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So it seems Questions (potentially) on photography using not-quite-a-camera...cameras are considered on-topic.

What about questions not about photography involving devices whose primary purpose is not photography, but which can be used for photography?

Where does it end? Is asking how to recover burnt toast from a toaster oven that shoots 4k video and takes 12mp stills on topic?

  • @mattdm I think that's a similar question but not really the same. This one is a bit more nuanced as to a particular facet of the general concept covered in that question. The other question establishes what is or isn't on topic, this is more about the level of assumption we should make about whether someone is doing something on-topic or not when it isn't clear. The question as written might not 100% cover that, but that's the key difference being discussed between Mike and my answers and is the key for the particular question that raised this meta post. – AJ Henderson Mar 3 at 20:00
  • Questions about earplugs and shoes also bug me. I was considering referencing that question in this one, but didn't feel like searching for it at the time. – xiota Mar 5 at 5:41
  • The reason I linked that question is because of my "community of practice" answer there. – mattdm Mar 5 at 20:26
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I don't understand your frustration. A GoPro certainly is a camera. I disagree that it's a "not-quite-a-camera". And it's primary purpose is photography, shooting video and stills. Questions that focus on video shooting would be better off on video.stackexchange where the community will know more about video, but generally questions involving phones, GoPros, anything with a camera taking photos should be allowed here.

The second link is about how to connect a GoPro to a Mac. That would be on-topic here (IMO) and also on video or superuser. True, it might have a better chance of being answered on the other sites, but I wouldn't get worked up about it being asked here. It's not about shooting video, it's about connecting via USB.

If a toaster comes along that takes photos or shoots video, then I'm sure questions about shooting photo/video with that toaster would be on topic here and on the video site. Questions about removing burnt toast, no, because it's not related to photography.

Photo SE help says "videography that has no applicability to still photography" is off-topic. In my view, that means that unless it's purely video related (like frame rates etc) then it's ok here or on video.

  • I have to disagree strongly on this one. GoPro is not a still camera. It may have limited ability to take still photos, but they are really not designed for that purpose. (Any more than my GL2 was, despite having the ability to take very limited still images.) I think that shifts it to not being a good fit unless specifically doing a photography task with it, otherwise topic drift is a major problem. A smartphone is more of a still camera than a GoPro, but generic iOS and Android questions are certainly not on topic. – AJ Henderson Mar 3 at 5:19
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    OP said it was not a camera. I insist that it is most definitely a camera. I never said it was primarily a still camera. It's capable of stills, and it's a camera. Video related issues should be directed to the video site. Generic camera questions ought to be allowed here I think. If enough people vote to close and migrate I'd happily do so, but I'm happy to leave them here. Crossover between the sites doesn't bother me, I don't see it as a major problem, but happy to be convinced otherwise – MikeW Mar 3 at 9:13
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    And no, generic phone questions wouldn't be on topic, merely because they contain a phone. But any questions about the phone camera hardware, software or usage would be, right? So any question about an iPhone, which is, you know, a camera, ought to be on topic by the same logic. I'm quite possibly in the minority, but I just don't see the problem here – MikeW Mar 3 at 9:14
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I think when dealing with support of a device, the devices primary purpose is the most key thing. If we don't limit it like that, anything on Superuser is on topic on Photography.SE as long as it has to do with a laptop with a webcam that can take a photo.

The ability of a device to shoot a photo does not automatically make it's care and handling on topic for Photo.SE. In the case of a question about a GoPro, which is an action camera primarily designed for video capture and only having very secondary still photo capability, I do not think that a question about it's general support would be on topic here, but rather on Video Production (which covers the primary use case of the device).

If the device is being used in the context of its secondary usage as a still camera, then it would be on topic here, but the device itself isn't what makes it on topic, the action is.

