Month: April 2015

Do Visual Push-Ups Everyday to Grow as a Photographer

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Please note that I do not know who originally coined the phrase “visual push-ups”. I have heard it used many times and find it very suitable to describe what we should all be practicing as often as possible with our camera.

There is no better time to practice your photography than here and now. Don’t wait for the best light, the exotic vacation, or a new lens. Let’s be honest, the only way you’re going to become a better photographer, is by doing visual push-ups every day, and by challenging yourself continuously for as many years as you’ll be able to carry that camera around. Give yourself assignments often and never stop learning!

©Valerie Jardin-4

One of my ongoing projects for several months was photographing beautiful smiles of strangers which resulted in a fun collection of smiles from all over the world. Here a shopkeeper in Melbourne, Australia.

Are you a hobbyist photographer?

You have the luxury of only needing to please yourself with your work. Make sure you do that. Click the shutter to move and inspire, not to impress.

Do you work for clients?

Pursuing personal projects is even more important. Remember the feeling of shooting for yourself only, without having to compromise between your vision and your client’s? However much you love being a pro photographer, you run the risk of losing the passion if you don’t take care of yourself and your creative needs.

You don’t have time to shoot everyday?

Yes you do! How much time do you spend on social media for example? Or sitting in front of the television? If you take only 15 minutes of that time and invest it in your photography daily, you will see the results. The best part is that you can do those visual push-ups at home, during your lunch break, or on the bus ride to work.

Do you think this only applies to beginning photographers?

Think again! I see so many seasoned photographers who are always shooting the same types of subjects, the same way. No matter what your skill level is, it’s always good to challenge yourself by getting out of your comfort zone to try new things.

Do you think that posting different genres will look like you can’t focus on one thing?

Wrong! On the contrary, it will prove that you are a well-rounded photographer. But, if you are trying to sell your services as a wedding shooter, your urbex images will be better posted on a separate page or gallery. Use common sense.

©Valerie Jardin-1

Anything can become a subject and give you a challenge. Try to make art with everyday objects and difficult lighting situations.

 What type of photo projects should you work on?

Anything will do, as long as you enjoy it. Remember, the point of the exercise is not to please others or get likes. It’s to please yourself, and yourself only. By all means, do share with the world and get that extra satisfaction and gratification if others like it too. But that should not be your priority.

©Valerie Jardin-5

Although I am better known for my street photography, I don’t want to limit myself to just one genre of photography, the world is too beautiful to miss other opportunities. I love photographing architectural abstracts for example.

The sky is the limit!

Photograph any ordinary objects around your house and make them look extraordinary. Read the local paper and find a story that you can document with your camera. Start a 52 week, a 365 project, or even a 100 strangers or a self portrait project but be aware of the pressure you are putting on yourself. Make sure it doesn’t become a chore which would be counter-productive to what you are trying to accomplish.

Don’t worry too much about coming home with keepers every time you go out with your camera. There will be some good days, and there will be many not-so-good days. But one thing is certain; you will learn and grown every time you go out with your camera and do those visual push-ups.

©Valerie Jardin-3

During the long winter months I visit a lot of museums and Museum-Goers has become one of my on-going series.

I always have two or three personal projects going at the same time, in different genres if possible. The point of the exercise is to explore new things and grow. Remember, that no matter what the subject or genre you choose to experiment with, you will benefit greatly from expending your creative vision.

Doing those daily visual push-ups will be the best time invested in your photography. One day you will only have five minutes to photograph an ordinary object on the window sill in the early morning light. The next day you may have an hour with your camera during your lunch break. Every minute you spend working on your craft will help you find your photographic voice and expand your creative vision.

©Valerie Jardin-2

Exercising your vision can take as little as a few seconds, and be as simple as photographing an object in your own house. This is part of my weekly self-assigned “Ordinary Objects are Beautiful” challenge.

Do yourself a favor, get off the internet and grab your camera NOW!

Please share with the dPS community which personal projects have made a real difference in your photography by adding a comment below.

