This answer points out that currently we are more of a "camera club" rather than a "photography club" - in that the questions so far are more orientated towards equipment and technical aspects rather than the artistic aspects.

So how do we change that? Do we need to ask questions about the artistic aspects to attract them in? Or do we need to attract them here and answer their arty questions? Or do we need to attract them here with their 'camera' questions and then push the artistic side? It's a little bit of a chicken and egg situation ...

I don't have any answers myself, but I'm hoping others might do.

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Couldn't help thinking of this WTD strip: whattheduck.net/strip/184-sunday –  Guffa Aug 8 '10 at 16:17
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4 Answers

Q&A format explicitly discourages asking questions that are subjective, argumentative, or require extended discussion. I am afraid that it very difficult to find "one right answer" for topics which deal with artistic aspects, as those as inherently subjective and almost impossible to discuss unless we want to get into "Please critique this photo".

I guess the best we can hope for is more focus on photographic techniques and communication (like the street photography or midday light questions) instead of purely technical stuff such as memory cards. On the other hand, we also should be serving people who have questions about memory cards and I believe they are well within scope of this site.

So I'd say we should be nice to people who bring photographic questions, and encourage everyone who has a good "photography" question to bring it forward :-)

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I would say we have PLENTY of subjective questions about camera gear so far: canon vs. nikon, film vs. digital, picasa vs. lightroom, etc. etc. We haven't discouraged them much. I think photography is a relatively subjective domain, and so far, this community has been great in keeping their answers to such subjective questions level-headed and enlightening. I don't see why questions about artistic form would really be any different... I also don't think that "please critique this photo" is what we need...more along the lines of "How to I improve my Portrait photography" or "Developing Vision" –  jrista Aug 8 '10 at 19:52
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I think it would help if we would respond more positively to questions like this one What photographer took this mid 20th-century color photograph?, treating it as a question about our field, not a technical image-recognition problem.

It would help if people would have an interest in answering questions like What was the "New York School" of photography? This is a chicken-and-egg problem — but let's start by getting some nice eggs and see if chickens show up. Or the other way around.

And finally, yeah, I do think that questions like Which DSLR camera can I go for? steer the site in the camera-club direction and should be minimized.

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That 'what photographer took...' style questions are 'on topic' and in 'our field' for sure. I just don't think they increase the value on the site and they're too localized, IMO. But thats just my opinion and I'm the only one that voted for that reason, so thats why we have a voting system. I believe it would be difficult (even with the text description) for somebody to actually find that question useful in the future. I don't have strong feelings particularly one way or the other - unless we start getting fooded with those trivia style questions. –  rfusca Aug 24 '11 at 13:40
    
The New York School question may simply not be answerable by our current crowd. A level of google research doesn't reveal a lot, which means if somebody doesn't have a base to start from there - they may not be able to adequately answer it. I certainly couldn't. –  rfusca Aug 24 '11 at 13:42
    
We've beat the personalized camera recommendations issue to death - meta.photo.stackexchange.com/questions/1037/… and meta.photo.stackexchange.com/questions/1146/… . –  rfusca Aug 24 '11 at 13:50
    
@rfusca: clearly we haven't beaten it to death, because here we go again. :) –  mattdm Aug 24 '11 at 13:59
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I agree with @rfusca that we might just not be there yet, in terms of expert user base. Even in this day and age, the internet still self-selects for a certain level of technical knowledge and background. And the stack exchange network brings us a lot more CS degrees than Bachelors of Fine Arts. As long as Google continues to send new users our way, the zombie horse of camera recommendations will keep returning to nibble at our brains. All we can do is remain vigilant and give good answers to what art questions we are able. –  Sean Aug 24 '11 at 18:18
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This is what I mean by the "chicken and egg" issue. Bludgeoning zombie horses is one thing, but maybe we can also work on the fine arts side in a positive way, too. –  mattdm Aug 24 '11 at 18:22
    
Oh, I agree there - I'd love to see us attract the fine arts questions and fine arts people to the site. Maybe we should brainstorm particularly how to address that? –  rfusca Aug 24 '11 at 18:57
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While I agree we "may not just be there yet", I whole heartedly agree with mattdm here. I think the kinds of responses we give questions like the 20th century photo question will lay the groundwork for what kind of site we become. I think the answer to that question could have been better, and better worded, to be more welcoming of the asker. We'll never be much more than a camera club if we don't welcome more expansive photographic questions, even if they are unanswerable as we are in our current form. –  jrista Aug 29 '11 at 6:32
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The main problem is that many computer users (which of course means everyone using SE, and most of them will come here from other SE sites, most of which are heavily computer oriented) are gearheads and will thus talk at length about gear, the relative benefits of tiny differences in technology, etc. etc. (see the discussions about which version of a specific model lens is the best at what as prime examples, not necessarilly here but at many forums).
The only way to alleviate that is to find higher exposure outside of the SE community. Advertise the site in purely photography related communities (but when online especially, that'll still draw in gearheads).

And if we compare the questions/answers here with those in your average photography magazine, I think you'll find the same thing there. The most popular articles are the gear reviews, most letters to the editor are in response to those, most if all advertising is for gear (of course often the reviews are little more than advertorials for products advertised in the rest of the magazine).
Maybe what might help is an active partnership with sites like Flickr, which are more result oriented (people showing their work) than process oriented ("what do I need to replicate the looks of this picture"). Having people walk around with the new T-shirts among fellow photographers might help as well (maybe create a little printable flyer as well, leave them on tables at the bars when visiting trade events, stealth advertising).

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I think genuine artistic discussion will be difficult as long as the site requires people who ask a question to accept a single answer. Perhaps an option could be added that allows people asking questions to indicate that they want as many different insights as possible, and that none of them will be marked as accepted (and thus the site won't even show the tick mark to accept an answer). Answers would then purely be sorted by the number of votes, without an accepted answer floating on top because one person (the asker) preferred it.

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