Photographers often think of themselves as solitary workers, operating out of their own studio or even from their own home. However networking has just as much importance in the photography industry as any other, and attracting other experts in a similar genre to follow your work can help you grow your business.
A great way to do this without introducing an overly corporate tone, as can be the case when interacting on a professional networking platform such as Linkedin, is to set up and curate a photo community.
This can take several forms but a Flickr group or a group on Facebook is a good place to start, as these already have large pools of active photographers. These function as libraries of images from other users which you can curate, encouraging discussion of your preferred style of photography.
This can not only open up possibilities for collaboration, but can also form a repository of information from which you can learn new skills and improve your own work.
Set joining options
To control who can add photos to the community pool and interact with other members choose how people can join. For most platforms there are options to allow anybody to join at will, for all members to be able to add people or for inviting users to be reserved for you, as the group admin. Consider the latter for more general group briefs, to prevent spamming of the pool.
Write a clear description
Make it obvious what the theme of the group or community is by adding a concise description or intro. This enables interested users to decide if the kinds of imagery they can expect to see is of interest to them and encourages people to get involved if so.
Get your community talking by posing questions, introducing points of discussion and inviting critiques and comments. Be cautious not to encourage arguments amongst your followers in the process by avoiding topics which invite heated opinions or the potential for unwanted negative feedback. Try using polls if available as these direct user engagement without the possibility of inflammatory comments from members.
Control what image types make it into your group pool. Add a group rules section to inform new members which you deem acceptable behaviour and regularly review the image pool, removing inappropriate content. Don’t be overbearing - encourage freedom of expression but do enforce basic regulations (such as acceptance of nudity, or graphic subject matter.)
For this kind of community it is better that your photo pool is publicly visible, as this will be more likely to attract further members, from a greater variety of experience levels. This will also add value for the members themselves, as a main reason for joining a large community is for the exposure. However, for closed groups, there are times when keeping the pool visible to existing members only can add to the exclusive feel of a group.
The best way to get value from your community yourself is to engage with other members. Don’t go for several weeks without posting images or commenting on the work of others. The more you get involved, the stronger the community feeling and the more successful the group.
Groups on social platforms and photo sharing sites can offer a tremendous source of creative support and at the very least can provide the artistic motivation your photography may need.
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