Free Limited Membership tier for NPN

First off, we want to thank the existing paying members, without you we could not keep NPN going and we would greatly appreciate if you continue to do so. Overall, we feel this change will have very little impact on existing members as will be explained below.

Free members cannot access critiques

Most importantly for existing members, the critique section will not be changing in any way. It will still be for paying members only; critiques will not even be viewable to free members. We still feel this is the most valuable part of NPN and have no intention of giving it away.

Why the change?

To ensure NPN stays around and remains vibrant for a long time, we need to increase traffic and activity on the site. We want to do this in a way that maintains the value for the paying members while increasing activity overall. We evaluated what areas of NPN provided unique value to paying members that you can’t get anywhere else. We also looked around and realized that certain areas of the site were not very active, and these happened to be the same areas that did not provide this unique value to members.

NPN Unique Benefits

  • Honest and thoughtful Image Critiques
  • Partner Discounts
  • Member Meetups
  • Sense of Community
  • Techniques & Methods (we will be working on making this unique)

Other Benefits that are not as unique (but are still important)

  • Discussion forums
  • Image Galleries
  • Classifieds
  • Portfolio with unlimited images
  • Field Reports
  • Articles
  • Editors Picks
  • Wiki

After making this evaluation, we decided a change needed to be made to increase activity in the discussions and image galleries which are currently underutilized. Since these areas were not providing unique value (there are a plethora of places on the internet to discuss photography or post images), we decided to open these areas to the public to attract new members. The idea is to get these people in the door to start participating in a limited manner and hopefully convert them to full members over time. This change will benefit paying members as well since there will be more activity on the site overall.

Nobody likes change, but we want to keep evolving and growing rather than becoming stagnant as has happened in the past. We fully acknowledge that we are learning as we go, some of these ideas only become clear after you try them for a while. Having a site that is almost completely locked down to paying members was working to some degree, but we feel it can be improved greatly. The paying members have been voting with their feet for the past 6 months by posting primarily in critiques (almost ten times more than galleries and discussion). Because of this we don’t feel many existing paying members will be impacted by this change since critiques are still only for paying members.

What free members will be able to access

Below is a detailed list of what free members can and cannot do. To sum up the main points; they can post in discussions and galleries.

  • Can post in ‘Discussions’
  • Can post in ‘Image Galleries’ (limited to one image a day)
  • Can read and reply to ‘Articles’
  • Can view but not post in ‘Classifieds’
  • Cannot see or post in ‘Image Critiques’
  • Cannot see/participate in member meetups
  • Cannot create a portfolio
  • Cannot view ‘Techniques & Methods’
  • Cannot view ‘Partner Discounts’
  • Cannot view ‘Wiki’
  • Cannot see ‘Business Discussions’
  • Cannot post or see ‘Field Reports’
  • Cannot create workshop listings
  • Not eligible for editors picks
  • Will see advertisements
  • They start at ‘Trust Level 0’ on the forum, which means they have limited abilities until they prove themselves as a trustworthy member, this helps keep spammers and trolls at bay.

When will this occur?

We will start the transition immediately; you should not notice any changes in the forum. The only visible change on the site will be on the home page and sign up pages with the option to sign up for the new free plan. Feel free to share this information with your friends who may have left NPN, they may want to come back now that there is a free option for discussions and image sharing. For anyone that was on the 30 day trial or let their full membership lapse, you’re automatically in this free membership tier, just sign in with your prior login information.

Small changes to the monthly membership

While evaluating the benefits of NPN, we realized that some of the benefits should be reserved for members who are committed to sticking around for a while. Therefore, the following changes will be made for monthly members:

  • Cannot view ‘Partner Discounts’
  • Cannot create a portfolio (this requires some setup for each member on our end, so we want to make sure these folks are sticking around)
  • Cannot create workshop listings

This way someone cannot sign up for one month, get all the discounts, create a portfolio, and post their workshops all for only $4.99 and then run out the door. If you’re a monthly member and still want to access the partner discounts, please visit this link to upgrade your plan.

