Camera #2

Extracts from an article on ‘Starting a Camera Club’, written for PSA members, have been included in this [hopefully useful] guide.

Basic requirements in beginning any club are essentially the same and proceed with little effort.  Legalities and SAPF affiliation within South Australia, are interspersed within article as necessary.

Forming a Photography Club:

Organising a camera/photography club offers a proven means for:

  • Enhancing enjoyment from the pursuit of photography as an avocation.
  • Fostering good fellowship among enthusiasts with similar interests.
  • Providing photographic education for all skill levels.
  • Stimulating improvement through competition, exhibiting and sharing.
  • Enjoying many advantages available to organised groups, but not to individuals.

Who can start a club:

Anyone who wishes to fulfill the above goals can be instrumental in organising a club. While a single individual can be responsible for sparking a new club into existence, it is often better that the initial impetus comes from a group sharing similar interest. It will be helpful to include one or more sufficiently advanced photographers to plan and carry out instructions.

Where to start:

Before any club takes actual form, an organising committee, headed by a chairperson, should hold meetings to discuss aims and intentions and how to achieve them. Careful planning at this preliminary stage will avert future difficulties.  The size and location of the community, the proximity of other clubs and the potential of prospective members must all be considered. The committee should also fully realise its responsibilities before agreeing to serve.

Specialise or Generalise:

Most clubs in South Australia have a combination of activities which would include: competitions, speaker and pratical ‘hands-on’ evenings, field trips and social get-togethers.  The SAPF has two clubs which belong to a special interest group namely: the Audio-Visual Club who deal only with AV sequencing and the Photographic Preservation Society of SA whose interest revolves around preserving old photographic equipment.  Forming a group specialising in video or movie work has just been added to the APS group of divisions and would be a welcome addition to South Australia.  Other specialties could include: 3D and  Steroscopy groups, both of which exist in other states and overseas.

So the question to pose before an organising committee would be: should the new club restrict itself to specific kinds of activity?

Meeting Location:

This is usually not a serious problem in the early days of a club. Meeting in members’ homes on a rotation basis, is quite satisfactory when the group is not too large. In fact the camaraderie derived from such meetings lays a firm foundation for a growing club.

When growth demands a large meeting place, try locating quarters having little or no rental fee e.g. schools, civic or church community rooms etc. Today most organisations or community centers will require a club show proof of liability insurance to rent a room.  Affiliation with SAPF can accommodate this requirement, providing you have become an Incorporated body.

Frequency of Meetings:

Clubs restricting their activities to one activity usually meet once a month, more active clubs twice a month while some of our bigger and very active clubs meet weekly.

Decide what is the best time to meet and try to transact most of the club business outside of club meetings.  This allows more time for club programs.  Many clubs find it advantageous to establish a management committee consisting of officers and committee chairs who meet to handle business details.

Many clubs like to keep active all year round.  Instead of remaining dormant during the summer months, many clubs substitute field trips and friendly outings for the more formal meetings indoors.  The majority of clubs [as well as SAPF] run their calendar year from January to December.

By-laws and Officers:

The primary purpose of your club is: photography! However to function safely [with insurance cover] and to access further benefits from a larger organisation, affiliation with SAPF is highly recommended.

Affiliation with SAPF is very simple, requiring only a small number of forms to fill out and paying an annual membership fee, which at the moment stands at $35.00.  A capitation fee (ie. fee per club member) which pays for insurance and some administration, is also payable annually.  This is currently $14 per member. Benefits of affiliation are outlined on the SAPF ‘home’ page which also includes access to 3rd party liability insurance.

Incorporation is essential for all clubs which wish to be covered under SAPF Public Liability insurance and to have any legal standing as a group.   There is detailed information on this and other aspects of starting up a club/association etc under the SA Government ‘Consumer and Business Services’ website:    It is also essential to have a Public Officer, who is acts as go-between for the club and the government.

In regard to election of officers, a president, vice president, secretary and treasurer are essential.  Some clubs combine the latter of the two offices.  Other positions which may be helpful cover functions such as  the club’s programme, exhibitions and competitions and membership.  Editor for the club’s newsletter, a chair for publicity and most importantly, two delegates [representative] to SAPF are other positions to consider.

Forms and publications for new groups:

Spread the Work:

While a single individual may dominate a club’s activities, avoid one-person control.  Create sufficient positions so that no-one needs to devote so much time to the job that the enjoyment of photography is compromised.  Don’t be afraid to train and appoint newer members to positions of importance.  Fresh ideas and new energy will come from this quarter and will prevent your club from becoming stagnant.  Rotate your administrators so that they will not become indispensable.  The exceptions to this are often the positions of secretary and treasurer.  They may serve in office for longer periods, provided an assistant is trained to function in unforseen emergencies.

The ideal situation is one where every member has a club position to fill and thus plays a vital part in the operation of the organisation.

Club Dues:

Get your club off to a good start by starting its dues to cover adequately the anticipated operating cost and the building of a reserve fund for expansion purposes.  It is impossible to suggest what dues should be as each club must calculate its own expenses, taking into account the $14 capitation fee payable to the SAPF for affiliated clubs. (The capitation fee is not reduced for discounted or part-of-year memberships.)  Normally, dues are an insignificant part of a members’ yearly photographic expense.  The cost of room rent will generally help determine what the dues will be.

Programme Material:

Programmes are the life-blood of every camera club and providing stimulation and educational programmes is never a simple task.  Programme material comes from many sources and varies in its availability in different localities.  An industrious and imaginative program chairperson can often make much from little.  SAPF provides some help in this area but from an independent point of view, a club should look at contacting a professional photographer, camera stores, art teachers, museums, other near-by clubs and of course, make use of your own talented members for programme resources.

Exhibitions and Competitions:

Compeition between members is an important aspect of club life.  Its importance lies not in gathering awards, trophies or honours, but in the incentive it creates for doing better work.

Most clubs stage periodic competitions usually on a monthly basis.  Plan the rules so they are as equitable as possible.  Give the less experienced a chance to share in the limelight even if it means forming another competition level for their work.  Be cautious of a member who continually monopolizes the honours.  This member will destroy competition and interest in the contests too.

Because camera clubs are educational organisations, members expect to be told why their images are not winners.  Every effort should be made to offer constructive criticism.  Competent judges are available through SAPF or outside sources may also be considered provided you know their capabilities.

Your club should engage in all possible outside competition.  If there is an association of camera clubs available in your area, join it!  If there are other clubs willing, make arrangements to hold interclub contests.

Growing Pains:

To thrive and expand is a natural ambition.  As your club grows, it should become more self-sufficient and better able to provide greater benefits for your members.  However, many factors may limit club size beyond a certain point.  Continually bear in mind that it is equally important to retain old members as it is to obtain new ones.  A large turnover in membership means that you are not operating in an effective manner.

In seeking new members, try to obtain those who are willing to contribute something to your club.  In return, the club must be willing and able to provide, to the best of its ability, what its members seek.

Download: Forming a Camera Club