Photography Forums Can Do Better for Their Guests
This episode about photography forums is a bit of a rant, but one that's well deserved. We wonder why some (not all) photography forums are so mean and disrespectful to some of their guests.
There are good people on every photography forum I've ever visited, but it seems that some let a few people ruin the experience. Either the administrators are disrespectful to some, or they allow other members to get away with rude behavior.
It forms a kind of group think for those who want to continue their view on things without ever exploring new ideas.
The Threat of New Ideas
Lee speculates that these folks are rude because they feel threatened. Perhaps there is a worry about no longer being the top dog on a forum, or maybe they are just anhedonic.
We've encountered some administrators on photography forums who don't seem to have any of their own photos to show, yet maintain a superior attitude among others on the forum.
We've also found some folks who are like the Teacher's Pet on a forum. They have an ability to attack without regard to posted rules, always knowing they're protected by an administrator.
It Doesn't Have to Be This Way
I'm very skeptical about joining another photography forum these days, but I found a few good places that are worth mentioning.
The KelbyOne forum is new, but it seems to have a good handle on things. The discussions are friendly and informative.
Maybe there are some other great, friendly photography forums on the Internet. If you'd like to recommend a site, please let us know in the comments.
We discussed two sites, Nikonites and Nikonians. I apparently got them confused, but Lee had good experiences on the Nikonites forum. The Nikonians is not a site we recommend.
The Digital Photography School forums were good, but have since closed down. It's still a great resource for photography information.
THE PHOTO FLUNKY SHOW: Episode 66
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William: Thank you very much for joining us on the Photo Flunky Show, episode sixty-six.
Today I’m probably going to go on a rant, but that’s because of our episode title. Why are photography forums so mean?
Lee: They are terribly mean.
William: Hello, thank you for joining us. My name is William Beem.
Lee: My name is Lee Beem.
William: And we don’t think all photography forums are mean, but some of them certainly are, because I just got kicked off of yet another one in the past few days.
Lee: Yes. Been there.
William: Yeah, but before we get into that, let me go ahead and give you the basic show stuff.
Show notes are going to be available at williambeem.com/episode66. And we will provide links to the mean places and also the places we think are nice.
Lee: Yes, because you probably don’t want to join, but it might be fun to watch from the sidelines.
William: And of course you can find a transcript of the show there for free. There will be links to subscribe on the show notes and also, you can find a player of all of our episodes and links to subscribe at photoflunky.com
Also I want to let you know I’ve got a new ebook that’s for you. It is free and it is called Creative Portraits. It is about the emotional and non technical aspects of portrait photography. I hope you enjoy it. You can get it at williambeem.com/freebook or if you’re mobile and you just want to get it by text message, send a text: CPBOOK to 33444. It will respond and ask for your email address. You put that in and then it will send it right off to you.
Lee: And give a little. Share it with a friend. Because we’re cool with that.
William: It’s absolutely free. Share it with a friend. We hope you enjoy it and if you’ve got some feedback on it, let us know. You can find me at the contact page on williambeem.com/contact. Send me a note and let me know what your feedback is and by all means, we’ll keep it in mind. We want to hear from you and put in new posts, new podcasts and new videos of things that will be helpful to you.
Lee: Yeah and this is William’s masterpiece. I can take no credit for putting this together. We are saying ‘we’ but this is a book that he put together. I really like it.
William: I’m glad. There are plenty of photos in there; plenty of examples and hopefully it’s the concepts that you can take something from that and add to your own portrait photography.
Alright so why don’t we go ahead and get into it? I felt bad even writing this title. Why are photography forums so mean? It sounds kind of whiney.
Lee: I have no guilt. I live my life with no regrets.
William: OK so first off, I screwed up. And let me tell you what I did to get kicked off the latest one. This was a Facebook Group called Disney Colors. I joined not long ago. I was having a good time. I was posting up photos of my Walt Disney World Experience. I posted three photos. They all got received very well. Plenty of people liked them, people commented and I thought they were great.
