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Photofocus Episode 8

Hosts: Scott Bourne (www.scottbourne.com or www.twitter.com/scottbourne) and Rick Sammon (www.ricksammon.com or www.twitter.com/ricksammon)

Show notes by Bruce Clarke (www.momentsindigital.com or www.twitter.com/bruceclarke)

Welcome to Episode Number 8 of Photofocus with Scott Bourne and Rick Sammon. 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.

This week we are starting off with a question about White Balance.

Question One – Alternatives to a Grey Card

Andrew Kelly would like to know if he just use a plain piece of white paper for setting White Balance?

Scott: Yes you can if it’s pure white. If it’s not pure white it might not come out exactly right however my recommendation is that you try to use a grey card. It’s better to use a grey card to set your white balance and use a white object to set your white point.

Rick: I agree with your thoughts Scott. I use the Expo Disc as I like to get it right in camera rather than fixing it later in post. If you want to save some money you could use the underside of a Pringles top, a coffee filter, etc.

Question Two – Image Stabilization with a Monopod

Tom Albright travels often to Kenya and photographs the wildlife from a moving vehicle so bringing a tripod is generally out of the question. He is wondering if he can use Image Stabilization with a monopod?

Rick: You can but the camera manufacturers recommend that you turn off IS if you are using a tripod or a monopod. I’d recommend using a bean bag or if you want to save some money, bring a sock and fill it up with rice or beans and use that as your personal bean bag.

Scott: The new versions of the Image Stabilization on some of the bigger lenses does work on a tripod or monopod but generally in this type of a situation a monopod is just going to get in the way and a bean bag is the better way to go. I am trying out the Apex bean bag which is great if you’ve got a big lens as you can even attach a Wimberly head to the bean bag.

Question ThreeIn-Camera Effects vs. Creating them in Post?

Barry Brown is wondering in this era of Photoshop if it’s worth trying to achieve certain in-camera effects or should he be concentrating on things like image sharpness, composition, etc and doing all of that other fancy stuff in post?

Scott: As an old war horse we like to get things best in camera. I don’t think you can get exactly the same effect in Photoshop that you can in camera. When it comes to things like zoom blurs and pan blurs, I can always tell when someone has used Photoshop to create the effect rather than capturing it in the field.

Rick: When I’m teaching workshops I always tell people to try to use the lowest ISO to get the cleanest, sharpest image and get it right in camera. I do like to have fun with effects and in the field there is a fun accessory to use and that is the LensBaby.

Sponsor – Lens Baby

We’d like to thank another one of our sponsors – Lens Baby. Be sure to visit www.lensbaby.com to check out their creative lens system and the new Composer. They now have a new super-wide adaptor that you should check out. Get back to having fun! As Scott says, “If photography isn’t fun for you, you should be doing something else.”

Question Four – Exposing for the Hilites

Aaron would like Rick to talk a bit more on exposing for the hilites?

Rick: Say you’re photographing a beautiful sunset. What you want to do is look for the brightest part of the scene such as the area around the sun or a bright cloud. Take a shot and if that part is blinking you want to reduce the exposure. This doesn’t necessarily apply to things like specular hilites – for example a chrome bumper on a car. You can rescue up to a stop in the digital darkroom but you’re better off getting it right in the camera.

Question Five – Photography Courses

Glen from Scotland: Do you feel that photography workshops such as wedding or landscape photography workshops are a worthwhile investment for someone looking to move their photography forward or would a more general course be more useful?

Rick: I think a great way to gain experience is by working with a professional. If you’re going to specialize in something like wedding photography, a good idea would be to work with professional wedding photographer as their assistant for awhile.

Scott: I think courses can indeed be valuable but workshops with the kind of photographer that you want to emulate are probably a better investment. They tend to be less expensive and more intensive.

