When you’re first starting out in the industry, you have a million and two questions racing through your mind. This is great because it shows that you’re interested and looking to learn more! Most teachers will probably tell you that there are no stupid questions. In most cases, this is true — although — there are a number of reasons why certain questions should be avoided.
What Camera Did You Use?
This first question is one that is quite commonly asked by photographers that are starting out in the industry. The main reason people tend to ask this question is because there’s an assumption that the camera is what produces the quality of an image. This is obviously not the case and it’s rather an insulting question too, because it assumes the camera did all of the work. I’ve heard fellow professionals say something similar about people who shoot with medium format cameras:
“Of course his images are good, he shoots with a Hasselblad”
The other reason why a question like this should be avoided is that it’s pretty much pointless. The quality of a piece of work is generally defined by three factors — composition, lighting, and use of color. The type of camera used makes very little to no difference. A good photographer can produce great results, regardless of what camera he or she uses.
Many professionals don’t choose cameras based on how good the image quality is. More than likely, photographers tend to pick their system based on usability, ergonomics, how comfortable they are with a particular camera or sometimes, it’s just because they like a particular brand. Image quality is rarely the be all and end all of why a specific system is picked. At the end of the day, most cameras currently on the market perform at a similar level.
What Settings Did You Use?
This one is debatable because there are certain situations where asking about camera settings can be helpful. For example, if someone is shooting Astrophotography, or fireworks, or the northern lights, then understanding what settings they used can be useful. When it comes to architecture, it’s a pretty moot question.
Why is this question pointless. The primary reason is that the chances of you shooting exactly the same place with exactly the same kind of available light, is extremely unlikely. Not to mention, it’s possible to get the same exposure via a number of different ways. Camera settings like aperture, shutter speed and ISO can be interchangeable to some degree. To add to that, if like many architectural photographers, multiple layers were used to create the image, then the settings of one layer makes little difference in understanding how the image was produced.
Why These Are Bad Questions
The main reason as to why these are bad questions is because they divert from what is actually important and useful. If you’re looking to be a better photographer then these questions off little to no value to you. They’re just quick questions you can ask to satisfy pointless curiosities. Instead, it would be better if you asked questions around the process behind the image. What was the photographer thinking in that particular situation, why did they decide on x instead of y?
Trying to understand the composition of an image would be a better use of time. If you are going to ask questions then maybe you should ask about why a certain composition was selected, or why a certain element was left in or out of the frame.
Questions that focus on composition, lighting, and use of color tend to be far more effective when it comes to learning about photography. If you’re still a beginner, then almost all gear-related questions are probably pointless.
Lead image used with permission from Anete Lusina