PN, NSN, NPN…WTH?!? (My experience with photo forums)

10 11 2009

If you are new to the world of photography and you are also keen on photography, you want to show off your photos to other people. You create a web page or perhaps a blog like this one. Great! You’ll get some responses, mostly positive, of course.

Now you know that you can create something that is appealing to others but if you’re self-critical enough you most probably realize that your work is far from perfection which feeling can be even stronger if you saw photographs by some masters in the field. So what next? Fortunately, there are various forums throughout the vast net created for the purpose of gathering both amateur and professional photographers with the intention of sharing their skills and experience. I have joined several photo forums in past years and I’d like to share here my experience with them. (PN)
The first bigger international portal with different threads/topics that I joined was (PN). It hosts the biggest photo forum I’ve ever seen and visited. I joined it more than 1.5 year ago and I already presented my experience with it here in this post.  Beside photo forum where one can critique and rate images of others there are also forums about cameras, lenses, various technical accessories, techniques, reviews of photographic stuff and also interesting photo tips. PN is huge community and if you’re looking for the most excellent photos in any possible type of photography (nature, street, still life, portraits…) you’ll find it there. Focusing on photo forums I have found these:

  • pros:
    • HUGE community covering amateurs and professionals
    • HUGE amount of information about photography in general as well as about photographic equipment
    • free unlimited space for your photos with one condition: you can have maximally 4 photos not posted for critique
    • 28 topics including very specific ones such as Insects or Birds and also very general such as Nature, Events or Travel.
  • cons:
    • HUGE amount of new photos added every day and if yours is not at least excellent then it’s forgotten very soon due to the procedure of posting new photos
    • absence of moderator for different topics
    • even anonymous viewer can rate and critique your photos which often results in rating without a comment
    • in this huge amount of viewers (members+anonymous) there are ALWAYS anonymous who rate your image as average or even worse without leaving a hint of what they dislike. Especially this can discourage new shy amateur photographers
    • You will receive negative critique or a critique with suggestion on improvements very rarely so if you want to improve your work PN will not help you much
    • 1 photo post for every 24 hours – the amount of daily photos is tremendous
    • no possibility to include hyperlinks in a photo description by author so no possibility to link a bigger version of photo (NSN)
It was almost half a year ago when I joined NSN. By that time I was looking for a place where I could show my images and get valuable feedback with suggestions on possible improvements. The NSN was one of the very first responses that uncle google gave me and it looked pretty well so I decided to give it a try. I already gave some of my impressions here in this post from July.  Now after couple more months I want to share more experience and also pinpoint the pros and cons. NSN is again a photo portal hosting photo forums where photographers, both amateurs and professionals, can post their works to receive comments and critiques from others. Signing up to the forum is for free but there are certain benefits if you pay for it. The most noticeable benefits are a possibility to have your images hosted on NSN servers (for the purpose of posting them in forums), a possibility of having your personal portfolio on NSN, and possible discounts on workshops provided by NSN. Full list of benefits is here.

Beside photo forums you can find there interesting news from photographic world, interesting articles in more than 10 different categories, portfolios of paying members, workshops presented by NSN members, e.g. professional photographers such as Greg Downing and Rick Sammon, list of upcoming events such as shows of NSN members and finally NSN store with photographic equipment.

Focusing on photo forums I have found these:

  • pros:
    • mandatory membership for viewing photos and commenting on photo forums
    • at least 2 moderators for every photo forum. These experienced photographers always give their comments to every posted photo! Moderators of Flower and Macro forum are fantastic photographers Thomas Whelan and Matthew Pugh.
    • smaller community creating almost family atmosphere
    • smaller community posts smaller amount of photos, e.g. around 10-15 in Flora and Macro forum every day which is easy for daily follow up
    • announcing Image Of The Week (IOW) including also photos by free members
    • challenging photo motifs for every 2 weeks
    • commenting members are not afraid to give constructive or even negative feedback with suggestions on improvements
    • 1 photo post in 24 hours
    • authors of photos almost always answer to questions raised in comments
  • cons:
    • only 5 photo forums for posting photos
    • Flora and Macro topics together in one forum combining photos of insect and flowers
    • smaller community makes only around 20 persons visiting forum (Flora and Macro) daily and commenting new posts
    • posts are usually commented on daily basis so most of comments you will receive during one day. Photos are quickly forgotten and no one will get to them later on.
    • as free member you need to have another host for your images
    • no possibility to search for your posts only (NPN)
I’ve been invited to (or Nature Photographers Network (NPN) or officially Nature Photographers Online Magazine) by Bernie Kasper, if I remember well, and I’m really glad for it.