The post Do Visual Push-Ups Everyday to Grow as a Photographer by Valerie Jardin appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Categories: Digital

6 Things to Consider Before Becoming a Professional Photographer

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So, you’ve got a nice camera, you really love photography, and you’ve been thinking that maybe it would be nice to make a little bit of money from this passion you’ve discovered. Before you decide to make that leap, read on. You may be convinced to throw that idea out the window, or you may find that you truly are ready, and it’s time to try your hand at photography as a career.

Before we go any further, I have to clarify something about the photos in this article. First of all, I had to include photos, because every article is better with pictures, right? Secondly, this session was inspiring, fun, and an example of every reason that I LOVE being a photographer. This client does not exemplify any of the cons of the business. Also, for this article “professional photographer” is defined as someone who gets paid to take photos, particularly portrait photographers.

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1. You’re not good enough…yet

Maybe you love photography, and maybe you get a lot of compliments on your photos, but you may not be a good enough photographer to actually take money from people yet. Do you sometimes take a bunch of photos where the majority of them are garbage? Do you often say to yourself, “I’ll fix that later in Photoshop?” If your photos aren’t consistently in focus, exposed correctly, and great IN CAMERA, before you get to Photoshop, you’re not ready.

If you look at other professional photographers’ work and wonder how on earth they got their photos to look like that, you are not ready. I don’t mean that you have to be able to produce photos exactly like the photographers that you admire. I’m saying that you should have an understanding of how they achieve the look they get. You should know how light, depth of field, angles, etc., contribute to the photo. You should have an idea of how much of the photo is a result of post-processing.

Having a nice camera does not qualify you to be a professional photographer.

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2. You don’t have enough experience

This goes along with not being good enough, but experience is important. You have to be consistent every time. You have to know that every single session you do will result in good photos, and that you can roll with the punches if conditions aren’t ideal. You have to know your camera settings inside and out, because when you’re chasing a naughty toddler around, you don’t have time to try to figure out what your shutter speed should be.

I’ll admit that I didn’t have enough experience when I started. I did some sessions for friends and family, then requests started coming in. I didn’t really have the goal of making money with my photography, but when people started asking me, I thought, “Hey, why not?” Some of my early sessions are dear to my heart, but some of them I look at and cringe. I feel bad that people paid money for me to experiment and find out who I was as a photographer.

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3. You don’t want to lose the love of photography

Once you turn a passion into a job or career, you have a very real possibility of it turning into something you do because you have to, and not because you want to. I’m not saying this happens to everyone, but I’ve seen enough professional photographers burn out and quit, that I know it’s a very real thing. You may think that it will be fantastic to make money doing something you love, but are you ready for the possibility of not loving that thing anymore?

True confession here: I rarely get my camera out anymore for anything except a paid session. When I’m on vacation, sometimes the last thing I want to do is “work” while I’m there, and I certainly don’t want to drag my camera around when I’m supposed to be having fun.  Then, if I do take some photos just for the heck of it, they sit there on my computer forever, because I don’t really feel like sorting and editing yet another batch of photos. This doesn’t happen to every pro photographer, but I’m being real here. Sometimes I wish that I could just take photos because I love it, but the truth is, I’m often too tired after my paid sessions for the week to get my camera out again. I still love photography, but it’s more that I love my job; I love the photos and what I can create, I love working with people, but I don’t love photography just for photography’s sake anymore.

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4. You don’t want to deal with business stuff

Taxes, business licenses, contracts, equipment upkeep, scheduling, email, phone calls – it’s all a very real part of running a photography business, and it takes far more time and effort than you’d like to believe. Being a professional photographer is not just happily snapping some photos, collecting money, and then spending all of that money on anything you’d like. There are expenses, lots and lots of expenses. There are boring, repetitive tasks. There are hours spent doing behind the scenes stuff.

No matter how great of a photographer you are, if you aren’t good at the business side of things, you are going to struggle as a photographer. It’s hard. It’s frustrating. Sometimes it’s overwhelming. Some days horrible things happen, like The Cloud losing your entire photography calendar (yes, speaking from experience). Sometimes you have to ask people for money, and that’s not easy for everyone. You have to be able and willing to run a pretty tight ship with scheduling, collecting money, and sticking to your policies. You have to decide your policies, and your fees, and how you are going to do business beforehand, because believe me, people will ask you to change all of it for them, and you have to be ready for it.

