I imagine a lot of the questions on photo.se are likely to be "how do I achieve this effect (with my camera settings/post-processing)?" questions. That's certainly something I'd like to do.

Such questions would typically include, or link to a visual example - typically someone else's work. Such a question is thus very difficult to summarize into a title without an accompanying image. Thus, I anticipate a bazillion questions entitled: "How do I achieve this effect?"

So, what is the best way to ask such a question? Assume that the person asking the question does not know the name of the effect, if it has one.

Is there scope for including a small thumbnail visible from the list of question titles for StackExchange sites primarily about visual arts and effects?

Are there licensing concerns given that the person posting the picture is very unlikely to have created it? Would including a thumbnail (in the summary) but including a link to the full picture in the question body constitute fair use? (Does this even apply in my country, the UK?)

(N.B. this doesn't even approach the topic of how you'd search for whether someone else has already asked the question...)


2 Answers 2


I liked Sam's take on this -- namely post your attempt to recreate the effect with some text description of what it is, and what you're shooting for.

How do you shoot still motion portraits?

Then others can provide details and explain what you're doing wrong (if anything) and how to do it better.

I think the ethos of "try it first" and "share your results so that we might improve them" is very important to enforce.

  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 for posting your attempt when possible \$\endgroup\$
    – rfusca
    Commented Jan 25, 2011 at 19:53
  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for 'try it first and THEN come ask how it could be improved or made more like the picture that is being emulated.' This'll have two benefits... keep the 'do my homework for me' questions to a minimum, and encourage experimentation (which should always be encouraged in photography)! \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 25, 2011 at 23:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ thanks for your answer. I totally agree with the suggested ethos. However all that does is change the title to "How can I make this picture I took look more like that picture?" - still meaningless if you are scanning the question titles - essentially it doesn't address the fundamental problem that many end results are difficult to describe textually. \$\endgroup\$
    – bacar
    Commented Jan 27, 2011 at 16:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ @bacar obviously a post with just an image and no text is unwanted. I am not sure I agree that describing an effect is so impossible, at any rate, I totally agree people should explain what they are trying to do in words along with the "here's my picture" \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 27, 2011 at 23:17

If you are asking a question about a visual effect in a photograph, in addition to posting a sample image or a link to one, it is very, very helpful if you describe your impression of the effect briefly in the title and in more detail in the question.

Short "what is this?" questions have three problems.

  • First, answerers may not see what you find interesting in the photo, so it's best to be clear about what you're wondering about. Otherwise, you'll get answers talking about other aspects of the photo you may not care about.

  • Second, no one looking for the exact same thing is likely to ever find this in a search, because there's nothing distinct to key off of. There's no way in Google to distinguish one "what's this effect" from another, let alone in Stack Exchange's own rudimentary search engine. If you describe the image, though, people looking for the same thing have a chance.

  • And finally, the flip side of that: people who were looking for some completely other effect may stumble across yours, which doesn't help anyone. A clear description will let them skip over it (or know right away that they should ask a separate question).

I know it's hard to put pictures into words, and sometimes it's hard to even know what to say. The sample images are important as well — but please make an attempt at the text.

  • \$\begingroup\$ (Copied from this separate post, but it works as an answer here too! \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Nov 21, 2015 at 14:51

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