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|| News Item: Posted 2011-06-14

Giving Back
Helping people with their photography is a rewarding experience … for everyone

By Matt Brown

Photo by Jennie Breeze

Photo by Jennie Breeze
All across the country we have photographers who can really use your help. Let's say you are a big name photographer living in Portland, Maine. You are putting in your hours at the office and more with the family. Can't you find 2 hours a year to seat down with a group and talk photography with? From Boys Scouts, high school photo classes, a senior center group to the Photographic Society of Orange County --- all would love to hear you input about photography and how to see and take a better photo.

My insurance guy, Mike Whitmore, is a major shutterbug. We talk photography every time we see each other. Mike belongs to Photographic Society of Orange County. Every month the group goes out and shoots a photo assignments. He asked me a of couple years ago if I could come by and critique some of the groups photos from a trip.

Most, if not all of my friends, take photos or work around photography in one way or another. I thought it would be fun to see work from novice/regular photographers. So I set out to give back.

I'm sure you can find a group like this in every town in America. Being a professional photographer with 20 years under my belt I have done a lot of workshops and judged almost a hundred photo contests. None of the people want to be professionals. They just want to take better photos because they love it. it's a great thing to see and very refreshing.

The Photographic Society of Orange County started out in 1993 by Leroy Hannon due to overcrowded photography classes at local community colleges. The Society (PSOC) is a non-profit membership organization dedicated to furthering the art of photography. What can be better? Photographers who love photography. That's it, people who just love taking photos. The first time I went to critique the group, they had 40 people, the second time 60. On May 26, 2011 they had over 80 people.

If you have every seen me judge a contest or critique work I don't hold any punches. I'm not going to tell you something just to make you feel good. I did take it easy on this group. There's no need to hammered people for the sake of hammering them. They just want to get better, take better photos and have fun. It's that want we wanted to do when we started?

I mix humor and frankness when reviewing the group’s photos. Each photographer submitted 3 photos from their assignment. I got to see photos from a Smoky Mountain trip. I have never been to that part of Tennessee. After seeing the photos I would love to go sometime!

I could hear people in the group laughing at the comments and other scared when their photos hit the screen. Some of the tips I gave them were as simple as cropping the photo and removing bad backgrounds and just moving around when taking photos. I stressed to get low or higher when taking photos, maybe add a ND filter to your bag of tricks. A longer focal length can help a photo. I'm always shocked at a handful of photos every time I go.

Nobody cried and everyone was happy!

From Jennie Breeze: "I'm a member of the PSOC and submitted photos for your critique at the Thursday (5/26) meeting. I appreciated your frankness and learned lots. It's nice when the critiques are meant to be encouraging, but it's more helpful when we hear the good & the bad. I thought you were pretty brave! It was very refreshing to get some honest comments. I especially loved that you liked a couple of my photo…Ha!"

And Kris Bonham: "Wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your humor and critiquing last night. Oh my gosh! I thought the lady next to me would fall out of her chair laughing."

So if you can find the time, please give a little back to the photo community and make better photographers in the world.

I can't wait to go back.

Matt Brown is a Southern California – based freelance photographer. He is the co-founded of the Sports Shooter Academy workshops. You can see his work on his Sports Shooter member page: and at his personal website: .

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