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Do camera clubs cramp a photographer's style?

iancrowson Plus
8 211 146 United Kingdom
16 Feb 2013 1:47PM
Many clubs seem to see competitions as their main activity. This is great if you'r a competitive person. Problem is as I see it, most of those who attend clubs are competitive, they want to win, so they look at winning entries and copy them. This cramps a photographers style and hinders the individual's creative development.
The disgraced winning entry of the Landscape Photographer of the Year (upturned boat pic) had copied the shot that a fellow club member had taken years before.
I'm not getting at photo clubs, please enjoy yours.

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franken Plus
15 4.6k 4 United Kingdom
16 Feb 2013 2:10PM
My short experience at being a member of a camera club is that competitions were all that was available really.

I can remember one member who'd been at the club for decades saying to me that he knew all the judges in the circuit and what their photographic preferences were and he took and submitted images to suit individual judges.

I left after the first year.

Paul_Anthony 6 442 4 Wales
16 Feb 2013 2:14PM
Or you spend way too much time taking photographs you have no interest in taking just to get a few entries together for a competition rather than doing your own thing.

I've taken a year out of entering any competitions this year in order to focus on taking photographs that I want to take, I have started to set myself projects to do over a month or two at a time, Street Photography is next on my list of projects, possibly a study in and around Cardiff.

LVanDhal 5 126 1 United Kingdom
16 Feb 2013 2:19PM
Actually I think you've raised an interesting view here, I keep away from Camera clubs precisely because of the competition element, which certainly looks to be an active feature of all the clubs.
I'd love to join one, but only for the chance to mix with others who are as into photography as I am, with the associated feedback and stuff,
but by nature I am not that competitive, especially with my photography which I see as my own visual exploration, and therefore no more or less valid than anyone elses, I only enter comps if i really want the prize, and that is almost always equipment ( though money is good too Grin ) and if I had enough money to buy more equipment then I would happily not bother.
Its great for people to produce a winning photo, but to me its just a compliment rather than an accomplishment, so I figure I probably would not fit in
in an environment that valued Winning as a high accolade.
I'm a long term member of another photo site and I now call the popular photography on there "Cup cake shots" because there is a clear type of preferred image that is a guarantee of popularity, and I agree I think its very restrictive to creative development, but that said ( or written) I also feel it poses a challenge to myself to do something so un "Cupcake" that the crowd their cannot help themselves but like, despite of the preferred style,
so thats why i still submit to the site.
Some People will always fall prey to the desire to win, at the expense of their integrity, I just hope it never happens to me, its easy to get caught up in an atmosphere where winning is everything, but once your integrity lapses, you've got quite a long struggle to get it back.
pentaxpete 13 641 1 United Kingdom
16 Feb 2013 2:21PM
Just go with the flow at Clubs and if there are too many comps then write to the Committee -- the trouble is too many members are too scared to say anything so nothing changes.
cathal 13 492 4 United Kingdom
16 Feb 2013 2:43PM
Good question!

I'm not a member of a club at the moment, but I do judge regularly at clubs in the Chiltern area. There are two types of competition... Open, and Set Subject. Open, as the name implies, allows any subject. A Set Subject has a strict criteria and depending on the view you hold, can equally stifle your creativity, or draw upon it.

I am not a huge fan of set subject competitions, as they can very boring to judge and also to view. The subject criteria can very specific or vague and open to a lot of interpretation. Without knowing the brief, the judge can be presented with issues when judging.

While every photography club I've known has a competition element, in all but a very few clubs this is not a compulsory element. Some clubs lean towards competition, others towards education, and some revolve around the social side. Try several clubs and find the one that works for you.

However, overall I would have to say that competition improves the breed.
puertouk 6 1.1k 17 United Kingdom
16 Feb 2013 2:48PM
I have a lot of clients who are in camera clubs and the majority enjoy themselves. If you are not into competitions, either look for a club that does not do a lot or a small friendlier type of club. If you do want to join a local club, ask them about competitions and if its compulsory or not to have to enter them. The great thing about camera clubs is, you meet like-minded people who enjoy photography in various forms. You build up relationships with them and some even get to the point, they go away on holiday together. I have married couples come with their camera club friends. The wives will stay back at the hotel, unless they are in the camera club themselves. Sometimes they all go on the photo shoots, depending where we are going.

There's certainly a lot of cliques in camera clubs which you should be aware off, as there's also a lot of back-stabbing goes on as well. In a lot of ways, its similar to gardeners and allotments, where some members are jealous of others prized assets. All-in-all I would recommend anyone who is interested in photography to join a camera club, especially small friendly ones, where hopefully you will meet new friends and hopefully learn something at the same time.
brian1208 Plus
15 11.4k 12 United Kingdom
16 Feb 2013 2:54PM
Select a club that suits your style and join it.

