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Photofocus Episode 84
Welcome to Episode Number 84 of Photofocus with Scott Bourne and special guest Scott Kelby. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
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This week we kick things off with a question about RAW files:
Question One – RAW vs. DNG
Bill Herndon from Toronto writes: Is there any difference between decoding RAW files from the camera and DNG files and which do you use?
Scott K: To my knowledge there is no difference between decoding RAW & DNG files. DNG was created by Adobe as an open digital negative format although I don’t use it. There are two big benefits to DNG files. One is that DNG files are about 20% smaller and the second is that changes are stored within the DNG rather than being stored as a separate XML sidecar file.
Scott B: I use a Leica M9 and it writes to DNG by default.
Question Two – Lightroom vs. Photoshop
Alen Harmon from Boston MA writes: Is it possible to use just Lightroom for all my post processing photography work or do I need Photoshop? What can I do with Photoshop that I can’t do with Lightroom?
Scott K: It is absolutely possible depending upon what you do. I use Lightroom for 80-90% of my work. You can do light portrait retouching in Lightroom but if I want to do serious portrait retouching then it doesn’t have the tools I need and that’s when I jump to Photoshop. If I want to work with layers or with text then I have to jump to Photoshop. There are plenty of reasons to go to Photoshop if you need those tools. If there are a few things that LR doesn’t do, you might be able to get Photoshop Elements for some of those features.
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Question Three – Gear Suggestions for a Trip
Robert Stafford writes My wife and I will be traveling to Europe for the first time and am looking forward to shooting in Netherlands, France and England. I would appreciate suggestions on the minimum gear you might take on a trip of this kind. Current thoughts are my DSLR with 24-70 f/2.8, and 80-200 f/2.8 and a point and shoot for journalistic type shots.
Scott B: On first look, that looks like a pretty good kit you have there. You’ve covered a lot of the ranges. Perhaps you could add a specialty lens like a macro or a fish-eye.
Scott K: For a full-frame Nikon camera, I like to take my 28-300 when I travel. If you have a crop-sensor camera, then both Canon and Nikon make an 18-200mm which is great for travel. If you take two cameras, you will likely find yourself in a situation where you will just have your P&S and will wish you had your dSLR with you. I would recommend taking your dSLR with you everywhere.
Question Four – Photographing Whales
Jake Williamson, Brisbane, Australia (originally from the UK!) writes: I am planning to hire a Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 L IS USM to put on my Canon 450D to shoot pictures of (hopefully) Humpback Whales breaching off the Brisbane coast in Australia. Due to the generally bright conditions in Queensland, having enough light during the day isn’t usually a problem but I’d like to know what minimum shutter speed I can go to taking into consideration: 1. the movement of the boat 2. the speed that these mammals explode from the water 3. the fact I’ll be hand holding and (more than likely) being jostled for a space to view the action by other tourists!
Scott B: 1/1000 is probably the minimum shutter speed I would go with if you want to freeze the action. If you can get to 1/2000 of a second then boat movement or being jostled won’t matter.
Scott K: I would also suggest going with a minimum of 1/1000 of a second to freeze a moving subject.
Question Five – Tips for Macro Photography
Keith Killigrew from the Heart of England, Worcestershire home of the sauce. I have just taken up macro photography and would like some tips on making close up images. I have a Canon 400D and the Canon 2.8 Macro lens also a solid tripod.
Scott K: You have to shoot on a tripod. Keep the barrel of the lens straight – don’t shoot up or down. Shoot at something like f22 because depth of field will be an issue. Try to use a camera release to reduce movement.
Scott B: You could also try locking the mirror up to reduce camera shake. Also try shooting with a smaller aperture to increase your depth of field.
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Question Six – Exposure Technique When Shooting Jpeg
David Gray Lambertville, MI writes: I remember underexposing slide film by 1/3 stops to get more pop in the colors. I know you shoot mostly raw and recommend keeping the exposure normal (generally) for that and making corrections as needed to saturation and contrast in post. But what about when you shoot jpeg (race events, etc)? Do you deliberately underexpose in that situation? If not, why?
