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The Audio on this show is sub-par – sorry – we’re still struggling with our mics. We will have a better mic next week.

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Photofocus Episode 89

Show notes by Bruce Clarke ()

This week we kick things off with a question about pistol grip ball heads for video:

Question One – Pistol Grip Ballheads for Video

Did you ever experiment with a pistol grip ball head for video? I ask because I purchased a Samsung NX100 as a compact/portable option to my D300 and was looking at multi-use, compact photo/video tripod and head options. J. Steven Horn

Scott: I have used them and really like them for stills for smaller cameras but I don’t find them sufficient for big dSLRs. For video I prefer a fluid tripod head so you can get a nice smooth panning motion.

Question Two – Recommended Strobes for Group Portraits

What power do I need for individual/small group portraits? I see lower cost kits with ratings of 100, 200, 400 Watt Seconds and pro kits up to 2400 Watt Seconds and more. What do I need for a starter kit? Nelson Wilkinson Milton, Georgia

Scott: The answer will depend on what you consider to be a small group. How much ambient light will you have where you are shooting? My general thought is that lighting kits that come in less than 500 watt seconds aren’t good for groups. The more powerful the head is, the faster it will recycle. Save up and buy the most powerful kit you can as you’ll never say you have too much power.

Question Three – Backup Drives

What drives do you use for backup now? I know a while ago it was the WD Caviar Black and know you switched but can’t find what you switched to. Jim Clark

Scott: I did not switch, I use the WD Caviar Black drives and they go in the Wibetech drive bays. I will probably be switching to Promise Thunderbolt drives. Make sure you are backing up at least someplace.

Question Four – Color Profiling by Switching to sRGB

I was wondering, short of using a Spyder or Huey system as it is out of my budget presently, would switching my MacBook’s display profile to sRGB give me more accurate colors when opening an image taken in sRGB from my Canon T2i? Andrew Pantaleon

Scott: It might help a little bit but if you want to work on a color managed system, working on a MacBook won’t be the best because lighting will look different based on the viewing angle. I would recommend using a traditional monitor with a colorimeter.

Question Five – Software Purchase Recommendations

This is my dilemma! With my piggy bank stores up I am looking at spending my money on software. Is it better to spend on the whole suite and get the best deal or should I pick and choose? Is the integration of a suite (and the Topaz and onOne integration options) more important than more expensive ones and twos? I think all of the software makers will work this direction eventually. Eric Wojtkun of Burke, Virginia.

Scott: Often you can get very good deals if you get the suite. The Topaz products are very affordable, even if you buy it A La Carte. Most will also let you download and try their products for 30 days so I would suggest downloading them and trying them for yourself. Visit for a list of many obscure plug-ins.

Question Six – Shooting Silently on Film Set

A friend asked me to shoot stills on an upcoming short film. I’ve worked other jobs on set so I think I’ll be fine at staying out of everyone else’s way, but I’ve never shot using a blimp before. Any tips? And do you think my Nikon D300s and some fast lenses will be able to handle the night scenes, or do I need to rent a body that performs better at high ISO? Mike McPhaden Toronto, Canada

Scott: A blimp is a device that goes around your camera to help deaden sound. It will be bigger and bulkier so try to shoot some with the blimp off-set to get familiar with it. As for working in low-light, I would rent a D3, a D3s, or a D7000. Make sure you rent it a few days beforehand.

Question Seven – Thoughts on Extended Warranties

I’m going to be purchasing a Nikon D7000 in the near future. Do you recommend purchasing an extended warranty? I know that Nikon offers one, as well as a number of third-parties. Some simply “extend” the manufacturers warranty and offer similar coverage. Others offer additional “protection” against accidental damage, etc. As someone who worked in a camera shop 20 years ago, I know a single repair can cost hundreds of dollars. Extending the warranty seems like a good idea. Andrew Peckens Cleveland, OH

Scott: Sounds like you’ve made up your mind already. My opinion is that it will depend on how long you plan to keep your camera. If you buy the latest and greatest, I wouldn’t bother. Think about the cost to repair these cameras vs. the cost of the camera. Compare the cost of the warranty vs the cost of the repair and then decide. I would also recommend that if you do get a warranty that you get it from the manufacturer.

