Why Not a Photo Club?

This article is written by David Delgadillo.

In the interest of full disclosure I will tell you that I am not only a member of the Darkroomers Photographic Club but also the club President. Part of our club’s activities include monthly critiques of our photographic work. That along with group photo outings and networking has improved my work and vision a hundredfold.

Along the same lines I have seen new members join with certain trepidations about submitting their prints to a judge. A year later they not only have confidence in their skills but also they are producing wonderful images.

This blog post was created because of comments made on Facebook. Let me set the scene. We have a major Photographic Exhibition at the San Diego Fair during the summer. April is the month we begin submitting our images for first tier judging. Among several comments in the post were the following:

  • Photo club members and the fair judges are all “good ol’ boys”
  • Photo club members have experience with judges
  • Judges are too picky when it comes to presentation and categories.
  • What are those judges thinking of? (“wtf photos” passing 2nd tier)
  • Cost too much to enter a print
  • Really! A selfie category?

Photo club members do have experience with judges and some are friends of our members. This does not imply that we will get preferential treatment during a critique session. It does mean that we have a greater awareness of what judges want to see in a photograph including the presentation of the image: mat color, cleanliness and neatness.

Judges will also be quick to explain that the evaluation of a photograph is subjective. Nevertheless there are standards of exposure, lighting and composition that are important in every image. Also a photograph should reach out and touch something in the viewer. These are also skills I have learned in a photography club.

Photography is a changing technology and combined with the human condition it becomes an organic entity. Recently there have been photographic categories for mobile phone images. This year the Photo Exhibition at the San Diego Fair includes a Selfie category. These additions are a nod to the future of photography. Pay attention to these changes and consider if they are something you want in your toolbox.

Let’s talk about money. The entry fee per photograph is $18.00 at the San Diego Fair. That price has not changed in several years. There is not much profit after payment of necessities and cash award prizes.

Photographers have hundreds to thousands of dollars tied up in photographic and computer equipment. Yet I have seen the same individuals balk at spending $20.00 on a Lightroom class by a highly qualified educator. Take some time and consider your priorities.

Several years ago David King, professor of photography and San Diego City College, wrote several blog posts about his experience judging at the San Diego Fair. Here are the links.

There are many pathways one can take in their photographic journey: formal and self directed education, occasional classes, internet, books and, yes, photographic clubs. Choose a path and work toward your photographic goals. That is a much better use of your photographic time then quibbling about what’s wrong with judges, categories and the cost of photography.

Yes, I belong to a photographic club. I pay $35.00 a year and reap the rewards of joining the company of others with common interests. We teach and challenge one another. We grow both our knowledge and personal vision.

So, the question becomes not, “Why am I in a photo club?”—but should be “Why aren’t YOU in a photo club?”

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Alan Haynes

I'm a travel photographer, web designer and former president of the Poly Photo Club. I also run the PolyPhotoClub.com website.