Questions Photographers Should Stop Asking

The internet and forums have been around for long enough now that we have heard most questions regarding photography. Although repetition isn't the end of the world, we really need to stop asking these questions.

I know these things shouldn't bother me, and for the most part they don't. However, being annoyed without giving an alternative is a pretty negative path to take. The internet is both amazing for photographers to gain knowledge (my entire education was online) and also incredibly destructive in terms of false information or the importance of certain aspects of photography being over or under sold. 

Most new photographers would assume that image sharpness and bokeh are the most important factors of a good photograph. So in this video I go over some of the most common questions that I receive that I believe are miss placed and offer some alternatives that I feel will actually help progress your photography. A lot of this is accelerated by the camera industry who are trying to constantly sell new products, but it is worth noting that the aims of a camera manufacturer and a photographer differ somewhat and that although brands have massive buying power, educators of photography do not. Of course we all start somewhere and I have asked all of these questions at various part in my journey as a photographer.

What do you feel are the most misplaced or useless questions that photographers often ask?

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Ty Mattheu's picture

Any question that begins "I'm just trying to get my name out there, and I wondered......."

Scott Choucino's picture

Yeah this and the I have a start up ...

Tony Northrup's picture

"What were your camera settings for this photo?" - not that it's never valid to ask about a specific setting, but some beginners seem to have this mindset that camera settings are like a recipe they can follow. The question simplifies photography into a series of numbers instead of an artform with infinite depth.

Scott Choucino's picture

I think maybe in a studio it has some validity with a lighting diagram in toe all measured out, but anywhere out in the field the variables are just too great for it to have any real meaning.

paul aparycki's picture

I don't think even in the studio it is of any importance. There are a thousand other things that far outweigh them . . . camera angle, height, focal length, number of lights, types of modifiers, RATIOS (damn sight more important than is it f1 or f93?), colour balance, flash duration (sometimes), how the hell was that rigged, etc, etc, etc

John Green's picture

In line with Scotts comment about them being useful in a studio I would agree. As a novice who has attended workshops (including Scotts), I understand there will be subtle differences between cameras, but the reason we ask what the settings are is to save time. The tutor or another workshop participant has already gone through the rigmarole of taking the test shots and adjusting flash power etc to get settings that will allow an image to be taken. We just want to know their settings as a starting point, and then tweak them from there for our own personal taste.

paul aparycki's picture

THE most annoying question.

Benoit Pigeon's picture

Never saw your Hazylight before. I thought I was the only one left to still use one today.

Back to topic, years ago, at a race, a spectator asked me how to shoot the race cars. I just asked him to hand me his camera, I set it very honestly to the conditions of the time and the way I would shoot from that angle and said there you go. He looked happy so I walked away thinking now learn from your mistakes.

Scott Choucino's picture

haha, its a recent addition to the studio. I couldn't find anything else that would do the same job. How have you found yours over the years?

Jason Berge's picture

I just noticed the Hazylite as well. I have had two for about 15 years. You are right, there is nothing else like them. I love mine. I probably overuse them, they are kind of addictive, the light is so "Hazy". I have mine on Flamingo stands, so flexible I can position them anywhere from floor height to about 4m overhead.

Benoit Pigeon's picture

For what you do, food, it should be a great tool. I used to do food regularly and it was nice to have one. I don’t use mine as much as I used to since I serve more the furniture industry than in the past but I still use it. Purchased mine used 15 years ago but I was working with it for 6 years before that. Great for clean white reflected section over black plexiglass but also to light from below by flipping the box. Plenty of use as you have probably found out. It’s not made for everything, but convenient, can free a lot of space to work vs a stand and a soft box. Can stand high up just above the set and no wrinkle in the reflections. You can see my kittens playing on my Lazylight in my profile pictures (I did it for and with my daughter so they would stay a relatively small, controlled space - cushy foam and pillows all around). Okay that’s not something I would recommend to do with heavier cats, but yes a lot can be done…
Personally, I think that packs and heavier equipment like the Hazylight are underrated today, looked as something of the past, when really they are time saving and tools made to increase productivity. Some are tools that may not be of an absolute necessity, but creatively and productively they simplify the day, not just yours but the client’s day as well.

David Meyer's picture

How about the last sentence of this article? Stop being a snob. Most amateur photographers are just that, amateurs. They ask questions because they are curious, not to irritate you or anyone else.

Scott Choucino's picture

I don't think there is anythign snobish about offering alternative questions that are of more use.

Ryan Mense's picture

I think there are some interesting bits to be learned about an image knowing the camera settings. If anything, the things mentioned in this video actually become a little more interesting to know once you're competent because you can start to infer the reasoning behind them and get a better picture on how someone works.

Will Lawler's picture

I’m amazed at how many images that win serious competitions are soft, unintentionally slightly out of focus, very grainy - it’s clear to me now I’ve bought all the expensive gear and lenses that the subject and composition FAR outweigh the technical aspects that seem to be major focus for online pundits

Alnoor Meralli's picture

As an educator I have to say that beginners are great at composition. The reason is they have grown up taking tons of pictures using their smartphones and not been hampered by the cost of film and processing. But sometimes they know less about photography as a craft. Some will invest on the best prime lenses then shoot everything with wide apertures 'cos they paid good money ... isn't my lens supposed to be really sharp at f/1.4, how come the skin is soft, must be something wrong with the lens. Your last comment made me laugh ... visions of "online pundits" evaluating images on smartphones.

Will Lawler's picture

Ah yes. I meant all the photographers who do equipment reviews online - seem to focus on specifications. My point is a high spec kit does not maketh a good photographer (I can attest 😂)

Dave Dundas's picture

I can back him up on this... I've seen his work! 😂😂 (just kidding, deliberately didn't look, just in case, lol!)

