Let’s be honest here. How many photography communities, groups, forums and projects are you members of?

Whether they are paid for or free, there is no shortage of photography communities out there. Here are a few tips to help you figure out which communities are best for you and how you can make the most out of the time you spend in them.

Why do you want to be part of the community?

It can be a little overwhelming trying to figure out which communities to join. One way to help you decide is to ask yourself what it is you want to get out of the communities you are thinking of joining.

Are you looking for educational opportunities? Maybe you just want to be able to share images and socialize with other photographers. Would you prefer more specific groups that are all about one brand of gear or another? Perhaps your focus is just on a certain genre of photography like street, portrait, wedding, etc.

Figuring out the answers to these questions will help you narrow down your choices. If the communities are free to join or offer a free trial, pop in for a week or two and get a feel for if you’re comfortable there. Does it offer you what you need? If so, great stick around, if not, just leave that group.

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What do to once you join

Read the rules and guidelines. You don’t want to start off your participation in the community by doing something that is not allowed. Check to make sure you know what the community is about and how it is being moderated.

Participate. If you joined to socialize or learn you benefit greatly from interacting. Does the community have themes or challenges on a regular basis? Be sure to take part in those and interact with the other photographers who are also doing the challenge. Compare notes, ask questions, share ideas and what worked and didn’t in a particular image.

Don’t just post photos and run

One of my biggest pet peeves in some communities is that they just become photo dumps. People post image after image and don’t bother with talking about it. I mean if it’s a site where all you do is share images, that’s one thing but in a community, shouldn’t there be some dialogue, questions, explanations and interaction?

Tell us why you’re posting the image, what compelled you to create it, how you created it or what the image means to you. If you’re looking for feedback on an image, let us know what type of feedback, what is it that you feel isn’t working or what do you want help with? Be specific about what it is you would like to know. Need a little help figuring that out?

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What makes photography communities fun?

I asked this question in our new Photofocus community and Colin Comps responded with this, which I thought was perfect.

“Community spirit and the participation level in the groups make it fun. In the early days, Flickr was full of photographers there for the fun of photography. There were no egos getting in the way and if someone left a comment it was typically helpful, not just a single word like nicewow or epic. There was a real sense of connectivity with people eager to help each other rather than people trolling for ‘likes’ so their photos get into the ‘photo of the day’ pool. 500px started off like that, then quickly became a competition for attention.”

Join the new Photofocus Community

We are up and running with our own community if you’d like to join us. There are specific groups for different types of photography where you can post your images, share and interact with other photographers. We’ll also have monthly webinars, learning opportunities and freebies. Here are a few of the groups to get you started.

Photography communities can be an incredible source of information, learning, helping others and you will likely end up with lifelong friends.