The Most Important Question For Photographers To Ask

I wanted to take a moment to share with you an article that I saw on It’s about a topic that’s been discussed many, many times for year over. It’s about why asking what camera settings were used is not as helpful as you think. “Can you tell me what settings you used to take that picture? I think it’s so cool.”

Watch the VIDEO…

Well, here’s the problem. I can tell you the shutter speed, I can tell you the aperture, I can tell you the ISO, I can tell you what lens, I can tell you all those things. I can even tell you if I was using strobe that I had them set at full power, half power or quarter power. None of that is really going to help you replicate what I did. That’s because there are so many other factors that come into play, and those factors are not part of the question that you’re asking.

Things like, how far were the lights from the subject? How far was I from the subject? How much depth of field was involved? What went into planning the shoot? Did the shoot require a special skill set from the subject? This list can go on, and on, and on, and on. Ask about the whys. Why were the decisions made?

Knowing the shutter speed, and the aperture and the ISO doesn’t really help you. Understanding why the photographer made those decisions to choose that shutter speed, or to choose the ISO, that’s the information that is going to help you elevate your decision-making process and take your photography to the next level.

Asking those questions without trying to answer them yourself, honestly guys, it’s lazy. Photography is a problem-solving craft. When you want to make a picture, essentially what you’ve got to do is you’ve got to solve a problem. How to make that picture look like what you were imagining in your mind. If you’re simply asking somebody to give you the whole roadmap so that you don’t have to think, you’re not really learning.

One of the things that you should do before you start asking questions about how a shot was done, is pause for a second. Look at the image. Study it. Ask yourself: why do you like that image? Why does it resonate with you? Then, start to answer some of your own questions. What kind of camera angle was used? Was it likely a fast shutter speed, or a slow shutter speed? Was it likely a very wide aperture, or a very small aperture?

You’ll be amazed how much you can tell about the technical aspects of an image by simply by looking at it. By going through this process, really what you’re doing is you’re training your eye. You’re training your thought process to evaluate these things. Believe me, this is a skill set that will help you tremendously when you’re holding a camera in your hand and thinking through your set-up for your shots.

Keeping these tips in mind will be sure to turn your next shot into your best shot. In the meantime, gang, keep thinking, keep learning, and keep shooting. Adios!

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Joe Edelman

Joe Edelman is an award winning Olympus Visionary Photographer, Photo Educator and the host of The TOGCHAT Photography Podcast and The LAST FRAME LIVE, both of which are listened to or viewed by photographers in over 100 countries.   Click Here to learn more about Joe and view his portfolio.
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