I was looking at what else I can share. I looked on the pinned posts up there and it said if you’re going to share something here, it has to be either related to Walt Disney World or it has to be related to Photography.
I thought, what have I got that’s both? I realized I just recently wrote a post on my Nikon School review, which was held at Walt Disney World’s Contemporary Resort Hotel and it was about photography. I thought, you know what? I am not an affiliate for Nikon School, I get nothing from them, but this was an experience that comes around at Walt Disney World annually.
I thought I’ll share it with this group. Well, I put the blog post up there and I put the thing that apparently they hate. “If this is inappropriate, please let me know. I’d be happy to take it down.”
Moments later I was banned and blocked from the forum.
Lee: Oh, totally blocked because I went and shared. I am really a tough cookie. If you mess with my family, I go out … I’m kind of vicious about it and I made sure that I started posting all over the place. I put a link to the forum and said “Avoid this group like the plague.”
William looked at my stuff and I said, oh you can see it on my posts. And he said, “I can’t see it.”
And that’s when we realized you’d actually been blocked as well as banned.
William: Exactly, because what happened was I was trying to respond on Facebook – you get notifications when someone likes or comments on your photo – someone had commented on something and I clicked on the link and it said it’s not there anymore. I didn’t realize everything was gone. I started looking for older notifications. They were all gone as well.
I was just blocked, banned from the Disney Colors group. And not a word.
Lee: Yeah, not contact. It’s not like you joined, put on a post that upset them and they then made a decision to ban you. This is somebody who had been an active member of the group and I think that was our beef. They made no attempt whatsoever to contact you and say, “Look, we’ve had to take this down because ..” and then give an explanation. Nothing at all.
William: And like I said, I participated in the group. I was sharing photos. They were received, I thought, very well. and I was getting comments and I was commenting on other people’s photos that I liked as well too. So I’m giving and I’m contributing with the group. And my fourth post up was sharing the blog. I did not see anything in the rules that prohibited that, at least until after I got it. I went on Lee’s computer and looked and then I found the rules saying, alright you can’t post links to your own blog or promote anything.
But I thought, man! First offense, you’re blocked and banned without any word.
And I thought…. I felt miserable for the whole day and don’t realize why because this wasn’t necessarily … it wasn’t making me any money. It was just something I was doing for the fun of it and enjoying the community. And I’ve done this because I’ve got to say I’ve been kicked off of other photography forums before, too. And I was very hesitant to join yet another one.
And the reason is because not everybody, certainly, but there is always some mean jerk on a photography forum. Someone who is critical. Someone who thinks that they are the top of the roost and then they come along and you do anything that threatens their safety or position, suddenly you are on the out.
Lee: Yes. And I am quite vocal about that. Excuse me? What makes you the god of creativity? I just ask that. I have also lost a lot of popularity on these things, but one thing that I do realize, and that’s why I don’t try and justify what I’ve done and I’ve got no regrets is because I have always seen that there is a typical trend that is prevalent on all of these. And it’s not all forums, but some of them are just worse with not managing them. You have a few people who get very active there and people look up to them and then they get this inflated ego where they feel like they are the be-all and end-all of that. They are God’s gift to this forum and all things photography and if anyone else dares to disagree with something that they say or have a different opinion, that they are the enemy.
But because they get perceived to be so important on this forum – and trust me they are not! They are just people with inflated egos who usually have really crappy photos. They take this as a direct threat and others on there are actually afraid to challenge them because they are afraid to get targeted. So nothing ever happens of this.
Now I like to go and test things and I will test things; and I do. Because I am perfectly secure in my own capabilities that I need absolutely zero approval from anybody else to have faith in what I’m doing. And I actually encourage opposing and alternative perspectives, which is why I tend to interact on things like that.
But that is one thing that they all have in common: these people are so insecure in their really pathetic capabilities. No, I’m being serious.
William is laughing at me.
William: I’m laughing.
