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The lounge Relax, take a break from photo and camera talk - have a chat about something else for a change. Just keep it clean and polite!

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Old 13th March 2015
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Photography Clubs

I was a member of a club when I was in my teens (back in the 70s - the Liverpool Amateur Photographic Association) and then more recently was a member of a club over in Cambridgeshire for a couple of years when I got back into photography after a very long break. Despite staying a couple of years at the Cambridgeshire club, I was never completely bowled over by the experience.

However I stayed the course and lived through the competition rigmarole since it was a great learning exercise to hear what the judges had to say about my images. I managed to get a few decent results so I can't complain, but I really didn't like the whole comp format. Sitting through 2 hours or more of someone trying to say nice things about poor shots, or giving low marks for great shots just because they have the wrong border or have been "over-sharpened" is quite depressing.

When I moved to the Midlands a few years ago, I tried a few local clubs but didn't really get along with any of them either. Like the Cambridgeshire club, they too had very similar (some would say formulaic) approaches that really wasn't what I was looking for. For example:

- The meetings were like mothers' union meetings - old village halls with tea and biccies in the break (usually prepared by the women!).

- The programmes consisted mainly of 'sit down in the dark' events - either competitions or lectures.

- The competition element was too much at the forefront - and as per the above comment, I found the judging format very stale with a fairly predictable type of image that succeeded.

- The age demographic was, shall we say, leaning towards the more advanced years. Now, I'm no spring chick myself, but I can't help feeling that younger blood is definitely needed to liven things up a bit. I'm sure it's hard to get younger people engaged, but I can't help feeling that the clubs' cultures and constitutions weren't likely to attract young people either.

- All the clubs seemed to be run by small committees with pretty fixed ideas of how the club should run (probably little changed for many a year).

OK, so I'm sounding like a whinging pom - and maybe I am. Perhaps my expectations are simply unrealistic.

What I'm personally looking for is a club that's more practical and activity-focussed. I'd like to see more 'doing it' and less 'sitting listening to someone talking about it'. It would be great to get out and do some shooting, ideally supervised by a pro or specialist. I'd like to see comps being more informal, perhaps judged by a member on a rolling basis; it would be fun if the comp was based on shots taken at a group event - that way it would be possible to see how someone managed to get a shot that others had missed. It would also promote more sharing of what we do rather than trying to bring out the competitive element in us all as the primary objective (and there are some people who do things simply to win). Finally, with digital cameras and the internet, I'm sure that technology could be used more to enhance the overall feeling of belonging.

So, what do you think? I'm sure many of you are members of clubs and I'm running the risk that you're thinking I'm being rude, over-critical, holding false expectations, failing to see the difficulties of running a photography club, bordering on ageist, and a million other things! Either way, maybe some interesting debate for the weekend...

"This house believes that photography clubs are a crusty, old-fashioned institution that is in need of a complete makeover" - discuss!
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Old 14th March 2015
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Re: Photography Clubs

I have no experience of photographic clubs, however the picture painted here has put me right off , but I would be interested to read what others have to say on the matter.

We have a virtual camera club here, don't we, and for one I'd like to see more objective, no punches pulled, in a Jeremy Clarkson sort of way, critiques of each other's photos, how else are we to learn? If someone posts a crap shot, and it's evident to most that's the case, why compliment (falsely) saying nice shot 'Bob' etc. No ones going to learn from that sort of 'well I dont want to upset you' type of thing.
Again discuss, please.
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Old 14th March 2015
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Re: Photography Clubs

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Originally Posted by pdk42 View Post

What I'm personally looking for is a club that's more practical and activity-focussed. I'd like to see more 'doing it' and less 'sitting listening to someone talking about it'. It would be great to get out and do some shooting, ideally supervised by a pro or specialist. I'd like to see comps being more informal, perhaps judged by a member on a rolling basis; it would be fun if the comp was based on shots taken at a group event - that way it would be possible to see how someone managed to get a shot that others had missed. It would also promote more sharing of what we do rather than trying to bring out the competitive element in us all as the primary objective (and there are some people who do things simply to win). Finally, with digital cameras and the internet, I'm sure that technology could be used more to enhance the overall feeling of belonging.
That sounds pretty much like the club I go to. It is run by a couple of local pros and evening meetings are held in their studio, equiped with lights, backgrounds etc. Meetings are usually of a practical nature - still life, abstracts, portraits, etc. and sometimes we get out of the studio, mainly in the summer but quite recently we did do painting with light after dark in nearby Hatfield Forest.

Often the fortnightly meeting is held at the weekend rather than an evening and so far this year we've had street shooting in Cambridge and landscape (seascape) at Southend.

Competitions are based on recent practical shoots and the winners are chosen by secret ballot - no judges!
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Old 14th March 2015
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Re: Photography Clubs

That sounds familiar Paul
Our club, Aberdeen Camera Club, has been going for 125 years.
These past few years we have been struggling to get new members and when we do we can't keep hold of them.
My reckoning is exactly the reasons you have mentioned.