  • "anything on Superuser is on topic .. as long as it has to do with a laptop with a webcam that can take a photo". That's a big stretch. You're equating generic questions about a camera, which is by definition almost all photography-related, to generic questions about a laptop, almost none of which would be photo-related, simply because "it happens to have a webcam" that could take a photo. – MikeW Mar 3 at 9:01
  • Otherwise i generally agree that GoPro questions generally are a better fit on the video site. But I think the standard here is that if it's a question that applies to still and video, the question is on-topic both places. Like transferring files to a computer, or battery questions, and what not. A question about a laptop battery is not photography-related just because the laptop happens to have a webcam. But battery questions on cameras (DSLRs that shoot video, or GoPros that shoot stills) are IMO. – MikeW Mar 3 at 9:05
  • I don't see how a question about connecting a GoPro is any more photo related than networking a laptop. They could be trying to transfer photos since they didn't specify, but the principal purpose of an action camera is shooting video, so that should be the assumption unless otherwise indicated. If someone wanted to setup a share on their laptop to let people see their webcam photos that could be on topic, but if they simply asked about setting up a share on their laptop it wouldn't be. – AJ Henderson Mar 3 at 16:03
  • The problem really comes down to what should be implicitly assumed to be photography related. I know that we shouldn't assume that talking about a pure video camera that happens to have a photo button is photo related. The GoPro is a bit more borderline, but I'd still challenge that given a question about transferring files from a smart phone vs transferring files from a GoPro, the smart phone is more likely to be transferring photos than the GoPro. – AJ Henderson Mar 3 at 16:05
  • Connecting a still or video camera to a computer is certainly on-topic here, we've always allowed those questions: which are about charging the camera battery, transferring files, or remote controlling the camera. Why else would you connect a camera to a computer? Networking a laptop has nothing to do with photography - I don't see how you could suggest the two things are comparable. – MikeW Mar 3 at 18:22
  • And you say "they could be trying to transfer photos since they didn't specify", yet you have now moved the question to video, and answered it by saying "According to page 61 of the Hero7 Black manual, you can transfer files to your computer using USB-c". So even you are assuming that's what they're trying to do :) – MikeW Mar 3 at 18:22
  • @MikeW, that's how you transfer videos as well. I'm assuming they want to transfer videos as that's the principle use of the device. If someone is using a laptop I assume they could be transferring anything, if they are on a video camera, I assume they are trying to transfer videos, and if they are on a still camera I assume they are transferring photos. I'd be quicker to assume someone plugging a smartphone in to their computer is trying to transfer photos than I would a GoPro, because smartphones are a significantly better still camera than a GoPro. GoPros are primarily used for video. – AJ Henderson Mar 3 at 18:48
  • Based on the amount of material out there from GoPros, I'd ballpark that 90% of content produced with GoPros (at least) is video. I don't recall ever seeing them used seriously in the still photography space, where as they are used constantly in the video space. It honestly wouldn't surprise me if it was closer to 95-98% used for video, but I'm trying to be conservative. If you look at reviews, most say yes it can do photos, but not without some serious caveats. In general, someone's smartphone is a better still photo option. It's really not a still camera. – AJ Henderson Mar 3 at 18:58
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    +1 to but the device itself isn't what makes it on topic, the action is – mattdm Mar 3 at 19:24
  • I guess it boils down to this. If they're transferring videos or stills, it doesn't matter. Yes more likely to be videos for sure. But the answer to the question is the same for videos and stills, they're both just files they're trying to transfer. – MikeW Mar 3 at 21:54
  • OTOH, I see your point that if a question was asked here about an iPhone battery, we'd say it's off-topic for sure. GoPro battery? I'd argue it's fine here, it's camera hardware. It's not purely a video question. But it's a primarily video device. So I do see your point. – MikeW Mar 3 at 21:56
  • @mikew yeah, and transferring photos on a laptop over a network is the same as transferring word documents. I guess really my question would be what is a clear dividing line that makes a GoPro (which is not principally a still camera) fit without needing context but makes a laptop not. I haven't seen a clear reason for that difference other than arbitrary closeness to other things we handle, but if that's what we do on the line will continuously drift. – AJ Henderson Mar 3 at 22:03
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I'm not around here for long but.. I'd say it's pretty easy:

What about questions not about photography

Off-topic.

A question like this:

My toaster's camera has these weird artifacts. Do they come from the heat or a glass element, or something else?

Would be perfectly on-topic in my opinion. So I'd say device is irrelevant, as long as the question is about photography. Anything that is only/mostly video related should go to the video SE.


My opinion in a poorly drawn chart:

