A field that I am very interested in but haven’t quite fully explored is photography. I got into it a couple of years ago and I started building a collection of hard cover photography compilations such as the National Geographic’s and LIFE Magazine’s series, as well all sorts of photography guides for digital, black and white photography, portrait photography, etc. Last summer, right before my trip to Europe, I bought a new digital SLR (Single Lens Reflex) camera. I was thrilled and already thinking about all the cool shots I was going to take. The challenging part was learning to use the camera properly and that wasn’t a one day process, but rather a serious time commitment and a lot, a lot of practice and experimentation. Digital cameras are sophisticated bits of technology. I read the manual on the plane but ended up using the AUTO feature in most cases..
Recently, I decided to take a step further and explore some social networking sites with a focus on photography. I wanted to find out what kind of information they can give to their members in terms of advice, experience, and guidance. Flickr is the most popular photo-sharing social network after Facebook and was the first one I started exploring. It is an amazing social platform allowing collaboration between professional photographers, amateurs, and people who are just willing to share moments with the people who matter for them.
Until recently, I have only used Flickr as an observer, periodically performing searches and checking out good shots. This time I decided to join a couple of Flickr groups. It was hard to choose from all the 14 000 groups that came out as a result when I typed the words “Nikon Digital” in the search box. I narrowed down my search by typing the camera’s model – more than 9000 groups came up. My final attempt to narrow down the results was to type my location – I still had a choice from over a thousand groups. I was really impressed by number and diversity of all these groups. You could chose from more general categories such as black & white photography and portrait photography, to very specific ones, such as photos taken at live concerts, or photos of street clocks. I already spoke about the Long Tail in a previous post and think that this is yet another perfect example of such…The niche groups that serve very specific interests, and therefore have less members, comprise the biggest percentage of all existing groups. And vice-versa, the more general categories such as landscapes, for example, have much more members but at the same time make up a small percentage of all existing groups.
Finally, I chose a group: “Nikon Shooters for All Levels”.
I was impressed by the level of collaboration by its members. The vision of the group’s creator was that we can all learn from each other no matter our level of proficiency. This is exactly where I wanted to belong – a small group (300 members), but closely tied together. I already learned how certain photos were taken and how certain effects were achieved. And as a matter of fact, I just heard back from another group whose work I really enjoyed looking at, and who ironically, as myself, has also mastered in public relations. I am going to share some of his photos here. The following photos are taken by Etaway (Flickr username):
National Geographic’s My Shot is another leading photo-sharing social platform. In a way it is quite similar to Flickr, but in addition to the features they have in common, My Shot has ready to download wallpapers, puzzles, and games. National Geographic has found creative way to engage with its audiences and by that demonstrates that it understands and implies the first thesis of the Cluetrain Manifesto, aka “Markets are Conversations”.
None of these conversations and collaboration would exist in a pre-web era. I wouldn’t know things that I know now and keep learning by being a member of these communities. We would all still wait to get printed copies of the photos taken at the party, and in fact we wouldn’t see them ever.