There have been several new clubs started throughout the city and suburbs which have a new fresh approach to Camera Club activity.
Most have waiting lists as long as your arm.
I have joined one of them, Granite City PC, and enjoy every meeting.

When I bring this up at Aberdeen CC, they're reaction is "Ah well, lets see if the other clubs are still going in 125 years!!"
Another thing about my club which I totally disagreed with was, one night a guy came in proud as punch with his brand new shiny camera hoping to learn how to use it.
One member told him "We're not here to take photographs, we're here to create images"
We never saw him again
With that attitude is it any wonder we can't keep members?


John
In my experience, "in house" judging works well sometimes and not at all at other times.
We had a member who voted for a seascape with the horizon well off the level.
Most of the experienced members pointed this out and the said member quoted that she would never knock off point for this reason.
In my book its rule #1 of landscape/seascape photography.

Then you have the members who would rather vote for a snapshot of a cute fluffy kitten over an award winning portrait because they don't like the models haircut.

The list goes on but in the end judging is a highly subjective thing.
I suppose we have to be thick-skinned and be prepared for the judge to point out the bad as well as the good points of our images.

Mike
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Old 14th March 2015
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Re: Photography Clubs

Why not start your own club Paul?
I belong to two clubs and one has some similarities to the one you describe, but, we do have one younger member who is doing well in the beginner competitions.
The other club is very friendly and 'Not competitive", yet has nearly as many competitions as the other.
I also run a U3A photographic groups, which meets different locations, sometimes indoors, sometimes out taking pictures. Made up of a couple of experienced guys, some more experienced and some who do not seem to have a clue. But, when one of us explains how to change the settings on their point and shoot, help them to get a decent image, their faces light up. "I didn't know it could do that!" is very often the response.
I do judge at clubs in the East Anglia Federation and one of the clubs ask me to appraise the images rather than judge them. I can see the day when that club will not require marks at all, just asking for first, second and third for EG.
I judges a panel competition in Kent recently, and marks were not required, it was very liberating for me, but when my prints have been appraised, I want a mark!
Funny old world isn't it?
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Old 14th March 2015
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Re: Photography Clubs

It's a tricky subject as we are all different and hence enjoy different things plus there is a strong established club scene and organisation, based on competitions, which will always be hard to change.

I am a relative newcomer to the club scene as I joined my first one just over a year ago in Jan 2104. Whilst Paul's generic description is pretty accurate the evenings are not as dismal as that suggests. Far from it we have had some great speakers and I enjoy most of them even if a couple, inevitably, didn't fully hit the spot. The committee tries very hard to bring new ideas in and constantly approach members to quietly ask their opinion on evenings.

The competition element is strong in the club but it can't be too unpopular as the problem this year is the large number of prints to get through in the allotted time. I'm doing well in the intermediate section and I confess to enjoying getting good marks. I must be open here and say I am pretty competitive as my years of full on sail racing will testify so maybe I'm not entirely typical there.

Even when I don't agree/understand some of the judging just listening to the comments I have found to be enormously helpful to my image making and helped me concentrate on building images in a much more considered manner.

Having said that lately I have found myself wishing for a different approach where different styles and ideas are more acceptable and discussion on images replace marking. Perhaps I need to find an alternative club to compliment the existing one. More of a salon approach perhaps.

Next year I am considering reducing my entries and experimenting more to see what happens. Essentially focusing less on the season's competitions and more on getting feedback on possibly less traditional competition style images.

As for the tea. We all take turns to do two weeks stints which seems a fair way of doing it.


Hec
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Old 14th March 2015
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Re: Photography Clubs

All of the above is very familiar, as I visit a lot of clubs as a judge.

I too would welcome a big change akin to the move from film to digital technology. Very little variation in the style and subject of photography has evolved from the capabilities of our new kit, with the vast majority of images being very similar to those that would have been produced pre-digital.

Just this week, I visited a primary school to help the children edit their pictures for a school project. I learned a lot...

For many the clubs are a "social" evening out, and often the darkness and drone of a judge is a welcome aid to sleep...
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Old 14th March 2015
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Re: Photography Clubs

Hi I have been a member of a few clubs in my time, My first was in the seventies film of cause, That was very schoolboy still, no one would share their experiences, just in case you got better than them. Then digital clubs first one was a very competitive orientated one and very clicky you were either in the circle or out of it. Now the one I'm in now is very friendly but they are stuck in there ways, as a couple are very competitive but the rest just want to enjoy there hobby and be sociable. They do try they have inter-club competitions never get anywhere because they pick the same sort of images from the same members each time. They chose a couple of my images, I tried to tell them I had better images that would suit better but no they wanted them. So even niece clubs can be a bit set in there ways.

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Old 14th March 2015
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Re: Photography Clubs

My experience is very similar so far to Hec's above. I'm also in one of the larger East Anglian clubs which I joined as a full member only about 6 months ago after 18 months on the waiting list.

