Camera clubs and photographic societies keep members motivated and inspired. So how do they cope when face-to-face meetings, workshops and distinction judging days are off-limits?

Social Distancing, by Dave Kiddle

Social Distancing, by Dave Kiddle

Peter Highton ARPS, Programme Secretary, Richmond & Twickenham Photographic Society

’It’s important to keep members’ interest and enthusiasm going through this period, and to give them something to think about other than COVID-19! At this point we are pretty close to running a full programme, which has been achieved by inviting speakers and judges to link to us using virtual meeting software (Zoom). We run a familiarisation session with speakers beforehand to make sure that they are comfortable with the software before presenting to the group. One thing we’ve learnt is that you need to take the burden of presenting images away from the speaker so that they can focus on talking and not working the technology – this has encouraged our speakers to embrace virtual meetings.

Our first two virtual meetings had more attendees than we usually see at our regular meeting venue, which was encouraging. What’s more, some members who struggle to attend our face-to-face meetings are now able to join us online, which is great. Most of our members, judges and speakers had not used Zoom prior to the lockdown but, fortunately, members with more experience were able to coach the rest of us. There were some minor technical hiccups at the beginning, but everything now does seem to be working well.

We are particularly keen to maintain the Specialist Interest Groups, which traditionally meet weekly to cover a wide range of topics, from post-processing and studio portraiture to table-top photography and Distinctions. We’re in the process of working out how to maintain this part of the programme.

Our annual exhibition, which was due to take place over Easter, was obviously cancelled, but we replaced it with opportunities for members to share and discuss the images they had planned to display. We continue to run our competition programme, but it’s now exclusively in Projected Digital Image (PDI) format via video conferencing. The judge is sent the PDIs in advance, so that they can view the images on a calibrated monitor and make their initial scoring selections. These nights run pretty smoothly and it feels like a normal competition evening, with the judge giving their critique and score.

We’ve replaced our annual Open Print competition with a new one entitled 2020 Vision. All entries must have been taken after 13 March (during lockdown) to stop members from trawling through their archives for pictures to submit. The idea has received a favourable response, and we believe it will help keep members engaged in the club during this period.’

Buttermere Reeds, by Peter Highton

Buttermere Reeds, by Peter Highton

Trevor Morecraft, Vice President LRPS, Winchester Photographic Society

’Being in isolation is a unique experience for all of us, but we have developed various methods to keep the Society active. Photography is our hobby, and we want to enhance that. At present, we have a number of online options, and our website and weekly newsletter helps members to stay in touch.

We decided to use GoToMeeting as our conferencing software, mainly due to the fact that we are a large club (we have more than 200 members) and it enabled us to have up to 250 people online. The software has proven to be intuitive and practical. We held three practice evenings where we encouraged members to connect to our online meetings – this enabled us to sort out many of the technical hitches.

Our first online meeting was attended by more than 100 members, so the response has been enthusiastic! One of the negatives of online meetings, however, is the lack of audience feedback. There are no bursts of laughter or intakes of breath as a judge makes a comment, for example. We did once allow everyone to open their mics and applaud, but the noise was like a car misfiring!

We are continuing the season as best we can, running online events, training courses, competitions and Special Interest Groups. We also have an active Facebook group (members only), which enables people to share their work and contribute to technical discussions. We also set a weekly challenge, which encourages members to gather a suite of images for review later. In spite of the limitations, we are an extremely active society.’

Peter Hayes FRPS, Chair RPS Distinctions Committee, The Royal Photographic Society

’The RPS is busier than ever. The coronavirus crisis has encouraged us to think laterally in order to engage with our members. All three levels of Distinctions (Licentiate, Associate and Fellowship) are now being assessed digitally by panel members, who view the images on computer screens in their own homes. We have kept the integrity of the process and still have the first vote, a discussion between panel members, and the second vote. Successful applicants have the rare honour of achieving letters after their name during the lockdown!

We have also introduced one-to-one portfolio reviews using Zoom video conferencing. Using this method, potential applicants are able to show their prints on screen and talk about them in real time with an advisor. Print submissions, however, will have to wait until the lockdown has been lifted.

Another new addition is the RPS Distinctions Official Group on Facebook (open to all). It is THE place to meet and chat about Distinctions and qualifications. Naturally, people have been putting successful work on display, but encouragingly some brave souls are posting Distinction panels that were not recommended, and explaining what went wrong. This is a great learning experience.

Distinctions are also playing a role on Instagram: panel chairs will be taking over the RPS feed to show their work and explain their photography. Meanwhile, The RPS regions, Special Interest Groups and Overseas Chapters are a hive of activity. Study groups, competitions, virtual presentations, lectures, book clubs – they all keep things ticking along.’

Dandelion Wish Self Portrait, by Kelly Long

Dandelion Wish Self Portrait, by Kelly Long


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