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Welcome to Episode Number 4 of Photofocus. The show devoted to your photography questions about anything photography related including gear, technique, locations, etc. Your questions will shape the direction of this show so be sure to send your questions to [email protected]. You can also send your questions via Twitter to either Scott or Rick. Use the hashtag #photoqa to make sure that we can find them. We will try to answer as many as we can but we get a lot of questions so we’ll try to take a collection of questions that represent a particular topic and present them together.
Before we get into this week’s show we wanted to do a quick clarification from a question we answered on Episode 1 regarding shooting 14-bit vs 12-bit on a Nikon D300. We both said there wasn’t too much of a penalty shooting 14-bit all the time but it was pointed out that shooting in 14-bit drops your FPS down to 2.5 fps. For some people if you’re doing sports or wildlife photography that might be too slow.
Kicking it off this week is a question about Aperture vs. Photoshop.
Question One – Aperture or Photoshop
Our first question comes from spindoc22 on Twitter who asks “In the new digital darkroom which is better – Aperture or Photoshop?”
Rick: I just taught a workshop and I was using Photoshop. I’ve been using Photoshop the longest so for me it’s easier to use. Photoshop was designed for graphic artists whereas programs like Lightroom and Aperture were designed for photographers so for things like organizing and filing your images they are great programs.
Scott: Aperture or Photoshop doesn’t really make sense since they do two different things. Photoshop is really a pixel editor and Aperture is a photo organizer and editor. You can do basic edits with Aperture but if you need to do serious retouching you’ll need Photoshop. A question like Aperture or Lightroom makes more sense to me.
Question Two – White Balance
Nickfranklin on Twitter would like to know what is fair game when it comes to setting White Balance – set it for accuracy or for artistic impression?
Rick: If I were an advertising photographer I would want to set it for custom white balance to get accuracy. However I’m a travel photographer so I’m interested in a pleasing image so I will set the white balance to achieve a pleasing image.
Scott: I like to use white balance creatively but less than 5% of the time. For example I use it to get a nice blue color when you have an ugly sky. Anything is fair game unless I was a newspaper photographer charged with capturing the truth. Keep in mind that if you shoot in RAW you can always change it in post if you decide to change your mind.
Question Three – Canon ETTL and Flash Exposure Lock
Our next question comes in via email ([email protected]) from Kevin Graham who asks “With ETTL technology on Canon cameras, how do the different shooting modes affect everything (e.g. Av, Tv, P) and what does flash exposure lock do?”
Rick: Whether you’re in Av, Tv, or P, the ETTL works the same. What the focus lock does is lock the focus on the subject then the flash exposure is locked to that. However, say you lock focus on a bride in a white dress with a white wall and a white cake. The camera can’t see all that white and it’s going to try to stop down it’s exposure to get 18% gray so to compensate you actually have to increase your flash exposure by a stop or so. Even with all these great features be sure to check your histogram and your overexposure warning.
Scott: Same on the Nikon. ITTL works the same way. The thing to remember is that you still have to think like a photographer.
Question Four – Copyright for Instructional Use
Ashley J Bell is a photography instructor who asks his students to scan their work and submit it on CD but he is concerned about copyright issues. His question is “What kind of copyright notice can I put on a CD to indicate that the instructor can only use these images for instructional purposes and no more?”
Scott: What you really need to be talking about is a license. You own the copyright as soon as you press the shutter. Whether you register that copyright is up to you. In this case you can provide a document with the CD that indicates your agreement with a license. It’s probably overkill as I doubt there are many photography instructors out there looking to steal their student’s work. As always, when it comes to this sort of legal stuff your best bet is to talk to a lawyer.
Rick: If someone wants to use one of my fun shots as a screen saver I’m happy to allow that but if they want to make money off of one of my photos then I’m not going to be very happy about that. Just like Scott said, consult an attorney if you want specific answers to these kinds of questions.
Question Five – Using a Neutral Density Filter for a Wedding Shoot
Brian Harvey has been asked to shoot a wedding on the cheap with a $200 budget. Since the wedding will be outdoors with the potential for a bright mid-day sun, he is wondering for shots where he wants to get a shallow-depth of field, should he be using a neutral density filter or will he even run up against a shutter limitation on his Canon 40D that would require the use of one?
Scott: Just because it’s mid-day doesn’t mean it will be sunny. Even if it is, I’ve never seen a wedding photographer need one but if you are going to use one make sure that it’s a good one and not a cheap plastic one. Usually the problem you run into shooting weddings is not having enough light so if you’re starting off doing weddings and you have too much light you’re off to a good start!
Rick: If your ISO is set at 100 then you shouldn’t need to worry about needing one. You should be able to shoot at a fast enough shutter speed to get you down to a nice large aperture like f2.8 or lower to get that nice shallow depth of field.
