After reading Chris's review of Photography Cafe, I went there and took a look. Chris described the site accurately, there were a formidable array of superb images obviously from talented photographers.
After looking around awhile, I elected to sign up for the site myself.
It took me some time to figure out how to scale images in order to upload them to the site. There are not a lot of good instructions on how to do this, and I got lucky and read how on one of their e-mail postings sent out on occasion.
Thanks to my new found knowledge, I posted my three daily allowed images and to my surprise received several complementary comments on my photographs almost immediately.
Getting these compliments from some of the most talented people on the board exemplified the friendliness of the site. I went to the main Gallery and surprisingly, my photos were displayed there.
The site does have a few MINOR drawbacks. Like Chris noted, the navigation buttons are tiny. If you don't look closely, you will miss them. Also, I was on the site over a week before I discovered how to scale images. Perhaps a small tutorial on scaling would be in order.
Since all operating systems have similar photo editing software, I used The Gimp on my Linux box to do the scaling. The Software they mentioned in the e-mail was Photoshop of course, and from that I gleaned that most editing software had these capabilities.
Picture size limits are 250 Kb, so anything from a high resolution camera will have to be scaled before uploading to the site. Aside from this, everything uploaded all right.
I am impressed by the site, and I expect that I will be a member for a long time.
When you first arrive at this site, you'll very likely get the mistaken impression that it's very amateurish. It uses the Simple Machines Forum free bulletin board software, but doesn't really attempt to customize it so that it stands out; the backgrounds are uniformly grey, and you'll miss the navigation bar completely if you're not paying attention. But don't be fooled, this is a great site to visit and contribute to if you're an amateur photographer, especially if you're seeking critiques and you enjoy entering competitions as well.
Members have a "picture of the day" competition which runs constantly, and no special entry is required; any image posted in a gallery is eligible. And although inevitably there can only be one winner each day, a special thread called "cafe crackers" showcases all the other candidates and gives them equal credit and praise. It's a good learning experience.
In addition, images are considered for an "image of the week" award, and very highly praised images can end up becoming "Cafe Choices", with special features about the photographers. On the side, there are occasional other, themed competitions, too.
There are no prizes for winning or being featured in any of the competitions, just the satisfaction of knowing your work is appreciated by your peers.
You may also indicate, when you post images to your personal gallery, that you would like critiques. You needn't be scared to post, people won't critique your shots unless you say that's OK. And most times, when people do offer a critique, they'll be diplomatic. Of course there's no guarantee that you'll like what you read, but that's the point, to learn from others.
And there are some darn good others, here, too. Some really fine quality images, and some photographers who consistently produce an amazing standard of work. If one of these folks offers a critique, it's going to be worth taking note of. And if by chance you find yourself achieving equal status in the photo of the day thread, that's a big confidence booster.
Beyond this, there is an extensive general forum covering other aspects of the hobby including hardware and software matters, camera reviews and other matters that you'd expect to find covered in a site of this nature.
What singles this site out from the many, for me, is the friendliness of it all. It's intended to have the flavor of a cafe experience, and by and large it achieves that very well. People are nice to you from the start, and nobody, even the best of the best photographers there, is at all pretentious. These are people you feel comfy sitting down and sharing a cup of tea with.
I think this little community is a gem, myself. It's there, self-admittedly, to "promote competition, constructive criticism, and an exciting learning environment where people can better their passion for photography." And it does all these things very well.
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