A couple of years ago Chris Fawkes from Australia started a forum called Facebook Wedding Photographers. About six months ago he asked me if I'd help him and be a co-administrator of the page. In the process we decided to change the dynamics of the site. First, we made it a closed group, so only the members could see what was discussed. Then we slowly started to screen out everybody that wasn't a photographer. We wanted to make it a resource for professional or wedding photographers only. Last on this list we wanted to develop some interactive events, starting with a contest exclusive to the site.
The result is that we've grown from 3000 members to 11,400+ as of this morning. We launched a contest through ViewBug with prizes from Venice Album, SmugMug and Photodex. Resource Magazine is going to be publishing the three winning images judged by two of the industry's finest wedding photographers, Justin and Mary Marantz. We've got some amazing photographers active on the site, but there's one challenge I simply can't figure out how to address.
How do you get people to simply "play nice"? Over and over again I'm amazed at the lack of patience for photographers just starting out. I'm often left speechless by the arrogance of photographers who believe their way is the only way. Over and over again I see people hide behind the anonymity of their computer screens and comment in a way I know they would never do if they were speaking with somebody face to face.
Sadly this is only one half of the problem. As an administrator when somebody doesn't like something that's been said, Chris and I get emails. I've been asked to remove somebody because another person felt their comment was inappropriate. I've been asked to "talk" to members about their comment about somebody's relationship with his ex-wife. Seriously, is this really what people want us to be doing to build a stronger educational resource for wedding photographers?
I wrote a post a short time ago quoting a good buddy, Levi Sim. The core of the post was based upon a point he made at a presentation last year, "Act as if your grandmother is watching you!" That pretty much covers it all, but I guess I want to be a little more specific.
1. If you're sharing images in any forum, be prepared for criticism.
2. No matter what anybody says about your work, remember that it's their opinion. It might be good, it might be totally off the mark, but if you put your work out there then recognize it won't always be sugar and spice! Get a thicker skin!
3. Not everybody still remembers what it was like when they first started. Wherever you are in your career, there will always be somebody with less patience than you wish they had.
4. Just because somebody says something you don't like doesn't mean you've got the right to declare they be banned from society.
5. Whatever site you're on remember that administrators don't get paid a cent for any of this. They're in it because they're passionate. Chris and I are just two examples on the hundreds of sites in cyberspace where a couple of knuckleheads are trying to build something that helps its members.
And if all of what I just wrote isn't hitting home, watch this video from another good buddy from Australia, Ryan Schembri. His tatoo says it all...Strength, Passion and Honesty!
Check out "Why?" one of the most popular features on the SCU Blog. It's a very simple concept - one image, one artist and one short sound bite. Each artist shares what makes the image one of their most favorite. We're over 100 artists featured since the project started. Click on the link above and you can scroll through all of the episodes to date.