As Stack Exchange plans to expand advertising to this site, staff says:

Thanks entirely to the efforts of your community, this site has become an amazing resource on the internet. Generating revenue from non-technology sites will enable us to dedicate more resources to meeting your needs so this is good news.

I asked what exactly this means, and got this response:

We'll know more as we go further down the line on this experiment. However, I'm interested in knowing what suggestions you have in particular!

Okay, so: let's put what we need here.

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    I have some suggestions I'd initially posted as a big list that I'm going to make individual answers here. Please vote on ones you like (or don't), and add your own. – mattdm Jun 9 '19 at 20:20
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    Also: what's a "community of practice"? Read this! – mattdm Jun 10 '19 at 20:25
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    I do think non-technical, art-related question would be good, but I don't like this "community of practice" concept because it means questions about earplugs and shoes are on-topic, but food is off-topic. – xiota Jun 11 '19 at 3:49
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12 Answers 12


Some way to automatically handle "What's this effect?" questions.

So many people come in expecting that an example they like was the result of some digital filter or app. This then requires a tedious process where we try to divine what exact thing they're actually looking to do, and then usually explaining that there's not a magic app for that.

The usual result is that the question asker is unhappy ("ugh, why won't these jerks just answer my question") and the people trying to help are also unfulfilled because the asker runs off and never gives any further feedback.

I don't have a solution, but there's gotta be some better way. At the very least, automatic guidance pointing to the linked meta-question would help.

See also Can we add some way to semi-automatically add a "please DESCRIBE your desired effect" block to _those_ questions?

  • This is a wonderful example of a situation where the community can come up with it's own standards and plans to address these issues. I would encourage you to post this on Meta and have others chime in with ideas. Let's distill some thoughts and create something to address this moving forward. – Juan M Jun 10 '19 at 14:37
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    @JuanM That's kind of a disappointing response. I encourage you to actually read the linked-to question already posted on Meta, and to also dip into other existing discussion about it here. – mattdm Jun 10 '19 at 15:14
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    See also this where it looked like we were going to get some attention and then it vanished. – mattdm Jun 10 '19 at 16:09
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    SO has a guided new question process...can we not get something similar? – OnBreak. Jun 13 '19 at 15:32
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    Suggestion: How about making these types of questions their own specific close reason. The text of the close reason could link to the "what's this effect" meta question, and how to improve the question so it can be re-opened. – scottbb Jun 17 '19 at 16:33
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    @scottbb I think that's a good idea, but as I understand the system now our only possibility for custom close reasons are all under the heading "off-topic". These questions are on topic, just in need of guidance, and I think starting by closing them as off-topic would be confusing. – mattdm Jun 19 '19 at 13:37

I flagged this for a moderator to mark as "featured", and it took over a week for that flag to be reviewed, Soooo one thing we could maybe use is a couple of more active moderators. (I'm not saying the moderators we have are bad. They're just not as active as at some other Stack Exchange sites, and clearly not deeply involved in actively improving things like ... well, the stuff in this question.)

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    I said it before and I'll say it again: what about a junior/assistant mod as a way to get some help but not have to set the bar so high? – OnBreak. Jun 13 '19 at 15:31

Better visibility for the photo contest and better presentation of results. See Is the weekly featured image contest running as desired? from 2015 — it needed work then and nothing has happened. And the resulting image lost significant visibility in the site redesign.

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    My biggest issues with the photo contest are the terms under which anything is submitted here. It's pretty much carte blanche to SE to exploit those images however they wish, now and in the future. I've posted more than a few images here as examples, but I've always been very selective about what I'm willing to use due to the fact that I'm a) allowing SE whatever rights they wish to any images and b) restricting the ability to submit those images to any site where it might be used as stock due to the inability to grant exclusive use to an interested party. Thus only images that are... – Michael C Jun 13 '19 at 7:38
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    ... not possible candidates for use as stock images are the ones I'll use here. But the kind of images that succeed in most photo contests, including the one here at Photo SE, tend to be the type of images that have potential in what little of the stock trade is left. – Michael C Jun 13 '19 at 7:40
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    Michael's point also stands for photo critique. I'm in the same boat - more than happy to upload images, especially as teaching examples for the knowledge base...but I'd like for the copyright clause to change to limit the scope to the image only existing on SE through fair use and I can also go do whatever I like with my image. – OnBreak. Jun 13 '19 at 15:45
  • @MichaelC Since it's CC-BY-SA, it's much, much stronger than giving just SE those permissions. – mattdm Jun 13 '19 at 16:05
  • @mattdm But once it is CC-BY-Sa one can no longer grant exclusive rights to anyone else who may be interested in purchasing such. If stock keeps heading in the direction it has been going for the last few years, it won't in the end. No one wants to pay for images any more. – Michael C Jun 14 '19 at 0:05
  • I think we're agreeing. – mattdm Sep 5 '19 at 11:53

Tooling to help do more general photo critique rather than focusing on specific technical problems. Possibly even a separate sub-site just for this. See Counter-Proposal: Leave contest on meta. Add critiques to main site (Note that nothing came of this.)


If we don't use the contest to attract photograph-focused questions, we need some other way to attract subjective photo-critique questions and high-quality answers.

