How to start a local photography club?


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Jun 18, 2013
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South West Wyoming
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Hey all-- so I need advice. I live in a small town with a fairly large amount of people who are interested in photography. I am thinking of starting a local club. Something that is pretty informal-- monthly meeting with a theme to shoot and share, occasional guest speaker, a couple group outings and an end of the year showcase. No dues but probably an age limit.

Have any of you been involved in something like this? Any tips are appreciated. I've never been involved in a formal club but I want this to work.
Few thoughts:

1) Are you thinking lower or upper age limit - remember many clubs often end up vry full of the retirement ages and often very empty of younger members; which can be a serious problem as the club gets more matured.

2) Once a month is maybe a little too little; I would aim for at least twice if not four times a month (ergo once a week). Otherwise you might find that people quickly move on or forget about it.

3) You want to plan out how each meeting will go in advance for a good few meetings ahead. Consider events like:
a) Competitions - print, digital (projector!), film.
b) Teaching, learning events - might take time to find out who in the group can teach/offer up.
c) Studio sessions - laying on gear and a model and like a teaching day but with studio
d) Trips out - a good and regular activity for the summer; groups going to destinations can sometimes get discount at the door as well.
e) Talks - there's a slew of people that "do the rounds" in photo clubs esp around winter so check up on that (network with other clubs).
f) Inter-Club competitions/events
g) Gear sales/bring and buy

In general you want to have something arranged as an activity for the first meeting (not a talk but something). And along with that you want to advertise early. Get a Facebook group up and get the word out; leaflets in local stores, note on the post-office notice board etc... Ideally you want to give an email so that you can get an idea how many might turn up on the opening night - that lets you plan a little to suit hte numbers coming and to show general interest.
I'd start with a little outing; maybe try something like meetup to get the word out and see how much interest there is.
Few bits-

1)you need a venue
2)you need insurance
3)you probably need a constitution (club rules guidelines etc)
4)Our club is every 2 weeks, and it closed about a month for christmas and 2 months in the summer
5)you will have to charge a little membership to cover 1 and 2
6) you will need to have patience for questions that may seem to you to be at the very basic end of basic. A lot of people like photography but struggle with the technical side. We have plenty members that have digital cameras, but no computer, or idea about emails or photo editing.
7) you will need a comitee

A website is great but facebook can help instead also
Don't go formal! If you read the previous comments you will understand why. Just get an email list together, or better yet face to face and set up a have a cup of coffee or what not all together. chit chat, trade ideas, share a few photos..lthen agree to get together soon and do it again. Spread the word. The less formal the better it will be. The more formal the sooner it turns into a cliquish secret club. You live in Wyoming there isn't a town there large enough to support a formal club that would last more than a year or two.
And let children come.
I just discovered an app called MeetUp, it allows you to setup meetings, members, photos...etc. good luck.
Why an age limit?
I just discovered an app called MeetUp, it allows you to setup meetings, members, photos...etc. good luck.

I've been part of a number of photo clubs and artistic societies of photo websites. I joined a group called "Shutterbug excursions" which is based in the DC area. I'm now an associate organizer for the group. No fuss, no muss. You identify locations to shoot (indoors or out), people can join if they want. No cost to you. Free exposure and easy dissemination. Easy to post and share photos. A bit cumbersome for conversations but nothing's perfect! Check it out. You can even go to the Shutterbug Excursions group in the DC area to get a specific example and feel for how it works (by looking at some of our past meet-ups, the numbers who attend, the range of attendees, some of the photos the come from the group).

There are lots of photo meet up groups on the Meet-up site. There may even be one near you (so you don't have to start one up, just join and help to energize it).
For years I was a member of a woodworking club that was purposely kept informal. At first the club was pretty small, comprised of mostly young guys single or childless and a lot of people were willing to pitch in so everything was done pretty much by consensus. Meeting topics were easy because there were all kinds of things to cover and nothing had been done before. Club members were gung ho volunteered to present on things they knew. Over time the group grew and there were those who were actively involved as before and those who were coming (or choosing which meetings to attend) for what we called "the show" but didn't do anything to contribute. Some of the original members drifted away due to other interests. Some moved away due to work, and many of us had kids which took up more and more of our time (in fact I eventually sold my house where I had room for a large woodworking shop and moved into town due to my kid.) The core group got smaller and smaller and the group coming for the show got bigger and bigger. Eventually we found it necessary to elect a board to steer the ship, but even finding new board members isn't necessarily easy and often some would volunteer but not actually participate. Not getting new blood in charge makes finding new ideas difficult. There's a definite age divide--young people with time and disposable income, the middle age group tends to drop away, and empty nesters and retirees come back.

The club has without fail met for a monthly meeting based around some topic. People show up as early as about a half our before the official meeting start time of 7. Socializing occurs until the meeting starts, usually about 7:15. Business, show and tell, a raffle, etc are done at the beginning of the meeting then presentation on some topic, usually presented by a member. Everything formal wraps up by about 8:30 on average and depending on the weather and people's moods more socializing occurs until sometimes pretty late. Topics are usually a presentation on one technique, but sometimes a round table discussion, a collection of small topics, or even just a Christmas party are substituted. For a while we did Saturday events pretty regularly, sometimes a more hands-on class, sometimes tours of members shops, once we did a tour of The Henry Ford Museums's furniture collection including some peaks behind the scenes. We also did an annual charity project for years, several years we built Toys for Tots toys, one year we did a blanket chest donated to a charity auction, stuff like that. All but the regular meeting have fallen away because the same core group got tired of organizing and no one new would step up.