Question Six – HTML or Flash for a Photographer’s Website

Scott Hards from Japan writes: a couple of shows ago Rick recommended turning on the hilite warning on a DSLR if it has it. My 5D Mark II does have it and I’ve turned it on. I find that when I’m shooting outdoors, something always winds up blinking on the screen – either a person’s shirt, the sky, etc and if I try to compensate for that the people come out too dark. Should I be trying to absolutely eliminate all blinking areas or get proper exposure on the people?

Rick: Sometimes the shot just isn’t there. You might have to wait for the light or use a flash or a reflector to compress the brightness range and get a proper exposure on the subjects.

Scott: It’s not a matter of letting the hilites getting blown out but rather it’s a matter of correcting the problem by putting some light on your subjects. HDR if appropriate might be the answer. Expose for the hilites and for the shadows and then merge them together.

Rick: Another thought is to try to double process the image. Open it once and process for the hilites and open it a second time and process for the shadows and then put the pictures on top of each other and erase what is over or under exposed.

Question Seven – Photography Resources

Kevin from Roundrock Texas writes: Scott has mentioned several times that a good way to improve your photography is by looking at 5000 photos. Where can one go to look at such photos without having to spend a fortune on photography books.

Scott: As book authors we’d love it if you did spend a small fortune on photography books but if you are looking for a place to start try your local public library. Photo magazines and museums are great places to go. When I say look at 5000 photos, don’t just glance at them. Actually study them and ask questions.

Rick: The Life website is a great place for images. Look at the images and study the images and you’ll learn a lot from them.

Question Eight – Close-up Filters

Jim Rudolph is starting to photograph water droplets but I don’t have a great macro lens. A friend told me to buy some close up filters as an alternative to a macro lens. What are your thoughts on getting a close-up filter over a macro lens.

Rick: Would you rather have an okay picture or no picture. With a close up filter it won’t be as sharp as a true macro lens but at least you’ll get the shot. If you really get into macro photography then a true macro lens is the way to go but a close up filter is certainly a great place to start.

Scott: If you have a medium to long telephoto, I think that the 500D close-up filter is a great place to start. If you really get serious then you’ll want to have a dedicated macro lens and a ring light. I’ve tested the Ray-Flash which is $200 and attaches to your existing hot shoe flash.

Question Nine – Breaking Into Photojournalism

Matt Brody has been trying to break into photojournalism and writes: All of my stuff is mostly wedding and studio work. Most places won’t consider me because I don’t have a lot of photojournalism in my portfolio. It’s the old Catch 22. Any ideas on what I can do to get more photojournalistic images without needing a press pass?

Scott: Just go shoot. 90% of the images that you see in the newspaper didn’t require a press pass to get the image. You might need a press pass to get down on the field but you don’t need a press pass to sit in the front row. An old piece of advice is to get a police scanner and listen to what is going on. You can hear about events going on that might be newsworthy and then just head out with your camera and photograph it. Chances are very slim that someone is going to ask you for a press pass.

Rick: Here is a tip that you might try. Go to a local firehouse. Ask the chief if you can do a big shoot of all the firemen. Tell the story. Do a day in the life of a firemen. Go with them when there is a fire. It’s a great story that the local paper will love.

Scott: Approach a smaller local paper as you’ll stand a better chance of getting your image published with them than you will a large city paper who already has their own staff of photographers. The bigger papers my be interested in your stuff if you have some spot news. Photojournalism is a tough position and although it is a noble one to aspire to is one of the lowest paying professions if you care about money.

Rick: Another tip is to start learning how to shoot video as more and more press photographers are being ask to shoot video and stills.

Sponsor – Scan Cafe

We’d like to thank our sponsor Scan Cafe for making this show possible. They have now scanned more than 24 million images. If you have slides and negatives that you’ve been meaning to scan – Scan Cafe is the answer for you. They hand scan your images, perform color corrections, remove scratches, etc. They can also do B&W negatives. Fees start at around $0.29 and they have complete tracking so you always know where your scans are. Head on over to www.scancafe.com and if you are a new customer you’ll get 20% off your first order by using the code ‘focus‘. Ask for the hi-res upgrade if you’re a serious photographer and looking for the very best quality scans.

