When I look at the front page of questions right now, I see a lot of questions about camera electronics and mechanics, about how lenses and focus work, mount adapters, artificial lighting, and photo backup and management. In fact, there's really only one question about taking photographs, and that's a kind of broad one about dealing with harsh shadows.

All of these are fine and perfectly on-topic, but we're missing something. This isn't supposed to be cameragear.stackexchange.com — it's supposed to be about photography!

I know we basically ruled out open-ended critique, but see Can we re-open the door to something a little like photo critique? — I'd really like to see new questions (daily!) with

  • actual photographs
  • a statement of some aspect that the photographer was aiming to achieve
  • a question about how to analyze whether that succeeded, or about what could be improved for that goal, or about

I know this is somewhat subjective, but I don't think it's bad subjective — the answers can be based on actual experience and skill, and good answers help both the asker of the question and are interesting and useful to others. For example:

got great, interesting, helpful results. And I know some people were a little confused and frustrated by questions like What is a point of interest in a photograph and where is it lacking in this candle picture?, When should the negative space not be used to bring attention to a subject?, and How to show the theme "What happened??" — but I at least found them incredibly interesting and useful.

I'd like to encourage and reward more questions like this. They don't seem to be coming in naturally at all. Can we jump-start it in some way? Would a theme week work? A contest of some sort? Stack Exchange runs on "internet points" — is there a way we could have site-specific badges or something?

  • 4
    I love the Qs you highlighted. If I saw more of those, I'd probably come back more often.
    – Octopus
    Sep 17 '14 at 6:43

Relevant: Good Subjective, Bad Subjective blog entry by Robert Cartaino a few years ago. I think it is possible to have such questions quite readily as long as the person can identify the result that they think they missed on. We definitely need to avoid the idea of "do you think this is a good photo?" type questions, but your linked examples are good examples of how this could work more generally.

If we do want to jump-start with a theme on the main site, we can form a theme question here in Meta and then I can link that as an event to trigger visibility on the main site.

  • I think you hit the nail on the head, it's very hard to write a question that fits. Even questions on composition seem to have that same problem unless they're the very common ones that you could find in a basic photography book. I deliberately crafted a question about technique to see what would happen and I think the first close vote came within an hour and probably rightly so as many answers were subjective even though the question specifically requested something that could be referenced. Sep 20 '14 at 21:56

I think there are a few aspects that especially bias the kind of questions being asked here.

  • Originating from SO and similar technophile sites, a bigger portion of the visitors is from a more technical and less artistic background.
  • These days everywhere you get told that megapixels and numbers count, this makes it seem to a lot of people that in order to take good photos you need good numbers and not good eyes, and that having the right camera setting is all you need to care about
  • People that care about the artistic aspects are often more of the creative kind that try stuff out

Especially the later point seems to make people experiment a lot (and look at examples, search around etc.) until they either get to a satisfactory result or seek help. Only after a certain experience you can appreciate certain aspects of photography and related constructive cristicism; with that experience however comes also a realization of subjectiveness and a realization of the kind of that when you are happy with the image, it is at least good enough.

Also it seems that you need to have a bit of experience to at least identify in the image what you mean about it. There are tons of questions on this site saying "how can I recreate this effect" with the first comments asking to describe the effect and what the OP sees in it. Given that this experience increases likelyness that you find satisfactory information elsewhere instead of asking a question here, it reduces likelyness to post a good question here.

Now for me personally, for not posting such questions the reason is often that I don't think they will give future visitors any value at all. I would be intrested in certain aspect of another image, or of my image, but it doesn't seem to be of any value for future visitors at all; coming from SO originally, this is a big part of when I ask a question: do it for something intresting enough that it may be useful for a future visitor. I think its hard to do that for photo critique like posts. Sure, I like reading them to learn something (thats why I once asked on meta about searching posts with images), but this usually needs quite a few posts and images about the same or similar aspect; nothing that someone could find via any search functionality.


I think this is a great idea. I like photo.se, but I've come to see it pretty much only as a place where highly technical aspects of photography are discussed. If there were an equal focus on the art as well as the craft & science, I'd definitely come by more.

TBH, I think the explanation that ”there are more technically minded people on SE", and that's why the focus is on technicalities, is not thought through. Technically minded people can also have artistic creativity. Buying into this viewpoint encourages stereotypes, and is certainly not helpful in community-building.

Concrete suggestion: make this a place that welcomes these questions by rewarding them with unique badges, or some other visual marker, so people can easily explore the art.


I would love to ask questions about the art of photography. I've asked some technical questions — e.g., reverse-engineering — but I've been trained in my short time on SE sites that subjective questions are frowned upon so I didn't even think of this as a venue for critique and style.

Note that the most obvious tag for what it sounds like you're proposing, , only has 13 questions and its summary cautions that it "should be used for tagging questions about critiquing - not in order to get a critique."

Perhaps a more welcoming tag would open the door a little bit? Or could you list existing tags that cover what you have in mind? E.g., were you thinking of things like:

  • A fewyears ago, Jay Lance wrote a great answer about what exactly a "critique" entails, and that has strongly influenced my opinion on that term and the tag. I'd like to allow the sort of thing he describes, but what I'm describing here isn't always that. It's more like, I dunno, "photo-help".
    – mattdm
    Sep 9 '14 at 20:32

I don't think this can be achieved easily or at all.

When I think of all the organized or centralized discussions about photography that I enjoyed over the years, were it photo clubs in pre internet times or usenet groups in the early internet days, the main topic was nearly always the technological part. In fact before DSLRs were cheap and ubiquitous, possessing a good (i.e. expensive or special) camera, a set of lenses and maybe some additional gear was enough for a lot of people to see photography as their hobby, even if their only actual picture taking were test photos of walls, nails, or rulers. Those people often had a lot of fun to discuss which lens was sharper, when something was produced first, or similar details.

People who wanted to discuss photos, photo taking, composition or similar were always the minority. And if they wanted to do so they mostly published in some way or took part in contest.

Both parts of the hobby, the artistic and the the technical, are equally valid hobbies. Today it is much easier and cheaper to get get adequate gear, to take photos, and most important to publish somehow. And whether you publish on Facebook, your own site, Flickr, Twitter, Tumblr, or multichannel, much of the discussion regarding the content of the picture, including the display and composition, will take part there. Professional and good photographers are active there also. I don't think it is possible to draw the attention back from there to some other place. Especially as SE is not a typical discussion forum or social network. We see it often with first answers or questions that are formally misplaced. I myself wouldn't state your topics as question. I would want to discuss about them and wouldn't ask them on SE except for some technical parts of them. I would stay in some service where I display photos. Of course they have different audience and I would expect better solid photographic advice on Flickr than on Tumblr.

Metameta: I think it would be a good idea to have a parallel social or discussion structure on SE to handle both use cases and transfer topics between both. Chat is not enough for that. That would at least allow discussions instead of driving users somewhere else. Maybe it wouldn't automatically be the first place for people to do this discussion but as of now it is not possible to do it.

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