Editors Pick Change

Because free members can post in the gallery section now, we have decided to only allow editors picks to be made in the critiques section. The EP is intended to encourage growth from our members who participate in critiques. The existing EP’s in the galleries will remain in place, and they will still be eligible for the yearly picks, but no further picks will be made in the galleries moving forward.

Questions and Comments

I know this is going to raise a lot of questions and concerns. Please know that I do not take this change lightly. I have been discussing this with a group of respected members and the moderators to figure out the best path forward. I have been losing sleep mulling over every little aspect of this to ensure it is the right move for NPN. There are things I may have missed or overlooked so please be patient with the transition. I don’t anticipate any major problems though. I’m sure there will be some vocal opposition to this, I ask that you please respect my decision on what I feel is the best way forward to keep the site active. The critique forum has been flourishing in many ways, but the rest of the site has been somewhat stagnant. Giving free access to these areas will give the site the boost it needs to move the entire site forward without losing the value the critiques provide.

Keeping NPN Civil

The platform that we use is very good at detecting and deleting spam posts, so that is not a major concern. There is always some concern with people who are being rude and not following the guidelines. You can help by reporting any posts you see that are not within the guidelines by clicking on the flag below their post; this will notify the moderators and myself so we can take immediate action. With your help, we will keep NPN as a fantastic place with high-quality content and civil discourse. Along with this we will keep our message clear on the type of members we want on NPN. We still aim to attract members who are committed to creative nature photography, learning, and growth. We will continue to avoid those looking for likes, attaboy’s, and popularity.


If you are only interested in critiques and do not want to see all the other activity on the site, it’s as simple as clicking on ‘Image Critiques’ on the main page of the forums. Going to the category heading will show you all the critique categories, and you can still sort by Latest/Unread/New, which will only show you posts from the critiques section. You could even bookmark this page and never see what’s happening on the rest of the site if you’re so inclined.

How to tell who is a paying member

You have surely noticed a little tree icon next to your avatar in the past couple weeks, This is to show that you are a supporter of NPN by being a paying (or lifetime) member. Yearly, 3-year, and lifetime members have the NPN yellow tree and monthly members have slightly toned-down tree. Free members will have nothing next to their avatar.


I have only been part of this community for a short time but I have only good things to say about this group. This is a great group and I hope that it will stay and remain this way for a very long time. I am in complete agreement that we need to increase traffic to the website but I feel we shouldn’t lose focus on maintaining quality over quantity. I think the decision here is a step in the right direction. Thank you, @David_Kingham and team, for your dedication and hard work to keep the community in the right shape.

I have some comments regarding opening up the gallery to public. As much as it would be nice to see more people posting in the galleries, I do hope that NPN would not be “another Instagram” where we see comments like, “good stuff”, “nice captures”, or God forbid, “this is sick!” Even though the galleries are not for critique, but I really appreciate that the group has been very kind to leave meaningful comments there and those are very helpful, too. Is there any way that we can do to address this?

Also, will free members be able to see the EP gallery? I am suspecting that paying members will start posting in the Critique sections more frequently instead of utilizing the Galleries so it would be nice to showcase these images to the free members as well and hopefully entice them to join as paying members.

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Thank you Adhika, my top priority will always to maintain quality over quantity. I have no intentions to make NPN huge and sell it off or anything of that sort, I want to keep this as our community where we are friendly and all know each other fairly well.

I certainly had some trepidation about opening the gallery up to free members because of the reasons you brought up. We will have to maintain quality by acting as a community by reporting posts that don’t follow the guidelines, by educating new members of what is expected here and showing the door to those who do not fit into the community. I absolutely do not want this to turn into instagram. We have no way of showing what the most popular photos are, etc. so there should be no element of competition or seeking out likes. If I find some aspect of this section becoming a problem I will have no hesitation to shift gears and make a change to fix this.

Anyone can see a thumbnail view of the Editors Picks, but if they try to visit the post to see a larger version or read the critiques they will be redirected to sign up for a full membership. So hopefully just seeing what is posted here along with how many replies there are will encourage free members to sign up for a full membership.

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Great change! There are other sites that don’t require paid membership to read articles, post images and read and reply to forums. I like to surf them all.