Question Ten - Using the iPhone as a Photo Viewer

John Davis has been looking at some of the photo viewer solutions like the Epson models. Do you know if the iPhones old or new have an application that would allow you to use them as a photo viewer solution?

Scott: Phoneview for the iPhone lets you copy things to your iPhone. There may be others. If you know of others, send them to Scott at [email protected] and we’ll add them to the show notes.

Rick: I think the new iPhone is coming out with a device that will let you connect an SD card to your iPhone at some point.

Question Eleven – Getting Better Results with a New Flash

Ivan Velasquez writes: I just purchased a Canon 430 EX II flash to get better shots of my son’s Karate. Most of my photos are blurry and underexposed. What’s your advice for the best use of this flash?

Rick: My guess is that the shutter speed is too slow. Ivan might be shooting in Program mode and camera shake combined with a slow shutter speed could be contributing to the blurred images. My suggestion would be to switch to either Aperture (Av) or Shutter (Tv) priority mode. Watch that shutter speed so that it doesn’t fall below.

Scott: Boost your shutter speed. The hi-speed sync setting on the flash will help. Also try rear-curtain shutter sync.

Rick: Also check your custom functions. On the new Rebel for example you can set the flash synch speed to not fall below 1/200th of a second.

Question Twelve – Tripods on a Plane

Brad writes in and wants to know if he can carry a tripod on the plane on his next trip. He has one that is 22 inches tall and weighs 3 pounds.

Scott: If you travel in first class, most of the time yes. It depends on where you are at. For example, the little Moab airport has the most stringent, strict, difficult TSA officials. Be prepared to have it rejected and checked as gate luggage.

Rick: I’ve never been denied having a tripod but what I’m doing more and more when traveling in the US is I ship it ahead of me via FedEx or UPS.

Question Thirteen – Limited Edition Prints

Nick Weis wants to know what the normal procedure is for selling limited edition prints.

Scott: Disclosure is the key. Typically the smaller the edition the more you charge but there is no set number. I’m pretty strict about my interpretation of my limited editions. If I say I’m printing 100 prints that will mean 100 prints of any size. Something like a postcard is considered press printed item and wouldn’t have any problem licensing an image for an ad or something like a postcard.

Rick: Honesty is the best policy. It’s also important to make an archival quality print.

Maui Photography Workshop

Rick and Scott will be enduring the harsh environment of Maui to teach at the Maui Photography Workshop from September 16th – 20th. Visit http://www.mauiphotofestival.com/ for more information and get a coupon to save $200 on Photofocus.com.

Question Fourteen – Getting Sharper Images

Michael is wondering if either Rick or Scott has some advice for photographing a dark subject on a white background. I like to photograph birds and in particular bald eagles. They like to perch up high so it’s difficult shooting them against the bright sky and getting good detail while not blowing out the sky. They are usually far away so using a flash to fill in the shadows isn’t typically an option.

Rick: The better beamer would be one way to extend the range of the flash.

Scott: I’ve successfully used the Hon-L snoot to focus the light and get it out there. It’s possible that Michael’s meter is getting confused. Maybe the meter is underexposing the subject because it thinks there is more light in the scene due to the bright background.

Rick: The name of the game is to fill the frame. Back light – shoot tight. Try to zoom in or move in closer to the subject.

Scott: Another thing to think about is exposure compensation. If you are shooting against a bright sky or snow, try adjusting your exposure by about a stop and a half.

Question Sixteen – Photoshop vs. Photoshop Elements

AJ Finch would like to know the benefits of the buying the full version of Photoshop vs. the less expensive Photoshop Elements.

Rick: Elements is under $100 and the full version around $700. In the full version of Photoshop you have blending modes, smart objects, etc. You do things like fade a filter which gives you more creative possibilities. You can’t create a CMYK file in Photoshop Elements. If you’re a pro you will eventually need Photoshop but if you’re an enthusiast then Photoshop Elements will work for you.

Scott: If you’re using Lightroom and you’re shooting pretty close to what you want in the camera, you might not need either. I would check out Elements first and then upgrade to the full version of Photoshop at a later time.