Lee: Because if you look at these people who are so … it really is just that they have this bombastic way of expressing themselves that is quite intimidating. People don’t admire them. People are afraid of them. People are intimidated by them and the new-comers who come on there, feel like they are inferior so a lot of times you get people joining the forum who are afraid to post. And I’ve been there. I’ve actually removed photos that I posted because I felt like mine weren’t good enough to be worthy of posting on those things.
And then I came around and thought, no that’s wrong.
William: I think it is wrong if you’re removing your own photos from a group because you think they are not as good as others.
I think everybody who wants to share, should share and be able to do so without fear of criticism; because we all began I have got thousands of crappy photos and I know I’ve posted some of them online and I was quite proud of them at the time and now I look back and think I can do better now than I did then. But at the time, that was where I was and that was where I was happy and proud. It’s kind of the same. Just because you submit a photo for a social media or forum or something like that, doesn’t mean that you are submitting it for critique.
Lee: And it’s not a competition. You know, I always look at instead of saying: How do I compare to other people? You should be saying: How do I compare today with what I was doing a year ago or six months ago?
If you have improved, that’s a fantastic photo. I don’t really give a damn how it compares to somebody else’s photo because that’s not what’s helping you grow. What’s helping you grow is whatever is motivating you to get better and to learn to improve. And also a good photo? That’s a very subjective statement to make. What makes a good photo? Because you look at a good photo and you might love something and I look at it and go, “Meh.”
William: Well I agree with that. And like I said, even now, the things that I used to post years ago that I thought were good photos, now I look at them and I see I should have done this better or I should have done that better. And that’s part of your growth. I think that if you want to ask for critique, that’s something you can do. But if someone hasn’t asked for a critique, you certainly don’t go out there and start tearing down. Well, you should have done this; you should have done that. Well, nobody asked you. I’m sharing this maybe because it was a fun day. Maybe it was because it was part of my growth. Any number of reasons people post photos online.
Lee: Yeah, I’ve seen technically completely imperfect photos that really just capture a mood that make me smile. So is that an inferior photo? No. Actually that’s a bigger success than the masterpiece that is maybe technically correct and shows no emotion. I’m all about the people and the mood and the feeling and that. And your miles may vary on this. But I just think that we maybe need to stop criticizing other people, lay back a little bit on criticizing ourselves and just be free to enjoy it. Photography is supposed to be fun. If you’re doing this for a business, you are probably not posting on a forum anyway.
William: Well, not for fun. Your business photos are for your clients.
William: And you may want to show that as examples of your work to try and help you get more business, but generally speaking, unless you’re trying to get photographers as your clients, you are not showing it out there on social media forums for photographers, if your clients are elsewhere.
Now if you’ve got a business where you are trying to get photographers to come learn from you or do something like that, yeah. I understand sharing your photos, showing this is what I can do. Maybe I can help you do it too. That sort of thing I get. My participation with this forum is simply because we live in Orlando, we enjoy Walt Disney World and I thought OK, let me try again. We had another Walt Disney World Facebook Group that I was part of and I didn’t get booted off this one. But this one was called the Mainstreet Mouse. And we are actually friends with the people who run it and they are nice people. We have got no complaints or qualms with them, but they had an administrator ….
Lee: Oh, she was an absolute! I’m not allowed to say the word. I did not like her.
William: This is a clean family podcast. You’re not allowed to say that word. But let me give you an example of what happened. I was posting some of my Disney photos there because I wanted to participate in the group. Because we did meet the owners. They are nice people. We really like them and we wanted to try help support them. And then I realized that my photos were being taken down because I was told I was sharing them from my personal profile and page. She said if you want to share a photo in this group, you have to only upload it in this group and we control it; we own it, because we have to control the experience that people have in this forum. We don’t want them going to something that is potentially not safe for Disney guests.
Lee: And this was not the owner.
William: No. Not at all.
Lee: That’s what bugged us so much, because the owner? You run your site the way you want to run it, but this was somebody else who thought she was God’s gift to mankind and really, she was not!