NPN is a photo magazine with various articles about nature photography, image galleries, photo forums with number of topics, paying member portfolios, e-shop with photography equipment and more. Behind NPN are sound names such as Mike Moats, Varina Patel, Darwin Wiggett, Guy Tal, Steve Foss and others. A membership is free or you can pay a fee for additional benefits such as own portfolio, image hosting service, discounts on online workshops and others. You can read whole list of benefits here.

Focusing on photo forums I have found these:

  • pros:
    • 9 image gallery topics + 1 with weekly theme
    • separated flora and insect galleries
    • 1 moderator for every topic commenting on every single photo
    • free viewing of galleries and photos
    • mandatory membership (at least free) for commenting on photos
    • in TOP 100 photo webs on the internet according to
    • visited also by stock photography buyers
    • commenting members are not afraid to give constructive or even negative feedback with suggestions on improvements
    • the size of NPN community is just right for posting up to 10 images daily so it is easy for follow up
    • very high quality of posted photos – very challenging and motivating
    • new photos are not forgotten so quickly and you can receive new comment even after a week
  • cons:
    • monthly and weekly picks only for paying members
    • pick for magazine cover photo only for paying members
    • posts older than 1 month posted by free members are automatically deleted
    • 1 photo post in a week (for not paying members)
    • authors of photos answer only rarely to questions raised in comments

To sum it up I would say that posting photos on photo forums is definitely beneficial if you want to improve your skills and techniques, well, finding a suitable forum may be hard and time consuming.  A single photo forum may not suit you and I must say that combination of NSN and NPN suits me pretty well. If NPN had a slightly bigger community and if authors of photos answered on questions in comments I would be considering paying a membership for real.

I hope that this post will be helpful to some of you and to make it more “juicy” here is one photo from my Meadow Dreams series, which wasn’t yet published here:


~ A Dream About Summer ~
1/500 sec. @ 100 mm, f/4, ISO 200

Technical information: the image was taken with Canon EOS 450D camera and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM macro lens under natural conditions, early morning summer light, hand held.

Enjoy the last colours of autumn/fall!




12 responses

10 11 2009

First off, I really like the image that you end your post with. I look forward to seeing more.

I have spent more than my fair share of time on several forums and the biggest drawback I see is the amount of time they can eat up. To get feedback, you must be willing to give feedback and all that is time-consuming.

I have spent a lot of time in the past on Photography-on-the-Net (a Canon shooters site). Unfortunately most of the feedback there is in the form of I’ll tell you your picture is nice so you’ll tell me mine is nice.

I now mostly frequent Bird Photographers Net (which covers much more than birds). BPN moderators and participants are very good at providing useful feedback/critiques.

10 11 2009
Tomas Turecek

First of all, thank you for comment on posted photo. So far I have posted here all photos in this series and I don’t expect to take some during winter season because I want to have it as a combination of subject, colours and light and I can’t imagine how winter shots would match it. But never say never and thus time will tell 😉

Re. forums: I know what you mean by saying that it’s time consuming (don’t tell me!) I gave it up with and I only post new photos there from time to time. The form “I’ll tell you your picture is nice so you’ll tell me mine is nice” is also valid for Commenting on other photos is often the only way how to draw attention to your own and I don’t like it.
I think that it was Anita who told me about BPN and at the same time I was considering NPN and decided for the latter. I think that main reasons were separation of flora and macro threads and number of posts (for time period) and replies for one post.

10 11 2009

Thanks for sharing the detailed information about photo forums. I have found BPN (Bird Photographers Net) to meet my needs for constructive critiques and dialogue for my macros and my photos with added textures. I barely find time to keep up with it, so am impressed that you can manage three!

I like the photo and look forward to more in the series.

10 11 2009
Tomas Turecek

Thank you, Anita, for your comment. I was afraid that noone will read such a long post 🙂 I wrote about the posted photo and BPN in reply to Ed’s comment.