I think the bigger traditional clubs are more likely to offer a range of activities - ours does participate and run various internal and external competitions (as long as you keep your sense of humour I find these OK!) and they have a range of monthly subgroups who for example are very supportive of people doing distinctions and personal projects. The digital processing subgroup is simply wonderful, and just what I need at the moment. There's also an 'out and about' group who arrange group visits to local towns and events, Snetterton etc etc.

As ever its the leadership of the club and the various subgroups that sets the tone and how welcoming and useful they are. I would say we are in a good patch at the moment, which is reflected in the lengthening waiting list.

There's a subgroup dedicated to new-ish members and those who've been on the waiting list for a while. This has been extremely well led during my 'apprenticeship', and I've found them very welcoming, encouraging and I've learned a huge amount. One potential fly in the ointment is that one of the two leaders of this group is giving it up on health grounds, so it remains to be seen how this continues.
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Old 14th March 2015
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Re: Photography Clubs

I've tried two clubs in 15 years and became disillusioned for the very reasons you state Paul.

New ideas were frowned upon so unless you were prepared to think along the lines they wanted and produce formulaic work, you were only there for the tea and biscuits and a chat, which to be honest is why a lot of them were there.

I also felt there was a lot of prejudice with certain people preferring certain makes of camera rather than judging an image on its own merits.

A most thought provoking thread indeed
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Old 14th March 2015
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Re: Photography Clubs

I think that there are a wide range of styles of camera club around Paul but all I can comment upon is my experiences finding a club I liked and the way my current club has developed.

I wanted a club that was first and foremost a friendly group of people who enjoyed photography and were happy to share ideas and experience.

The first one I visited (one of the best in the area and highly recommended ) proved to be cliquey, unfriendly and at the end of my first evening I was told that as they were very keen on winning competitions I would have to submit a portfolio of my work to see if I met their standards - I beat a hasty retreat

The one I joined meets in a local church hall, when I joined it was only a few people, mostly a bit old and eccentric but very friendly and encouraging. Yes, there were quite a few competitions but if you won you were more likely to have your leg pulled than receive plaudits

I've been there over 12 years now during which time we have grown from about 17 to 55+ yet we have kept the friendly / eccentric approach (must work as we seem to have attracted people from many of the local clubs, at least one of which has since closed up shop.)

If you were to judge us by our programme you would probably think "just another competition heavy club" http://www.boscombecameraclub.co.uk/other.html but what you don't see is the many small group and one : one sessions that take place outside of the programme, plus photo-shoots, social events and the like

We have two sub-groups, the Digital Group runs tuition evening provided by members, visiting specialists as well as a 3 round competition but at the start of each session we have a period for "beginners problems" where anyone from the club can submit problems they are having to us and we try to help them out

The studio sub-group meets in a professional level studio built by one of our members and again, provides special tuition sessions for beginners in addition to our monthly "studio model" evenings

Its all down to the people in the club, in my case I was lucky to find a group for whom the social element comes first, photography second and success in competition last (maybe that's why over the past few years we have gone from league 7 to league 2 in the Southern Photographic Federation digital projection competition and are in the top 3 of the Stour and Avon Photographic Association )

I wouldn't change my club for anything, its an important part of my life now
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Old 14th March 2015
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Re: Photography Clubs

An interesting thread so far, one thing that puzzles me more than anything though, is the fact there appears to be a waiting list to join some clubs. The club I belong to consists of approximately 16 members. The building we hire for the meetings can accommodate a maximum of 40 people to comply with the fire regulations which is understandable. Now is this the general reason why some clubs have long waiting lists or is there something photographic associated that restricts the club membership.

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Old 14th March 2015
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Re: Photography Clubs

Sounds an awful lot like the bowls club i used to belong to. some
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Old 14th March 2015
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Re: Photography Clubs

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Originally Posted by tomphotofx View Post
An interesting thread so far, one thing that puzzles me more than anything though, is the fact there appears to be a waiting list to join some clubs. The club I belong to consists of approximately 16 members. The building we hire for the meetings can accommodate a maximum of 40 people to comply with the fire regulations which is understandable. Now is this the general reason why some clubs have long waiting lists or is there something photographic associated that restricts the club membership.

Tom
With our club we have had several periods when there have been "waiting lists" for a few reasons:

- we had a lot of discussion regarding the risk of growing too large and losing the friendly nature of the club, so when we have increased numbers its usually only been in small steps of 5 at a time

- despite this slow growth we eventually outgrew our existing room so had to negotiate a larger room

- our insurance cover has a number "bar" and if we exceed that number our annual fee jumps significantly. As we have a policy of keeping our membership fees as low as possible to allow the widest membership (we have some significantly disadvantaged areas from which we attract our members) we had to be careful not to exceed those figures

I think our maximum possible membership is 60 so if things continue as they are with two or three potential new members visiting over the last few weeks I can see a wait list forming again fairly soon
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Old 14th March 2015
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Re: Photography Clubs

I went to a local photographic club in 1980 and it was such an awful experience I haven't been able to face doing it again. Anyway, I find an excellent Interweb Forum fulfills the requirement nicely :-)

Pete
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