professional chart

  • What about a question about my toaster/camera battery that I don't know how to use? I need help b/c I'm camping and need to use it to cook (and photograph) breakfast, and there's no store within a hundred miles? – xiota Mar 4 at 19:33
  • @xiota Good point, but then again are questions about batteries in actual cameras even on-topic? Might aswell post it on the electronics SE as it has nothing to do with photography itself. But that concept could be applied to a lot of questions. I've edited my answer to add a poorly drawn chart on how I would personally determine if a Q on photo SE is on-topic or not. – confetti Mar 4 at 19:59
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    +1 for the flow chart. It's basically the same as what I'm saying in my answer but super easy to follow. – AJ Henderson Mar 4 at 20:05
  • I feel like I've seen more than a few battery questions. Definitely lots of data recovery questions. – xiota Mar 4 at 21:14
  • @xiota I'd definitely put data recovery on superuser though, since you won't perform that on the camera. But then again a lot of people, especially new, won't care much anyway, and I feel like when it comes to most parts of the established community and moderators we all agree on what is on-topic and what is not, mostly at least. – confetti Mar 4 at 21:34
  • I appreciate the flowchart but I strenuously disagree with it. Questions about using a device primarily made for photography for something not about photography should be off-topic. "I'm trying to prevent ant infestations — what's the best way to smash them with my Canon 5D?" should not be on topic. – mattdm Mar 5 at 20:27
  • Unless we actually want to do this. (I don't, but it seems like that's the best we can hope for given that the alternative didn't go anywhere.) – mattdm Mar 5 at 20:29
  • @mattdm I'll just ask straight: Are there really that many people this dumb? I'm going through the newest questions section quite a lot and i rarely find questions I'd consider off-topic, and if I do they're mostly just too much on the videography or product recommendation side of things. Those aside, most questions I see are indeed about photography. I get your point though and I've seen the Qs you've linked before as well. See my first comment to my answer on what I've said about that, if you want this site to be strictly about photography itself, there wouldn't be much left though. – confetti Mar 5 at 20:53
  • I also think that questions about gear should be allowed since really this is the best and most fitting SE network for those questions, as long as the gear in question is used for photography. Preferably with some insights from the person asking on what/how they plan on taking pictures. I'd say to just use your common sense. Clearly a question on which L lens is best to take down anthills isn't on-topic and should without further explanations be closed as such, whereas a question about the coating of a lens sounds perfectly fine with me, though it'd technically go on the physics SE I guess. – confetti Mar 5 at 20:55
  • Which ultimately brings me to the question: What is covered within the scope of "Is it about photography?"? And that turns most questions on here into opinion based. Is a question about barrel distortion about photography or physics? The good answers sure would be more likely come from someone with a background in physics or lens design than someone who's just been taking pictures for the past twenty years. Complicated topic. Why do we bother with that at all? All mods I've came across on this site so far seem reasonable, just close questions outside our scope of on-topic using common sense. – confetti Mar 5 at 21:01
  • @confetti We get questions about using cameras as measuring devices all the time. The answer is really "that's a bad idea", but it gets tiresome explaining that over and over. Example: photo.stackexchange.com/questions/105634/… – mattdm Mar 6 at 14:18
  • @mattdm Which SE would you put that question on though? It seems fitting on here to me. – confetti Mar 6 at 17:40
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    There doesn't have to be a SE for everything, and just because there isn't doesn't mean that the closest existing fit is the right place. In fact, I think that's a very bad way to look at things, because it ends up enforcing topic drift once there ends up being a large corpus of camera-as-hammer questions. Instead, people with those non-photographic interests should look at area51.stackexchange.com – mattdm Mar 6 at 17:45
  • Here's another one that just came in photo.stackexchange.com/q/105720/1943 – mattdm Mar 6 at 19:30
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    Yeah, people disagree, because it's the internet. :) I definitely have an agenda here — it's possible for this to be a site about measuring things with camera, and it's possible for this to be a site about making excellent photographs, but I don't think the community of people doing the latter has meaningful overlap with the former, and I want to encourage the latter. – mattdm Mar 6 at 22:28
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I like confetti's opinion on this but my own thought has one less if/then in the flowchart:

Is the question in the pursuit of a photograph for the photograph's sake?

If yes, it's on topic. If no, it's not.

A couple of examples:

  • Help me pick xyz lens? Off Topic: picking gear helps your GAS and this site is about photography.
  • I'm looking to shoot small bugs and only have a 50mm. How can I do this, and if I need other gear, what are the pro's and con's of other options? On Topic
  • I want to use my toaster's camera to document my camp breakfast's for my blog...On Topic
  • I want to use my camera/picture to measure the distance between here and there...I may also secretly be trying to get help on my machine vision homework...Off Topic
  • Does the paper type/ink type really matter and if so, how? On Topic
  • Windows doesn't recognize my new Canon printer :-( Off Topic

Simple enough, right?

So, in direct response to Questions not about photography involving devices whose primary purpose is not photography, but which can be used for photography? ... if the question is in pursuit of a photograph for the photograph's sake - then yes, it's on topic.

Obviously, the installation of a printer will, in the end, help produce the photograph - but it's my belief that the line should be drawn within a stone's throw from the photograph itself such that the question need apply to most photographers and yet not most of the population and should be reasonably answerable by photographers. For example:

  • Apple doesn't recognize my Epson? Off Topic: while this applies to photographers, it also applies to the Apple community at large and is thus not specific enough to the photographic community.
  • How do I use a colorimeter to calibrate my printer? On Topic: Applies to the photographic community (yes, and graphic design, among others) but is not a concern of the printer owning community at large. It is specific enough, of interest enough, and likely to be answerable by a photographer.
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    I agree but I'm open to even broader than this might imply. Does not need to be fine art — decoration, documentation, etc., should also be fine. – mattdm Mar 6 at 16:22
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    The "artistic" part seems too narrow to me. For instance, I don't consider documentary photographs of newsworthy events to be necessarily artistic, but would consider them on topic. – xiota Mar 6 at 23:04
  • I come close to agreeing, but it depends how you apply it. This could potentially mean things like "why is something about my camera or printer not working?" off topic and I think that support related to photographic pursuits applies even if not immediately the objective. A driver issue with the printer probably isn't, but a problem with color on the printer probably is. It's not a bad line, but feel like it can still use some hardening before I can upvote it personally. – AJ Henderson Mar 7 at 3:00
  • Still seems a little loose and possibly a bit too constricted to me. It isn't the end of the world to have questions be applicable to multiple sites if it is likely to be a problem that another photographer encounters. How would this apply for something like trying to figure out how to determine affordable ink options? The line seems like it would still be pretty arbitrary here when I'm thinking about how to make actionable and consistent decisions on it. – AJ Henderson Mar 11 at 17:16
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    @AJHenderson I feel like Justice Potter Stewart attempting to define porn. – Hueco Mar 11 at 17:20
  • @Hueco lol, yeah, it's a lot harder than it seems. – AJ Henderson Mar 11 at 17:21

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