William: I stopped participating because my photos are mine. I am happy to share them with people who may want to enjoy them, and that’s why I was sharing with this group. But suddenly if I have to give up my copyright and donate it to the forum so that they can control the experience for others, well first off, you’re on Facebook. You can’t control the experience on Facebook.
Lee: Well, the other thing is that I think the problem I had with that was they didn’t tell you specifically how they were going to control it. So once they have your photo, what rights are they assuming to use it in the future? Nothing was said about that. So it’s a very vague, upload it and it can go absolutely anywhere. It’s kind of out of your control. And when you own something, you don’t take something that’s important to you and just hand it out on the street on a hope and a prayer that nobody is going to abuse it. That is just irresponsible.
William: If you’re using a service like Facebook you are already bound by your terms of agreement with Facebook. Someone else does not get to come into a Facebook group and tell you what they may or may not do with your photos. So I was kind of bothered by that. So I left the group.
Like I said, we have got no problems with the people who run the Mainstreet Mouse.
Lee: They are wonderful people. Lots of fun.
William: But we simply could not participate in that group because of the person that they have that is doing the administration. It was a miserable experience and quite honestly, I think that the folks that were joining that group were not there for photography. They appreciated our photos, but they were there for the Disney experience. It wasn’t necessarily a photography forum. But the practises that they had from that administrator about sharing photos, I thought was just unreasonable.
Lee: Yeah, she was just poison to the group, in my opinion.
William: Alright. Where else have I been booted out? Nikon Cafe was one.
Lee: See, I never joined that one.
William: No, you joined Nikonites (it was actually Nikonians). What happened there?
Lee: I wasn’t booted out of Nikonians. I made a decision that this wasn’t the place for me. I was very new to photography. I was very keen to learn. I think new photographers are quite open when they are wanting to learn to take a lot of harsh criticism because you don’t really know that much.
Initially I was treated very nicely and although nobody was directly insulting to me, there was a very strong feel that you are not really on the level of anybody important enough to count here. But to get to that level, you actually had to pay money to increase your status and people were wearing these badges almost like it was a power trip. And you know, something just felt very cold about that. There was great information. I did get help, but I noticed that I didn’t get replies to my questions for days. Whereas other people were getting a lot of interaction and I realized I just didn’t have the credentials to get on there. So I joined a different Nikon specific forum which was completely the opposite. And I loved it, but I have not recommendation in recommending that one and we’ll discuss it a little bit later.
William: It kind of goes back and forth with these photography forums. We find sometimes it’s the administrators and sometimes there is a user who thinks he or she kind of rules the roost and we have experience where there are people out there who have joined the photography forum, they’ve been there for years and there is no growth. They shoot down anyone who disagrees with them.
Lee: Yes, often it’s just a case of an admin or a moderator. I don’t know what it is with online forums and this is not photography specific, but when people become a moderator, it’s like they think they’ve got this really important role in society. And really all you are is the skivvy for the person running the forum to make sure that no crap goes on there and to kind of report it. You have no authority and you are nobody important! But they get this big ego boost because “I’m a moderator!”
And honestly, I don’t care!
William: And yet they sometimes are the ones that cause the most problems.
Lee: They usually do.
William: On Nikon Cafe my email address that I use for that is banned for life. I love that statement. I signed on and see I’m banned for life. I don’t know if you know me very well, but I’m actually a pretty decent guy. I don’t start fights, but I also don’t shrink from them.
I posted something up there that was apparently outside of the normal flow that they are used to. And then the discussion began. And then the discussion became heated. And then I’m banned for life. Because I had a different way of doing things.
That’s one of the things I enjoy about the podcast or the blog. I can tell what I think without getting banned.
Lee: Well exactly. And if people don’t like it, that’s OK. Everything will cater to a certain type of preference and you kind of accept that in life. It’s just that not everybody is going to love you and be your friend.
William: You know, the nice thing about photography and other parts of the arts is there is no one true way to do things. There are certainly best practises that a lot of people follow and with good reason. But some people are very, very afraid; I think they are almost intimidated if you say, you don’t have to do that.
Lee: They are threatened.
