I’m sure many of you will have heard of Clickin’ Moms, the website aimed at women in photography, and some of you might be wondering whether it is worth it to join the photography forum they have there, or whether the workshops they have are any good. If so, this post is for you :)
On the off chance you aren’t yet aware of it, Clickin' Moms is a site with a very active photography forum, where you can post and read threads on anything photography related, such as advice on camera gear, figuring out focus problems, setting white balance, business questions and even posting photos for critique. It's basically a place where women photographers can hang out, ask each other questions, and learn about photography. The site also provides numerous online workshops or downloadable "breakout" sessions (at extra cost) from beginner lessons such as ”First Steps with a DSLR” to more advanced like ”Mastering Natural Light Indoors”.
So, back to the original question, is Clickin Moms worth it? Let's start with the Forum. The honest (but not very helpful) answer is.....it depends. I think it depends on where you are in your photography journey, and also how much you enjoy "getting out there" and hanging with others. Let me try to explain.
The forum costs around $60.00 for a year’s membership and for that you can access all the past and current threads, post questions of your own, and submit photos for critique by others. join any groups etc. The site has been on the go for a while now, so the forums have a LOT of information in them. In theory, this is great, but sometimes it can be difficult to find exactly what you are looking for - you can wade through a lot of posts and responses before you get the information you wanted - but it is there. However, I noticed that they have recently regrouped the forums, and added "stickies" to the most popular posts, to make it a bit easier to find what you are looking for, especially if you are new to photography and to the forum, which has helped a good deal.
If you are a beginner, you will be like a kid in a toy shop with all the tutorials - there are ones on pretty much everything, and there is a section for new photographers with basic tutorials which is great. But really I think how much you will get out of the forum depends how active you are. My suggestion would be to read all the posts, ask LOTS of questions (there's no limit on how many questions you can ask, so take advantage of that) and post photos for critiques and feedback. Information / tutorials on photography is everywhere on the internet - including on this wonderful blog! - so a forum really comes into it's own for getting targeted advice, and that's why I think you need to post images and ask questions to get the full value. Don’t be afraid to do this and I think, on balance, it's very worth it if you are starting out.
If you are intermediate, well, that's less cut and dried. There is still lots to learn on there, and of course you can still ask questions! I personally found it useful a few times when I was trying to buy a new lens (they have images by lens, and people are always happy to talk lens shop with you!) and also when I wanted to try something new - in this case macro - I got help from some ladies with the focusing issue I was having. So, even though half of the stuff on there you will already know, it can still be very useful when you hit a road block, or just want to try something new. Also, there are several "groups" on there - some are self studying natural light, another was working it's way through David DuChenin's The Visual Toolbox, and there are CM organised ones such as a Scavanger Hunt, so you can join any one of these and start taking part. I don't get involved with these, so I don't feel I get quite as much out of it as I could. (Honestly, I should, I just never seem to find the time) This is why I think it really depends on your own involvement - if that sort of thing appeals to you, you will find a lot you can do on there even as an intermediate / advanced photographer.
I’ve posted a few threads myself over the three years I have been a member, and everyone seems to be very friendly and helpful. In particular, I've noticed that the photographers who "work" for Clickin Moms (by teaching courses etc) are very happy to volunteer lots of information and are extremely active in responding, especially to beginners. I try to go on occasionally now to help out beginners too (paying it forward kinda thing) and all in all, it seems to be pretty supportive, which is nice.
Just so you know what I personally did, I had a year’s membership when first starting out, and then let it lapse with no intention of renewing, found out I actually missed it, so sprung for a Lifetime Membership when they had an offer on (they have them throughout the year so look out for them - keep checking on the members updates, they post about it on there) and now go on occasionally. I am not terribly active though - I tend to search on it more than post.
All in all, it's one of those things where the more you put in, the more you get out - I think for a beginner, it's definitely worth it, but for intermediates, I think you really need to get involved in the community side of things for it to have the most impact.
The cost as I write this is $60 for the year's membership, and $195 for a lifetime membership, but these are subject to change so you can get the most up to date prices here.
Now onto the workshops. These are usually four weeks long, with a lesson each week and exercises to carry out. You submit your photos at the end of each week and get a critique of your work, plus access to the tutor so you can post questions about the course, and post photos to get feedback from the instructors. (You can opt for study along, which is cheaper but you don’t get the critiques or be able to ask questions) The full course is $300.00, and the study along option is $150.00 so these are pretty expensive. I have taken a couple of these and have found the information to be great and well laid out (I've only ever done study along) and I can say that most has moved my photography forward. However, these are pretty pricey, so please make sure you take one that is relevant to your skill set: for my first class, I took a Shooting 201 class and was very disappointed because I already knew most of the stuff in it: I really should have taken a more advanced class. (You probably know more than you think you do!) However, when you get the right class, they are really quite good - I haven't found anywhere else that has the type of workshops I'm looking for, so Clickin Moms is still the best bet for me. My advice, look closely at what you’re getting first before parting with your hard earned cash, and make sure that it is going to be one that is really going to push you. If you are a member, you can also check the forums for reviews - and generally you can privately message someone who has taken the class to ask a question about it - several people have done that with me, and I'm always happy to help out with an honest review. If you are pushed for cash and the $300 seems too much for you, I really do think you still get a lot out of a study along - they now have a forum for the study alongs to chat to each other on, so although you can't ask the instructor anything, you have a group of ladies who are doing the same course as you, and you can each post images for critique from one another, so you are not totally alone in it.
Finally, the breakout sessions. I have mixed feelings about these. Recently, there seems to have been a swathe of new breakouts, which all seem to be essentially the same thing, and I'm just not sure how many breakouts about "how pros capture their everyday" I can handle! Quality here varies too, I've read descriptions that said there were "X" amount pages in the PDF, but turned out that each page was a large image with just a paragraph of text on it, which did make me feel a wee bit cheated. On the other hand, some have been incredibly useful and well laid out, so, it's a 50/50 on whether I would recommend these as it totally depends on the breakout - and I have been no means done them all (it only seems that way due to my bank balance) so these comments are based on just a few, which may be completely unfair. Again, use the forums to check reviews - most have feedback on them and will give you a better picture as to whether one is right for you.
All in all, I like Clickin Moms - the forum is supportive and helpful, the workshops are pretty darn good - if a bit too expensive - and the breakouts are generally a pleasant way to blow $25, if a little bit hit and miss.
Of course, this is all just my opinion, and I'm sure for every person that likes CM, there is another that doesn't! If you have been a member, or have taken a class, I’d really love it if you could share your thoughts here on whether you think it has been worth it or what you feel you have gotten out of it. Everyone is different, so it would be really helpful for others to know what others have thought of the forums, or the classes, as it will help them make a good decision on the best place to put their hard-earned cash! So, if you have an opinion - good or bad - or just want to share your thoughts, please comment below!
P.S If you have any specific questions about Clickin Moms, or workshops, or even breakouts, I will do my best to answer them so feel free to ask!