Read a few photography books, forums, or blogs--this one included--and you will quickly find yourself inundated with well-intentioned advice on how to conduct yourself if you ever hope to be considered a Serious Photographer. You will be told that you must use Canon, Nikon, or Leica equipment. You will be told that you must shoot raw and process the results with Adobe Lightroom and/or Photoshop. You must crop every image in-camera. You must use a tripod if you ever hope to achieve maximum image quality. You should never use a tripod if you ever hope to be spontaneous. You should expose to the right. You should never expose to the right.
I think you get the idea. Not only does such advice tend to be dogmatic, it's often contradictory. This explains another common phenomenon out there in the webosphere: frequent, prolonged, and pointless arguments about who is Right and who is Wrong. Each side trots out their Proofs and Straw Dogs, some of which involve actual photographs, most of which don't.
Do you care whether I shot this with my camera set to JPEG, what light balance I used, or whether this is an accurate representation of the scene before me? Even if you knew, would it make any real difference in how you approach your own photography? Should it?
In many ways these folks approach photography in the same way as training to be a classical musician. There is a certain curriculum you're expected to learn and practice until you become enough of a master to properly interpret the classical repertoire. The classical repertoire for photographers is landscapes, architecture, portraits, nudes, and so on. There is certainly room for self-expression, but the overriding emphasis is on interpreting, revisiting, and impeccable technique, not exploring uncharted territory.
I've been classically trained myself, so I understand and appreciate the value of this approach. That said, I didn't get into photography (or music, for that matter) to mindlessly follow a bunch of rules, no matter how good. I wanted to be able to express myself as I saw fit, as I felt, in the moment. I wanted to be able improvise, reinterpret, and occasionally surprise. So as far as I'm concerned, it's nobody's business whether I use a lens hood, shoot JPEGs, use flash, or believe in Jesus. I reserve the right to do as I please, as long as I'm not hurting anybody.
My friends, I extend the same right to you. Treat any of the information and recommendations I offer here on Shutterfinger no differently than you would the food at a buffet table: Take as much or as little of what appeals to you and leave the rest. If you don't particularly care for something, be polite enough not to disparage it. After all, someone else with different tastes and appetites might find it delightful. And remember that there's a big world out there. You're not obliged to explore it, but don't try to discourage those who do.