Is a camera club stifling your creativity?


Camera clubs can be an incredibly positive learning experience for new photographers. Suddenly you're surrounded by experienced people who are only too keen to show you what they've done and talk about how they did it. Horizons suddenly expand and you find yourself with a wealth of new ideas to try and teachers to help you. But there can be a catch.

Experienced photographers are often still there to learn but it's also a wonderful forum for showing off their work and hanging out with like minded people. And if someone has done particularly good work (or if they're a great self promoter) then sometimes they can become a club "star photographer". Usually they're lauded and looked up to by the other members. Sometimes they become club leaders or competition judges. And of course members often try to emulate the star photographer's style in order to learn. But this is where it becomes tricky because members might start to compare all work with the work of those stars and pretty soon other styles are out of favour. Before you know it the club has it's own house style that is fashioned after that of the star members. In extreme cases you have to emulate that style in order to do well in club competitions.

This club behaviour isn't stupid or malicious. It's just an emergent property of having people wanting to show their work and others wanting to learn. It's natural but it's important for club leaders to see what's happening and encourage diversity. The same problems occur on photography websites and other photography communities as well. We all want to be the best photographer we can and we all want to have our own personal style. Emulating the work of people we admire is a big part of how we learn and how we develop our style but just try to be aware of your influences and be choosy about what parts of those you keep for the future. And if you feel you're getting stuck in a rut or your photography is becoming more of a responsibility than a pleasure then strike out in a new direction. Try something completely different to what you've done before. Show your club mates something they've never seen from you before in so doing challenge them to appreciate different styles and approaches.

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