Scott B: The only time I shoot jpeg is when shooting things like sporting events. I generally don’t underexpose because I’ve gotten pretty good at getting it right in the camera and if you underexpose you will get more noise in the image.
Scott K: If you’re going to do the post-processing later, I try to get it right in the camera. You are generally better off to overexpose as long as you don’t clip the hilites. There is generally more detail captured on the right side of the histogram and you’ll get less noise.
Question Seven – Grey Market Lenses
Wayne Osborne Miami, FL writes: I seem to come across the term Grey Market a lot whenever I’m shopping online for lenses. I’ll see two versions of the lens I want, one of which is significantly cheaper than the other. In the case of Canon and Nikon, both manufacturers web site give a very long and complicated description of what Grey Market means. Please help me to understand what I may be purchasing. Lens in question: Nikon 70-300mm f4.5-5.6
Scott B: Basically it means there is no US warranty. There could be trouble getting service from a US-based service provider. I’ve been looking on web sites lately and I don’t see them being that much cheaper these days. If you are buying from someone reputable and it’s significantly cheaper then you should be okay. For $50 I wouldn’t even consider a grey market lens.
Question Eight – Breaking Into Wedding Photography
Tim Andrews writes: I’d like to get into wedding photography, but how do you start to build a portfolio to show clients? How do you get your first clients?
Scott K: I love to do bridal portraits but I don’t shoot any weddings. I can’t think of a harder job than a wedding photographer. To do it well you have to sell them on you, then you have to meet with them to plan it all. Then you are there all day to shoot and then you have to process and sort 1000′s of images. The process never ends and you are in a cut throat business where everyone with a camera shoots a wedding. There are no retakes for a wedding and there is a lot of stress associated with wedding photography. 90% will be marketing and all the other stuff that comes with it and 10% will be shooting.
Scott B: I’ve shot lots of weddings and you’ll never work harder in your life. If you do still want to get into it – start 2nd shooting with another photographer in your area. You could also shoot pretend weddings as practice or work with some models. To build a portfolio you have to get some clients. I have a new book coming out with my pal Skip Cohen called Going Pro which covers a lot of this stuff. They could also check out Kelby Training for David Ziser’s wedding tips. Jerry Ghionis is another great wedding photographer from Australia.
Question Nine – Tips for Photographing Glacier National Park
Father Paul Kammen from Delano, Minnesota writes: I’m headed to Glacier National Park in 2 weeks for six nights, 3 on the west, 3 on the east, and want to photograph as much of the park as possible on a road trip. I’m in AAA, have stuff being sent to me, and got a few books, but I’m curious have you photographed this park before? If you were me how would you spend your time?
Scott B: I have photographed there several times. On the west side, my favorite area is Lake McDonald. There are a lot of great spots around there including the Going off the Sun road. There is also the wall of waterfalls where there is some bear grass where the mountain goats like to hang out. St. Mary’s on the east side is a great location for sunsets but be on the lookout for Grizzly Bears. Allow plenty of driving time to get there. Another great side trip to consider is the National Bison refuge.
Scott K: I also like Lake McDonald and have done some workshops there. Get up before dawn and pick one of the iconic locations to catch a sunrise. Then put your camera away and enjoy the park during the day. Then get your camera back out again at sunset. At dawn and at dusk is when you’re going to get your best images. Landscape is about the luck of Mother Nature. Every once and awhile you will show up at a location and you’ll have the perfect combination of light, clouds. Then the next day you’ll have blah skies or no clouds. Landscape photography is a lot like golf – there is always one shot that brings you back.