I just upgraded to yearly membership. I had told my wife earlier today that I was planing to upgrade then I received your e mail. I don’t post photos but am learning how to improve my photography by studying various critiques. I am 80 yrs old and have trouble learning lightroom and photoshop, so am learning a lot from NPR. I hope to be around for many more years. Thank you for keeping the site going.

Melton Kidd


David: I like pretty much all you’re proposing. Since the galleries are for images that are not to be critiqued why not eliminate making any comments on gallery images. Perhaps allow a :+1: but if someone is looking for comments then they need to become members and post in the critique section. Just my two cents. >=))>

That’s something I’ve considered, but I still see good conversations coming from posts in the galleries. It doesn’t have to be critiques to have discussions around images. You can talk about what you like about the image, the location, the techniques, etc. We will really try to discourage thoughtless comments.

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The challenge remains how to encourage them to make the conversion if what they’re converting to is hidden. Let’s hope for the best.

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That’s what we have the 30 day trial for, to give them a taste of the most valuable area of NPN without giving away the farm.

I agree with most of this, especially that we need to increase traffic and members.
However, I question this: if we are all posting in the critique area and visitors can’t see that area, how are people going to know the real value of the site?

To me, the quality of the critiques are the primary draw of the site.


As I just said, that is what the 30 day trial is for.

You said: " # Free members cannot access critiques

Most importantly for existing members, the critique section will not be changing in any way. It will still be for paying members only; critiques will not even be viewable to free members. We still feel this is the most valuable part of NPN and have no intention of giving it away. "

So what is the difference between a free member and a trial member? Getting very confusing…

Maybe this page will help make sense of it all

The 30 day trial gives you full access to the critique forum, the free membership does not. The trial is a way to test out the paid tiers for 30 days. If they decide to not switch to to a paid membership at the end of the 30 day trial they just turn into a free member and can longer access the critques.

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Sandy: Why don’t you just click on the Home button at the top, scroll down and see all of the membership options. (Just saw David’s reply which is a link to the same page).

Ok, that’s a good explanation, thanks.

Sandy, the 30 day trial membership we voted on didn’t increase membership significantly. The hope is that the free limited membership will attract those new users to try the 30 day trial membership and subsequently become members. That’s the thought behind all of this I surmise. Hope this helps.

I may have been wrong about this. There are about 1000 members and 34 signed up for a free trial during the last month. That seems like a healthy number to me. It’s hard to tell from the data what percentage commit to membership. The majority of non active members all seemed to have signed up on Aug 28 and remained inactive thereafter. That’s likely due to NPN 1.0 members that who were automatically transferred to NPN 2.0 on that date. Overall it appears that membership is growing in a healthy manner.

That is very good news! IMHO the free limited membership is a very good thing, as is 30 day trial. It would be difficult to know and understand the value of NPN if you weren’t able to browse for awhile first.

Igor, Where do you find these statistics?

Under “Users”, (Hamburger menu in the top tight by one’s personal icon) I count about 150 active members, (active in any way - giving a flag, reading only, participating in any way. Much fewer of these actually posting or commenting)

I count More than 900 totally inactive members - (a string of zeros after their name in the statistics).

I see very few “trial members” listed - although perhaps this also isn’t up-to-date.

I do see a number of people still listed who have left NPN 1 or 2 , quite a few who have died, and a bunch listed more than 3 times - Nate Chappell, for instance, is listed 4 times.

Are there other statistics listed somewhere that I have missed?

The users page from the hamburger menu shows 1034 registered users. If you choose the the month count, april 5 - may 5, and do a command F with the keyword “Trial Member” you get 34 hits. If you open any of those users they all have joined dates after April 5. To get an accurate count you need to scroll down the entire 1034 users before searching because the search only searches the users that have been displayed on the screen (it’s a screen search).

To get an accurate usage or viewership value you need to look at the full year page, may 5 1918 - may 5 1919. After that I could only eyeball it to do the counts. You get 3 groups: a) first four columns are >0 means active, last three columns are >0 viewing, all columns are 0 absent members that don’t use the website. This last group mostly joined Aug 28 and have remained dormant. I would say about 25% are absent and the remaining 75% of users are equally distributed between active and browsing.

The stats on FA posts I think are hard to get at.