I've been sitting on the fence about this, but now I can't help making a comment.

I was in a couple of camera clubs for nearly 20 years - I joined when I was around 18 or 19. I thought I would learn heaps...At first I did well - I entered the work I was happy with, didn't listen to judges, and did ok in the competitions....Then I started to listen to the judges...and I may as well have written the next 5 years work. Technically my work may have improved, but it lost its soul....

Then I was then lucky to find that one of my customers when I was a camera technician was a lecturer in photography at RMIT..so I couldn't resist, and asked him to look at my folio, as I was thinking of enrolling part time in the Photography Course at RMIT.

The first thing he said was he hated to do this, as he knew that his comments could have an adverse effect. This is the thing many judges don't think about. They all have their own opinion, which is based on a formula they come up with which works for them. It's not that they are doing something unique - they are just doing something well. Same goes for most pro photographers - they like a certain style of work, and may don't know any better....

So what did my customer say? I asked him if he thought I would learn much doing the course....he said no, probably not.

This one small act taught me more than years in school would have. In one word he had told me I was on the right track, and to keep developing my own style and learn from my mistakes. Over the years I was lucky to see lots of his work, both his final prints, and his work prints. From these I learnt interpretation, and how to put on paper what I had in my mind...

One more thing..I was in the only camera club in Australia that was devoted to black and white photography. When I first joined I think there were 5 or 6 true pro or semi pro photographers, some who had been working in the medium for over 20 years. These are the guys I learnt printing from.

I went back a few years ago to hear Les Walking do a talk about color management. Much had changed. I only knew a couple of people who were members from when I was a member. And of the 26 or 28 members they had only 1 was still printing in a darkroom - and he had just bought his first d-slr.

I've printed in a darkroom for 30 years. I shoot digital and print black and white on a home printer. I print negatives in a home darkroom. To be honest I don't think one is a beter or easier to master medium than the other....

What you need to remember is that if you've done your best no matter what the medium, whether or not other people agree with your work (think of some peoples reactions to the work of some photographers like Bill Henson or Spencer Tunick) you have nothing the be ashamed off....