Photographers, Ask The Right Questions

Photographers, Ask The Right Questions

I’m in a few online forums, Facebook groups and the like, and when a great image is posted someone inevitably asks the question “so what lens did you use?” or “what camera is that taken with?”. More often than not this degenerates into a gear discussion of why the Nikkor 85/1.4 is far superior to the Sigma 85/1.4, or vice versa.


The frustration that I feel (outside of the absolutely inane and silly questions and comments being made in what is supposed to be a forum for professional photographers) is this is the completely wrong question to ask. It shouldn’t be about the gear. Hell, if you’re a decent photographer you can figure out the focal length and aperture on your own just by looking at the shot. The question shouldn’t be “what lens did you use” but instead “why did you choose that lighting” or “what was the intent behind the white balance”. Even if you get all artsy-fartsy and David duChemin on them that’s fine, but so often the thing that “makes” a shot has NOTHING to do with the gear, and so much to do with the choices in lighting, processing, posing, subject, and so on.

I think that asking (or answering) the “which lens” question encourages the idea that if I have that lens I can make that picture, when in fact the reason that the image has impact is because of a choice of (most often) lighting.

Not that gear doesn’t matter, and not that a beginner learning how to “read” a photo to see what gear was used isn’t useful (or even being told the exact settings as a way of teaching how they affect an image), but so often the question you should ask is a “why” or a “how” and not a “what”.