Debunking Common Photography Myths: Are There Any You Still Believe?

One of the things I love about the photography industry is that there's no shortage of myths and folklore. You'll probably hear a bunch of different myths and claims as you develop your career and I have to say it's a lot of fun. 

In a recent video from two of my favorite photographers and YouTubers, Tony and Chelsea Northrup; they discuss some of the many myths that photographers still believe. Most of the time the myths that we believe tend to be rooted in something real or something that was once true. For example, many photographers still use UV filters which is honestly beyond me. There's a very good chance that no lens has ever actually been protected from impact damage by any UV filter in the history of photography. Also if you shoot with a digital camera then UV filters offer virtually no improvement to your images. Personally, the myth that I believed for a long time was that you should never delete images in-camera. This is quite obviously not true and something we can ignore. 

Check out the full video linked above. Also, are there any particular myths that you used to believe? Are there any myths that even though you no longer believe, you still have trouble letting go of? 

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michaeljin's picture

Anecdotes are all that ever seem to get traded in these discussions. I agree that it would be very enlightening to see the results of a real study on this subject. Of course it would be met with anecdotal claims on each side about how their personal methods differ and lead to superior results, but at least we would still get some sort of average. Right now, it just seems to be a lot of speculation.

At least one instance in which I would HIGHLY recommend using a protective filter is with vintage lenses. A lot of them didn't have the hardest coatings back then (at least nothing close to what we have now) nor did they have coatings that repelled things like water to the degree that current lenses do.

Ryan Cooper's picture

I posted the link to a video that tests UV filters in a controlled setting above.

michaeljin's picture

Umm... I meant more of a study regarding the cost of the total money spent on UV filters, the amount of monetary damage that can be attributed to UV filters, the amount of front element damage on lenses without UV filters which would have been prevented if the user had one (like scratches or moisture), and the total cost to repair front element damage on those lenses across a wide population. Get a wide enough sample size and we can at least see whether they make a decent value proposition.

The video you posted is absolutely ridiculous. A protective filter is a thin piece of glass. It's not there to protect against impact damage. I don't know anyone who goes jousting with their camera lens so I'm not sure what the heck kind of impact damage that test is supposed to be simulating either. My lens hood protects from impact damage. The filter protects from the elements. What kind of idiot would use a thin piece of glass to protect a lens from being bludgeoned?

Had to laugh at the jousting bit. :)

I also cannot see how a filter would protect a lens from the kind of impact that would have sufficient force to break the filter. Most modern lenses have the front element almost flush with the filter thread so there would only be a few millimetres, if that, between the filter and the front element anyway.

I have old lenses with some scuffs and scratches on them and if I didn't tell you they were there you wouldn't notice them in the resulting images. So while no one wants their lens' front element scratched, it might not even be the end of the world anyway.

michaeljin's picture

Oh, it's definitely not the end of the world. People are just paranoid about it because they're not well informed.

Ryan Cooper's picture

Because evidence suggests that it does very little to actually protect the lens in almost all situations. You will spend far more money on UV filters than you ever will repairing front elements.

Short of dropping the lens front first on a spike, impact to the front element when the lens is dropped with a lens hood on is obscenely uncommon and even if that happens, for the UV to have saved the lens the fall has to be strong enough that it would have damaged the front element but weak enough that it doesn't destroy the lens internals. It takes a very specific fall for a UV filter to be the difference between a ruined lens and no damage. I've had several lenses take a front first swan dive onto concrete over the years. No UV filter. They went to the repair shop for internal repairs, the front elements were never harmed. On top of that if you watch the video I linked above, you will learn that many filters aren't much stronger than paper. It is very easy to break a filter which then showers your front element in sharp shattered glass.

Unless you plan for the lens to be going through pretty extreme conditions where exposure to blowing sand or salt spray or similar is a risk, the UV is pretty irrelevant.

I use a “filter” on every lens I own in place of a lens cap. UV, Skylight, clear, etc Im not picky. I sent a Nikkor 80-200mm 2.8 to Nikon for service. It came back with the filter broken from poor handling by UPS. The lens and filter ring were fine. I never thought that a protective filter added anything to an image other than a flare at certain angles. I have no qualms about cleaning the filter clean with a T shirt and my hot air. If the filter protection is a myth then we should throw out our lens caps.

Reading some of these comments saved me from wasting time with the thirty-minute video. Thirty minutes? Sheesh. To think I might have watched that drivel.

It was the author's retort to a critical comment "And what makes you so credible?" that clinched it for me.

I see he has also authored "What to Do If You've Been Sexually Assaulted." Yep, you can read/watch it right here on FStoppers.

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

Lenses are quite tough. I have lenses (28 and 35) I still regularly use that have been dragged through sand and water. Also had the 35 and a 85 f1.4 hit solid ground while still attached to the body. While the lens hoods were cracked, the lenses themselves are fine. Heck, I even think they're slightly sharper now. j/k :D

I dislike the video premise, they use their unscientific personal experiences and observations as evidence for debunking "myths".

Daniel Medley's picture

Good vid. The other myth I would have added is the myth that saving images in 72ppi is best for web or displays. In fact ppi has no bearing on how an image displays. There is no difference between a 10ppi image and a 10,000 ppi image. in other words, when it comes to web or digital display, ppi isn't relevant.

Regarding card failures and user error, I don't think user error is likely to result in card failure, but I do believe that image loss as a result of user error (losing card, accidental deletion, damaging card, etc) is far more likely than image loss due to card failure.

Eric Robinson's picture

Sorry bollocks to your statement, no camera lens has ever been protected......... not true. By all means give you view, but please don’t go and spoil things by making such a silly statement which is as much a myth as those in the video.
I once had a cannon 100mm f2.8 that I knocked over....blah blah blah

Eric Robinson's picture

What the video appears to prove along with all the comments is that photography is fuelled by a diet of a never ending stream of bullshit, and the thing is we photographers can’t get enough of it; Sony poor colour science, 3D pop, The MF look......