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Photofocus Episode 56

Show notes by Bruce Clarke ()

PMA 2011

Mark your calendar and plan to attend PMA 2011 September 6th – 11th in Las Vegas. It’s being opened up to the public for the first time and we’re planning to do a live Photofocus during the event.

This week we kick things off with a question about how to mount a video light:

Question One – Mounting a Video Light

My question is this: is it possible to mount a light (the type a videographer would use) on a tripod or monopod for a wedding? Or do these types of lights need an actual video camera to function? Travis

Scott: Yes, they’ll mount on just about anything depending upon what sort of mounting plates you have. Manfrotto or Bogen carries a wide range of adaptors. A common light is a Micro LED light and they normally will mount into a regular hot shoe. In terms of the light, spend the extra money to get a really good daylight balanced light and you will be much better off. The color on the cheaper lights will often be all over the place.

Question Two – Camera Bracket

As an amateur landscape and nature photographer, I generally use a tripod. I have used traditional ball head units and even have a Gimbal mount. But is there some other reasonably-priced head for a tripod that allows one quickly to change from a horizontal to a vertical shot. For example, a close-up of a small animal might require a horizontal view, but one might need to switch quickly to a vertical position for a bird. I did find one such unit from, but its cost was about $800 – which is too high for a guy on fixed income. Larry W. Arrington, Ed.D.

Scott: The most price effective choice would be to get an L-Plate. Kirk Photo and others make these that will work with the Arca Swiss style system. Another solution is to get a panning head that moves in multiple ways. Induro makes a 5-way panning head for around $500 and it’s really nice.

Question Three – Suggestions for a New Computer for a Photographer

Peter says I am buying a new computer for my photography business. Should I value processor speed, hard drive speed or memory most?

Scott: Spend as much as you can on high quality RAM first. Fast hard drives are also very helpful. Multiple hard drives is really important for best performance. More and more of these computers are equipped with great GPUs and programs like Photoshop and Aperture are designed to take advantage of these GPUs. Last on the list would be the fastest CPU. They are typically the most expensive but offer the least bang for the buck.

Question Four – Tips for Photographing People with Glasses

Is there a trick to avoid glare from a flash when shooting people wearing glasses? Denise Sauquoit, NY

Scott: There are many tricks. In the old days, we would have numerous pairs of frames in the studio without glass in them. Sometimes lenses can be removed if they want to be photographed in their own glasses. You can also cheat the glasses down on the nose which gets an angle going that doesn’t reflect the light back but watch for shadows.

Question Five – Photoshop vs. Lightroom vs. Photoshop Elements

Do I need both Lightroom and Photoshop or can I just use one offering? Also what is your thought on Elements for those of us not in the pro arena? Thank you Shawn Quincy, Washington

Scott: Do you need both? It depends on what you do. I have seen most people do the bulk of their work in Adobe Camera RAW. If you don’t need the power of editing in layers or if you don’t do a lot of heavy retouching then you might not need Photoshop. As for Elements, I think it’s a wonderful program and does 95% of what a photographer will need out of Photoshop. If you haven’t used Lightroom, then you can download a trial and try it out for 30 days for free.

Question Six – Tips for Group Photography

If I’m taking a photo of a group of people that are at different distances from the camera, let’s say standing in two or three rows. Where should I set my focus? The front row, middle, or back? I know I could just set my aperture to f11 and get pretty much everything in focus but I’d rather have my subjects stand out by having the background slightly blurred. Is this something a depth of field calculator can show me? Joe Derrick

Scott: Yes, a depth of field calculator will tell you this but I don’t see many people using these things anymore. Most cameras do have a depth of field button on the side and my tip is to try squinting when you use it. Focus about a third of the way into the group and shoot at f5.6 – f8.0. If you’re going to make a mistake, make it in terms of having too much background rather than having people in the portrait not being sharp.

Question Seven – Traveling With Your Camera

I like to take my DSLR everywhere I go when I am on vacation with my family. This means that I will take it into a restaurant for lunch but where do I put your camera when you eat? On the back of the chair with the neck strap doesn’t work because the waitress will bump into it, under the table is not good for spills and on the table has spill issues as well. Dave Dugdale

Scott: I usually leave my camera in the backpack and leave it on the seat next to me or in front of me. I like to keep in front of me so I know where it is. If it’s in my bag, I’ll put on the floor and run my feet through the loop on the backpack so if someone tries to grab it I’ll know. Never leave it in your hotel room or out in the open in a car. Put it in the trunk but don’t leave it in there longer than you have to.

