Human interaction! Yes, you read that right, the best reason to join a camera club or photography Meetup group is for the human interaction.
Sure, the educational opportunities are amazing, lectures, workshops, competitions, field trips, etc, but imaging being able to interact with fellow photophiles to talk photography or get simple critiques of your work.
Believe me, I think Google and YouTube are amazing and I am jealous of young photographers, because when I learned the basics of photography all we had were really boring books with black and white pictures. (Yes, I am that old) And lets not overlook how great it is for your ego when you post a photo on Facebook and get tons of likes or the opposite which is the arrogant and testosterone fueled criticism from trolls. None of this will help you build skills and usually comes from people with less photography skills than you have.
I have had the good fortune to have presented lectures and workshops at camera clubs and Meetup groups all over the country, and with that you may be thinking, what benefits could a working professional possibly get from a camera club?
What I love most about the club events is the fact that most of the people there are passionate about photography. They are passionate about learning and what I have learned is that making myself available to these people teaches me a LOT about the photography that I do for a living.
In most careers the longer you do it and the better you get at it, much of it becomes second nature, almost instinctive in process. I find that when people ask me questions about lighting, and depth of field, and composition… questions that to a professional may even seem basic… it makes me think and evaluate my own processes and approach in order to give a good answer. At the same time it often causes me to rethink the WHY behind much of what I do and as a result – makes me better at what I do.
I would be lying if I didn’t admit to the fact that more than once I have even learned a thing or two from a club member who may be years my junior or a generation or two older. If you ever meet a photographer who claims to know-it-all, then you have met a photographer who is lazy and not very talented. Lazy because creativity requires us to challenge our knowledge and skills and not very talented because they stopped developing their skills when they decided they had learned everything.
Camera clubs are not a new concept
Camera Clubs have been around for a very long time. In recent years Meetup Groups have grown tremendously in popularity and serve the same purpose. You can find them all over the country in small towns and cities and even worldwide. Camera Clubs and Photography Meetups provide an excellent opportunity to improve your photographic skills and knowledge, a venue to challenge those skills, and a place to share what you have learned with others who have a passion for photography.
Most groups meet several times each month. My local club meets once a month while a group just a few miles away meets every Monday evening. Each meeting centers around a theme, a workshop (how-to) session on equipment or software, a presentation by a member or expert on a particular subject, a competition between members, or a night to review and critique other’s work.
There is generally an annual registration fee to join these groups, but it is miniscule compared to the cost of the gear, computers and software that you are investing in. Most groups will also invite you to attend a meeting or two before you join so that you can check them out and see if you feel the group is a good fit and how many of its members share similar interests with you.
Interested? How do you find a local club? Well, there is this thing called Google. If you do a search for “Camera Clubs” you will get over 40 million results. You can narrow it down by adding your state or city or town name to the search. Most camera clubs have a website which will give you a feel for how active they are, what opportunities you will have to learn and compete, etc. You can also visit the Photographic Society of America (PSA) website (www.psa-photo.org) for a list of affiliate camera clubs by state. Photographic Society of America is a national organization established to promote and enhance the art and science of photography.
To find a local Photography Meetup, just visit http://www.Meetup.com and register. The site will ask for your areas of interest and based on your location it will make recommendations of Meetups in your area that you may find interesting.
If you have recently turned pro or are considering making the jump, there are also professional organizations like PPA (Professional Photographers of America – http://www.ppa.com ) and ASMP (American Society of Media Photographers – http://www.asmp.org ) These organizations provide tremendous learning and support resources for their members.