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Photofocus Episode 86

Show notes by Bruce Clarke ()

This week we kick things off with a question about HDR:

Question One – What is HDR

Maggie Burk from London writes: What is HDR? I am new to digital photography and everyone seems to talk about it.

Scott: HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. What it means is that when you are in a situation where the contrast is too broad, you take multiple photographs at different exposures and combine them in software to see the entire dynamic range. What makes it looks good is the 2nd step called tone mapping.

Question Two – Where to Get Film Processed

Oscar Spearman from Atlanta, Georgia asks: I recently purchased a vintage film camera – my first. Do you have recommendations on where to have the negatives processed? What are your thoughts about local pharmacies that develop, like CVS, etc? I’d like to get a DVD or CD and prints.

Scott: Film labs are going away. I used to have dozens I could refer you to but now there are only a couple. My experience with the drug stores is generally not good but if you’re just messing around then I wouldn’t worry about it. Costco might be an option to check out. If you are doing it professionally then I would suggest finding a professional lab in your area. It will be expensive because there just aren’t a lot of people doing it but you could always develop your own. Check with your local professional camera store.

Question Three – Filters

Gabriel from Puerto Rico asks: I hear all the time about having a good glass to get better pictures, but what about the filters? Could a filter affect picture quality? Is there any specification we need to watch out for in terms of quality, etc?

Scott: You do need to pay attention to the filter. People will often save up for a $1500 lens and put a $15 in front of it. Look for premium brands like B+W which are made with optical glass. Some of the high end plastic filters from folks like Singh Ray are pretty good as well but optical glass filters generally deliver the best results.

Question Four – Lenses with Bigger Diameters

Alexandre Oliveira from Portugal writes: I would like to know why some lenses have bigger diameters then others. For instants, the Canon 10-22 mm has 77mm and the 70-200 f/4 L USM has 67mm.

Scott: Basic reason is just that the lens elements have to be larger in certain cases to gather more light. Look at a 400mm f2.8 compared to a 400mm f5.6. Buy the largest filter you can find and then buy step down rings to use it on smaller lenses.

Question Five – Looking at Bad Photography

Thomas Emmerich Oxnard, CA asks: If looking at lots of good photographs can make you a better photographer, can looking at bad photographs make you worse? If yes, how do you know the difference? (I hope the answer is no)

Scott: I don’t think it will make you worse. If you’re looking at photographs published by main stream press, they aren’t going to be bad pictures. Looking at published photographs will get you thinking about composition, lighting, storytelling, etc.

Question Six – What is Portrait Photography

Oscar Camejo writes: I’d like to focus on becoming a portrait photographer. What is portrait photography?

Scott: Portrait photography is taking photographs of a person. A person in almost any setting is a portrait. When you start taking portraits you start telling stories.

Question Seven – What is a 2nd Shooter

Bob Panick from Gibraltar, Michigan asks: I’ve heard the term “Second Shooter” at weddings, and while I have a pretty good idea what it might be, could you elaborate on the term?

Scott: A 2nd shooter is the person who helps out the photographer who got the job to shoot the wedding. A 2nd shooter is there to help lighten the load. Often they are there to learn. If you are planning to be a 2nd shooter, have a frank discussion with the first photographer to know what you can do with the photographs.

Question Eight – Lens and Flash Recommendations

Patsy Thomack from Sheboygan WI: On your recommendation I purchased a Nikon D7000 in January and love it. I mainly shoot outdoor sports, but I have been asked to make candid photos for a fund raiser that will be held this fall. It is an evening event, held inside a large tent with average to below average indoor lighting. I figure this is the perfect opportunity to try out Borrow Lenses. I am looking to rent a nice wide angle lens, as my widest is a 50mm, 1.4. I have a SB600, which I have never been able to work well with, so I would like advice on an external flash as well, 700? 800? 900?

Scott: SB900 is my favourite flash for the Nikon. As far as a wide lens, something around the 20-24mm should be just fine. You don’t want to get too wide when photographing people or you start to get barrel distortion on the sides.