If you grow out of it, leave it

If there are none that suit, keep on coming here - the biggest and best club in the world (with competitions if you need them! ) Grin
adrian_w Plus
10 3.7k 4 England
16 Feb 2013 3:59PM
There is normally no compulsion to enter the competitions, so if you don't want to enter then don't.
Even if you feel your style is not suited to competitions it's still good to enter as it gets your photos a public viewing and possibly some constructive comments from judges or other viewers.
p12owe 5 101 2 United Kingdom
16 Feb 2013 3:59PM
I have belonged to a club for about a year and a half and I enter most of the competitions. I would say that the critique (sometimes taken with a large pinch of saltTongue) can often be far more valuble than the actual marks given. It is also true that my technical photography and observational skills have been markedly improved by attending the club. The competitions do make me think about an image far more. I now often spot flaws in an image that before, would never have even occurred to me, so from that point of view it has been useful.

I do have to admit that I often reign in my creativity for club competitions. This does not mean I have lost my creativity, it just means that there is little point in putting in a very artistic image if the judge is an old school wildlife photographer. If I don't know the judge I will hedge my bets and put in two quite different images, so this pushes me to try different subjects and genres.

Like all things, there are horses for courses. If a person dislikes critique or competion it would be foolish to join a club where this is the main attraction. There are various other clubs that tend to be more activity or skill based so maybe these would be better choice for some.
danbrann Plus
13 637 17
16 Feb 2013 4:24PM
What could be better than spending an evening looking at good photographs with friends then having a pint afterwards to say how bad the judge was. I have been a member of Hexham Ps for over 30 years and have never regretted Joining. If I decide I don't like a competition then I don't enter but that still doesn't mean that i have to dislike all the images I see. We only have three competitions per season but we have a pint every Tuesday....it's either that or staying home to wash the dishes.
mikehit 8 8.0k 13 United Kingdom
16 Feb 2013 6:06PM
The mainstay of our club is competitions, but there are no prizes just marks awarded. I don't think anyone in our club looks is really competitive but is looking for the best mark as a measure of their ability. I am a competitive person by nature but I will often throw in curveballs just to see what feedback it gets - and if they don't like it so be it.

Quote:I can remember one member who'd been at the club for decades saying to me that he knew all the judges in the circuit and what their photographic preferences were and he took and submitted images to suit individual judges.

Is this any different to setting your own target and trying until you get it right? Except in this case it is for someone else - and like shooting for a client.
Shane136 14 63 United Kingdom
16 Feb 2013 6:11PM
I go to Gateway camera club( Dover) and comps play a big part in the years programme. But we also have a few guest speakers, photo shop evenings. The problem I find is when we go out as a club you do hear " wonder if the judge will like this" instead of taking images that please themselves! Now some judges are so behind times and some talk more about photo shop than the image it's self. I did find that after a few comps and getting low marks I did improve a little, and attention to detail became a lot better
User_Removed 10 736 4
16 Feb 2013 10:20PM

Quote: and like shooting for a client.

Camera Club competitions are completely UNlike shooting for a client. A client briefs you and you are shooting to that brief - not so for a CC judge. Also, CC judges are amateurs who have been 'trained' to judge amateur CC comps. They would never be selecting work for their business and paying out of their pocket. If they were, their judging would be sharper/more focused.

Most of the work seen in these competitions would not be suitable for commercial or editorial usage, so don't beat yourself up for getting low marks in these kind of comps if you are genuinely a decent photographer.....the judges have no validity in real life.
Dave_Canon 11 1.4k United Kingdom
16 Feb 2013 10:21PM
It all depends on an individual's attitude. In most Clubs it is true that they have many competitions but there is much more besides competitions; quality speakers, outings, training course, discussion groups, workshops, social events etc. An assumption may be that club members enter competitions only to win trophies. Of course those who do win enjoy the moment but it is not the main motivation for most. Entering competitions actually encourages one to get out and take new images as you cannot re-use them. Most competitions include comments on each entry by an experienced judge. This valuable feedback is what most entrants are looking for. Of course judges are not perfect but regular feed back on your own images and on others images increases ones knowledge and experience. For me my photography developed rapidly once I joined a club and entered competitions. One of our club member who only joined 3 years ago went through LRPS to ARPS and now FRPS in that short time. Of course this success is due to the fact that the individual clearly had hidden artistic skills which were rapidly drawn out by a combination of competitions, tutorials, exchange of ideas etc. The individual has been awarded the FRPS for demonstrating an individual style not for cramped development. I think a camera club is an ideal place to develop photography.


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