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5. You don’t like to deal with difficult people

Luckily for me, I actually really love working with people, but even then, sometimes some people are hard to deal with. When people are paying you money to photograph them, sometimes they expect you to do anything and everything they want, and sometimes, even when you’ve done your best, they aren’t happy with you. If you are sensitive, like I am, that kind of criticism can be very hard to take.

Most of the people you will take photos for are fantastic, wonderful people, who love your work, and love you, which is why they hired you. That doesn’t happen every time though. Sometimes you have to spend lots of time on the phone talking to a worried client (what about the weather? what about junior’s bad haircut? what about clothes they’ll wear? what if they smile awkwardly?). Or someone who has lots of ideas they saw on Pinterest, and wants to discuss every one of them with you, in depth, even if they aren’t even remotely your style of photography. Sometimes you’ll show them their gallery and they’ll say they love it, except can you photoshop every single wrinkle off of their face? Questions are great, and most people don’t have unreasonable demands. But, you have to know that sometimes people are just not on the same page as you are, and you have to be able to work with them, and do your best to keep them happy.

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6. It isn’t the fairytale job you think it is

I hear from people all the time about how much fun it must be to be a photographer, and how much they wish they could be a photographer too. Many people who jump into the photography business, without doing a lot of research and self-evaluation, get a harsh slap to the face when they realize that it’s work. A lot of work. Many people pop in the “professional photographer” scene on a whim, and pop right back out of it within a year or two, and sometimes don’t even last a few months. It’s work to get clients. It’s work to keep clients. They don’t just fall in your lap, waving hundred dollar bills and smiling their pearly whites for your camera.

You’re going to have competition, and sometimes criticism from others. Sometimes the world of photographers can get pretty nasty. You will find wonderful people to collaborate with, and those who encourage you, but you will also find some that will tear you down if they get the chance.

There are many benefits of running your own business, but it’s also hard. You have to know what you are doing, and if something goes wrong, it’s all on your shoulders. Being a professional photographer is much more than loving to take pictures. When you realize all of the work it’s going to be, you might decide that taking photos for the love of it, and because you’re an artist, may be much more fulfilling in the end.

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Do I sound a little bitter? I know that I might, but I want to be realistic here. I think being a photographer is such a romanticized notion, that there are oodles of people just itching to jump into photography as a business, without really knowing what they’re getting into. I’ve learned so much over the years, and sometimes I wonder if I would have even started had I really understood all of the cons.

Then, remember why I do this. Yes, it’s a job, and it’s hard. Yes, I hate the business side of things sometimes. Yes, some days I want to go hide in a hole and bury my camera there. But most of the time I feel blessed beyond measure to be a photographer. I love the people I get to work with. I love creating beautiful photos, and capturing real personalities. I love happy clients, and I love that I can create memories for them that will last forever. Right now I wouldn’t trade this job for any other, because now, that I’ve learned and lived through the hard parts of my job, I know that it’s all worth it, for me.

Now you get to decide: will it be worth it for you?

The post 6 Things to Consider Before Becoming a Professional Photographer by Melinda Smith appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Categories: Digital

Simple Tips for Photographing Children

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Girl_Vietnam_KavDadfar

Photographing children can be incredibly rewarding; they often seem to be at their most charismatic and spontaneous when a camera is present. Ask a child to look into the camera and you probably won’t be surprised to see them pull a weird face or stick their tongue out. But one thing is for certain; you will get some wonderful photos, which can add another element to your travel photography portfolio.

Here are some simple tips to help you when photographing children.

Always ask permission

Always ask permission from their parents if they are around. Take the time to explain why you are photographing them and what the images might be used for. You could also offer to send the parents a copy of the photo via email for their use, and if possible ask them to sign a model release form. If the parent or guardian refuses, respect their decision and move on.

Get down to their level

If you want to capture great photos of children, get down to their level. Not only will you see the world from their eyes, but also ensure your photos feel intimate and personal. Try not to stand over top of them looking down, and as always focus, on the eyes to keep them sharp. If you use a wide aperture (f/2 – f/5.6) that should give you a blurred background, which will pull the viewer into the child’s face.