  • I'd like to see the community gather opinions and ideas around this. Members here know others who are not members yet that can influence and bring this kind of discussion and Q&A to the site. We need to encourage more networking amongst the community. – Juan M Jun 10 '19 at 14:35
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    I'd like to see that too, but ... we literally have been talking about this for years: 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2017, 2018 — and I'm sure there are more! – mattdm Jun 10 '19 at 16:07
  • So.... @JuanM... any responses to any of this, two months later? – mattdm Aug 7 '19 at 20:22
  • Thanks for the nudge! I'll be revisiting your suggestions very soon. I've been pulled away on various projects but I've not walked away from this. – Juan M Aug 8 '19 at 21:12
  • @JuanM Thank you. Looking forward to it. – mattdm Aug 8 '19 at 21:13
  • @JuanM Any update? – mattdm Sep 5 '19 at 11:54
  • No, not yet. Updates to come soon. – Juan M Sep 5 '19 at 15:07
  • @JuanM Thanks. Looking forward to it. – mattdm Sep 5 '19 at 15:17
  • @JuanM please see photo.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/6991/… – mattdm Nov 4 '19 at 18:44

Some better handling (and possibly automatic migration for) programming and computer vision and measurement questions which use cameras but are not about photography.

This is a constant struggle precisely because of Stack Exchange's engineering bias, and then we get people coming in angry that we're not receptive to those questions. We should both a) make this line more clear and b) have a better place to send them.

See Request: Change "using photographic equipment" to "using photographic equipment (in the context of photography)" for more links and background detail.

  • Recent example where everyone's time was basically just wasted: photo.stackexchange.com/questions/108831/… – mattdm Jun 10 '19 at 16:22
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    Most of these questions come from new users, so an SO style guided new question process may also work for this. – OnBreak. Jun 13 '19 at 15:37

A more visuals-forward front page — could we have thumbnails of images next to questions, for example?

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    I'd like to see a sort-by for q's with images. I prefer to answer these over hypothetical q's that straddle a close-as-unclear line. – OnBreak. Jun 13 '19 at 15:42

Possibly a sub-site for "what camera should I buy" and "what lens should I get next" questions. These are objectively "bad" questions for the site (opinion based, time sensitive, and invite brand flamewars), but they're also a key funnel for new users on most camera forums, and despite "Q&A is hard — let's go shopping", it seems like a natural fit for a Q&A format — leading to many potential new members with a very bad initial impression.

I suggest a sub-site because a tag isn't a strong enough separation and such questions could easily overwhelm everything we have.

  • We definitely need to have an area where these topics can be discussed freely. This is something we're looking at addressing very soon. – Juan M Jun 10 '19 at 14:33
  • A possible solution would be to make some questions intentionally transient so that they vanish after a set period of time (effectively deleted). – xiota Jun 11 '19 at 3:52
  • Can we have certain tags not show on the main page but limited to tag specific searches? Can they die after a time? Seems we could have a "what to buy" in 2018 where every other what to buy would close out and, in 2019, the old would die off and the new would take it's place...? – OnBreak. Jun 13 '19 at 15:38

Some site-specific badges that encourage photography-community behaviors? Posting images comes to mind as obvious. Also maybe badges could be given for the contest in some way.


I want to really nurture and baby re-creation questions: lighting, post pro, I don't really care. We all see inspiration and sometimes people come here and ask how to get the same "look."

Well, let's stop closing those questions in two seconds flat and use them for the reverse engineering gold that they are.

  • I'm in favor, but I really want them to have descriptive titles so I can find them again later. – mattdm Dec 16 '19 at 19:31
  • @mattdm I agree with you. Where I think we part ways is that I am perfectly fine using someone's question as an opportunity. Say they really only want to reproduce the noise/grain structure but the opportunity is there for lighting as well...then let's definitely talk about noise...but I see no reason to be so hyper focused. – OnBreak. Dec 16 '19 at 19:35
  • I guess I could be fine with that too, but I want something where if someone later posts a question where the previous answers would be helpful, we can easily find and link to them. That is, I'd like to continue building a knowledge base. It shouldn't just be a discussion forum where each question is its own universe. Those already exist elsewhere. – mattdm Dec 16 '19 at 19:41
  • @mattdm agreed! – OnBreak. Dec 16 '19 at 19:45
  • Sorry for the edit, but it took me 4 reads until I understood you weren't asking about toddler activities. ;-) – scottbb Dec 19 '19 at 1:01
  • @scottbb oh no worries. That was definitely my bad but you gave me quite the chuckle. Whooooops. – OnBreak. Dec 19 '19 at 1:09
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    no, there's no bad on your part. It was a syntactically and semantically correct sentence. I just had to make it slightly less correct for those of us who couldn't stop putting the emPHAsis on the wrong sylLABle. =) – scottbb Dec 19 '19 at 1:16

Change the badge icons to something site-specific (see this that's just been sitting here with no designer attention at all) Let's change the Photo-SE badge icons to something specific to photography!

  • I really like this and in my ideal world, we'd have it already in place. Right now the overall direction for the network is to limit customization as it creates a backlog of work that we are not currently prepared to handle. – Juan M Jun 10 '19 at 14:31
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    Only if gold badges are chosen from early lens/camera designs (Sutton pano, anyone?) – OnBreak. Jun 13 '19 at 15:34

How about enabling MathJax here at Photo-SE, so that posts with formulas can be well-formatted, and look more polished?

Compare a typical Q&A over at Math or Physics, with cleanly formatted equations, to the odd post here that focuses on things like the thin lens formula, or DoF equations. Form and function should go hand-in-hand, and cleanly-formatted equations can help make an answer easier to read and understand, and make the math-minded community of practice here look slightly more intelligent. =)

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