Question Eight – How to Shoot HDR Photos

Ken from New York wants to know the best way to shoot raw images for HDR. Should you change aperture, shutter speed, etc

Scott: Don’t change the aperture because you’ll change the depth of field. That leaves only the shutter speed or the ISO. My personal opinion is that if you’re not working with particularly high ISOs, I would adjust the ISO and deal with the noise later. The new Nikon P7000 has an auto bracket feature which automatically changes the ISO and leaves the shutter speed and aperture alone.

Question Nine – Things to Think About Before Tripping the Shutter

I am curious if you could walk me through the sequence of things that go through your mind starting 5 seconds before you trip the shutter for any particular shot. Larry from Reno

Scott: It’s tough to articulate that as after doing it for awhile it’s automatic but there are a couple of basics. I scan the entire viewfinder so I can see what’s going to be in the picture. Look for intruders or merges. Make a quick tally of the bright spots in a scene and if they are not where you want them to be you’ll need to move. I look at backgrounds and look for clean, simple backgrounds. I also ask myself what story I’m telling with a photograph. If I can’t articulate that, then I don’t take the photograph.

Question Ten – Medium Telephoto + Converter vs. Long Telephoto

Greg wants to know if you can get the same performance out of a medium telephoto and teleconverter as long telephoto.

Scott: The answer is no. Anytime you insert another piece of glass into the equation you introduce flare, reduce light, and generally wind up with a degraded image.

Question Eleven – The Line Between Observing and Intervening

I have had a few opportunities recently to take pictures at a family reunion lunch, a co-worker’s 65th birthday party, and another family birthday party. I was given the job of taking photos, and I noticed that I tend to act like a “fly on the wall” and merely observe through my camera rather than making specific pictures of the event (taking pictures rather than making pictures, as you would say). I think I have been waiting for the subject to ask for me to take a photo before I step out and get him to pose to make the photo look a certain way. Does having a camera in your hand give you a privilege, or requirement, even, to structure a scene in a way that it turns out well for the photographic record (which is often the only memory people are left with)? What is the line between observing and intervening? Do I have the right as a photographer to intrude on an event to force it to look a certain way for the sake of taking a photo? Matthew Lokot from Australia

Scott: It’s completely up to you. Some people approach photography as a photojournalist where they don’t interfere. If you’re hired as a document arian and doing portraiture, then you have a duty to make people look the best you can. Pose and expression are the two big things to keep in mind when doing portraiture.

Question Twelve – Fast Shutter Speed and Sharp Images

Dennis from Ohio wants to know if shooting with a fast shutter actually makes images sharper.

Scott: There is no difference between a sharp image made with a fast or a slow shutter speed. The fast shutter speed helps freeze the image and make it look sharper. Fast shutter speed helps reduce the affect of camera shake which makes objects look blurry. If everything else is equal and things aren’t moving, then the shutter speed won’t make it any sharper. Sometimes for artistic purposes you may want blur to illustrate movement or for other creative purposes so not every photograph has to be tack sharp.

Question Thirteen – Book Recommendation for Lighting

Could you give an overview or refer us to a good book that would help a lighting novice get started with lighting different people? Terry from Ontario Canada

Scott: I can recommend Basic Studio Lighting: The Photographer’s Complete Guide to Professional Techniques by Tony Corbell

Question Fourteen – Attaching a Big Lens to a Camera

Tom wants to know if there is a right or wrong way to attach a big lens to a camera?

Scott: Don’t stress the camera lens mount. Don’t have a situation where a very long lens is being attached to the camera and you’re only supporting the camera body. When you do that, the lens mount could sheer of the bolts due to the weight and stress on the camera mount. Hold the lens and not just the camera body.

Question Fifteen – Metering Modes When Shooting Landscapes vs. Portraits

I am currently focusing on Landscape photography and will soon start shooting some portrait shots. After spending some time reading about metering, I am still unsure about which one to use for a given scenario. My question today is about metering. What to use when Im shooting a landscape and what to use when shooting a portrait? Jean-Pierre Melbourne – Australia

Scott: There are landscapes photographers who know the zone system who want very precise control and wouldn’t dare use anything other than the spot meter. Others, like me, trust the meters in today’s cameras and leave them on evaluative metering. For portraits it will depend on your situation. If you’re shooting with strobes, you’re probably going to use a hand-held meter but generally you’ll use a spot meter for specialty shots such as backlit subjects.

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.

Show notes by Bruce Clarke