Boy_England_KavDadfar

A wide aperture helps to blur the background and draw focus to the child’s face.

Be patient

Unfortunately, anyone who has ever tried to take photos of young children knows that getting them to stand still can be incredibly difficult. So, you have to be patient and wait for the right opportunity. If they have other kids around them they might be distracted, so be patient and try to make the experience fun. For example, showing them their photo can make the whole thing more enjoyable and they might be willing to give you more of their time and be co-operative.

Children_KavDadfar

These kids were so excited that they kept moving. It took a while to get them all to stand still.

Faster shutter speed

Photographing children while they are playing can give you the most natural images. But, if you are going to be capturing them playing or moving around, you will need a faster shutter speed to avoid your subject being blurred (unless you are looking to capture the movement and want some blur). You should be looking at 1/200th of a second or faster to avoid too much movement.

Girl_Snow_KavDadfar

Kids tend move around quickly so if you want to freeze the action use a fast shutter speed.

Put them in context

It’s a big world for a child and sometimes showing kids in context can give the viewer a sense of what children see and feel, so think about their surroundings. Are they standing next to a giant statue? Or walking next to an enormous dog? These sorts of images can look extraordinary and give your portfolio variety.

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The child in this shot emphasizes how small she is in comparison to the tall trees.

Photographing kids can be incredibly challenging but when you get it right it can offer some wonderfully light hearted and emotional images. So make sure you keep your eyes peeled for rare opportunities.

Now it’s your turn. Share your photos, thoughts and tips below.

The post Simple Tips for Photographing Children by Kav Dadfar appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Categories: Digital

Shooting Better Waterfalls: Five Tips for Improving Your Waterfall Photography

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Cave Selfie

Perhaps there isn’t a more sought after and photographed subject than water. More specifically, waterfalls. When you really think about it, waterfalls are one of the most basic and simple things that we can find in nature. They are just streams or rivers that happened, by one geological occurrence or another, to find themselves flowing over some height of cliff or stone or other drop-off. Still, we remain captivated by the simple beauty and serenity that can come from being near, and photographing a waterfall.

That’s where we, as photographers, often slam face first into a huge creative and artistic wall. How can you make an interesting photograph of something that has already been so extensively covered by countless other photographers? While there is unfortunately no secret formula for all waterfall photo sessions, there are some very simple and useful tips that can help you create better, and more unique images, of these phenomenal natural occurrences. Let’s dive in (get it?) and get started on the path to better waterfall photography.

Have a plan

I always stress the importance of research and preparedness before any photographic excursion regardless of what the subject or goal might happen to be. This is especially true when you, the outdoor photographer, are readying yourself to photograph waterfalls. There is simply no denying that the more you know about a location, the better your odds will be of coming home with images that you are happy to claim as your own.

Conduct some quick research and find out what the main waterfall or waterfalls are in the area you plan to visit. Google (or another search engine) will be your absolute best friend in this regard. Try to find as many images as you can before you set out so that you can be inspired and have a head start on coming up with your own unique compositions that haven’t been tried with that particular spot.

Map

Also, if at all possible, print out a map of the area and highlight the waterfalls that you feel are the most promising for you on that particular day and focus on those first. Don’t waste time trekking into a place that probably won’t yield a good result. Know before you go, and you will make better use of your time and become a much more efficient shooter.

Use a tripod

The topic of using a tripod can sometimes scare you off just from the sheer repetition of the statement. For whatever reason it seems like this essential bit of knowledge is where most beginner photographers find themselves in a state of complete denial. Believe me, I know how uncomfortable, to downright physically painful and tiring it can be to carry a tripod on your person for an extended amount of time. Still, though not always convenient, a tripod will always help you in the long run to produce better photographs. There is simply no other way to limit camera shake without having a solid shooting platform – there just isn’t. You will need such a platform for the longer exposure times often used when encountering waterfalls. End of story.

Another fact that beginners, and even some seasoned photographers, fail to grasp is that the quality of the tripod plays an essential role in its overall use to you. You will need a tripod that locks securely and reliably, and can handle the weight of whatever camera rig you happen to be shooting, as well as the shooting conditions. I can’t tell you how many long exposure images I ruined due to drifting of the tripod head because all I had available was a suboptimal tripod.

