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Photofocus Episode 22
Welcome to Episode Number 22 of Photofocus with Scott Bourne and special guest host Kevin Kubota. Photofocus is the show devoted to your 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 Scott. 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 things off with a question about converting to DNG.
Question One – Converting to DNG
Erik van Elven from the Netherlands writes: Should I convert all my Canon CR2-files to DNG or do you think that 15 years from now the current RAW-files still can be opened by Lightroom 16.0? Do you lose information when converting to DNG?
Kevin: Yes, they will be supported. They never drop support for a legacy file. As far as image quality, you don’t lose anything but you could lose some of the manufacturer’s proprietary meta data but I haven’t encountered a situation where that’s been a big issue.
Scott: I agree with everything you said. I originally had a bit of a push back against DNG because it was looking like it was going to be an Adobe-only format but now that they have opened up to the open standards committee I’m all behind it.
Kevin: I just got a new Ricoh P&S camera that shoots DNG right out of the camera.
Question Two – Thoughts on Cokin Z Filters
paulzadie on Twitter writes: Thoughts on the Cokin Z filters? They’re resin and not glass. Obviously they are more prone to scratches, but how’s the quality?
Scott: I think Cokin makes great filters. I don’t use a lot of filters these days with the exception of ND filters and circular polarizers. Resin filters are pretty good and you probably won’t be able to tell the difference between them a good glass filter as long as you’re using a brand name filter. Resin filters will also be lighter than glass filters.
Kevin: I don’t really use any filters on my lenses either other than a U/V filter occasionally to protect the front lens element.
Question Three – Tricky Exposure Situation
Allan Kirby I did an engagement shoot and ran into difficulty getting a good exposure. The groom has a very dark complexion and the bride is is a very very fair skinned blond. If I set my exposure for a white cloth in the setup picture to get a good histogram reading, the guy disappears, and I lose all detail in his face. What would you suggest?
Kevin: Setting the exposure on the white cloth could be the first issue. That will wind up underexposing the image which will make the dark complexion even darker. If you fill the frame, the dark complexion and the white cloth should balance each other basically giving you medium gray. When shooting dark complexions, you want to have the exposure bang on or even a little bit overexposed. If you’re shooting RAW you can recover some of that exposure in the lighter areas but it can be harder to recover the darker areas without introducing a lot of noise into the image.
Scott: I think that Allen is confusing white balance and exposure. Look at the overall scene and trust the meter. If there is a lot of white in the scene then you may want to overexpose it a little and if you have dark skinned people you want get a good exposure on their skin. One option would be to add in a little kicker light using a reflector or a kicker light.
Question Four – Tripod Height
rxprime on Twitter writes: How do I judge how tall of a tripod I need? What are the main factors in buying a good tripod for a Nikon D40 sized camera.
Scott: How tall are you? Height really is subjective. I like to have a lot of height but you don’t need the tallest tripod in the world. I think the biggest key when buying a tripod is to buy one that is light enough that you’ll actually take it with you into the field but sturdy enough to hold what you need. Good tripods are expensive if you want the carbon fibre ones which are light and sturdy. I paid for my first Gitzo tripod 10 times by trying to buy the cheap ones.
Kevin: I don’t really use them very often but if you should get one that you’ll use and take with you. If you buy one that’s too big then you’re not going to take it with you.
Question Five – Using a Drobo as a Working Drive
Craig Duggan writes: Oh great camera gurus, I am in need of some advice. I recently purchased Aperture and a DroboPro, my plan is to run my Aperture library on the Drobo (via Firewire connection, 400 with a converter cable as my iMac does not have 800) and use my current 1TB external drive as the Aperture vault. One of my friends though says that he thought that the Drobo wasn’t really meant to work that way, that it is more of just a storage system and not as good to use it as a working drive. Your comments? Ideas?
Scott: Using the Firewire 400, I would not advise using it as your main drive. Use the External drive as your Aperture Library and the Drobo for your vault. Even with Firewire 800 it would still be advisable to go with a good 7200 RPM external drive for your library and use Drobo for the vault based upon my experience.
Kevin: We put all our stuff on an x-raid server but I also use Drobos. I have used my Drobos as a working drive for my Lightroom Library along with all of my files with a Firewire 800 connection and I can’t tell the difference between using it that way and using and internal drive.
Question Six – Avoiding Flash Reflections
Richard Yoder from Signal Mountain, TN writes: I am about to take a trip to the Tennessee aquarium. Indoor aquariums tend to have low lighting. I currently own a Canon 7D, 24-70 2.8L, 70-200 2.8, and a speedlight 580. I am certain that I will need to use my flash. What’s going to keep me from getting a flash reflection off the glass. Will my Lumiquest flash diffuser eliminate the flash reflections? Any suggestions for shooting aquatic life in an indoor aquarium?