Question Eight – RAW + JPEG & Buffer Speeds

Does adding RAW plus JPEG compared to shooting RAW or just shooting JPEG impact the speed of the buffer? Gary Harris Alasaka

Scott: Yes, it will take more time to write to the card so the buffer will fill faster but I don’t think it will impact you.

Question Nine – Motion Shots of Cars

I have an exciting upcoming shoot with an 2011 Aston Martin. I know how to capture the small details of the car but want to do some creative motion shots, maybe on a leaf covered road this fall, any tips/ideas for these kind of shots? Garen Johnson Hawthorn Woods, IL

Scott: For shooting motion shots, you’re going to need a driver to drive the car for you. Pick up one of those inexpensive walkie talkies so you can communicate with the driver a little better. Set yourself up on a windy road and shoot. Also, try and have a moving vehicle with a back end that you ride in (e.g. a pickup truck if it’s allowed) and then have the Aston Martin trail you. You could also look into buying some camera rigs that will allow you to mount the camera on the vehicle. These can be home made or things you can buy online. Experiment with panning to get some motion.

Question Ten – Protecting Gear from Cold Weather

I am in Montana for a couple days every week and spend at least an hour walking with my camera at the end of the day, regardless of the weather. I have already seen temp dip into the mid-30’s and soon the sub-zero weather will be arriving. What precautions, if any, should I take to protect my gear from this weather? John Russell Kenmore, WA

Scott: Outside you should be fine but when you come back to where you are staying, be careful of condensation building up on the camera. I would bring an airtight plastic bag that you can put your camera into after you’re done shooting and before you bring it back inside. That will ensure that the condensation will form on the inside of the bag and not on the camera.

Question Eleven – Determining Whether It’s an FX or DX Lenses

How can I tell by looking at a Nikon lens whether it is an FX or DX lens? Rob Palumbo

Scott: The less expensive lenses tend to be the crop sensor lenses and it’s also printed on the box.

Question Twelve – Determining a Person’s Best Side

When shooting portraits do you ever try to figure out what your subjects best side is to improve their look? If so, what do you look for or is it just an overall feeling? Bryan Decker Salem, Oregon

Scott: Everybody’s face is bigger on one side than it is on the other. I look for things like scars, prominent features, hair parts, etc. It’s generally an opinion but facial recognition used to be widely talked about in photography but you don’t hear much about these days. The guy who wrote the book on this stuff is Monty Zucker who was a master portrait photographer.

Question Thirteen – Handling Requests for Photos from the Cutting Room Floor

Every once in a while I get a client who asks for a photo that did not make it through my quality control check. It could be that it was slightly out of focus or their eyes were closed… What is the most professional and PC way to explain to these clients that it just didn’t make the cut? Miles Vandewalle San Antonio, Texas

Scott: If somebody wants to buy a photograph, I’d sell it to them. We tend to have standards that are much higher than what our clients will have. They are more likely to buy a photo for an expression or a smile. Expression over perfection.

Question Fourteen – FX vs. DX Lenses

Am I a fool to buy an FX lens for my DX Nikon D7000? For example, I’d really like the Nikkor 28-300 and the pricey Nikkor 14-24. Is this a waste of money to pay for all that edge-to-edge clarity for a DX DSLR? If ever I get a D3 I want to own some good FX lenses, and so would like to hear your thoughts about this. David Rabenau Webster Groves, MO

Scott: If you think there is any chance you are going to upgrade to a full frame body, then buy the full-frame glass. It will be the highest quality glass and will generally give you the best image.

Question Fifteen – Shutter Count and Image Quality

My question is more out of curiosity, does the image quality from digital slr sensor start degrading as the image count goes up? Do the pixels have the same rendering ability @ 100 shutter count or at 90,000 actuation? Angel Cortina from Colchester, VT.

Scott: No. If it works then it works. Pixels are either on or off. You can have pixels expire and we refer to those as dead pixels.

Wrap Up

We want themes and questions from you. Be sure to visit the blog at for articles, how-to’s, videos and more. E-mail us at [email protected] follow us on Twitter. Don’t just take pictures – make pictures.

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