Photography forums are a great place to hang out
I am a member of many photography forums, but don’t spend nearly as much time as I would like looking through them. I try to set aside a couple hours each week to visit the forums, but it’s easy to skip. Especially during the summer months when there are other things going on.
Despite my failures, I highly encourage all hobbyist and enthusiast photographers to join and get involved with photo forums. Especially in the evenings and during those cold winter months when you don’t really feel like going out to make photos anyway. You can learn a lot while talking with other photographers.
Some of the positive aspects of the photography forums:
- Getting photo tips and learning new techniques.
- Getting opinions on camera equipment.
- Looking at some good and bad photography, comparing your opinions with others.
- Getting your photography critiqued.
- Making new friends.
- Sharing your knowledge with others.
Some of the negative aspects of photo forums:
- With photographers being creative types, you may encounter some serious egos.
- There’s a staggering amount of information out there, and you can make yourself crazy trying to keep up with it all.
- There’s also a lot of bad information out there to be on the lookout for.
- Trolls. Those individuals who live to find fault and argue. Unfortunately, there are a lot of trolls, but they are usually easy to spot and avoid.
Types of photographers you’ll find on the forums
You have to be very careful when visiting the forums. As I mentioned, there’s a wealth of information in them, but there is also a lot of trash. Every forum has photographers at all levels from total beginner through professional. Below is the way I categorize them when deciding the validity of the information they provide.
- Enthusiast and professional photographers who know what they are talking about, have inspiring photos, and enjoy sharing information with others.
- Amateur photographers who are curious, want to learn and are informed enough to ask the right questions.
- Amateur, enthusiast and professional photographers who know what they are talking about, but take personal joy in belittling others, criticizing, and pointing out the negative (the trolls, the haters).
- Amateur photographers who have read the latest issue of Popular Photography and think they know everything. They will gladly write paragraphs explaining how wonderfully gifted they are, even though it is obvious to most that they don’t have a clue what they are talking about.
- Amateur photographers who don’t have a clue. They don’t want to do the work to become good photographers. They just want the information spoon fed to them. Usually the ones who spend a small fortune on every new piece of gear out there, and then do negative reviews when the gear doesn’t turn them into Ansel Adams.
I typically pay attention to photographer types 1 and 2, and try to avoid types 3, 4, and 5.
10 ways to get the most out of any forum
1. Read and follow the forum rules. Observe proper forum etiquette (good manners).
- Introduce yourself.
- Be polite.
- Be thoughtful and build your reputation slowly.
- Don’t immediately throw out your opinions.
- Use proper grammar and spelling (no text messaging jargon).
- No spam.
2. Keep your profile up-to-date including a good photo of yourself. Other’s like to know about you and what you look like. It will be a lot easier to make friends and build a solid reputation if people know who you are.
3. Be specific with your subject lines. Most people only have an hour or two to spare on the forums each week. They quickly scan the threads and posts looking for specific information or interesting discussions to participate in. Good subject lines makes everyone’s life easier and increases the chance that your posts will get read.
4. Pose questions on topics you want to learn about.
- Use search feature before asking questions. On an established forum, most basic questions have already been asked and answered. The other forum members get irritated answering the same questions over and over.
- Be careful of who you listen to in the beginning. Be wary of all information until you learn who you can trust.
5. Stay out of the arguments (ie, Nikon vs Canon). Arguments are a no-win scenario. Chances are you will never change the other person’s mind so why waste your time and energy.
6. Ask for critiques of your photos.
- Put a photo up.
- Give a short description of situation and camera settings.
- Ask for critique.
- Accept the thoughtful critiques and learn from them. Say “thank you.”
- Don’t argue about or defend your photo. Nobody will give you a good critique if all you’re going to do is tell them that they are wrong.
7. Answer questions when you feel you have value to add. Use the search feature to search for questions in areas you feel strong in. Then add value to the discussion.
8. Do not try to stay on top of everything. You will lose your mind if you do. There’s just too much information and too many discussions. Instead:
- Decide what frequency you will visit a forum.
- Answer any private messages first.
- Look through any conversations that you are following and respond if needed.
- Look over recent conversations on the topics that interest you.
- Follow and unfollow conversations as needed.
- Send out any new private messages.
9. Ignore the trolls (aka, the haters). As previously mentioned, these are the individuals who thrive on pointing out others’ errors and feed on arguments. Luckily, trolls can’t survive without the arguments and that makes them very easy to starve. Just stop feeding them and they will go away.
10. Have fun and socialize. Build a group of friends whose opinions you trust and photos that inspire you.
Top 10 photography forums that I enjoy:
7. DP Review
9. DP Challenge
Do you have any suggestions of great photography forums to join? Do you have any recommendations for other photographers on how to get the most out of the forums? If so, please share with your fellow photographers by leaving a comment below.