Question Nine – Setting White Balance when Shooting Sunsets

Penny Durham from Sydney asks: How do you set white balance when shooting sunsets? without a neutral surface to use for a custom WB, should i set a particular Kelvin value?

Scott: It really depends on what you like. Do you want your image to be cooler or warmer. For consistency, I start out at around 5000K. Feel free to experiment with different settings and see what you like best.

Question Ten – Trouble Photographing Landscapes

Mark Mercer from Derby Uk writes: I thought I had moved passed a beginner photographer but feel I’m still making a rookie mistake when photographing landscapes with a blue sky and white fluffy clouds. It’s always over exposed in relationship to the foreground or it’s exposed well and the foreground is underexposed. I’ve tried grad filters but with no real improvement. I must be doing something wrong?

Scott: You may be in a situation where you have a dynamic range that exceeds the cameras capability. If you have a scene with more than 5 stops difference then you’ll never get it right – unless you use HDR. Try shooting a 3-stop HDR next time and see what results you end up with.

Question Eleven – Photographing & Selling Photos of Pro Motor Sports

Chuck Schultz from Anniston, AL: I’m starting to shoot cars and bikes on track at local road courses. The idea is to sell to the participants, who always seem anxious to have photos of their exploits, but there could be other uses for a good shot. It’s pretty clear to me that a rider on a bike is clearly identifiable, and I should probably get a release before using a shot for stock or other commercial use. I’m not so clear about race cars or even track day cars, however. Do I need a written release to sell car photos for other than personal or journalistic purposes? Also, are there special considerations with pro events? Do the teams, sponsors, or sanctioning bodies retain rights to photos?

Scott: I cannot provide legal advise. I am going to be shooting an Indy and a NASCAR event here in Las Vegas. By them granting me the access to the track to shoot the photos, they automatically acquire the rights to use the photographs however they would like. As for teams, that is generally not the case but that depends on the event. Typically once you get your photography pass you’ll get all the details. In terms of releases, I can’t give you legal advice but I generally get releases all the time.

Question Twelve – Average Lifespan of a Shutter

Michael Fey from Syracuse, NY: I recently upgraded myself from a point and shoot to the Nikon D3100. Within the first few weeks of owning the camera I’ve already released the shutter over 3,000 times. My question is this: What is the average expected lifespan of the shutter on a camera? Am I in danger of wearing out my amazing new piece of gear before it’s first birthday? Are there any tips to extending its lifespan?

Scott: Check your manual and it will tell you how many times your shutter is rated for. It’s usually between 100,000 to 150,000 shutters. In terms of extending it’s lifespan, only operate the camera within the specs you’ll find in the camera manual.

Question Thirteen – Tips for Outdoor Wedding Photography

Nate Knudtson from Swanville MN: Any tips as far as going about my first outdoor wedding shoot? I have done some sports photography but not as much portraits, etc.

Scott: Try to get to shoot closer to sunrise or sunset. When that happens, find shade and try to avoid mottled shade. Get tight and get close. Expressions sell every time. Concentrate on the bride. Protect your gear when you’re outside. You could bring diffusers and scrims to block out or soften harsh light.

Question Fourteen – Watermarking and Signing Images

Timothy Andrews: When is it appropriate to watermark and/or place a “signature” on an image and when is it not?

Scott: In my opinion, it’s always appropriate when you are sharing your image online above 500px. As far as a signature, that’s usually appropriate when you sell a print.

Question Fifteen – Clean Reflections when Photographing Cars

Car photo question – I was wondering if you have any tips for getting clean reflections on paint and chrome-work when you are shooting outside the studio? I often don’t realize that a great shot has been ruined by an ugly reflection until I get the file on the computer. I’m thinking of investing in some large screens/reflectors, do you think this would be a good way to go? Steve Ashdown

Scott: Those reflections are typically specular hi lites. Try using a circular polarizer as these will help to cut down on those reflections. You can also try setting up a scrim.

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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