It does take some time but not so much as it may seem. To I only post new photos from time to time and comment only rarely. I follow NPN and NSN couple times a week but not every day and I mostly comment only photos that catch my attention and that is maybe 50% or even less on NSN and around 80% on NPN. What I like about these 2 forums is that members tell you that they don’t like it and why with a cold heart and that’s great because you know that if they praise your work then it is really worth it. They don’t expect you to be nice about their work, they want to improve themselves.

I have also found out that more photographers follow 2 or maybe even more forums and post their work there, as I do, to get feedback from more people. Even Mike Moats posts his masterpieces to NPN and BPN. But it takes some time definitely.

12 11 2009
Bernie Kasper

Wonderful shot Tomas..

About the forums I have basically tried them all and if you don’t attaboy the others don’t expect anything back and I have tried them all

The one that many photographers have made fun of and you didn’t mention was Flickr..That is the only one aside from my blog where I have gotten any recognition and have also made money !!

I also like NPN and have met quite a few nice people thru them and it’s funny that a lot of photographers from there have now joined Flickr. But with NPN the pat my back and I will pat yours has really crept in as well lately so I have pretty much stayed away.

I didn’t mind the long read at all Tomas I think this is a great post, take care !!

13 11 2009
Tomas Turecek

Thanks Bernie for your contribution to this post. The attaboy attitude is remarkable at PN but I haven’t noticed it on NSN or NPN. Rather opposite! What I like about these forums is the will of others to give constructive critique or even say that they don’t like my photo and why. I don’t even see there a necessity to give comments to others to obtain theirs. Still I’m not fully satisfied with situation neither on NSN nor on NPN. There’s too few people on NSN and mainly still the same so you usually receive still the same comments while on NPN I never got answer to a question given in comment and that’s really irritating and makes bad atmosphere.

I tried 2 more forums before I looked for an international one. They were 2 local Czech forums and I left both after some time. One was open to everyone even without registration and there were flames very often because people gave very low marks without telling why. The second one seemed to be much better from the start but it changed significantly lately and became inimical to photographers with stylish or fashionable motifs such as floral and macro photography. After one joke about upcoming flood of spring floral images I left even this forum.

Flickr… I didn’t mention it simply because I never put an image there. I visited it couple of times and according to comments that I saw under some photos I decided that it’s just another open forum as PN or the one that I mentioned above and that it will probably give me nothing. If I’m wrong, feel free to tell me 😉

And thanks for assuring that at least you read this long post 🙂 Thanks Bernie.

13 11 2009

Good observations about all of them Tomas. I also found it too time consuming to keep up. I haven’t contributed photos to any of them for years. Searches for previous post material is very cumbersome on some of them, with largely inaccurate results. I have met some very nice photographers from each of them that I probably would never of met otherwise though.

15 11 2009
Tomas Turecek

Thanks for sharing your experience, Mark. I absolutely agree with all your points but it didn’t discourage me from posting my photos there so far.

13 11 2009

On another note, did you get my reply to your question re. textures? I posted it on my blog after your question.

13 11 2009
Tomas Turecek

Yes, I read it today. I always go back to posts where I ask author something. Thank you, Anita.

20 11 2009
Barbara K

Great post, Tomas. I was visiting with Ed Vatza today and we were discussing some of these options. I may look into BPN. I have found it valuable to present images to some pros I know (would pay for their feedback or free if it’s after a photo workshop) because they know how I shoot and what my ‘artistic bent’ is. Not to imply that I want people who think just like me critiquing my work, but I rarely shoot ‘straight’ nature photography and I don’t always follow ‘the rules!’

Guess we were all thinking along the same lines this week – nature photography forums! You did the research for us!

20 11 2009
Tomas Turecek

Thanks Barbara. I’m glad that this post was useful. You all are talking about BPN so I’m thinking about giving it a try. I’m not very happy with NPN. There are excellent photos but you get a real critique there only rarely and people there are not communicating, only giving comments. I can imagine that a critique given by pro photographer who knows your portfolio and your style has much higher value than a critique given by “anonymous” photographer or even by a pro photographer but given “anonymously” on some forum if you know what I mean.

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