Question Six – Investing in Crop-Sensor Lenses
Doug Webber from St. Louis emails us and says “I shoot with a Nikon D90 and I have an 18-105mm kit lens and a 35mm f1.8. The more I shoot the more I’m interested in other DX lenses. I’m concerned about making a stranded investment in the event that I upgrade to a full-frame sensor camera.
Scott: This is a difficult topic and one that comes up frequently. Back in the old days when you bought a 35mm camera you were getting a 35mm camera. These days with all the different crop factors it’s getting more difficult to know who is playing for what team. My advice is that if you think you are going to go pro and photography is something that you are going to get serious about, you may want to step down your investment in these crop-sensor lenses.
Rick: Think about the entire camera system. When I shoot wildlife for example, I shoot with a full-frame sensor camera and a crop-sensor camera so that my long lenses can act like long lenses.
Question Seven – Ball Heads
Another email question from Christopher Weaver in Tokyo.”You have some great articles on the blog about tripods but what about the head? There are so many choices out there, what features should people be on the lookout for when shopping for a ball-head?”
Rick: I have two different heads now. I shoot with the Canon 5D Mark II and I’m doing HD video with it. For that I have a Bogen head which has a handle on it so I can do beautiful pans and tilts. However, I can’t take a vertical pictures with it so I have another head with a quick release plate that I use for my still photography.
Scott: I use several different ball heads. I’d encourage you to check out the Arca-Swiss style head which is a tongue and groove system.
Rick: Just like with all of your gear, make sure you have all of the right accessories so you don’t miss the shot. I was in a workshop once where one of the participants didn’t have the right allen wrench with them to change heads and while they were fumbling trying to change it they missed the shot. Another tripod tip is to use a camera strap to carry it around leaving both hands free to shoot.
Question Eight – Focus Techniques
Another international question via email from Victoria, Australia. James Becal writes: “What focus settings and method do you guys use and where would you use them? Does the method change when you’re using flash?”
Rick: In landscape photography I use the center auto focus point and the one-shot setting. I focus 1/3 of the way into the scene and I use a small f-stop and a wide angle lens which sets the scene for maximum depth of field. When photographing people I use the same technique and focus on the eyes. For a moving subject I use all of the auto focus points on my camera so it depends on the situation that I’m photographing.
Scott: I like to move the auto focus points around. The center focus point is almost always the strongest in terms of it’s ability to achieve focus, particularly with longer lenses so I tend to use that often as well.
Question Nine – Tripod Restrictions
Paul in Vermont says “In the last few months I’ve been making the jump from a point-and-shoot to a DSLR with all the accoutrements. I’ve read on various websites and blogs about restrictions on tripods. Could you explain some of the places where these restrictions might be and why they are not allowed?”
Scott: Part of the reason why they are not allowed is because of the war on photography that started a few years ago where photographers with all of their gear are treated like villains. In some places it is legitimate restriction like in a zoo or park where splaying out the legs of the tripod might pose a tripping hazard or block access to exhibits. Another popular example of place where tripods are not allowed is in Butterfly World in Florida. You are allowed to have a monopod in there but tripods are not allowed specifically due to the potential tripping hazard. Common sense should apply. If you are going to the wide-open spaces then you are probably okay to use a tripod. If you are going to be in a tighter space, a monopod is a good investment.
Question Ten – Focus Issues
Mike Despot writes: “I’ve been trying to shoot at the roller girls derby. It is under fluorescent lighting and I normally set my camera to ISO 200, shutter speed at 1/200 – 1/250th of a second and an aperture of f2.0. I find many of my images are not focused well and I’ve experimented with a variety of focusing techniques and I’m not sure what works best. I’ve been trying to avoid grain by cranking up the ISO.
Scott: The key thing is that he’s shooting at f2.0 and shooting action. f2.0 is a very shallow depth of field and that is probably why he’s not getting sharp images, particularly if the subject is moving. I think you’re going to have to kick up the ISO to move up to f4 or f5.6 to get images that are more in focus.
Question Eleven – Metering Systems & An Underexposure Problem
Kalani Ilet from Los Osos in California asks “When I shoot I tend to underexpose a 1/3 to a full stop. When using the internal light meter, I find that the images come out mediocre. When you shoot, do you tend to change your metering system or set it to one particular system and stick with it? Do you take a look at the LCD to make a judgment and then adjust accordingly?”
Scott: If you’re underexposing by as much as a full stop your meter might need to be re-calibrated.
Rick: That could be. It also depends on the subject. The reflectivity of the subject, the color of the subject, etc. can all affect the exposure. I normally walk around with my camera set to underexpose by a 1/3 of a stop because I don’t want to blow out the hi-lites. I like to expose for the hilites. Underexposed by a stop is a lot and the more you underexpose, the more noise you’ll see in the shadow areas.