The biggest gripe I hear concerning tripods is that the good ones are too expensive. It’s true that a quality tripod will not be cheap. However, it is just as true that you can still obtain one without being outrageously expensive. Shop around and find a tripod that has good reviews, fits your current needs, and will also grow with you as a photographer. Do you really need carbon fiber? Do you need the most advanced ball head? Ask yourself questions like that and your purchase will make less of a dent on your pocketbook. A good tripod will last you years and yield incredible benefits. It will literally pay for itself and be one of the best investments you will make.

Make the waterfall the secondary subject

Foreground Focus

This image puts the colors of the moss and the detail of the foreground as the first point of interest and less on the waterfall itself.

This tip may seem a little counter intuitive but stay with me. It’s fairly straightforward to walk up to the front of a waterfall and snap a quick photo to take home. That’s great if that’s all you want. But let’s face it, you wouldn’t be pouring through all the great content here on dPS if all you wanted was to make average photos. You want to shoot with a purpose, and make photographs instead of taking snapshots. One of the best ways to do this is to think about the subject differently than the average photographer, and waterfalls offer a great opportunity to do this.

When you arrive at a particular falls you should really study the scene. Give yourself a few minutes before you even start thinking about making an exposure. Watch how the water flows and interacts with the other pieces of the scene. It may be rocks, boulders, sand, trees or any number of artifacts found in such places. Don’t let the waterfall itself distract you from the other photographs that could be there.

After all, the waterfall is not the only thing you notice so why should it be the only thing you show your audience? Look for ways to include different parts of the scene and even have the falls take a back seat if that makes a stronger image. Pay attention to what is often overlooked by other photographers. If you do this you will almost always be able to present the waterfall in a way that has never been seen before.

Pay attention to color

Color is a great way to grab the attention of your viewers and pull them into a photograph. Never underestimate the creative power of color when photographing waterfalls. Water is an incredible thing because it not only reflects the different colors around the surface such as the sky and leaves, but also the colors that come from underneath as well.

Use Color

The first step to getting the most interesting colors from a scene is to always shoot in RAW if at all possible. Shooting RAW will allow the most information to be recorded by your camera sensor, which will in turn give you much greater latitude for getting creative later with your post processing. Experiment with creative white balance and see what happens. Enhance the vibrancy and saturations in some areas and decrease them in another. You will be surprised how much more lively and interesting a waterfall can become with simply letting your imagination run free, and by using color creatively.

On the flip-side of the color coin, is that some waterfalls work much better when photographed in black and white. I have often said that I prefer images that tell a story through black and white, unless the color of the scene can speak louder. If you find yourself shooting a waterfall that lacks a lot of native color then why not put your pre-visualization skills to work (you’re still practicing that, right?) and try to imagine how the image could appear in black and white? Look for contrasts between light and dark areas on rocks, and contrasts within the water itself. Are there any interesting textures or reflections?

Here’s an unprocessed RAW version of a waterfall. Notice there’s not much color to boast about.

Virgin Falls RAW

Here we see the same image after a little cropping and black and white conversion.

Virgin Falls Processed

Lastly, with this photo, the textures and light really made the image so I converted it to black and white as well.

Rocks and Falls

Never discount the power of a monochrome image. Black and white waterfall work can be extremely profitable especially when you’re shooting in the drab and often colorless winter months.

Don’t forget to protect your gear

This isn’t really a tip, but rather a lesson that should be learned and become second nature to the serious waterfaller. When shooting a waterfall of any large size and flow there will always be moisture in the air, whether it is visible to you or not. The shear force of the water impacting the terminus of the fall, with render small droplets into the air that will absolutely ruin your shot and potentially destroy your camera and lenses.

Without Water Drops

The air surround a thirty-five foot waterfall without flash.

Water Drops

Then with a flash firing to show the moisture in the air.

Always use some protective barrier to protect your camera and lens while you set up for your exposure, and for transport around the waterfall. This barrier doesn’t have to be fancy. Personally I use pre sized slip-on plastic container covers that you can pick up at virtually any grocery store. They are perfectly waterproof and fit snugly around my camera and are unnervingly cheap.