Kevin: If you are far away from the glass you are going to get reflections regardless of what you put on your flash. The way to avoid the reflection is to get one of those rubber lens hoods and press the lens right up against the glass. That will seal the lens and keep the light from the flash showing up. The rubber hood will also help you to avoid clunking your lens against the glass and scaring the fish. Finding a way to hold the flash off camera will result in better looking images as well.
Scott: The 7D has decent low light performance so if you crank up the ISO and put it on a tripod you might be able to get away without using the flash.
Question Seven – Photography and the 16:9 Aspect Ratio
Rick McClain writes: I would like to hear your thoughts regarding the direction of photography toward the 16:9 standard. On one hand, digital still and video photography seem to be converging in the cameras and resolutions involved, but the 4:3 vs.16:9 seems be a point where the gap is widening. Your thoughts?
Scott: I don’t think it’s just the convergence that’s causing this but I think it’s more to do with consumer demand for high definition televisions. I don’t care about standards. I think the final image is the king. It should be the arbiter of the format. I make it however it should be and find a way to fit it into the world out there.
Kevin: I agree with you on that Scott. I like to shoot for the image. The image should dictate how it’s going to be displayed. People are still still engrained with the standard sizes of frames like 8×10, 5×7, etc. We will just put a black border around it and size it the way we think it looks best.
Question Eight – Focal Length of the Human Eye
Chuck from Pueblo, Co writes: If you were to describe what the human eye sees compared to a camera in focal length, what would you say the measurement would be? I know we have peripheral vision that the camera doesn’t but would you say 18mm or higher? How would they compare?
Kevin: When I read this question I thought of my Lens Baby and when you see things naturally you have that sweet spot of focus. You see other things that are there but they are kind of blurry. It’s a lot like looking through a Lens Baby where you have this point of focus and then everything around that area has this soft dreamy focus. As far as the angle of view, it will depend upon your eyes but I’m going to guess somewhere around 24mm.
Scott: A 50mm is supposed to approximate the field of view of the human eye. The human eye does not see all parts of the scene equally much like the Lens Baby.
Question Nine – The Sunny 16 Rule
Lindsay Rickman asks: What is the Sunny 16 Rule?
Kevin: If you take a photo on a bright sunny day, if you set your camera to f/16 and set the shutter speed to reciprocal of your ISO (e.g if you are shooting at ISO 200 – set your shutter speed to 1/200th of a second) that should give you a good exposure in full sun. If you drop to f/8 then you want to drop your shutter speed by half.
Scott: I don’t know how important the Sunny 16 rule is moving forward since all cameras now have really good meters in them. Back in the days of film where you were metering, the Sunny 16 was a good rule to follow if you were shooting in full sun and wanted to get a good exposure.
Question Ten – Best Way to Clean a Lens
ikr from Twitter asks: We shoot close-ups of our children a lot, and they just *love* touching the lens. What’s the best way to clean?
Scott: Make sure there is not dust or dirt on the lens. Get one of those big blowers like the Gioto Rocket Blower. Avoid using compressed air because those have propellants in them that can damage your lens.Then use a micro fibre cloth and if it’s really dirty you can just breath on it.
Kevin: I pretty much do the same thing. I don’t bother with any special cleaners or liquids.
Question Eleven – Photographing Strangers for Commercial Use
Camilo wrote to us to say: Could you talk a bit about the ethics, do’s and don’t’s of photographing strangers? I sometimes take candid pictures of random people and they often make great story telling photos. But I am concerned about using those photos for commercial purposes.
Scott: Don’t unless you have a model release. You can’t use photos of people for advertising without getting their permission.
Kevin: I do like to take candids but they are just for my own collections. If I think it’s a great shot that I might be able to use for something, I carry a model release with me.
Scott: There is no law if the person is on public property but as a courtesy you should ask, especially if you are photographing children or minors.
Question Twelve – Coated Polarizing Filters
Kevin McMahon asks: Is it really worth the extra money for a multi-coated polarizer? Should I be concerned about the image quality with the cheaper filters? All the filters I’ve mentioned are circular polarizers. Is there a difference in quality between linear and circular besides not being able to use auto focus?
Scott: I think there is a difference however it’s not critical. I like to use the B+W filters because you don’t see a color shift like you do with the cheaper filters. I won’t go into all the technical details regarding linear vs. circular filters. Just get a circular polarizer.
Question Thirteen – Monetizing Landscape Photography
Leonardo Sobrado from Bethlehem, PA writes: What are the options for today’s landscape or wildlife photographer who wants to monetize his/her work? Some people tell me stock photography but I think that’s like playing dice at a casino for a few cents return. Others say magazines, but it seems that few of those today have dedicated photographers and use stock instead. I find myself wondering if I should keep my day job and maybe shoot a wedding or two to pay for the hobby.
