I recently saw the question How many photos should I take If I'm given a camera to take a picture?, which asked a general question about how many photos to take if given a camera.

However, I saw that none of the answers addressed the case where the camera in question was a traditional film camera, rather than a digital camera or smartphone. In particular, most of the answers suggest taking multiple pictures, which is very much feasible on a digital camera, but not feasible and potentially inappropriate with a film camera (tl;dr each exposure used has a direct cost to the camera owner).

So I asked a similar question, How can I find out how many photos I should take If I'm given a film camera to take a picture?, which asked a similar question, but explicitly specifying that it's a film camera, and also slightly changing the question so it's more goal-oriented and less subjective (rather than asking "how many photos to take", I instead asked "how do I find out how many photos I should take"). I also took care to explain why it's not addressed by the earlier question. Despite that, it wasn't received positively and attracted close votes as a "what should I do" question, which this is not.

Why was my question negatively received and close-voted, while the other question was positively received and was never close-voted despite having a slightly more subjective question? What can I do to improve my question?

  • 1
    I am tempted to close vote it to see who voted to close it. I'll vote to reopen later. There! virolino, OldPadawan, baldPrussian, scohe001, ankii With 2 WSID format, three primarily opinion based, including mine. Also, I did comment about it staying open on the main question, and voted up too. :) interpersonal.stackexchange.com/review/close/18531
    – anki
    Commented Oct 28, 2019 at 13:27
  • 7
    @ankii close voting to see who voted to close is the wrong reason to close vote. If you don't think it should be closed, you shouldn't vote that way
    – Rainbacon
    Commented Oct 28, 2019 at 13:40
  • 1
    @Rainbacon Let's just say I changed my mind.. multiple times. I'd even like to see the DVoters, but that is sadly anonymous.
    – anki
    Commented Oct 28, 2019 at 13:48
  • chat.stackexchange.com/transcript/message/52327162#52327162 In case someone wants to see my side. :) The summary of which is simply disagreement.
    – anki
    Commented Oct 28, 2019 at 16:24
  • 1
    @Rainbacon In my opinion, if there are four close votes and it's inevitable that someone will cast a fifth, waiting for that fifth vote and then voting to reopen will take a long time and drag things out. Much better to just cast that fifth vote and then immediately vote to reopen to expedite the whole process.
    – gparyani
    Commented Oct 28, 2019 at 18:25
  • 1
    @ankii I've improved the question. As you said, could you please make your vote?
    – gparyani
    Commented Oct 28, 2019 at 18:25

3 Answers 3


The similar question was about etiquette and could be answered without a frame challenge. Your question added constraints which made it essentially impossible to answer, and did not support them very thoroughly.

As others have posted here, I can't read the minds of downvoters and close-voters. I myself did not vote on either question, though I did try to answer yours. Here is my interpretation of each question:

How many photos should I take? is, perhaps, not an exemplary question. But there are avenues by which it could be answered: etiquette in setting X suggests a polite behavior would be Y. People can dispute what advice is useful, and to what degree, but there exists a space in which an answer to the question-as-written could exist.

How can I find out how many photos to take when only a limited number of photos are possible, and also I won't ask the owner of the camera anything about it? is a little bit different. It has a similar scenario and a unique constraint (the limited amount of film), but:

  • Asking how can I find out how many photos to take removes the general etiquette portion of the question. It's no longer about what might be polite in a given setting, but about getting specific information on a subjective preference from a totally unknown, generic person. So already possibly valid answers will differ between the two, but in your question solving the problem requires information we do not and cannot have
  • The standard way to find out about a specific person's preferences is to ask that person. Other possibilities exist, of course, but relatively few of those (among those which occur to me, at least) are available when interacting with a stranger you've never seen before and will likely never see again, when the information is required immediately in order to resolve your issue. Refusing to ask, while definitely a possible facet to the problem from an IPS perspective, removes what may be the only possible method of solving the problem as outlined in the question. That is not a good sign for a question.
  • You can get around the I don't want to or can't use the direct option issue if there is a compelling reason why that option isn't good for you. We have many examples of that across IPS.SE. I'm not sure that the current explanation for refusing the direct option is compelling. It currently reads as I don't want to, because it's not impossible that someone would read a ton of implication into it. I mean, I suppose that's true, but it would also be true of any method of communicating any information of any kind in any manner. Removing communication with the other person as an option seems to remove any possibility of getting the information you want.
  • Because the aversion to asking defines the central problem in the question, it may be read as though the problem at issue is an intra-personal one, rather than inter-personal. People seem to respond strongly to that in questions here.

So that's my take. In summary:

The question seems to rule out any possibility of a valid answer due to seemingly arbitrary constraints, and those constraints appear to be intrapersonal in nature.

A "better" question, in my opinion, would be one which returns the focus to general etiquette (which would preclude the need to ask questions of a specific person), one which better displays why the direct solution (simply asking) is so important to avoid when there don't seem to be any logically valid alternatives, or one which acknowledges that asking may be necessary and seeks information on how to do that gracefully.

  • I'm fully behind this answer. I took a look at that question and while I didn't have the privilege to VTC at that time, I seriously considered flagging because I really didn't see why you can't ask the person how many pictures you're allowed to take when handed a film camera - that's how we did things back when digital cameras were new and almost nobody had them. Giving an answer that's not "go ask the person" or "use a crystal ball" was impossible. Commented Nov 4, 2019 at 10:30

Firstly, I want to make it clear that unless we asked all of the people who voted on both of them, we simply have no way of knowing what they were actually thinking about these questions. That being said, here's my interpretation of the two...

