In a recent article, I talked about upgrading your skillset and knowledge as a photographer. Continuing with that topic, I want to address some of the things that photographers seem to care about, but really shouldn’t.
Having a small presence on things like Instagram and Fstoppers, I get asked some questions that I admit bug me. Luckily most other ones are relevant and I take the time to respond to them in detail. Still, the ones that bug me seem to be all fairly standard across any forum, DM, or other means of communication. Even on this very site (and on many others), there is a place to put that utterly useless information. Here are things that photographers shouldn’t care about.
Probably the most annoying comments read something along the lines of: “oh, he is just trying to get us to buy brand name because he is paid to do it”. In truth, the brands that I use just happen to make it to the images and mentions because there is a brand name in the product name. I shoot with Canon, so it’s obvious that a Canon camera will be featured in my articles. If I were shooting with Pentax, it would be Pentax.
Spying on what camera other photographers use is rather strange, as I can’t figure out how that information will help you progress. Will you go and buy the same camera? Will you consider that brand better? Will you laugh at them for using a particular brand? I put gaffer tape on brand names on some of my gear in order to conceal them from unwanted attention partially for that reason.
If there’s anything that is simply pointless to know, it has to be camera settings that a photographer used to take an image. Unfortunately, Facebook groups and other websites make it compulsory to reveal the settings, and photographers go searching for EXIF data on every image they like, only to say after that the person shooting could have dropped the ISO because their shutter speed is too high.
Camera settings are particularly useless as they really don’t say much. A lot of my work is done at 1/160, f/11 to f/13, and ISO 100. Yet, it all looks different at the end. If you want to recreate the exact same image, sure. But beyond that, it's not really useful. Still, I am yet to see an exact recreated copy of a photo.
Reviewing photos and checking the camera settings is irrelevant as the person reviewing doesn’t know the conditions. When I shot events, I sometimes forgot to switch settings from indoor to outdoor and ended up capturing a few outdoor images at ISO 6400. No one batted an eyelid.
Light Settings and Setups
Another one in this category is light power settings. There are a lot of factors that influence how the light looks:
How efficient the modifier is
How worn the flash tube is
How tall the ceilings are
What color the room is
Flags, scrims, and more
Without knowing the exact conditions, the light power settings are useless information. For example, I have used fill light for images at power 10 and at power 5 with the same modifier. Me saying that the fill is power 8, while the key is power 10 will say that there is a two-stop difference between the two, however, what more does it say? If I add diffusion to the fill it will be power 9.5. Adding a scrim will cut parts of the fill on the subject. If you’re not taking photos in a huge black room with 1 light without a modifier, knowing the power settings is pointless as they have little to do with how the light was shaped.
The light setup used to create the photo is another one of that category. Although it shows how the light was positioned and used, it doesn’t teach you to make the same setup. It only shows you one out of a billion ways to shape light. That’s why I don’t believe in light setups and try to not show exactly what setup was used. Instead, what is useful is taking an image and breaking it down as such:
How many lights are there?
(For each light) Is it hard or soft? Is it gelled?
(For each light) Where is it placed?
Chances are you will be able to draw the setup on your own. The number of lights is easy to tell by looking at catchlights and picturing how the image would look with 1 light only. The light quality can be learned by observing the shadow edges, while the placement can be determined by how the thrown shadow looks like.
What Camera and Lens Combo Were Used?
There hasn’t been a bad camera since 2009. A raw from Sony, Nikon, and Canon will look different, but after post-processing, retouching, and so on, it would be hard to tell. Lenses are a little different as they have some optical imperfections, however, I don’t think anyone can tell the difference between 70mm on a 24-70mm and 70-200mm. Different brands have slightly different lens qualities, however, the pro line-ups render images to a similar degree.
This might be the most controversial one. So, before going further I will differentiate between constructive and destructive criticism. I covered this topic in-depth in one of my previous articles What I learned from not judging my work. Most comments in Facebook groups along the lines of “your work is crap” are not worth your time. Even Leibovitz has haters, quite a few actually. All great art has haters. If anything, the fact that you have them is a good thing.
What do you think? Did you care about these things in the past? I know for a fact that I’ve been guilty of all of these. Especially when I published my first few articles online and had negative feedback. The most important thing was to persevere forward no matter the negative destructive judgmental feedback. As for the camera, light, and other settings, learning why they were used will get you much further. Finally, always practicing your craft, organizing shoots, and shooting higher and better will yield the best outcome in the future.