Special Guest Question/Answerer – Matt Kloskowski

Our special guest this week is Matt Kloskowski of Photoshop fame, NAPP, Kelby Training, D-Town TV, etc. He is also the author of Layers: The Complete Guide to Photoshop’s Most Powerful Feature. Matt is here this week to answer some questions on Photoshop.

Question Seventeen – Lightroom vs. Photoshop

Our first question for Matt comes from Yarmult. Does Photoshop give you the same ability as Lightroom or is it just a reduced toolset for photographers?

Matt: Definitely a question we get a lot. The way I think of it is that if you’re shooting once a week, Lightroom is the tool that helps you go through a lot of photographs quickly. Is it a reduced toolset for photographers? It almost is but I don’t see that as a bad feature. I see it as a good feature because I don’t have to worry about the complexity of all the palettes, etc. Lightroom gives me the management aspect along with all of the stuff I can do in Adobe Camera Raw plus things like slide shows and probably the best print engine out there. You loose some complexity but you gain a lot of efficiencies that make doing the job easier.

Scott: I’m an Aperture user so I have to confess to not knowing much about Lightroom. How realistic is it to just use Lightroom?

Matt: There are 2 things we can touch on here. I am a fan of Adobe products but I don’t care which one you use but you should use one of them. Lightroom has become the tool I use 80-90% of the time. What I tell people is that when I use Photoshop is when there is a distraction that you want to remove or when you want to use Layers, add text, etc.

Question Eighteen – Curves vs. Levels

Allen SF asks if there is a reason to use Curves rather than Levels in Photoshop. They both look very similar in function.

Matt: I’m a simplistic person so I say use whatever is easier. Levels are easier. Levels do most of what curves do. Is there a reason to use curves over levels? Most of the time no. If there is a specific part of the photo, then curves lets you tweak more than just shadows, hilites and mid-tones.

Question Nineteen – Retouching Tips

@dec11ad on Twitter would like some tips on retouching and fixing skin tones.

Matt: The biggest tip I can give is to do whatever retouching work you do on a separate layer. Using Layers is infinitely beneficial because you do all of your retouching on a separate layer and then you can drop the opacity of the layer down to make things look more realistic. There is an option when using the clone tool or the healing brush tool to sample all layers so be sure to set that.

Learn More About Matt

You can learn more about Matt and his work at the National Association of Photoshop Professionals (NAPP). You can also check out more of his work at http://www.lightroomkillertips.com.

Question Twenty – Deleting Images

Scott Johnson asks: Do you throw any images away or do you keep all your work?

Rick: One out of focus picture is a mistake. Twenty out of focus pictures is a style. I like to keep all my pictures and who knows what kind of style I’ll have in the future. More importantly, who knows what we will be able to do with these RAW images in the future. One example is Topaz Adjust (www.topazlabs.com) which lets you do some amazing HDR type images from just one image.

Scott: Unless you’re really short on hard drive space, it’s not a big deal to keep everything you shoot. If you are using something like Lightroom or Aperture, you can reject photos so that they don’t show up in your main collection. Another important reason for keeping everything is that you never know what might be in that photo. There is the famous story of the photojournalist who had an image of Bill Clinton with Monica Lewinsky taken before the news came out that they had been involved. The exception is if I just completely blew it then I will permanently delete those images.

The Blog

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. Also be sure to check out Rick’s site devoted to plug-ins at www.pluginexperience.com.

Wrap Up

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.

Scott Bourne www.scottbourne.com or www.twitter.com/scottbourne

Rick Sammon www.ricksammon.com or www.twitter.com/ricksammon

Show notes by Bruce Clarke www.momentsindigital.com or www.twitter.com/bruceclark

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  1. [...] assortment. Whilst many may scoff at the idea of purchasing a beanbag, I’m not the type to fill socks with rice when I want to settle my camera into [...]

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About scottbourne

Founder of Photofocus.com. Retired traveling and unhooking from the Internet.

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