Photo Forum Etiquette Explained

I often hear of people’s bad experiences when engaging with fellow photographers in online forums. Photography can be a lonely business so a desire to connect with others is a natural desire so here is a series of suggestions for anyone who is engaged with online photo forums and pages.

The majority of posts are personal opinion, nothing more and nothing less. It is not the truth, it is an opinion. An opinion that could, and should be challenged. It may be reflected upon, considered or even agreed with. Whatever the response there is no need to get angry, aggressive, disrespectful or feel offended, attacked or rejected.

Write about what you truly know and not what you think you know. Do not be negative about others who post work or express opinions based only on your personal criteria, be supportive and encouraging even if you don’t understand what you are looking at or reading.

Expect your opinions and images to be challenged, and be magnanimous in reflecting on those challenges. You don’t have to agree, but leave space to have your mind changed. Respect the experience of others, and understand the context in which that experience was gained.

If you are having a bad hour, day, week, month or year don’t take it out on others. Don’t feel threatened or intimidated by the work or thoughts of others. Only get involved if you have something to offer.

Understand the importance of community, but do not feel that you can control the actions of others. Be a social being on social media, and understand that bullying, and trolling is never a good look.

Share knowledge, enthusiasm, and insight, not bias, negativity, and dogma.

Don’t live online, share your photographic views with real people in real life, preferably with people you don’t agree with, and see how they respond before adopting them as an online persona.

Finally, if you feel you can do none of these things, do the right thing and say nothing.

Dr. Grant Scott is the the founder/curator of United Nations of Photography, a Senior Lecturer and Subject Co-ordinator: Photography at Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, a working photographer, documentary filmmaker, BBC Radio contributor and the author of Professional Photography: The New Global Landscape Explained (Routledge 2014), The Essential Student Guide to Professional Photography (Routledge 2015), New Ways of Seeing: The Democratic Language of Photography (Routledge 2019). His film Do Not Bend: The Photographic Life of Bill Jay was first screened in 2018

© Grant Scott 2022


  1. Is it appropriate to point out that the bad behaviour we see in photo forums is invariably down to men? I can’t remember seeing too many (any?) women acting in a way that is “angry, aggressive, disrespectful” in connection with photo forums.

      1. I left a well know US driven photo forum last year. I dared to defend work of Deana Lawson over a a hatchet job article written by an academic in ethnic culture (The Many Problems with Deana Lawson’s Photographs). I was told to ‘stay in my lane’ by a female member, who then called upon Admin to shut down the thread. I was called a number of names during this. A certain hysteria quickly takes hold on Social Media, even if you set out carefully not to offend, someone takes offence. Anyway, history will show that Deana Lawson is doing alright despite the critique article, which in my opinion was quite unfair.

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