You have just spent all night outside photographing the Milky Way. Then you catch a few hours of sleep and then sit down at your computer. You spend another hour importing, processing, stacking, and creating a final image from last night’s trip that you are proud of.
You go online, hit up your favorite astrophotography groups, and post the image in anticipation of the likes, shares, and comments.
Reality hits you like a Nolan Ryan fastball. One of the photography group moderators steps in and informs you that you violated the sacred covenant of rules that reign supreme in some of these groups. Adherence to the rules has become a monster and is more important than the enjoyment of seeing great work.
Well, perhaps it is time for the astrophotography world to take a look at itself and lighten up just a bit. In particular, two points that I see discussed repeatedly in several of the more popular Facebook groups devoted to the genre. The manner in which the moderators and creators of these groups promote these standards, I believe, takes away from these groups’ overall enjoyment.
WHERE THE TRAIN LEAVES THE TRACKS
Now before I drive this train right into the dumpster fire of controversy, I will gladly point out “their group, their rules. Don’t like them, don’t join.” Yup, got it loud and clear. And guess what? Besides being a lurker in these groups to enjoy the work being posted, my motivation for participating and posting my work is pretty much dead.
Because the standards for being able to post in some of these groups are, to say the least, somewhat stringent.
I just saw a thread that lost its luster because of the involvement of a moderator. The moderator believed that the poster had not met the group’s standards for posting, but the reality was different. The poster had met those standards. Instead of coming to a full stop right then and there, the moderator continued to derail the conversation by suggesting that the poster rearrange the information required in a way that suited him.
“LET’S KILL ALL FUN BY MAKING IT ABOUT STANDARDS”
- SOCIAL MEDIA
EXAMING THESE STANDARDS
EXIF is self-explanatory, and out of the standards these groups have, this is the one I do not have an issue with. I am still honing my shooting technique, and this is the one area that I pay attention to.
Gear. Hmmm. Requiring this hurts more than helps. The reason why is because it gives people the misconception that gear makes the image. Yes, there is some validity to that point. Yet I am the type who would pull my old Pentax KX out of mothballs, load up some AA Batteries, twist on the 18-55mm kit lens and take it out – just to mock the gearheads.
Social media? Is this really a requirement to post? Well, if you know these groups, you know the answer. Does the world really need my Instagram handle that badly? The answer is probably not. In fact, maybe next time I post, I’ll just use the handle of one of my favorite tattoo artists that I have never gotten a tattoo from. Once people see that account, the guy will have some new followers or seek professional mental help trying to unsee what has been seen.
The story requirement is the one that really throws me for a loop. I do not know if it’s because I write for money or that a story should be captivating enough to capture my attention. As I write this, I am learning that the Netflix movie “The Midnight Sky” does not.
There are many times that there is no more substance than “I went, I shot, I left.” Yet, a story is required. An image should be good enough to stand on its own without words. History has reinforced this fact. A story can complement an image. But it does not have to be a requirement for an image to be good.
This requirement just cheapens the post and takes away from the image. If the photographer has a great story behind an image, then I am all eyes. If the story starts with “so there I was,” I will take pause.
Come on, people. We’re in this thing for the great imagery. If there is no story, then we should not be required to make stuff up just to be able to share it.
This one I can understand completely. Heck, I can be found at the head of the “Burning At The Stake” Committee when someone tries to pass off a fake image as a real image. Or in our case, as close to real as we can.
Yet, there seems to be a hang-up about technical definitions. And yes, I mention this because I saw a conversation about it in a group. Someone had a hang-up about how an image was categorized.
Does it make the image any better or any worse if it’s a composite or blends? Nope. All we need is for the artist to be honest about how they created the image. Full stop.
For more about this, check out our article, “How to be Honest in Your Photo Captions.”
WHY AM I WRITING ABOUT THIS?
Simply put, I believe that this movement within the astrophotography world, while well-intentioned, affects the genre’s enjoyment.
The greatest photography advice I had ever received was not about the gear or categorizing an image. It was about composition and mindset. Those two tidbits have done more to improve my work than knowing an image is a single shot captured after the photographer was attacked by a Panamanian three-toed tree sloth using a Canon Rebel and a Rokinon lens.
HOW TO IMPROVE THE COMMUNITY
First off, what is the goal of these photography group moderators and owners? Do their posting requirements help achieve their goals?
If so, more power to them. When a discussion, driven by a moderator, goes past the point of beating a dead horse, is there any value derived? Before any of you owners or moderators want to give me a sob story about how tough it is moderating groups, I moderate a group or three myself. Watching some of you use bush-league communication skills with posters is a tougher job.
Putting yourselves on a pedestal to rule over the land with an iron fist, to make sure there is no deviation is not right. We come to these groups to chill out. The best photography group with the best growth I am a member of has a lot more lead rope than these groups I am writing about. The rules are few but fair. When things get sideways, moderators handle it like a precision instrument and not like a bull in a china shop. And the group is very enjoyable, for the most part. In other words, no stress.
In closing, group owners and moderators, do what you want. If your goal is to be a James Bond villain ripoff by trying to create a little Utopia that you get to rule, then get on with your bad self. Remember, most people are in this photography thing to enjoy themselves. Getting wrapped around the axle about a poster missing some group standard that does not amount to a hill of beans does anyone no good. This isn’t a sanctioning body for a race series. Lighten up and let people enjoy themselves.
Do you have some thoughts on this? We’d love to hear them! Post them in the comments section below.
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