Tags are meant to represent a specific area of expertise that might be required to answer a question - so I might flag questions tagged as of specific interest, as that is the equipment I have most experience with, so may be able to offer an answer to solve someone's problem. I understand that, and I get that.

I noticed that someone has recently added the tag to a few questions, but it seems to me to be a meta-tag - after all, surely the person posing the question is troubleshooting at the point they found the site?

So, does the wider community agree that this is a meta-tag (and should be killed), and are there any others that people are aware of?

For reference, the tag wiki for currently reads:

Questions about a specific problem or issue, often dealing with a lens, camera body, image sensor, lighting equipment, or software specific to photography.

5 Answers 5


I actually think it's a useful tag. Troubleshooting is an area of expertise, and unlike something like "best-practices", it has a clear meaning.

It doesn't really stand as a tag on its own, but I think it's still very useful for categorizing. (Actually, if we read it as "camera troubleshooting", it very well can stand on its own in some cases.) If you're interested helping with these kind of questions, it's a useful tag to subscribe to (and if you're not, one you can filter out). That's not so much the case with tags like "beginner" (which can be arbitrarily applied to anything a beginner doesn't know).

For many of these questions, it is significantly better for them to be tagged with than with a specific camera model or even brand, because 9 times out of 10 those specific tags are actually over-specific to a problem which may affect all brands and many different models.

  • So what common expertise is there to answer photo.stackexchange.com/questions/35462/… and photo.stackexchange.com/questions/35658/… ? My view is that troubleshooting is a skill associated to a domain of knowledge and implied in the tag for the domain of knowledge - so troubleshooting a leaky tap needs different knowledge to troubleshooting a colour cast during C-41 printing, which is different again to the two linked questions. Apr 4, 2013 at 12:30
  • I guess I am pretty strongly reading it as "camera troubleshooting"; I don't think it belongs on that software question.
    – mattdm
    Apr 4, 2013 at 12:31
  • Also, how would troubleshooting differ to advice? - which has been previously discussed and deemed redundant Apr 4, 2013 at 12:32
  • As above. "advice" is pretty much all questions. Troubleshooting is specifically about diagnosing an issue.
    – mattdm
    Apr 4, 2013 at 12:33
  • If this were "cameraproblems.stackexchange.com", then the tag would definitely be redundant.
    – mattdm
    Apr 4, 2013 at 12:35
  • 1
    I don't have a problem if troubleshooting was used for people asking for a method to diagnose issues, but it seems to be more widely used in a sense "I want to know what is wrong with 'X'". It may just be a better worded tag-wiki, and reviewing current use may be a better solution for this example. Apr 4, 2013 at 12:36
  • Yeah. And as I'm thinking about it, I think my main issue is overly-specific tags in the alternative. It's often hard for someone who doesn't know the problem to figure out of it's specific to their model, and then we get the same thing multiple times with different brands and models shuffled in. Maybe that's not the worst thing and I should just learn to deal. :)
    – mattdm
    Apr 4, 2013 at 12:39
  • photo.stackexchange.com/questions/35655/… makes a good case study; this problem could easily happen with any camera with a shutter, so I really balk at tagging it 'nikon-d5100'. It's not even really specific to digital SLRs. But what other tags are appropriate?
    – mattdm
    Apr 4, 2013 at 12:41
  • 2
    You could argue, I suppose, that having it broken out into types of troubleshooting might be useful.
    – Joanne C
    Apr 4, 2013 at 13:34
  • similarly, that issue could apply to any camera that has a focal plane shutter (i.e. not just DSLRs). Similarly, they're not asking how to prove it is a sticking shutter - they're asking what the problem could be - I agree with JoanneC that the tags would be better to define the area of expertise, rather than a blanket "troubleshooting" (especially as the original poster there didn't tag as such). Given we are not limited to a single tag, and you can flag a wildcard of interest (e.g. [nikon*]), it may be better to keep that tag of expertise just in case it is a common issue for the model Apr 4, 2013 at 15:56
  • @Rowland Tagging with shutter may be appropriate, but presumes the answer. And [nikon*] isn't very satisfying, becuase (as you obviously know) it's wider than that. (Hence, dslr, which was actually the only original tag.)
    – mattdm
    Apr 4, 2013 at 16:03

What, exactly, is wrong with having a large bucket for ALL troubleshooting related questions? I think sometimes we over-analyze things. Troubleshooting, in general, so long as it pertains to photography, in general, is a valid bucket of questions here on our site.

I guess I'd be against removing that tag entirely. I think adding more specific tags on top of the general troubleshooting tag is fine, and would help people narrow their tag searches more quickly. But, I think it is useful to START with troubleshooting in general, see everything related to that broad scale topic, then zero in on more specific things.

  • 2
    We're all techies, over-analyse is what we do. ;) I suspect we don't really have a problem to solve here though
    – Joanne C
    Apr 4, 2013 at 16:45
  • Aye! Which is why someone has to be the voice of reason! :P
    – jrista
    Apr 4, 2013 at 17:56
  • Bah, I was hoping to do my first tag merge! :p
    – Joanne C
    Apr 4, 2013 at 17:58

(I'm making this a separate answer to my other because it's a specific suggestion.)

may be too vague. What about replacing it with in cases where that's appropriate?


To me trouble-shooting is working through a complex issue by eliminating possible sources of the problem, narrowing down the remaining possibilities, and basically following a systematic set of steps to try to work out the actual source of the problem.

For example lens won't AF. Could be a number of issues with the lens, a couple of possibilities with the body, or the connection between the two. They can try to swap lenses or bodies to narrow down which one is the problem, then try a number of other things.

If a question has a straight answer and doesn't require the OP to go back and try out a number of different things in a logical order, then it isn't troubleshooting. "Maybe this would work" and "or else try that" isn't troubleshooting, it's just haphazard suggestions. Troubleshooting IMO ought to be a logical step-by-step process

I think the tag is useful for equipment malfunctions and such. But it is a generic tag and probably not that helpful in search.

  • If anyone would do some statistical research thru all troubleshooting questions, I bet the majority of trouble is really "User error". Masked behind misunderstanding, lack of trying, not reading the manual, false expectations and so on. How are we to troubleshoot a perfectly working device, when the only trouble is in the user? ... eh, lost my point, sorry, posting this anyway. Apr 9, 2013 at 22:45
  • Lens won't AF? Have you tried a different lens? Yes, doesn't work either? Ok, more likely the body. Is the A/M switch on A? What switch? Aha, set to M, there's your problem.
    – MikeW Mod
    Apr 9, 2013 at 23:03
  • Yep, that's the norm case. And a nice example of how to troubleshoot a user error. It is 2:25 a.m. here and I'm not thinking clearly :( Apr 9, 2013 at 23:28

I recently got the privilege to create tags. So I clearly remember what is said in the instructions about tags creation. It says:

•meta tags, tags that cannot stand alone as the only tag on a question, are not allowed.

That's it. I see "troubleshooting" as a meta-tag.

(fyi, I have not created any tags so far, none at all.)

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