Protect Gear

The same goes for your lenses. Even if they are in your camera bag, always protect them from the moisture. Again, low tech is often your best option here. I simply wrap my lenses in a cloth and place them individually into resealable sandwich bags. The cloths will help to absorb any condensation that builds up from temperature changes and were a hard learned lesson for me. Lastly, minimize the amount of time you leave the cap off your lens, and always carry a good lens cloth for wiping the front between takes.

Shooting even small waterfalls can be very rewarding, and are a great way to just get out and enjoy nature. Learning to shoot them creatively, however, can be a little more challenging. That doesn’t mean that it has to be difficult or intimidating. Just remember these five simple tips and you’ll be ahead of the game when it comes to waterfall photography:

  1. Research and plan beforehand.
  2. Don’t desert your tripod.
  3. Think of the waterfall as part of a whole and not the only part of a scene.
  4. Learn to use color creatively or when to get rid of it altogether.
  5. Always protect your gear from the elements.

Now go out and do what you love to do!

The post Shooting Better Waterfalls: Five Tips for Improving Your Waterfall Photography by Adam Welch appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Categories: Digital

How to Start Your Own Camera Club

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KjellLeknes

Kjell – camera club leader

A camera club is a great way to keep your passion for photography going, meet new people with similar interests, share your photos, and get inspiration from other photographers. Here are a few tips on how to get your own local camera club up and running. Before getting started, check if there already is a local camera club were you live. If so, join them! See how you can take part and contribute to their existing community. It is better to have one large community, than several smaller ones. As a team, you and your new team members can help each other. Local partners will be more interested in participating and sponsoring your events.

Finding members and venues for meetings

The membership of your camera club doesn’t have to be all photographers only. They can also be photography enthusiasts interested in seeing and discussing photography. Social online networks like MeetUp.com are popular places to find and start a camera club. It relieves you from much of the administrative work like; keeping track of who’s joining your meetings, sends reminders, limits RSVPs and generate waiting lists for full events.

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Photo walk

Photographers are usually down to earth people. They don’t need a fancy hotel conference center to meet. Try approaching local high schools and photography related shops, galleries and museums. Perhaps the local library, book shop or municipality. See if they are willing to sponsor use of their venue for free. If not, see which event venues can be rented. You can charge your members a small fee to cover the costs. Ask if they give discounts for not-for-profit initiatives. Check where other local clubs meet and approach those venues.

Events and membership

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Portfolio review

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Model workshop

A camera club can have several different kinds of events such as; portfolio reviews where members bring their photos, share, learn and get inspired by each other; photo walks were you meet up and walk together taking photos. Expect the participation numbers to be low at first. Remember you are in the early stages of building your network. If your events are good, word will spread and your camera club will grow at an accelerated speed. Other types of events to keep in mind; visits to local galleries, workshops by hired instructors, and lectures by local professionals.

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Model workshop

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Model workshop

Be very clear in the communication with your members, and specify events in detail. It is important that participants have a very clear picture of what the event will be like. That way you increase your chances the event will meet expectations and become a great success. Decide early on if you want your camera club to charge a membership fee, or if it will be free. Keeping it free will mean more members. You can always charge per event to cover costs.

Website and social media

A camera club should have a website where people wanting to join can find basic information. It’s also a great way to feature member’s photos and advertise upcoming events. Facebook, Twitter and Flickr accounts would be natural add-ons.

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Selfies with Vivian Maier at a gallery visit

Quality, not quantity

As your camera club grows, pay attention to the most active members. Invite them to help run the camera club. Together, your initiative can become a great success. Make a written partnership agreement. It doesn’t have to be in formal legal jargon. It just needs to be a simple outline; who is responsible for what, how events should be run, and what should happen with the camera club’s common assets should the partnership not work out. Make sure people you take on don’t have conflicting goals about what the camera club should become, or what you want to get out of it in the end.

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Photo course for beginners

It is better to have a small camera club with good quality events, than a large camera club with little or no activity. Spend time developing events you think other photographers would love to participate in, this way, your camera club will grow at a comfortable rate with good quality events.

The post How to Start Your Own Camera Club by Kjell Leknes appeared first on Digital Photography School.

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Categories: Digital

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