On the informal advise of a lawyer everything was kept informal organizationaly. There is no official organization, no dues, no membership application, etc. Meetings are held at one persons's shop. In the event of an accident there is no organization to sue. The person holding the meetings is at risk and understands that but because there's no organization to go after it would be necessary to sue people individually. Doesn't protect anyone, but makes it the reward smaller, making a lawyer less likely to take a case. As soon as we organized it would have created a need for club insurance, necessitating dues, necessitating a bunch of work there. And allowing the organization to meet at his home created legal and insurance issues for that person. Obviously this is something you need to look into yourself as even different lawyers would probably have widely varying opinions on this.

None of this is to say you shouldn't do it, just some pitfalls to be aware of. I've been trying to find a photography club here to join. Most seem to be mostly photo contest clubs. I want more of an educational group and/or group to go on field trips with, and one with people of similar interest to socialize with. There's a club here that apparently meets monthly but its essentially just for a monthly photo contest near as I can tell. I can't say for sure--they haven't responded to several emails, Facebook messages, and posts to their Facebook page. I heard from someone else that its a small group of older folks and they are trying to figure out how to grow the club. Hmm...I'm a relatively younger guy trying to get involved and you won't respond??? There's also a Photoshop/Lightroom users group which is mostly retirees. I've only managed to make one of their meetings due to family and work constraints--just seems to fall on a bad day for me.
Why an age limit?

Sometimes as a club member invites are made to where alcohol is being served. Also there are at times where art nude is involved in competitions, exhibitions etc, also insurance for clubs involving minors is more expensive etc
Why an age limit?

Sometimes as a club member invites are made to where alcohol is being served. Also there are at times where art nude is involved in competitions, exhibitions etc, also insurance for clubs involving minors is more expensive etc

Then simply exclude minors from those events.

As well as create events that will encourage minors to participate in to balance it out.
Why an age limit?

Sometimes as a club member invites are made to where alcohol is being served. Also there are at times where art nude is involved in competitions, exhibitions etc, also insurance for clubs involving minors is more expensive etc

Then simply exclude minors from those events.

As well as create events that will encourage minors to participate in to balance it out.

Of course this can be done. I think you'll find that a lot of these type of clubs are hobbies for adults, many with families,and are as such intended as a hobby and social scene and a chance to interact with other adults
Maybe start out with something like Charlie (Snowbear) suggested, figure out a time and place to meet, and get an idea how many plan to come. Check with the meeting place ahead of time if you expect maybe 20 or so or more to make sure they can accommodate your group (have enough tables/chairs in an area so you can all sit together). Could be a brief meeting to see how much interest there is, then go out on a photo walk.

If you wanted to just arrange photo walks, that could maybe stay informal, where you all meet and go out taking pictures. If you want to develop it into an actual club it is possible to set it up as a social club (I'm chairperson of a small nonprofit but can't think offhand what the category is called for social groups, if this eventually develops into that).

You'll probably start to figure out what will need to be done and why clubs usually have officers/committees - someone to run meetings, someone to notify members, someone to make arrangements for programs, speakers, etc. In my experience clubs usually meet monthly and might skip December or have a holiday party, and may skip a month or two in the summer. There is one huge camera club in the city near me that has weekly meetings that seem to be subgroups - one week is studio night, one week is meeting at a park etc. for photo taking, another week is print night, etc. For a small group I'd be surprised if that many people want to meet that often; some that want to could always get together at a coffee shop just for conversation and socializing on their own.

You may not need dues right away, eventually you'll find out if there's a need for some dues to cover operating expenses. Someone may need to take responsibility for renting room space (even if no cost someone may need to sign off on it). Someone eventually may need to keep track of expenses or reimburse members etc. There might be a need eventually for a tax ID number (easy process, simple form to complete). You might want to look on your state's website just to get some idea if there's anything that needs to be done.

The group might need to decide if you want to offer some type of junior memberships for kids, but would need to figure out if parents need to sign permission or if they need to attend (do you want to take responsibility for other people's children??). That might be something to be considered later once you get this going regularly.

Seems like there's always a core group of members that manages things, and members that come periodically depending on what else they have going on. Who shows up and what everybody wants to do will probably determine exactly where this will go.
MeetUp, yes. I'm a member of a few MeetUp groups. One of the group leaders posts a disclaimer on EVERY e-mail and it says that attendees and their guests are responsible for their emotional well-being, their physical safety and well-being at any meetings and on any excursions, and that damage,loss,injury,or theft is the SOLE responsibility of attendees and their guests, and that, and the individuals running the group are not liable for any damages, and that no civil or legal action against or the organizers of this group will be allowed, and that Meetup.Com and the organizers of the group _____ _____ _____ shall be considered free of any responsibility or liability for any injuries, accidents,natural disasters, acts of God,losses of equipment or property, property damage or other misfortunes suffered by the voluntary participants involved with ____ _____ ____.

We meet regularly in one group at a local city library and its associated community center meeting and lecture facilities, and another group meets at an area coffee shop and gallery, and another meets at one of two different studios that one member, and the organizer, have. I am a member of another MeetUp group dedicated to fishing,m and we meet at a couple different Godfather's Pizza restaurants...which can easily handle the seating, as well as the salad, pizza, soda and beer needs of the membership.

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