Scott: One thing you don’t hear about that often is that all of the major camera manufacturers recommend that you send your camera in to be re-calibrated at least once a year if you are shooting on a regular basis.
Question Twelve – Selling Your Photos
Jerry Shanken from Michigan asks “How does an amateur photographer go about making their first sale?”
Scott: That’s a question that even the pros ask Jerry. There are a lot of resources if you want to learn the business side of photography. The photographers marketplace book by Writer’s Digest is one option. One book I would normally recommend is my ’88 Secrets to Selling Your Photography’ book but it’s now out of print. However you can head over to Lynda.com where I did a video presentation selling your photography. My advice is to move away from the photography side of things and start looking at more business books such as those written by guys like Zig Ziglar.
Rick: We are all business people. I actually spend more time on my business than I do out taking photos. Your website is also the key. It’s your portfolio, your store, etc so make sure you have a good website and know the audience you are going after with your website.
Question Thirteen – Outsourcing Photo Printing & ICC Profiles
The next question came in via email from Scott Beddencof. Scott says “I decided to send out my photo printing rather than mess with printers and screen calibration systems. Images that look bright on my screen come out dark when I can my prints back and sometimes images that look dark on the screen come out to light. Is there something I can do or is it just a matter of trial and error?
Scott: Yes you can use a printing service that supports ICC profiles or that will create a profile for you based on your standard print. They’ll make a test print for you and you can adjust it from there.
Rick: One thing people often think is off on their prints is color. Believe it or not we see colors differently at different times of the day so keep that in mind when looking at your prints and deciding if you think the color isn’t correct.
Question Fourteen – Shooting Bands in Red Light
Mlh418 in Twitter asks “Do you have any suggestions for taking pictures of a band when taking photos in a bar where they are using red lights?”
Rick: Embrace the color. Likely the band likes the color and will have a lighting director who made the decision to use a particular color.
Question Fifteen – Long Lens Technique
David Wilksco says “Anticipating a trip to Highline on the Texas Gulf coast to shoot migratory birds. I purchased a fairly long lens (Nikon 80-400mm). Although I used a good tripod and ball head, some of the pictures were not as crisp as I would like them to have been. Please describe your long lens technique including such things as mirror lockup, cable release, etc.”
Scott: I’m a guy that shoots with a 300-800mm Sigma and I can tell you that long lens technique is important. You say that you used a good tripod and ball head but your idea of good and my idea of good may be different. I like to use a Gimbal head with a strong Gitzo tripod. Having a sturdy base to reduce vibration is very important when you’re using a long lens as the system needs to support all of that weight and any movement, vibration, etc. will be magnified when using a long lens. Step two is I like to drape my arm under or over the lens and I press my face up very tight to the eyecup to maximize the stability. I make sure that my feet are nice and wide and if the lens using VR or IS I like to turn it on even with a moving subject. Make sure that you have enough depth of field and enough shutter speed.
Rick: The word he used was crisp. It may be that some stray light is falling on the front element or on the filter and that light could cause a slight amount of lens flare which can reduce contrast. Maybe in the digital darkroom he can adjust his contrast by using levels to try to improve the contrast and boost the crispness.
Question Sixteen – Lens Filters
Joe Simons asks Scott “Why don’t you believe in leaving a filter on your lens? I’ve heard a lot of people say that it’s fine to leave it on and I’d like to get your opinion on this.”
Scott: I just bought a $9000 Sigma 300-800mm lens and I don’t think it makes a lot of sense to put a $30 plastic filter in front of it because it will degrade the image quality. The reason most people put a filter on is for protection but the least expensive part of the lens to repair is the front element. It’s the inside guts of the lens that is the expensive part. Most times even if the front element is damaged or scratched, it won’t show up in the image. Even if it does it’s relatively inexpensive to replace it. In all my years doing photography I’ve never damaged the front of a lens. A lens hood is a better option and it doesn’t introduce any chance of lens flare.
Rick: I agree with Scott. Take the darn filter off the lens. The only filter I recommend is a polarizing filter.
Just a reminder that you can visit the blog at www.photofocus.com for the show notes and plenty of other photography related articles. Please email us your questions at [email protected] or you can follow us on Twitter and leave questions with the hashtag #photoqa. If you can tell us where you’re from and how to pronounce your name that would be great too.
Rick and Scott will also be teaching together on the final leg of the Aperture Nature Photography Workshop so head on over to www.f64.com for more details.We want themes and questions from you. Be sure to visit the blog at PhotoFocus.com for articles, how-to’s, videos and more. You can also subscribe to the blog on a Kindle. Email us at [email protected] follow us on Twitter. Don’t just take pictures – make pictures.
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