On my quest to learn more about manual photography this past year, I’ve tried a lot of forums. I even sucked it up and tried some of the paid forums, so I thought I would share my experience with you.
I’ve been on the internet a long time, I started off in mIRC chat rooms way back in the day (1997) and I have to say the phenomenon of paid forums seems to be very much centered around moms. I’ve seen parenting forums that are paid, and breast-feeding forums that are paid, and photography forums that are paid (lots of them mom togs aka Mom Photographers). In all my years as a front end coder, it was always extremely easy to find forums with access to random strangers willing to help a fellow geek out, able to get answers to many very complex questions. Photography, breast-feeding and being a mom? Ya gotta pay for that apparently. I’ve always found it rather disappointing but I was left frustrated with the free photography forums so I decided to test a few out.
iheartfaces – this site uses a ning network, which I really rather like. This is a really fantastic and FREE forum for photographers. All of their advertisers are spot on and stuff I am interested in, it’s like Ravelry; advertising I actually like. They have “Fix it fridays” were they post a photo and ask everyone to fix it in their photo software and blog it or post it to flickr. This is a lot like Photoshop 101 I had back in college, and a great experience for anyone to practice their skills and compare their work directly with others. It’s phenomenal. They also have photo themed weeks were you can enter contests, as well as many other giveaways with good stuff, and they even have their own workshops. It’s a wonderful community. My one big issue with it is, there is not much variety in getting your questions answered, and by that I mean there are some very active members who answer everything, which is really wonderful for getting your questions answered and they do know their stuff, but I like to seek variety. It’s like going through college and only having 1 teacher, you need more variety in who you learn from.
The critique group is really wonderful (I couldn’t find it at first, some of the forums are in the groups section) and you can very quickly get a lot of responses. I give iheartfaces 4.5 stars.
ClickinMoms – Here is one of those forums you have to pay for, but it’s one of the few I felt might be worth it. One of my biggest pet peeves in paid forums, is if they then have advertisers, and then send me e-mails asking me to buy more crap, after I already gave them money. Also frustrating is how when you pay they set you up on an automated payment schedule, for each of the paid photography forums after my initial payment I quickly went into paypal and canceled the automation so I would not forget. ClickinMoms sends a deal or contest about once a week. I’m not thrilled by it but it could be much worse.
This is a really nice community of a lot of wonderful ladies. A fantastic source when you need to find good printers, good marketing products and good props. These ladies know about all of it and are happy share and there is a good breadth of technical knowledge. My big issue here is as per the name and true to what it is, it’s a bunch of mom photographers. This is nice at first but after a while I find it a bit limiting. I want to talk to photographs of all walks of life, lots of really talented photographers so that I can learn. The mom tog thing sort of folds in on itself, the style of photography, the back-lit shots in a field repeat over and over and as beautiful as they are I find it a bit creatively stifling. Easy to get caught up in the mom tog style and lost in that part of the photography world. There is nothing wrong with it, it is wonderful and there are SO many talented moms out there, but I don’t like to only define myself as a mom. I don’t want to miss out on exposure to other fantastic photographers just because they aren’t moms.
With all that said, I really enjoy this forum, it’s very active forum with lots of wonderful resources. I give it 4 stars. It’s worth the money IMHO but some people really don’t want to or can’t pay for that sort of thing.
Nikonians – not worth the money IMHO, nothing offensive here just not very interesting, and not nearly as active as the previous two mentioned. I find it better not to limit myself by equipment type when it comes to seeking out people but I originally went here when I was first trying to learn the menus on my Nikon. Nice people, just not much going on. You can access this one for free, and then upgrade for more features which is very nice. I give it 3 stars, low mostly due to there not being as much activity as on others, and for having a black background which is hard to read.
Open Source Photo – Another free forum, a great resource. I read about it on Jasmine Star’s website, and I really do like it but it is not as active as iheartfaces or clickinmoms. I really love the diversity here. Women and men, young and old, parent or not. I wish the structure of the actual forum groupings was a bit different and had a more general section to invite more general conversations, some forums make the mistake of having too many sections and it divides the readers out resulting in less activity. I give it 3.5 stars, it’s free and a good resource.
[b] School – this is from the sound of it, ravelry for photographers, heard about it again from Jasmine Star’s website. I have not joined it yet, it’s on my list of “want to try” but I’ve already paid for two or three forums and will be waiting/saving a while before I try this one, however it is on my radar. Some of the videos up on the site are fairly old, I just can’t tell how active the user base is. It seems about the same price as the others that charge. I can’t even tell if there is a forum on it or not but I would guess there would have to be. I can’t rate this because I have not tried it. Would love to hear your feedback if you have.
Please feel free to comment with your own experiences, and other forums you recommend (or don’t!). I really need to work on the color section of my photography tutorial for knitters, my list of things to do is piling up very high. My priority right now are two commission projects I need to get out of the way, and creating my office/study space in the house so I can actually work with better focus and organization. An Ikea trip is in order!