Al Zuniga's picture

Beginners are just that, beginners. A person may not possess the knowledge to ask the right questions. It is presumptuous and often perceived as condescending to expect a person, who lacks knowledge, to ask the right question(s).

A more modest approach is to answer the question, which creates a segue to educating on the why or how. As a result, the person can ask the right questions the next time.

For an educator, every question is an opportunity to educate.

Malcolm Wright's picture

Hi a bit of an abrupt end to your video there. I thought I'd lost connection and it had scrolled on to another.
Why so disparaging about camera clubs?
Everyone has to start somewhere and the interesting thing about camera club competitions is you get external judge(s) explaining what they like about the composition and how the photo works or doesn't work for them.
The fact that the collective noun for a panel of judges trying to argree on a winner and the other placings is 'an argument of opinions' is quite amusing I'll grant you. If you put 100 photographs to a panel of judges who had to judge blind with no conferring between them it is extremely unlikely that their placings would tally.
At a club apart from learning how to use a camera, you soon realise that you have to take photographs to please yourself. Your work improves and because you're not a Professional the club opens up new techniques and areas of photography to explore.
I've met a few professional photographers who hate camera clubs, because they decry the lack of consistency in judging,
I always remind them Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Viewing the Journey's picture

Facebook has so many of these."What camera should I buy?" Or, " what lens should I buy".
It's like asking "what car should I buy?"
It would be nice to have details such as what the person is photographing, experience level, budget, etc.

Lee Cookson's picture

Art is about making choices. For those starting out in a new medium (or their first medium), understanding the choices available to you is central to developing as an artist. In order to do that, we ask questions. Each question we ask, we learn - not only about the choices available to us, but also how to ask better questions. While you, as an experienced photographer, might find those questions misplaced or useless, they are a central part to developing as an artist. Art is a process first and foremost, and a product when you're ready to share (and people want to see) what you've created. When inexperienced photographers ask 'What settings did you use?', what they're really asking is 'What choices lead to this image?'. I think this article and video have some great points to make, but do so with such a negative approach (and yes, somewhat snobbish, which is so prevalent in photography) when it could have taken a positive approach - something like 'How to help inexperienced photographers who are asking the wrong questions'.

Benoit Pigeon's picture

No way, this is like asking someone - "how do I copy your work", which in no way is an artistic, creative way to approach the subject.
Now if you first make the effort of producing something and you think you are not quite there and ask for guidance, take criticism from someone else's view of your work and search for options. That is a more constructive approach.

Lee Cookson's picture

If you have this much concern that a beginner is going to 'copy your work' then I think you have bigger problems to address in your practice.

Benoit Pigeon's picture

You bet I have problems! Wouldn't life be boring if everything was perfect all the time? What would I learn from? Luckily I've been making 100% of my living from photography for 28 years and running studios for 21. I have a rule, I only help people who show their interest and don't ask or expect. A week ago for example, I took my lights to go help an assistant of mine who went on a shoot that I had suggested to him over the winter. I took my light, my stands, my radios (and carried all the stuff myself) all for him. We were there for three hours and I did answer any question he had. We always talk photography in the car as well and there are never any secret I keep from my assistants at shoots. We often do very rough shoots when I call them where 100% is deadlines and the product put on trucks right away. They see it all, how to deal with impatient clients to technical issues to fix in an instant, and of course how and what I shoot. They get experience and they get paid for that too. I have helped many people over the years with techniques, suggestions or/and equipment. Personally, I don't find your approach attractive, may be you should work on it.

David DeRienzo's picture

Gonna respectfully disagree with the first question.

First, I get some really useful info asking about exposure settings, namely about shutter speed. If I see a really interesting long-exposure, a low-light photo that doesn't look noisy but also doesn't look like it it was manually lit, astrophotography, or something else with an interesting effect I think may be related to exposure settings, I'm going to ask, and I haven't gotten any pushback on that.

Secondly, I would never ask, in lieu of the above question, why a photographer took a photo or what their artistic intention was. That, to me, is a much more useless question to ask, because it's discussing style rather than function, and my style should be mine to discover as a photographer.

I feel like asking a photographer what inspired them to take a photo is just going to encourage a "like me" bias, whereas asking about settings is simply trying to get a better understanding of mechanics. If that information weren't important, your camera wouldn't save metadata.

I think the context in which the question is being asked matters here. Yes, if I'm asking because I'm assuming I can be just as good a photographer as you just by copying your settings--yeah, that's a dumb question. If I'm just curious about what a peer or colleague did on the day of--I think that's fine.

Lori Duvall's picture

I hope you're just a shooting professionally and don't run workshops. It would be terribly discouraging to have the teacher cop this attitude when all someone is trying to do is learn. If you are running workshops, I'd suggest taking a break. You seem really burned out.

Benoit Pigeon's picture

That is exactly what Scott does, shoot professionally while sharing his knowledge and practical experience to the audience on this platform. In my opinion, it is wrong to assume that all articles should target beginners and assume that all beginners should expect basic pre packaged solutions.
Commercial photography is a very competitive world. That is what is exposed here, not how to shoot landscape at night or how to light your pet portrait, but if you want to start a pet photography business, then these articles are great to understand the field in the real world.
If you can't digest not being handed everything down to basics, I can tell you these are not for you. Clients can be rude and expect a lot for the price they pay, which is fair too. There are only so many clients willing to pay good and so much work available in the advertising type of photography as you typically tend to specialize in something or clients like you for a specific type of photography. You have to establish accounts for reliable repeat work and typically, you are not the only photographer in the client's book. It's competitive and one wrong step and you are out.
I wish people would more often look at the value offered here. Seeking the satisfaction of having all basic questions covered is really not always the best way to learn.