you happen to have info on the local groups? Like a link or something that shows the locations of all of their local chapters?

We have a PPA of Ohio group. They are a good group and certain members provided great feedback/criticism on portrait work to really help improve that genre of work!

I belong to Edinburgh Photographic Society, one of the oldest in the world founded in 1861. It’s a fairly active club with over 200 members. As many of our meetings are done through zoom we have many remote members who live abroad. We have several meetings in any one week that cater for all types of photography. We attract some amazing speakers which is one of the real benefits. We are lucky to have superb premises that incorporate meeting rooms, a library a dark room and a well equipped studio along with exhibition space. We hold an international print salon which like the society has been run since 1861 .You are welcome to check us out.

Sounds awesome! Our club used Zoom a lot during Covid - it worked out well!