Friends With Benefits

Friends with Benefits: Creating and Fostering a Community for Photographers
Friends With Benefits

We'd like to welcome Guest Blogger Kendra Swalls, of Paisley Layne Photography, to our on-going series! Kendra discusses the challenges of finding support when first starting out in the photography industry, and the success that can come from starting or joining a Photography community.

Photography is a lonely business. Whether you are a hobbyist or a professional, most of your time spent working on photography is time spent alone. We edit alone, we shoot alone, we book-keep alone and we learn alone. When I was first diving into the world of photography, I would spend hours huddled over my computer late at night, after the world had gone to bed, soaking up as much information as I could. I would read forum posts, admire other photographer’s images and watch video tutorials online. On more than one occasion I found myself wishing for someone I could talk to face to face. Longing for someone that knew how I felt, understood the business and could offer advice or a second opinion.

In addition to being a lonely place, I also found the photography business to be a very competitive and intimidating place. After starting my business I joined a few photography groups on Facebook only to find myself hiding in the shadows as I watched new photographer after new photographer get shot down, pushed around and critiqued into oblivion. The competition among the photographers in the group was obvious as they kept new locations a secret, answered questions with “I had to figure it out myself so you should too,” and were extremely harsh in their feedback. I was scared to death to share my images or questions; failures or successes. I was ready to give up on ever finding colleagues, much less friends, in this business.

After spending my first year in business feeling frustrated and alone, I took matters into my own hands and created the DFW Clickin Moms Facebook group. It started small with just a handful of ladies, hobbyist and professional, that were all looking for the same thing – a fun, friendly and supportive place to foster their passion for photography. Over the next eighteen months the group grew to over 300 members from all over the Dallas/Ft Worth Metroplex, with meet-ups, shoot-outs and learning opportunities scheduled each month. We have adopted a motto that “We are not here to compete, we are here to create!” which is displayed at the top of our Facebook page.

Friends With Benefits
Maternity photograph from one of the group's shoot-outs

Our group is amazing and I am very blessed to be a part of it. While I was the initial creator of the group, I cannot take all the credit for the parts that make up the whole. The meet-ups and shoot-outs are driven by the wants and needs of the group. We challenge each other, support each other and celebrate successes together. I get asked all the time what the secret is to making our group so successful, and to be perfectly honest, I don’t know the magic answer. I do know that I have learned a few tips and tricks along the way that I hope will help you join or start a local group:

1. Choose a platform. I chose Facebook since most people are familiar with it, it was easy, and it was free.
2. Privacy Settings- In the beginning our group was considered an open group which meant that anyone on Facebook could do a search and find us or request to join. After a couple of months I started noticing more and more spam requests in the membership area, along with a couple of non-local “members” that had slipped through the cracks and were trying to advertise on our page. I changed the privacy settings to private and eventually secret. This now ensures that every request we receive comes from a referral and that only our members have access to the information shared on our page.
3. Have your Admins in place. I was the sole admin for our group for the first several months which worked until our group got larger. As the membership increased I had to enlist other admins that I knew I could trust to help approve members, set up events and moderate the posts.
4. Have guidelines in place. We have been fortunate in our group that we have not had any problems with posted content or comments, however, in the event that someone were to cause a problem or go against our guidelines we clearly state that they will be removed from the group. Establishing this ahead of time will let members know what will and will not be allowed.
5. Schedule Meet-ups and Events. I believe that if there was one “magic bean” that helped our group grow and strengthen, it would be the events we scheduled. They gave members a chance to come together face to face to share ideas, get to know each other and form relationships outside of the group. Our events have included dinners, shoot-outs, information sessions and even our first annual holiday party, where we had over 70 members in attendance and close to $1,000 in door prizes from our favorite vendors (including CG Pro Prints)!

Friends With Benefits
First Annual DFW Clickin Moms Holiday Party

6. Networking- Because our group is so large and spread out, we have a wide variety of specialties among our members. This is great for networking. I love shooting seniors but I am not a fan of newborn photography. I know that if I get an inquiry for a newborn session I have several amazing photographers from our group that I can refer that client to. The same has worked the other way with photographers sending me clients that did not fit their specialty. We also rely on each other for sharing location ideas, marketing tips, product reviews and so much more.
7. Learning- We are constantly asking questions, sharing ideas, giving feedback and helping each other out. Anytime I have a question, I ask there first. We have had spouses offer to share their expertise in legal or tax matters, and of course our poor children have been dragged to every new location we can possibly find to test out lighting and set-ups for each other.


Friends With Benefits
Senior photograph from one of the group's shoot-outs

If you are feeling alone in your photography journey, I challenge you to go out and find a group of local photographers that you can connect with. It doesn't have to be a large group, maybe it’s just a couple of photographers that you meet with once a month for coffee. If you don’t find what you are looking for in your area, then start your own group. You never know who else is searching for the same thing you are. Blaze a trail and see who follows!

Friends With Benefits

If you're interested in learning more about starting or joining a local group you can reach out to Kendra at kendra[at]paisleylaynephotography[dot]com. You can also connect with Kendra at the follow links:

Paisley Layne on Facebook
Paisley Layne's Instagram
Paisley Layne's website

Kendra Swalls