Photo Clubs Are Great Places To Learn And Grow

Welcome to another edition of Let’s Talk Photography!

This week, I’d like to share with you some of my experiences with photo clubs and photos that were taken during photo walks. The photos are of my son Isaac in the first photo I presented to a photo club, the old movie projector taken during a photo walk at the Reg Lenna, and Sts. Peter and Paul church taken during another photo walk.

I owe everything I know to our local photo clubs and the members who took the time to share their knowledge with me. Well, not quite everything, as I’ve spent many hours geeking out with various YouTube channels and web blogs to expand on my hobby, but the foundation of my interest in photography was set when I first began attending meetings at the Jamestown Audubon Nature Photography Club which is held the second Thursday of every month at the Audubon Community Nature Center on Riverside Road.

It began when I was hosting my radio show, Blue Screen Radio, and a listener called in to ask if I would come and speak on the topic of file types and computer software to the Audubon group. The listener who called was Suzette Paduano, President of the club at that time. She told me that I could bring a photo having to do with “Blurry Backgrounds” and enter it into the club’s monthly photo assignment showcase. So, I thought “what the heck” and brought along my favorite photo of my son Isaac when he was eight months old all dressed up in his first Halloween costume and sitting inside a pumpkin. It was, by far, the best “portrait” I had ever taken in my life! I knew everyone would love it.

I showed up that evening and entered my photo into the showcase and watched as the members paraded by and “critiqued” the photos that they liked the most and disliked the most. Many smiled at the photo I had submitted. Then, at the beginning of the meeting, the group settled in and was asked to present their thoughts on the photos. Most people just said they liked all the photos and didn’t find anything wrong with them because, as you’ll find in a group environment, no one wants to hurt anyone else’s feelings. But one person, Bob Gibbon, stood up and couldn’t seem happier to talk about the flaws in my photo!!! Unbelievable! How could he even bother to say these things when I’m not even a member? I didn’t even want to stand up in front of the group and present my topic after that. For a moment, I felt like that would be the last time I ever saw those people again. However, what happened next was quite the contrary.

The club President had given me an honorary membership for the remainder of the year in case I wanted to come back, and that’s exactly what I did! I took note of the topic for the next month and, sure enough, I showed up with a photo and one ambition … to get a positive response from that Gibbon guy! I won’t go on about the whole thing, but I wanted to point out that being a part of that group environment encouraged me to continue to go. As it turned out, Bob became one member who I’ve looked up to ever since because I came to understand and value the criticisms that he would offer. Like many members, Bob was doing it to help me to see where improvements could be made in both the technique and the way in which I approach a subject.

Being a part of a photo club, whether it’s a physical group like the Audubon club or an online group like the “Shoot ‘n Share Chautauqua” group on Facebook, is a great way to learn through other members of the community who share your hobby and interests. The social aspect is priceless when it comes to casually talking about photography and finding out what others are doing. Many times, the discussions that take place will be about interesting places to visit or suggestions on how each person got the shots or what equipment they were using or the settings of the camera. In a casual discussion, knowledge is passed without the boring lecture and often times people will retain what they learn from friendly conversation much faster and easier than what they learned from sitting quietly and listening to constant talking about one subject.

Another benefit is being able to see other people’s work and share your own in a friendly environment. Everyone who is a photography buff has tons of pictures to show off and hardly anyone who wants to sit around and stare at them all day long. A photo club is the perfect place to display your work and have others, as interested in photography as you are, looking on and asking all the right questions like “how did you get that shot?” or “where were you?” or various other questions that allow you to brag about all the ways the photo was special to you.

Finally, photo clubs provide fantastic opportunities to gather as a group and explore the community or nature in the form of photo walks. These are structured gatherings where the club will meet as a group at a location and take some time to explore and photograph what they see. The best part of photo walks is getting to the next month’s meeting and seeing how differently everyone saw the same place through their own cameras. You’d be amazed at how many times I looked at everyone else’s photos and thought “Wow … I didn’t even see that!” or “I never would have even considered taking the shot from that angle.”

Trust me, if you’re interested in photography and you’d like to surround yourself with others who are willing to share with you and learn through your sharing, then please take some time to check out some of the local clubs. You can find their contact information online by searching for them in Google. The two clubs that I’ve had experience with in our community are the Jamestown Audubon Nature

Photography Club and the Chautauqua County Camera Club. If you’d like to join a club in Warren, Pa., then I’d suggest the Warren Photography Club.

This Thursday, I’ll be leading a discussion on Low Light Photography at the Audubon Club so I’d like to invite anyone interested to stop down and join me. The club won’t charge any admission fees for non-members and it would be a great way to meet and greet those who follow my writing.

Until next week, happy shooting!

Is there a topic that you’d like to learn more about? Send feedback, share your photos, or offer topic suggestions to If you’re looking for a place to connect with local photographers in Chautauqua County, search for the group “Shoot ‘n Share Chautauqua” on Facebook.