This saying is no less true in photography than anywhere else in life. The photographic community is one of the biggest assets that a blossoming photographer can find. From feedback to support and inspiration, a photographer starting out in the business can learn a lot by participating in the photographic community.
There are a number of ways to get involved in the community, and how you get involved will depend on a number of factors. For example, the first thing that many blogs recommend that beginner photographers do is to find a photography club to join in their area. Now, I am in Grahamstown, and as far as I am aware, there is no photography club in my area. There also seem to be fewer of these clubs in South Africa than there are in cities in America, though in the bigger cities like Cape Town and Johannesburg you are likely to find something -there just might not be too much choice in which club you can join. However, joining a club is just one way of getting involved in the community. There are many other ways that you can go about it, some of which are done in person, some are entirely online.
- Take a class. Whether it is through a community college or university, a high school or a website, take a photography class. I am not recommending getting a brand spanking new degree (though if you have the time and can afford it, go ahead!), but I am recommending that you find a part time class that you can attend to teach you the basics and to give you assignments and exercises to practice. Remember how I was saying in my last post that you need to have both the practice and the theory under your belt to really get to know your camera? A class will provide you with both of these, and you will get to discuss problems and questions with people who are experienced and there specifically to help you learn.
- Start a blog. If you want to get your photography out there, share your experiences, share your photos and ask questions, one way of doing that is to start a blog. You may struggle to find readers at first, but the more you comment on other blogs and get involved in the community, the more hits your blog will get. You will find that most blogs in the photo community will give you the opportunity of linking your comments to your blog or website. Take advantage of the opportunity! Get posting and get involved!
- Read and comment on other blogs. As I explained in my previous post, reading other blogs is incredibly beneficial. You can learn from their experiences and avoid mistakes that might have been made otherwise. There is so much that you can gain by reading other people's blogs, and even more to gain by commenting on them. By commenting and becoming active in the community, you will find that people will be drawn to your blog, particularly when the comments are relevant and appropriate. Of course, if the comments are no more than trolling, you will likely find your blog slightly devoid of activity.
- Find a photography site and post on it. By photography site, I here mean sites like Flickr and 500px. These sites are aimed at photographers specifically, and allow you to upload good quality images and share them with other photographers in the field. It opens you to feedback and constructive criticism and it broadens your photographic horizons as you will be able to view different kinds of photography and different concepts captured in different ways. This will often lead to inspiration and open your mind to creative ideas that you may not have considered before.
- Find a mentor. This can be the most difficult aspect of getting involved in the community, as it involves finding a professional to learn from and requires that the professional accept the idea of becoming your mentor. Some photographers simply do not have the time to teach, some are just not interested in it. Some look for mentees who are already skilled or have an extensive portfolio. But occasionally, you will find a photographer who is willing to help, willing to teach and willing to have a novice follow them around and see how things are done. I will be discussing the role of mentors and why they are so important in my next post.