Photography: a Solitary or Group experience?

  By Dave Chidley


I recently read a Social Media post that read:

Solitude and photography
Often go hand in hand.

I’ve been pondering the statement and find it a bit perplexing.  Yes, of course we are the lone masters of the viewfinder, we singlehandedly (usually) decide what to include and what to leave out. So very often, the photographic image is created and then quickly shared. Be it on the back of the camera, tethered to a monitor, published, posted to social media or a website, our images are viewed at daunting levels of frequency and speed. Very little happens in a vacuum these days!

We create alone and then share with the world.

Two photographers create images of the view of The Grand Canyon, Arizona, at Shoshone Point, on Sunday, April 17, 2011.


With my photojournalism background I’ve often been in situations where there are hoards of photographers.  Hundreds of shooters cover major events and often we are standing shoulder to shoulder. Everyone will have a slightly different take on the subject.  We have lens and exposure differences, compositional creativity and unique decisive moments. A split second can change the scene and the images entirely.   Everyone creates his or her own image and then we can’t wait to compare, compete and reflect on each photographer’s take of an experience.

What starts as a solitary experience changes as we crave views, likes, pats on the back, thumbs up and ego building comments from the group around us.

Photographers have egos, no doubt about it.  So praise in whatever form from the photography community helps foster confidence, more sharing and commenting on the work of others.

There are huge benefits to the group dynamic, be it on line or in person.  

The concept of Creative Critique is an art unto itself.  Learning from others as they share their expertise and opinions in a positive manner is one of the most effective ways to progress skills, knowledge and vision.


I’ve shot for weeks on my own in foreign environments, and on the flip side have for 15 years traveled with groups of like-minded photo enthusiasts that scrum together and feed off each other’s ideas and creativity.   I’ve taught in Colleges for over a decade and witnessed classrooms of photographers learn so much faster when they work in groups.

The group dynamic doesn’t create copycat shooting, it encourages individuals to go beyond their comfort zones and express more creativity as those around them do the same.  New ideas, confidence, problem solving, fostering of self expression all come with the group dynamic. It never happens that a group of photographers all take the “same” photo, we are all just so different in our artistic approaches.

Don’t hesitate to share, learn, and experience photography with a group of like-minded individuals, the benefits are huge.So meet-up; take a class; do a walk-about; join a camera club; submit work for critique; take a workshop; participate in an event; attend a gallery opening; listen to a speaker; experience a seminar; post your work; share; praise, and yes by all means travel on a photo adventure with a group!

But just don’t do it alone, it’s not nearly as much fun.


Feel free to contact me with questions, ideas, travel tips, feedback, chocolate chip cookies, or kudos.  




Dave Chidley is a long-time photojournalist and travel photographer, having worked for publications in Calgary, Toronto, and London, as well as being a contract freelancer for The Canadian Press. He is now the Director of Photo Tour Trekkers West.