William: It threatens their status, I think. And it becomes mean and it becomes a discussion. It’s almost like other aspects of social media, particularly in the political field, (which I don’t want to get into) where it becomes fight club because you are onto opposite sides of the issue. I mean, just bringing up Nikon versus Canon can devolve into a silly argument.
Lee: I know and it’s so ridiculous.
William: They are both great cameras. You can take great photos with either one. Why in the world is it necessarily a slur to mention the other camera’s name?
Lee: I know, because I made the choice based on how it felt and I had my own reasons for making the choice. Not because I didn’t like one, but because the other one felt better to me. It doesn’t mean that I slammed the photos. When I look at photos online, I don’t go and check and think, oh I’d better not like this in case it was shot with a Canon! Or shot with a Sony. Grow up! That’s all I can say with forums. Grow up.
William: People will write things on a forum that they would never say to your face.
Lee: Oh, they wouldn’t dare.
William: And I don’t understand that mentality. It’s like if you’re going to be an adult and you’re going to be courteous in person, then why can’t you be courteous online. And that goes for the administrators, that goes for the members. I certainly try to be courteous and it’s not to say that I haven’t had some heated discussions at times, but I don’t resort to name-calling.
Lee: I was going to touch on that earlier.
William: Stick to the issue.
Lee: The funny thing to me is the times that I’ve been thrown out or disciplined (I mean really! Disciplined! What am I? Like five?) Take this as discipline! I’m laughing about it. Have a glass of wine. Cheers. Proud to wear the T shirt, you know.
Always. I do not name call and throw insults directly at someone’s person or their character. I will disagree with an opinion. That is the way I was raised; that is the way I live my life. It’s something I believe and it’s ingrained in me. Yet, I would sit there and be name-called and have insults directed at me, having my character and my personality challenged, having my capabilities challenged and yet, I was the one being disciplined. Which was really just confirmation to me that these people are so insecure that they have nothing valuable to say.
William: That was another one. Disboards. Another place where my email address was banned for life. There was …I joined the photography forum and that was kind of where you and I – we’d already known each other on Flickr – but I joined there and we both had a love of Walt Disney World and sharing our photos there.
I joined and started putting my photos in and there was a user there who went by the handle Photo Chick.
Lee: Oh, dear lord!
William: Photo Chick was the one that everybody turned to for advice. Everybody went to her because she was the expert.
Lee: She never posted a photo.
William: She didn’t post photos.
Lee: Because somebody might steal it.
William: She was going into photography school, so there is nobody who is more knowledgeable of anything than a student. I made the mistake, apparently, of disagreeing with her publicly. She had posted some advice for someone and I said, well actually there is another way you can do it. Then I went on to relay what it was and apparently that was my turn towards the dark side.
And it got to the point that every time someone asked a question, if I answered it, she would make a point of showing why I was inadequate or something that seemed to be more targeted at me, rather than helping the person who asked the question.
Lee: Yeah, and I kind of got caught in the cross fire there as well, because I came up and defended the whole thing. In all my naivety. I also didn’t like that somebody was getting away with insulting someone. And I’d been on the receiving end of some really unkind posts as well.
William: And really, if you think about it, this is supposed to be a photography forum for enthusiasts sharing photos, which I did. I shared my photos out there and I got some nice compliments from that. And she didn’t share any photos so she didn’t get any nice compliments on her photos. But that seemed to be another sticking point.
I thought, well if you’re on a photo sharing board …
Lee I’ll tell you what the sticking point was.
William: What was it?
Lee: She was in tight with a real, monster of a moderator on there, who never showed face, never posted a photo, never made any kind of contribution; never posted. No support. No input whatsoever. But he would sit there on the sidelines like he was God’s gift to the forum and he would happily deal out punishments like he was some kind of president or superior being. I’ve never seen a photo of his. I’ve never seen anything constructive or supportive of his. He was the biggest ‘insert expletive’ over here that I could ever have imagined. I don’t think I’ve encountered such a mean, cold person and he had no way to prove his status because he never shared anything. Because she was in tight and buddies with him, nobody dared cross her. That’s the only reason.
