Today’s question is from Liam who asks:
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Why do people on the internet list their camera settings when they post a photo? e.g F5.6 ISO 1600 6 minutes exposure
It seems that the settings are only specific to them and it doesn’t take into account post processing. I know this for a fact as I took an astro photography photo in a very similar location and the settings were way off. My version of the photo came out very over exposed.
We discuss the topics –
- It was a way for new photographers to learn.
- Getting out of auto who don’t understand the basics, a Starting point or a shortcut. It doesn’t help to list camera settings. The conditions in the photo is never the same. Everyone exposures their photos differently. Your vision is different from the next persons
- It would be better to learn the basics of photography e.g. shutter speed, aperture, ISO and use that as a starting point.Post processing is not always mentioned, so sometimes settings don’t reflect the end result.
- It can be helpful If: Straight out of the camera settings (SOOC) for comparison E.g new version v old lens review.
It’s a way for new photographers to learn
Hey, Liam, thanks for your question. Why do people post the settings online? Quite simply, it was a way for people, and it still is, as a good starting point to help them learn about camera settings. If you want to get out of auto mode, you’ve got three settings you’ve gotta play with, which ones do you change and what should they be?
Is it useful? I really don’t think so, and you’ve hit the nail on the head there, Liam. It is specific to the person that’s taking the photograph, because even being in the same spot, as you’ve pointed out, got you different results. Things like the conditions that you’re taking the photo in have massive, massive influence of how your photo is.
It could have been very dark. It could have been other objects within the photo that were reflecting light and made everything over-exposed. It could’ve been anything really. The lens that you’re using could allow more light, or the sensor was more sensitive than the camera that was being used by the other person. There’s a lot of room for error there, just by letting people know your camera settings.
I know that some people do list the type of camera, and then the lens, and some people have even said they’ve post-processed the photo. I think some of that is just to let people know what they’ve done to the photo. It’s not always about, “Hey, this is the settings to use to get the same result,” because you’ve also pointed out that some people don’t even point out how much post-processing they’ve done to a photo, so therefore we kind of get this idea that as we see the photo, it’s straight out of the camera. I know some people list that, but it’s not always the case.
Why do people do it? It’s been going for ages. I know when I first started digital photography in 2004, forums were a big thing back there, and that’s what people did. They’d post the photo and the first reply would be, if they didn’t post the settings, they’d say, “What were your settings?” It was just a way for people to learn. But I agree with you completely there, Liam, it’s specific to the person and you don’t always get told the information that you should know, especially how much post-processing was done.
It would be better to learn the basics of photography
We could probably learn photography in another way that would help us. Now, I know that for new photographers, to learn the three most important things when we’re taking a photo, aperture and f-stop … Sorry, they’re two of the same things. F-stop and ISO and shutter speed. They’ve gotta just go ahead and try and take photos, and make mistakes, and learn from that, but they also have to know why they’re using those settings.
By using, say, 2.8, how much of the photo am I gonna get in focus by using that setting, as opposed to, say, F11? That’s what I think us photographers need to do is to previsualize our photos, and that would probably get better results, rather than just copying people’s settings.
The whole point of post-processing, too, as you pointed out here, Liam, your photo came out over-exposed, you don’t know the fact that that guy … or person, I should say … had done maybe multiple exposures, and he blended them together, or they exposed for one part of the scene and had to really work the other part to get it to look the way it did.
I’ve often gone out and photographed with friends and we’ve been quite close to each other, and we still get very, very different-looking photos because of the processing we’ve done to the photos and the way how we originally had composed the photo, and the initial exposure of the elements within the photo and what we decided to maybe bring a little bit of detail in, and so on and so forth.
This whole thing of putting settings online, I have also seen, and I’ve noticed well-known photographers do a lot of this, as well, they list their settings. I think it’s one way of basically just subliminal advertising, I guess. I don’t know.
I was looking on Instagram the other day and there was a guy that used the new Nikon D5 and listed the lens and the setting. He doesn’t have to list that, does he? He hasn’t done that before, but it’s only in the past year. Has he just recently been sponsored? Who knows?
I don’t think that really helps anyone, because I know for a fact that this person, he shows how he edits his photos. What they start with and what they look like in the end are very different. He brings out a lot of the detail, and those camera settings that he puts up are not really relevant.
It can be helpful to compare equipment
I do think, though, that if you are putting settings up online it’s good when you do a comparison, so you’re doing a straight out of camera comparison. It could be of a photo that’s with a new lens.
Let’s use an example of you’re testing a new lens, an older version and a newer version, and people are doing a review. You’ve got them side by side on a tripod, same settings, same conditions.
You’re taking a photo and you’re really looking at things like is it a big more contrastly, or is it distort towards the edges?
Things like that. You kinda get the idea, “Okay, well, if they’re shooting at, say, F11 and there’s distortion or something,” you think to yourself, “Okay, well … ” and they show all the different F-stops that they’re shooting at, then you can get an idea of how the lens is gonna perform and if you were to purchase it, then you know that that’s the type of stuff you may want to edit or work on, when you’re post-processing.
That’s just my thinking when it comes to that, because that’s the only time I can actually think that settings would be of use.
If anybody listening to this podcast has any other uses for putting the settings online, please post your answers in the comments. I’d love to hear. It’d be great to start the conversation.
Thanks, Liam, for your question. You pretty much hit the nail on the head. It’s really specific to the person and it doesn’t always take into account post-processing, so really, it’s no use to anyone. Thanks for your question, Liam. I hope that helps.