Photography-related groups on Facebook are growing exponentially along with the exploding industry. As with many things in life, there are pros and cons when participating in these groups. One can experience valuable feedback, expertise and positive reinforcement from peers, while also experiencing nitpickers and people who pull you down. There are far more important elements often missed when discussing groups that could change the way you benefit from them... forever.
Facebook Groups are a very powerful tool when used the right way. A little over 3 years ago I picked up my camera for the very first time and a friend introduced me to the Fstoppers group. That group along with a dozen others has helped tremendously in my success in photography. If it wasn't for the my involvement in the Fstoppers group, I wouldn't be here writing this article now.
If done properly, being involved in groups can help you earn respect amongst photographers, which in return will bring out your best and lead to bigger and better things. It’s a tool that needs to be fully utilized and I want to help you realize it’s potential. But as we all know, most of these groups can really get on your nerves. Here is a list of cons and their solutions, followed by a guide on how to use this powerful tool to bring the best out of your photography.
Feel free to jump straight to the Do's & Don'ts portion of this article
NITPICKERS – Yup. You guessed it right. The most annoying part of posting in groups are those few people who call themselves photographers. Instead of spending time actually shooting they are sitting behind their computer finding issues that don't exist in fellow members photos. The best method I've found to deal with such ignorant fools is simply reply, "Thanks for the feedback, greatly appreciated." I guarantee it'll shut them down immediately. They just spent 15 minutes writing up a rant on your shared photo, and you blew them off in a nice way. Never try reasoning with them because they aren't worth your time. By answering them you are fueling for another list of nitpicks on your answer. My father always taught me "Never argue with a fool, you'll walk away looking like the bigger fool." When it comes to these types of people - Silence is Golden. Agree to disagree.
GETTING DISCOURAGED - No matter your experience and level in photography, there will always be others who are better then you. Seeing their photos in these groups may discourage you….DON'T LET IT! I remember a few years back I had made a list of photographers whose photos inspired me, I thought I'd never be able to do what they do. Looking back now -- I laugh. You will be as good as them one day but it comes with patience and practice. I promise. Some pick it up faster than others but if you want it and work for it, you will get there. Don’t compare yourself. Instead, use their photos to inspire you. Download the photo and study it every day. Ask yourself how and why they did what they did, then go out and try it.
SPAMMERS - Don't you just hate the clown who just post links to their page and ask you to follow them. Or the newbies who upload every picture they took of their neighbors family. There's no real solution for them, make sure your notifications are turned off and disable that group from your newsfeed.. Everyone has to start somewhere, I agree. But to be inundated with links and snapshots, and constantly sorting through posts is exhausting. To all the newbies out there, you’ll get better with practice. But posting is not a replacement for working hard on your skill and vision. Your fan page will get fans when you start learning to take risks and pictures, not by posting every minute you can. Keep calm and put down your iPhone.
RESPECT - Gaining the respect of fellow photographers is important. Credibility comes with respect from your peers who can vouch for you, who know your work. It will give you the confidence you need as a business owner. Gaining their respect will push you harder. There's no better feeling then knowing there are hundreds of photographers who follow you and look up to your work. But this also means you have to always be on your toes, at your best, all the time. The pressure is tangible. Being popular amongst people in your field leads to future clients as well. 50% of my gigs are acquired through other photographers, because they don't shoot the genre they were offered. Let fellow photographers advertise for you by being obssesed with your work.
KNOWLEDGE - You will always learn something from someone else in these groups. Every person, every photographer, and every artist does things differently and uniquely. You can learn so much from your peers from technique, to gear, to process. Comments are helpful too when used correctly. You may find that you’ll begin to see your work in a whole new light. Photographers love talking about photography -- all you gotta do is ask.
NETWORKING - I've gotten to know some of my best photographer buddies through these groups. Almost half of the people on my friends list are photographers who I've met through chatting and getting to know through these groups. The Project was born and inspired by photographers I knew in these groups, and whom I wanted to meet! That project is my claim to fame. And I am so proud, and so happy to have the opportunity to meet and learn from each one of you. One can never have too many friends.
DOs and DON'Ts
DO post only your absolutely top quality photos! Don't post a photo just because you did the shoot 10 minutes ago and are excited, unless you have a specific question. Think before posting, do people want to see this, or is it a snapshot of your mother which no one cares to see. NEVER post multiple images or an album at once! One photo at a time and never more then once daily. This is what people refer to when they say "Spamming the group."
DON’T post solely to advertise yourself. It won't work. Not right away at least until you're insanely good, with mind blowing work. If you want to show off an image post it with a short story explaining the difficulty of getting the image, or a tip people will gain from. Always advertise yourself in an indirect and humble way.
DON’T post just to post. If you post the same photo in 10 different groups you MUST look back. Reply to peoples comments on your photos, they are taking their time to post a comment on your photo, you better reply to their comment including their name. Don't ignore them, or they won't comment next time. Everyone remembers the nice guy. That person is you.
DO help others. They will help you in return. You may think there 12k members in a group and no one knows each other, but trust me, after 3 years of doing this I got to know small groups within these groups. The Fstoppers one is open to all genres of photography, so there are tons of members from different circles within it. I remember the people who always comment on my headshots, or the ones who comment on my male portraits, landscapes etc. People will remember that you helped them figure something out, and eventually they will mention your name to others or comment and share your work. This is relationships 101, being in a photography support group is no different than how you would want to treat your fellow friend.
DO post useful info with your images. For example -- if you used a dodge & burn technique and it clearly shows that you did a good job, then post the link along with the photo! To gain followers, don't just post a link to your page -- we call that spam. Don't post a photo without a description and only a link, that is also spam. Post a photo with a short sentence or two and hit enter a few times and tag your page. This is a very subtle way to advertise your page. If you are posting high quality work, that is unique and different with something for everyone to learn from, you will see a rise in your followers.
DO choose the right time to post. While posting at the right times isn't as important as the rest of social media (your photo gets bumped to the top with every comment). It is still important. Weekends are dead. 1am - 9am EST is dead. I generally find that posting during morning hours to be the best for the ultimate feedback - 10am-2pm.
In addition, I always post Before/After post processing. People like seeing how the photo looked before it was edited, and it will help them give you more accurate critique.
A few of my other favorite Facebook Groups:
Photigy: When it comes to product photography this is hands down the most helpful group.
Strobist: If flash and strobes are your thing this is the one for you, I've learnt so many lighting ideas there.
The Shredder: This is a good group if all you are looking for is that painful yet powerful critique.
Retouching Academy: By far the best portrait retouching group, they will even hook you up with a mentor.
Photoshop & Lightroom: If you just like to fool around in photoshop and learn new things.