Thom Hogan over at DSLRBodies.com recently published a tongue-in-cheek commentary "Answering the Trolls", making fun of the type of questions that are often posted online. Anyone who has spent any time at all on the internet will know exactly the people he's poking fun at but part of it, specifically the section where people ask for camera settings to use, struck me as maybe a little unfair. Misguided maybe.
There are definitely those online who will ask for all the camera settings the second you post an attractive image. These are the kind of people who don't really have a grasp on the concept that your camera settings are only one factor in getting a quality photo and I get the impression they ask because they don't know what other questions they could or should ask. They're probably the same people who, as Thom alludes, ask what "...the best camera is to get nice clicks". Some of these are probably trolls just aiming to wind people up too. Poking fun gently is as good a way as any to nudge them around to asking the right questions.
However it feels like an entire swathe of photographers are included in that statement too. The newbies, the beginners who ask this question because they don't know what question to ask. The ones who know settings are important but don't know why. The same ones we can't talk to individually to point them in the direction and who want to figure things out themselves.
Speaking from personal experience, I definitely found the ability to tie in certain camera settings to things I could see in the final picture. For example, I had no idea what the difference was between f/2.8 and f/8 when I started, but I knew there WAS a difference. Telling a beginner it changes the depth of field is correct but showing them how it does that is a better way of educating them, especially when they may not be 100% sure what depth of field means. Giving them the ability to see what settings you chose to use for a photograph helps their learning - even if eventually that learning becomes "you can only glean so much from EXIF data" it's the process that's important.
Even now when I've got a pretty good handle on the basics I still find looking at EXIF settings useful - take the case below of the fire breather. I know enough so that I could have a pretty good idea where to start shooting but by looking up details online I was able to begin right away with very useable results and only minor tweaks were needed. It gave me a leg up so I was more productive. Likewise for beginners, while they might not know why f/10 is a decent place to start for a landscape, it gives them something to work with and they can figure it out from there.
So why don't we just post our settings on all of our photos? Surely it's not because we're afraid of a few trolls right? Let me know what you think in the comments!