Thursday, September 16, 2010

The problem with 'community' based photography websites

Social networking, photography, and the art of self is, after all, an art unto itself. In order to get your work seen, you MUST get it out there in front of people, right? Right! It is rather a mandatory thing to do, be it on Facebook, twitter, etc etc. But, there are a few downsides to doing it as well, and depending upon the path you take, you may or may not have this happen to you.

Photography 'community' websites, or, art community websites. The good, the bad, and the downright awful. There are some which are great and there are some that make you want to shoot yourself in the head after awhile. Joining and exploring them can be painful, or fun, depending upon the route which you take, and which ones you join. That being said there are some serious problems with most of these which I have discovered.

Who is your target market that you want your work to be seen by? Is it a group of people who's average is 15-19 or is it an older audience who is say in their 30s-50s on average? Determining factors for sure, especially if you plan on selling your work on these sites. Do you want to promote your work to a community or do you want to go outside and promote it to the whole world to see? You can use a photography based community website as a sort of home base, but be aware that some of these sites are encased in advertising that actually 'talks' and makes noise, flashes, and can be infested with malware causing not only you problems on your computer but everyone you send a link to. I don't know about you, but for me, that is the last thing I would want my art to be associated with on a professional basis.

The clique factor. believe me, there is a huge clique factor on photography based community websites, sans RedBubble and Flickr, as I have never seen it happen there. Others though I certainly have. Again, it all depends which site you join, and the dynamics of the site as a whole. There is also the whole issue of disrespect that one can get from members as well, because being outright attacked by a group of trolls is just the 'in' thing to do for the younger generation these days on the internet it seems.

And then there is the factor of egos running amok and wild, like the Sox & Martin dragster from the 60s. It can get very out of control, and on some of these websites, it actually leaves people with a very bad taste in their mouth. One example would be on deviantART where I was accused of manipulating one of the photos by a group admin whose group I submitted the photo too. She declined it and basically said I manipped the shot.

Now let's be honest here, any photographer who takes their work seriously would be pretty offended by that kind of accusation, without question. And this is standard affair on these 'community' based websites. I see these sort of things happen a lot, and it makes me sad, because many times when it is happening, it is being said by someone who has no clue what they are talking about to people who also don't have any idea about photography who are just starting out, and now think their work pretty much sucks, losing confidence in their ability and in their photography. Not good. Not good at all, but it happens a LOT of the time.

So what is one to do then? The answer is quite simple, though it depends on what it is YOU want out of a photography community website. So let's examine this some shall we?

* Who is it that YOU want your images to be seen by?--- Is it an entire community or is it the whole internet? If you look, most serious photographers have a photoblog that they work off which is often ran alongside their own personal website. This is pretty much standard affair in this day and age, publishing their work on facebook, twitter, etc. It is hard work at times, but the rewards can be great. If you want to hear things like "hey great shot!" and have some nice compliments on your work, then a community based website would be better perhaps for you.

* "But John what about other community based websites?"--- First off, flickr. I am not entirely sure I really consider flickr a community based website. Maybe? Maybe not. Flickr is it's own unique entity and is unto itself. Would I recommend it? Yes, very much so. that beings aid if I had to really recommend one single community based website, RedBubble gets my nod. It is clean, easy, 100% free, no advertising anywhere, and they give you a free professional based website as well, called a "bubblesite" which is entirely separate of the community itself. An example of which is my own bubblesite here
I like the ability to have people able to buy my art directly without ever having to sign up to be a member of the site itself, RedBubble handles the printing, shipping, etc and I call the markup %. Again, 100% free unlike so many other sites which charge you in order for YOU to make a profit (usually anything above 10-20%) The average age of RedBubble is 30s-50s and is pretty much strictly photography & fine art focused. This means less drama like on other sites, and it means people who are there for the art.

* Photography forums--- If your goal is to REALLY get valuable feedback on your work and improve as a photographer, you may wish to skip photography based community websites all together and instead head for another community based website completely different in style than the others. Forums. there are truly some fantastic ones out there, and in many cases these are are far FAR better for bettering yourself as a shooter. You can get critiques, feedback, and thoughts on your photography, while having it done in a very respectable manner (read said nicely to you) Which one you join depends what it is you want and at what stage you are at as a photographer. Again, these are all 100% free.

If you are just starting out or consider yourself at an intermediate stage, then these below you may wish to examine:

The Photo Forum
Digital Photography School
Photo Camel
Digital Grin
Photography Review
Photography Corner

If you consider yourself to be on the advanced amateur to professional level, then the sites below would be for you.


Nature Photographers
The Luminous Landscape
Fred Miranda
Photo Migrations
Juza Nature Photography Forums
Bird Photographers

I hope all this helped at least someone out there. What you do with your work, just make sure you take the path which is best suited for YOU as a photographer. Choosing the right path can help you grow as a photographer and better your craft, and quite quickly at that too!

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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Wildfires Of Boulder and published by The AP

For anyone who has been watching the news lately, one of the headlines has been the Fourmile Canyon Wildfire, which is burning above and behind Boulder, Colorado. This week has been a pretty a busy one for Colorado shooters who have been busy getting photographs of the fire. I have always wanted to photograph a forest fire, and well, I did. It is very bittersweet, seeing something so beautiful yet also very deadly and destructive at the same time. Photographing it from a distance gave us a unique view and vantage point, and using a super telephoto like my Tamron 200-400mm really made for some interesting things.

What floored me the most is when I came home and I posted one of my images on twitter using TwitPic Before I knew what was going on, I started seeing tons of people "re-tweet' the photo I took, and by the next morning it went pretty much viral, landing in front of the photography editors at the news desk of The Associated Press & The Huffington Post. After speaking with The AP's editors in NYC, the photo is now on the AP news wire and being shown all over the world, from Fox News to Yahoo News, to AOL News, to newspapers country and world all over.

Needless to say I am pretty speechless.

I have a whole gallery of photographs from the Fourmile Wildfire located on my website here  if you wanted to see them all. I still have a LOT to process yet and those will be up in the coming days. For now, here are a few below. Please click for larger version.

This is the image which has been published by The Associated Press after going viral on Twitter.

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