William: Well, he’s the reason I got banned because they had a point system and whenever you’d get to a certain amount of points for infractions or whatever the infractions may be, you gained points and if you got enough points, then you couldn’t post anymore until a couple of weeks or whatever it was.
Whenever my points or my time was up, I’d post something and he would add more points to the system, just to keep me shut up.
Finally, they had on the Disboards a little thing there. I did some research where you could appeal. If you think you’re being treated unfairly by one of the moderators or whatever it was, you could appeal to the whole board. So I did that.
Within seconds of that, I got an email saying I was banned for life. He saw it and just banned me before I could ever say anything.
Lee: Insecurity. Yeah.
William: You know, honestly, it’s a forum. I was upset at the time because of the treatment that I got. Not because of the forum itself. But it shows how people with a little bit of power can become tyrants.
Lee: There are certain sub-forums in that forum that are absolute poison. Other parts are absolutely wonderful and you have to pick and choose. All I can say is beware of cliques. And photography, unfortunately, is one that is a very focused group. People who are drifting in and out and need some help or want to share – generally those are the nicer places to hang out.
William: Now, speaking of nicer places, I don’t want to say that all photography forums are bad. We actually have a few that we really enjoy.
Lee: Yeah, Nikonians. *(We got these two mixed up on the show. Nikonites is the one I love).
William: Nikonians (Nikonites) and Digital Photography School.
Lee: Nikonians was so welcoming. A little bit smaller, but man it was all about the people. And that’s me. I’m all about the people. You can hear. I don’t like this bickering and stuff, but I’m also very opinionated and I am not shy and I lack tact. Which I’m very proud of because it gets the point home.
William: The other one I recently joined was the Kelby One community. They recently started this up for discussion of photography, but also kind of a lot of it is around the courses that they share.
I have had great experiences with Kelby One, with Scott and Kalebra Kelby and the people who are supporting them or working with them have always been kind. I don’t have any problems with Kelby One. I was a little worried when they started a community because I know how quickly they can devolve, but honestly, I’ve had very good experiences there so far. They have put their rules out in advance. Like don’t be mean and that other stuff. And they have got a good community to begin with. I hope it stays that way.
Lee: They are lovely people. I think that they kind of live that; those rules. And it shines through in the way that they’ve always conducted themselves. I really don’t believe there is any cause to worry in the future about them.
William: I don’t worry about them. I worry about people who bring things with them.
Lee: I believe that will be nipped in the bud very quickly, just because they don’t want to jeopardize what they stand for.
William: I hope so and I think that’s good. And the same with Digital Photography School. Darren Rowse – I’ve never met him and don’t know him, yet I respect him from what I’ve seen over the years, both on Digital Photography School and on Pro Blogger. He’s got a very nice, gentle way of sharing information and it kind of shows in Digital Photography School with the forum. It keeps a nice, even appeal.
Anyways, that was my rant for this week. I don’t know why some people feel compelled basically to put down upon others, but if you are one of those people, take a look at yourself and stop. And if you are one of the nice people, speak out more often. We need more of you.
Lee: Yes. And we’ll back you up. Just call on me. I’ll sign up and account, back you up and I don’t have any problem with being banned for the sake of the people.
William: There you go. Lee is going to be your muscle.
Thank for listening to us on the Photo Flunky Show. Show notes are going to be available at williambeem.com/episode66 and if you need Lee to be your muscle, just go to williambeem.com/contact and let us know. She’ll come around and knock some heads together for you.
You can find a transcript of the show for free, lovingly created by Lee. And you can subscribe to us on iTunes, Google Play Music lots of other links. You’ll find them on the show notes. Also on our player at photoflunky.com
Finally, don’t forget to claim your free copy of Creative Portraits at williambeem.com/freebook. Or you can just text CPBOOK to the number 33444. It will ask you for your email address and we’ll send it off to you right away. Thank you so much. Have a nice time on the internet. We’ll see you again next week.