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photoSIG is a community website for photographers that allows members to critique one another's work in order to improve their photography skills. Critiques are highly valued, which differentiated PhotoSIG from photo sharing communities or gallery websites. It is free to join the community, although a few features required a paid membership.
Two membership levels exist on photoSIG, free ("Basic"), and paid ("Premium"). All members can participate in the forums, post photos, and critique others' photos. The main advantages of paid membership are a higher number of allowed photo submissions, internal email access, email notification of responses, and no advertising. Members on the site range from hobbyists to professionals of all walks of life.
Critiques and Points
Membership on photoSIG confers a certain number of photo uploads, depending on the membership type. When a photo is uploaded, the photographer can provide technical information about how it was taken, as well as comments about intent or the type of feedback being sought. It's understood that uploading a photo implies a request for feedback, which may be positive or negative.
Feedback on photos takes the form of critiques, ratings, and comments. Critiques are intended to directly address the photo (not the subject), and may discuss technical or emotional aspects. Ratings can only be given in conjunction with a qualifying critique, and are selected from a simple scale from -3 to +3. The photo's cumulative rating is calculated by adding all the ratings it has received, and the photo rating is added to the user's points. Comments are like critiques which carry no rating and need not be limited to directly addressing the photo.
In addition, users can provide feedback on critiques, by indicating that they are helpful, unhelpful, or acknowledging them with no opinion. Helpful critique ratings confer one point to the user who gave the critique, or three points if the critique was among the first three given a particular photo.
Forums and Articles
Forums and articles are a very important part of the photoSIG website and its community. There are currently about 56,000 discussions and about 580 articles. These discussions and articles deal with various questions, problems and suggestions of the website's members and visitors.
The topics brought up in discussions range from photographic equipment questions, problems and techniques used in photography to issues members have found on the website. Anyone is allowed to enter a discussion and give their own opinions on certain photographic equipment, styles and techniques.
The articles are written by members of the photoSIG community. These can be very specific, talking about one piece of equipment (e.g., a review) or they can range over a variety of things to help improve one's final photograph. Once the articles are published on the website, other members are allowed to comment on them, asking questions or suggesting different options.
History and personnel
photoSIG was created by Willis Boyce, who has a full-time job in the financial industry and who works on the website in his spare time. Boyce created the first version of photoSIG ("v1") during a two-week vacation in 2001. It was initially programmed in PHP and was hosted on a server in his apartment. Membership was free and the site changed frequently as its policies and mechanics were shaped by feedback from the members during the first year. It opened to the public on Dec. 7, 2001.
The second version ("v2") of photoSIG was a complete rewrite in Java. Several policies regarding points, critiques, and membership were changed with the rewrite. The site was abstracted from the software, which made it possible to launch artSIG around the same time and based on the same software. The software was also made available to anyone who wishes to license it for their own website.
Boyce later created SIG Networks Corporation, which owns both the photoSIG and artSIG.com websites.
Membership grew steadily and eventually the site was moved to multiple servers in a data center. As of August 2007, there are about 283,000 members (although many of them are no longer active) and over 2 million photos. Sheena Wilkie, a Surrey, British Columbia photographer and photography instructor, used to administrate the member areas of the site. A number of volunteer administrators assisted. Now Robert Wallis has assumed the duties with the help of a few volunteers.