How to Start Your Own Camera Club
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.