Why did the first question work?

@Rainbacon in chat made a great point about the first question, saying:

It's not a great question, but I think it might be rooted in etiquette enough to be on topic

This to me is the crux of it. I've definitely been asked to take a photo on a smartphone for people on multiple occasions in the last few months alone. Etiquette questions need to be based around situations that are common enough for an etiquette to have formed. I'd say that this is definitely that kind of situation.

Pair that with the fact that this is a situation other people on the network see often in their lives and--poof--you've got yourself a HNQ question to get a bunch more (up)votes.

Where did yours go wrong?

Now if you asked me about the last time I was asked to take a picture on film for a stranger...you'd probably see me scratching my head and shrugging my shoulders. I'm pretty sure that's never happened to me. In fact, I don't think I've ever heard of that happening to anyone I know. Rather, the type of people who own film cameras are usually the type who wouldn't let anyone touch them (in my experience).

So your question can't really use the same "etiquette" argument for being on-topic. And since this isn't etiquette (read: something that asking about would be a faux pas), you haven't really told us why you think you can't just ask. So you've got a "how can I do this?" question, and you haven't really told us why the obvious straightforward solution won't work...this looks like Primarily Opinion Based or "What should I do?" to me.

So to sum up, this is not a great question because you're either:

  1. Asking an etiquette question about something that's not common enough to have an etiquette established. Or...
  2. Giving us a situation and desired outcome without enough information to distinguish between a good and bad answer (making it "What should I do?"/Opinion Based).

As it's phrased now (and with the current tags), I think you're seeing the ill effects of both of these.

I'd strongly suggest either making a case for why you think this is an etiquette question. Or removing the etiquette tag entirely and explaining why you don't think you can just ask the person how many photos they want you to take. (Note that the latter mirrors a comment you've already gotten).

  • As I asked, what can I do to improve the question?
    – gparyani
    Commented Oct 28, 2019 at 6:28
  • I've added an extra paragraph at the end for advice @gpar. Essentially either make it clear you're asking an etiquette question, or drop all pretenses of an etiquette question and make this stand alone as a regular question.
    – scohe001
    Commented Oct 28, 2019 at 11:47
  • The question, as written, already contains an explanation as to why asking the stranger directly is not what I prefer. So in essence all that is needed is the tag removal. Is that correct, or is there something else I should add (for option 2)?
    – gparyani
    Commented Oct 28, 2019 at 18:01
  • Your argument for why it "seems rather unnatural" to just ask is because that's what the other question says. But the other question has good reason to say that, since it's about etiquette--which is notoriously unnatural to ask about in the moment. Your question, however, is not about etiquette (as this is a situation you could plausibly be in rarely enough to need to ask about). So I don't think that's really a good explanation @gpar
    – scohe001
    Commented Oct 28, 2019 at 18:09
  • Nope, in the last paragraph of my question, there is a fuller explanation of why it's unnatural, other than "the other question says so".
    – gparyani
    Commented Oct 28, 2019 at 18:11
  • To me, that looks like you expanding on the other questions' reasoning. If that's your reasoning, then I guess it's a valid question. But as I see that as pretty poor reasoning, I'd still consider it not a great question. That's really you making a case for why you need to ask this question. And (to me), it doesn't seem like a very strong one. (also I'm sorry if this seems a little harsh. I want to reassure you that I'm not attacking you here. You definitely have some awesome contributions. I just feel like this is where this question is lacking)
    – scohe001
    Commented Oct 28, 2019 at 18:13
  • I've edited my question in order to improve the explanation as to why asking them directly isn't what I want to do: not only to make it clear that it's not just expanding upon the original question's reasoning, but also to bolster it.
    – gparyani
    Commented Oct 28, 2019 at 18:22
  • the type of people who own film cameras are usually the type who wouldn't let anyone touch them I am so old, we handed out our film cameras as if it was nothing but would never let anyone touch our phones. Commented Oct 31, 2019 at 14:19

Note: I voted on neither of these questions. I didn't find the first one very good/interesting and I thought the second one (yours) would mostly be the same (I must say, I didn't even notice the difference that made it a "how to determine" instead of a "what should I do").

So, this post is mostly going to be speculation on why people voted the way they did.

First of, someone once told me that, on the SE network, it was okay/good etiquette to downvote a question if you find it not useful/useless.

Given that your question is about a type of camera that is mostly no longer used, I would completely understand people downvoting it because it will likely never be useful to anyone (at least, to their eyes).

Another factor that might have come into play, is human emotions. People might have perceived your question as a way to "take advantage" of the other question and gain easy reputation. So they might have decided that they should "punish you" for that by downvoting (I must say, when I saw this second questions about cameras, I was annoyed too. But it was mostly because I already found the first one uninteresting).

This could, maybe possibly, also explain the close-votes too.

However, since I do not know who decided to vote to close and what reason they choose for it, this is purely speculation.

However, I believe you have the right to know that no one in the review queue voted to close (which may or may not be an indication of anything).


I could understand the downvotes. But I do not understand the close votes, especially the close vote difference between the two questions.

  • Oh now we see who voted to close it and I explained mine in this question's comments.
    – anki
    Commented Oct 28, 2019 at 13:30

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