Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Some recent posts in the Landscapes forum at NSN have discussed the issue of disclosure of shooting details. There is certainly a range of options for what people actually disclose about shooting. I'm talking here about the technical details, not things like locations. (That could be a separate topic...)

Some people say nothing about how they took the shot. Others seem to dump the entire EXIF meta data from the file into the post. Most fall somewhere into the wide continuum between these extremes. Personally, I'm usually posting from a machine where I don't have access to the EXIF data (which is stripped when I save for the web), so I don't usually have all the details at hand. But even if I did, I probably wouldn't include everything, anyway. I usually know which lens and camera I used, so I'll say that much. If I remember if I used a polarizer, I'll say that, too. (I almost never use any other kind of filter.) I'm not trying to hide anything, but I just don't see the value in posting everything. General exposure information is pretty much useless to anyone--the light is never the same twice, and you can't see what the light really was like in a picture, so knowing the exposure really doesn't do much for anyone.

But, the exposure information consists of three things: ISO, shutter speed, and aperture. There are times when one or more of these might be especially important, so I'll say so. If I'm shooting at a high ISO, it's probably worth saying so. (Really, I shoot almost everything at 100, 200, or 400. I really doubt anyone could tell the difference between these in a web-sized shot.) For landscapes, unless there's flowing water, shutter speed is practically irrelevant. But if there's water, it can have a huge impact on the shot. If I'm trying for a certain effect, requiring an extra long (or short) speed, I'll generally say so. Most of my landscape shots use an aperture of f/8 to f/11. I might use a bit smaller (higher f number) if I want more depth of field (knowing that it's at the expense of a loss of detail to due to diffraction). Or if I'm trying to reduce DOF, I'll go the other way. For birds and animals, though, I'll often shoot with a wider aperture (smaller f number) to get more light and a faster shutter speed to capture any motion. Again, if I'm doing something different than the usual, I'll generally say so.

But in general, I don't think there's much to learn from knowing someone else's settings, so I don't bother to post mine, unless, as I said, I did something different from my normal routine for a specific reason.

On the other hand, I think people who are new to the forums and don't have professional experience in photography, can probably get better critiques from people when they do post their settings. For example, some people shoot at f/22 with a wide angle lens and nothing really near the camera. There's no need for f/22 in that situation (unless you are trying to get a slow shutter speed for some specific reason). But f/22 introduces diffraction (which probably won't be noticeable in a web-sized image, but may reduce detail and sharpness in a larger print), and the longer shutter speed may result in some objects blurring from their motion, or that of the camera (if it's not on a sturdy tripod). Or there could be the opposite problem, where someone has low DOF due to a wide aperture. Knowing the aperture and shutter speed allows people to make comments to help the new shooter improve. Likewise ISO--normally you don't want to shoot with a higher ISO than necessary (as it introduces noise), and I've seen people comment on it.

So including this information can help people give you better critiques, when you're new to getting critiques, or are trying a new area of photography. But outside the "special" situations, I really don't think posting your details will help *other people* take better shots.

I do think posting camera and lens information (including actual focal length for zooms, if it's known) is useful. And I do like to see general locations where pictures were taken. (Avoid the specifics if you want to keep a secret, but something like "Banff National Park" is useful without giving anything away.) And I do try to include this information on my posts.

Now if you're out shooting with someone, sharing information can indeed be helpful, since you're shooting in the same light. But that's different...


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