Question Ten – Repair or Upgrade
Turns out the shutter on my D70S is bad. I could send it back to Nikon to be fixed and refurbished but for roughly the same money I could get a used D90. The camera was functioning perfectly before the shutter failure and the body itself is in great shape. Is there any sort of market for malfunctioning D70S? Can I part it out or is it just I high tech door stop? Should spend the money on fixing it, get a used D90, or just enjoy my D7000 and spend the money on a new goodie for that? What would you do with your equipment when it breaks? Alan Jones Chesapeake, Virginia
Scott B: It’s a high priced door stop. There would be no demand for a broken D70S. The D7000 is a great camera so I wouldn’t be that tempted to buy another camera if yo have that one already.
Question Eleven – Lighting Upgrade
So far I have a flash (Nikon SB-600). I’m wondering what would be the best avenue to take to dip into more serious lighting (sofboxes, reflectors, umbrellas, studio lights, etc.). I do everything on location. JC from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Scott K: A lot of people think that off-camera flash is going to be inexpensive. You’ll need an SB-900 to really get it done. Then you’ll need a trigger. If you’re really going to be serious about this, then I would go with an Elinchrom Ranger Quadra. They are very small and lightweight and you can buy an adaptor to use any of Elinchrom’s softboxes. They aren’t cheap but they are fantastic. You’ll be spending about $2000 for a portable studio. If you can go a little bit more – you can get two lights. The great thing about them is that they will fire every time unlike the SB900s which rely on line of sight to trigger.
Scott B: Scott’s right – the Elinchrom stuff is the way to go.
Question Twelve – Gear Investment
I am fairly new to photography and chose to purchase a Panasonic GF1. I am really enjoying the camera for numerous reasons, but my question is this, do you think I should not invest too much into this format and maybe look toward a DSLR and equipment? Kelly Gibbons
Scott B: Depends on what your goals are. The GF1 is a great camera but if you intend to go pro then I don’t see that as a camera that will carry through. I think investing in the micro 4/3rds is great if you are a serious amateur. If you intend to go pro then I would like into a dSLR.
Question Thirteen – Tripod & Head Recommendation for Long Exposure Photography
I am really getting into long exposure photography using a extreme neutral density filter (e.g. B+W ND110). As a minimum my exposure lengths are 30secs up to several minutes. My subjects are normally seascapes and this is the issue. I have struggled with wind induced vibrations ruining my images and I need some guidance on what to look for in a tripod and head: I have a Manfrotto 190PRO and a 3-way head. When the wind blows I can see the tripod legs and camera moving. Should I look for a more robust tripod? Will carbon fibre help (I know the tripod will be lighter), are some heads better than others? Stewart Ayrey from London, UK
Scott B: You need the biggest, heaviest tripod that you can carry and afford. Carbon fibre will just make it lighter and more expensive. I like the Induro line of tripods. Then you want the big Arca-Swiss style ball heads and a sandbag on a hook.
Scott K: I use a lot of the Manfrotto products and really like them. I use the Gitzo Mountaineer and a really right stuff ball head which are heavy and sturdy. No matter what you have, you still need to block the wind as the wind will still move your camera and lens. Use a reflector to block the wind and that will help minimize the amount of camera movement.
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Question Fourteen – Storing Finished Fine Art Files
Particular to fine art photography, how do you save and store images that you know are complete and will never be altered again, you only need a digital negative to print additional copies in the future? Should I use RAW or convert to DNG? Should they be stored in the Aperture library or exported out? Justin from Aliamanu, HI
Scott K: You can’t store it as a RAW or DNG as these are final images that you made prints from. I save all of my archival images in jpeg format at a quality of 10. If you save the file over and over again then you might get some degradation but you’d have to do that so many times to notice any difference. You can save it as a TIFF and have huge file sizes but I think that people over think this stuff too much. No matter what format you store them in, make sure you store them on two separate drives in two separate locations.
Scott B: I have always just saved things as TIFFs out of habit but since I’ve been using Aperture then I haven’t really thought about it. Most commercial printers will want things in JPEG. If it doesn’t exist in three places then it doesn’t exist.
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