Scott: Keep the day job. I’ve been trying to make a living at wildlife photography for 13 years and managed to do okay but I can count on my hands and toes the number of people who are doing it and actually making money at it. It’s a tough way to go. Nature is more competitive than wildlife. The wedding market is still good.
Kevin: If you start shooting a wedding or two, it may become your full-time job and landscape might become your hobby. You can still make a good living doing wedding and portrait photography.
Scott: I think it’s a great idea to supplement your photography business with wedding or portrait photography. Being in the wildlife photography business, it’s 80% business and 20% shooting.
Question Fourteen – Crop Sensor Lenses on Full-frame Cameras
Paolo Valente writes: I have several cropped sensor Nikon lenses and I’m thinking to upgrade to a full frame camera, like the D700 for example. As far as you know does this or any of the high end Nikon cameras have the ability to shoot in a cropped sensor mode? If not, do you think it would be feasible for a camera manufacturer like Nikon or Canon to allow the full frame cameras to shoot in cropped sensor mode? This feature would allow many potential buyers who may own several cropped sensor lenses to make the jump to a full sensor camera with a lot less fear of the necessary lens investment needed to make these cameras to work. Food for thoughts at least.
Kevin: It’s automatic. If you put a DX lens on the camera, it will switch it to crop sensor mode and it works great. It will crop the actual image so you will lose some of the resolution.
Scott: I prefer the full frame lenses on my full frame cameras but it will work with the crop sensor lenses.
Question Fifteen – To Bag or Not to Bag
Dr. Jon Brummel asks: If you want to hit the town for casual shooting with one lens, do you still use a bag/etc., or just sling & go?
Scott: I do like to bring a bag just so that I can put my camera out of sight when I’m not using it. When I’m traveling overseas, I like to put black tape over the Nikon wording on the camera so that people can’t tell what kind of camera I’m carrying. That can be like a steal me reference. I will also try to use a bag that doesn’t look like a camera bag.
Kevin: If it’s a quick outing, I will just use the camera slung over my shoulder using a Black Rapid R-strap across my body. I want to have the camera there so that I can shoot with my camera from the hip. If I have it in a bag then I tend not to use it as much.
Question Sixteen – Archiving Digital Photos
Scott Advani from Alberta, Canada asks: I have a growing library of thousands of digital family photos that are backed up on my Drobo, but I was wondering if you could tell me what is the best way to have a permanent offline archive of them for safekeeping? I’ve been hearing that DVDs/CDs can fail over time, and I was wondering what types of disks or storage media you would recommend for this project?
Kevin: We backup all of our images to Gold archival DVDs which are supposed to last for 200 years. I don’t recommend regular CDs or DVDs.
Scott: I believe in a combination of at least three mediums. We use hard disks, the archival gold DVDs and then finally we backup to tape. One thing you should do is test your backups. Make sure that they are performing. If you leave hard drives sitting for a long time without spinning them up as they can fail.
Question Seventeen – Itching to Get the Flash Off the Camera
Don Cooper from Lake Forest, CA writes: I am taking seriously your advice of “getting the flash off the camera”. I also want to go with the Pocket Wizard to do this. However, I use a Nikon D5000 and I am wondering if I should wait to buy the Pocket Wizard that is built for the Nikon which if I understand things correctly may be ready by January 2010. The advantage to this seems to be that the TTL features would work with this version of the pocket wizard. If I go with the current version of the pocket wizard it will be strictly manual mode. What do you guys recommend? Should I buy the Plus II now or wait for the new Nikon version? I am itching to get the camera off the flash.
Scott: When you using flash are you an ITTL guy or do you shoot on manual?
Kevin: I normally use I-TTL. I use the SU-800 with the SB900 flash and it works really well. For close range I’ve had really good success with this. The Pocket Wizard might be a good option if line of sight or distance is a problem.
Scott: I know how to use both because I’m old. I find that I-TTL works quite well. If you can wait, I would wait for the new Pocket Wizards to come out.
Question Eighteen – Using a Polarizing Filter with a Lens Hood
Dave Head asks: I have a Sigma 120-400mm OS lens. How do you turn the polarizer filter with the lens hood on. If I use the polarizing filter I have to remove the lens hood. Any ideas or am I missing something.
Scott: Sometimes you have to take the lens hood off. If you have really small hands you could reach in there and get a hold of the filter but when I’ve tried that I typically smudge the 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. We are here on the 5th, 15th and 25th of each month. 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. You can also get tips and keep up with what’s coming up on Photofocus by following Scott’s Boocasts at http://audioboo.fm/profile/ScottBourne and join our Flickr group where you can upload and share your photographs with other members of the Photofocus community.
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