Do you know which of your photos the best one is? Arguably, it’s your next one, because you have placed all your experience and learning into taking it.
How do you get that experience and training? Take lots of pictures and find someone or someplace that can give you an unbiased review and constructive criticism of your work. You need to have someone else to work with to improve.
That’s why we all went to school as kids [well to socialize also]. To learn. Family and friends are likely to tell you what you want to hear. Finding a mentor, instructor, or a group with similar interests will tend to up your game, provide feedback and new ideas to try and [here’s that socialization thing again] make new friends.
Human interaction! Yes, you read that right, the best reason to join a camera club or photography Meetup group is for the human interaction.
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 let’s not overlook how great it is for your ego when you post a photo on Facebook and get tons of likes. However, none of this will help you build skills and usually comes from people with less photography skills than you have.
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 photography.
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 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 twice a month. 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
There are several local camera clubs and Meetup groups relatively close by, and I can recommend any of them.
Rochester Photography Meetup [https://www.meetup.com/Rochester-Photography-Meetup/]
Meetings held at Pittsford Town Hall, 4th Wednesday at 7PM
The Rochester Area Nature Photography Meetup Group [https://www.meetup.com/naturephotography/]
Genesee Valley Photography Society [https://gvps.photoclubservices.com/]
Meets first and third Thursday from September 1 through April at the Wadsworth Library, 24 Center St, Geneseo, NY 14454 at 6:30 - 8:30
Batavia Photography Club [https://batavia.visualpursuits.com/]
Meets on the 1st and 3rd Mondays from September through May at the Richmond Memorial Library, 5 Ross ST, Batavia New York 14020 at 6:30 P.M
Canyon Camera Club at the Arts Council for Wyoming County at 31 S. Main St. in Perry
Camera Rochester [http://www.camerarochester.org]
Meetings are held at the Clover Arts Center (Formerly the Baptist Temple), 1101 Clover Street, Brighton, NY.