Something I’ve been meaning to blog about is photography (and for that matter, any type of) forums. Forums can be a useful tool for the up and coming photographer, but they can also be a bad thing and it’s important to know which is which. If you don’t, you can find yourself the victim of morons and either putting up your camera, turning off forums or worse yet, becoming one of the “know it all” that everyone runs to, when in fact, you know very little.

Years back when I first started getting serious with photography, I had turned to various user ran photography forums or message boards. In my quest to be accepted by other photographers, I would take a photo and post it. 80% of the responses were negative and I found myself asking them how could I get better? I found myself dying to know how I could improve my vision and in the mean time, I didn’t realize I was turning my vision over to them. One week, I took a few days to call and talk to a few of my mentors. The first thing they told me to do was “Turn off the G*DDAMNED internet/forums and turn ON your camera!” I hadn’t understood what they meant as forums was an “invaluable” place to learn photography. They were all saying the best place to learn was in the field, not from the internet.

So I did that. I turned off the message boards and started booking free and a few paying clients and really started to work on my craft. Started to really pay attention to what I was doing and by the end of that year, I had improved greatly. About 8 years later (Early 2011) I had 30+ images nationally published, several major corporate clients and 14 photography sponsors as well as being a nationally recognized photography workshop instructor and teacher, I had decided to go back to forums and share and on occasion, teach. At first, all was well. I was sharing images once every few weeks and it was good. I had specifically stated I didn’t want image critiques because I am confident and competent with what I do, I didn’t want them to waste their time offering their critiques because I wouldn’t listen to it and mostly because the image was from either a paying client (something they never had) or published (something they at this point could never get). Once it became obvious that I wasn’t there looking to them for their all knowledge and input, they turned hostile. If I posted photos of a model or client in clothes, they offered their two cents with out hesitation. If I posted nudes, no one said anything other than glaring supportive comments. A-HA! After taking a long look at message board comments to my images as well as other images from other posters, this is what I’ve found; Forums are really no different than high school. You have the old heads, the out of placers and the “stoners” Lets break them down eh?

The Old Heads: The guys on the forums who have been around since the forums started. These guys are the most disgruntled of them all. They have photography degrees and work a regular 9-5 job because their photography reflects the time frame they got their degree-1980′s look. Usually they were never successful in the photography world, so they stick to forums where they can get the respect of the young photographers looking for advice. The young guns respect them because they have a “following” of newer-young guns who idolize them. If you take a peak at their posting history, you will notice they have not one single photo based post. Why? because they know they can’t shoot and that they would get laughed out of any agency, sponsor, client or general studio that’s hiring. Their work is below sub par, so they stick to talking formulas, lighting ratios and everything else. I feel bad for these guys, they are the most poisoned, and they don’t know it.

The Stoners: These are the guys that are graduated from Young Gun and on their way to Old Heads. These guys have been posting on forums for quite some time now and have started their own little clique. They have shooting experience and are able to produce 1 out of 100 photos that are decent. Because they have photo posting experience and the nudging from the Old Heads, they are actually in a better place than the old heads-only they don’t realize it. They are the ones to jump into your thread and say something stupid like “I don’t like her hands” or “I like the image but I don’t” Or something stupid like that. They are still learning who they are in the photography world, but unlike the professional, they are doing it on a message board while trying to woo other people. These are the guys you point and laugh at.

The Young Guns: These are the guys and girls who are FAR better than the two previous groups, but their humility and love of the craft won’t let them see it. When they produce images they like, they right away feel guilty for liking it and feel as if they are doing more of a disservice to the art world, than good. These are the guys that are on the path to learning how to get better and attack photography like a hungry man at an Old Country Buffet line. If these guys aren’t upsetted by the above groups, they will quickly advance to the professional level and just go away.

The Out of Placers: These are the new to photography world guys and just want to learn about photography. They are harder on themselves than the Young Guns and their level of love isn’t as high, but technically, they have a general interest in it. They picked up their camera because they like/love photography, but not sure what level they want to pursue it. They migrate to the forums and one of two things happen; they either turn into the stoners or quit the forums and photography all together.

Professionals: The Professionals are the ones who go to the forums, they have no ego but a lot of confidence. They go to share knowledge and information. Sadly, after a few weeks posting, the never will be’s will have put them into a position to where the Professional has to decide: Hang on a forum of Old heads and Stoners, or work at making money? They chose the latter and as a result, the forums miss out on something awesome. Many people realize right away that what they’re missing out on is amazing, so they end up following the Professional. Few take the time to interact and when some do, they expect or want the Professional to tell them EVERYTHING about how this image was created or that image. They realize that the other groups have ran the professional off, so they don’t know how to go about getting information so they blitz. Unlike the Old Heads, the professionals actually have something to teach, but they can’t stand being around simple minded people so they just…go away.

When it comes to message boards, which are you?

Originally posted 8/24/2011

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