I run a photo society. Most of the questions I am asked in Q&A are related to 'what should I buy'. In person, those type of questions don't bother me and I don't see them as a problem. People are disappointed with their current setup and want more out of their hobby, but obviously don't have the knowledge to ask specifics on how to improve. All they know is a price range and what they take photos of.

I don't particularly enjoy a focus on kit as some of the best photographers I have studied have used any old camera and pioneered their own procedures and kit from there. The confusion for me as a new member comes from this site lending itself very well to kit related questions as it's focussed on making very specific answers. Naming a model type, price, and confirming it can do what the aspiring photographer wants seems perfectly specific.

As a new member and at the risk of being very unpopular I have a question:

Q. Why are 'what to buy' questions and similar questions of this nature treated with a negative reaction from the community (ignoring exact duplicates)?


1 Answer 1


These types of questions, "what to buy" or as we call then, "shopping" questions, have limited temporal value, on top of being generally specific to the person asking the question. Everyone has different goals, different styles, different brand affinities, different budgets. On top of that, camera offerings are constantly in flux...a great camera that may be offered today is likely to be outdated and even no longer sold within a few months or a year.

The goal here on StackExchange in general is to build a base of questions and answers that are timeless, things that can be indexed by search engines, and still be useful to readers years from now. Not every aspect of photography necessarily falls into that broad scope, however the majority of it does...the nature of exposure will never really change...its been the same for a century...so Q&A about exposure is essentially timeless. Post-processing techniques, while possibly not "timeless" in that they will last forever, certainly have a lasting value that persists beyond the moment, beyond the current year, and potentially being valuable to new readers for many years.

Shopping questions, on the other hand, intrinsically have a very limited lifespan. They may be useful to a few people now, a few more people in a few months, and a couple people a year from now. Beyond that, their usefulness is effectively nil. Throughout that whole year timespan, MORE shopping questions will be asked about newer cameras, etc. etc. ad. inf. Shopping questions are not a good fit for the fundamental goals of StackExchange or this forum in particular. They lack the longevity or timelessness that we generally aim for.

We tolerate them because they are asked. One way or another, people seek out photography forums initially in order to ask about "What camera should I buy?" We aim to guide the wording of those questions to be generic, rather than specific. We actually do NOT want specific camera models or brands to be mentioned. Rather, we would like to know what the asker's budget requirements are, and what their photographic goals are. We can then either close their question as a duplicate of something similar that already has good general answers (which is something that is still a work in progress), or we can offer up general purpose answers that will help guide the asker, as well as other future viewers, in the right direction to find what they need (again, still a work in progress...people have the tendency to recommend explicit cameras.)

General "shopping" questions are ok, if they have the strong potential to be valuable to the broadest range of readers for the longest period of time. Very specific questions about specific cameras that an asker has already narrowed their options to are not useful to many viewers, if any, beyond the asker themselves...and those types of questions will usually be closed.

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ Very thorough answer. Cleared up a few things! \$\endgroup\$
    – James
    Commented Apr 27, 2013 at 17:51
  • \$\begingroup\$ Glad to be of service. :) \$\endgroup\$
    – jrista
    Commented Apr 27, 2013 at 23:36
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ excellent answer. \$\endgroup\$ Commented May 16, 2013 at 23:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ For those sites where "shopping questions" are natural, has an option ever been considered of making a sister site (just like meta) that would serve only for shopping questions? So we would have one timeless - principles of photography - site, and another for questions with a shorter lifespan, so to speak? \$\endgroup\$
    – Rook
    Commented Nov 20, 2013 at 11:21
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ @ldigas Yes. Failed to gain even rudimentary support, though. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 2:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ So what about lenses and other accessories, which tend to have more longevity than camera bodies? \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Sep 17, 2019 at 22:25

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