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EDITOR’S NOTE: I tried pulling a little PUNKED stunt on Ashton Kutcher at the end of the show and it didn’t go over so well. I apologize if anyone was offended.

Photofocus Episode 16

Show notes by Bruce Clarke ()

Three additions and clarifications before we start the show. First, several of you wrote about the question we answered dealing with stars coming out colors other than white. It seems that some stars are NOT white so that might have been the reason our audience member got colored stars.

Also, when answering a question about SD cards and whether it was worth buying the more expensive ones, I made the mistake of slipping into a discussion of UDMA which is a a CF card thing only and doesn’t apply to SD. I wasn’t paying enough attention on that one so please excuse me.

Lastly – regarding the question we recently received about stacked polarizers, the The Singh Ray Vari-ND might be just the ticket to get a darker image on a bright day. I have one coming in a week or so and will review it on

This week we are starting off with a question about night photography:.

Question One Night Photography and Auto ISO

Dan Bodenstein from Boynton Beach Florida writes: My question is regarding night time photography. I am planning to do a Turtle Walk in Juno Beach Florida. Between 9pm and 11pm a group of people guided by the Loggerhead Marinelife Center employees will look for, and observe sea turtles nesting. There is one problem with photographing this… no flash photography is allowed. Additionally no flashlights are allowed. I own a Nikon D300 and I know it has high ISO ratings. Since I have no idea what the reflectivity of the moon would be, would I be better off setting the camera for Auto-ISO, or to a specific ISO setting.

Rick: I never use Auto ISO. I always want to know the ISO I am shooting at. The higher the ISO the more noise you are going to get in your photo.

Scott: I agree. Just set the ISO to whatever you are comfortable with.

Question Two Diffusing Light for a Large Group

John Kapcoe writes: I will be picturing a soccer team (4-6 years old) at the end of the month in an open field. What do you suggest for diffusing the sun for a group of 9 kids?

Scott: Unless you have the money to buy something like a Westcott Scrim Jim I would avoid photographing them in an open field and try to use subtractive lighting. Try to get them into an alcove or under some trees so the back and the top is covered by something that blocks the sun. If you can’t do that, old fashioned sheets might do the trick but you’ll need a really big sheet.

Rick: You may want to try using daylight fill-in flash to fill in the shadows.

Question Three Deleting Images in Camera

Frank from San Diego asks: Is it ok, after chimping (staring at the back of the LCD), and seeing a bad photo, to erase it right then, or should all the photos be left on the card, until the pictures are transferred to the hard drive, or storage media? So, does erasing have more of a chance to goof up the card, and can cause problems, or its no problem, review, erase and just shoot again.

Scott: I don’t recommend erasing photos in the camera. Firstly, that LCD doesn’t tell the whole truth and you may actually have a better image than you realize in the field. Secondly once you delete it from the card you have deleted it forever. Lastly, the more you nitpick a card, the greater the chance that you might screw up the file allocation card and wind up corrupting the card. However if you are out of card space and need to get the shot then go ahead and delete if needed.

Question Four Plug-ins For a Newbie

Matthew Johnson I just bought Aperture 2 a couple of days ago as I make a transition to a new level of commitment in the hobby that keeps me sane. With that in mind, what are some “must-have” plugins for an Aperture newbie?

Scott: Nik Software make an entire collection of plug-ins which are must-haves. The Nik collection contains all of their plug-ins and is around $299. My two favorite are Nik Color Efex Pro and Nik Silver Efex Pro. Another option is Topaz Adjust from Topaz labs however I personally haven’t been able to get it to work in Aperture.

Question Five Teleconverter vs. Crop Sensor

dCap from Leafy Surrey in the UK writes: Basically: I need a 400mm lens, so which is the best option, 300/4 + 1.4x converter on FX/FF – or – 300/4 on an DX/APS-C … which would give a better, cleaner, sharper end result. (Wildlife photography, non-birds).

Rick: Any time you put a teleconverter between the lens and the camera not only are you going to lose a few stops of light but you are also going to lose quality. A 1.4x converter will be better in terms of image quality than a 2.0x.

Scott: Technique becomes much more important when using a teleconvertor. If you have to get out to 400mm and can’t afford a 400mm lens then I would go with a crop factor over a teleconverter.

Question Six Full Frame vs. Crop Sensor Lenses

James Berghout asks: When researching and buying lenses, how do you know if a given lens is full frame or a crop sensor?

Scott: Canon crop sensor lenses have the EF-S designation and Nikon crop sensor lenses have the DX designation. If you are looking for a non Nikon or non Canon lens then check with the person you buy your gear from to find out what designation the other lens manufacturers use.

Rick: Three years ago when Canon came out with the Digital Rebel it came with an 18-55 EF-S lens. I tried putting it on my 1DS Mark III and it actually hit the little tab and the focusing screen popped down so you don’t want to put these crop sensor lenses on a full-frame body.

Scott: That’s the one big disadvantage of crop sensor lenses if that if you ever decide to upgrade your body and go full-frame, they won’t work on those cameras so that’s why I always suggest that people save up for the better lenses.

Question Seven Park Photography

I have a state park that is just a ten minute drive from my home, so I’ve been putting in quite a bit of time there. I also talked with the park’s assistant manager about photography in the park. He told me that if I intend to profit off of the photos I’ve taken in the park then I have to pay a sort of tax or park usage fee that would have to be paid before I started selling. The fee would be determined by a business proposal submitted by me to Colorado State Parks that would show what my intentions were, how much money I expect to make, and some other factors. His example was that if I intended to put together a calendar, then I would likely only sell it for $15 or $20, it would only be on the market for six or eight months or so, and I’d might sell a few hundred locally. So the usage fee/tax that I would have to pay would be less on that, than if I were to sell large prints for $100 through the internet (a larger audience) for as long as I’m in business. This is apparently the case with all state parks around Colorado. My questions are, how have you dealt with situations like this, if you’ve had to at all? How would I go about estimating potential sales without having a history to go off of? And what is the best resource out there for putting together photography focused business proposals?

Scott: I would walk away and say that it’s way too many hoops to jump through. You can go to any National Park in Colorado and as long as you aren’t doing anything that requires park staff to have to open up areas for you or if you are not working with lots of lighting gear and models then you can go ahead and shoot. Be sure to get a lawyer if you do decide to do something.

Rick: I would just go ahead and do it. I’ve seen lots of photographers in the parks.

Question Eight Manual Focus Advice

burfino on Twitter writes: Just got a 50mm f1.8 lens, but my D60 forces manual focus. I need some advice on getting crisp focus with a very wide f-stop.

Rick: Focus very carefully. If you are photographing a person, set the focus right on the eye. The closer you are then the depth of field will be more shallow.

Scott: My advice would be to move back a bit because the closer you are the shallower the depth of field and with those 1.8 and 1.4 lenses you are often talking about inches. Most of these cameras also come with a diopter which may help you see better through the viewfinder and a lot of people don’t know that it’s there and that they can adjust it.

Rick: Alien Skin has a great plug-in called Bokeh which lets you take a picture with a 50mm lens at f8 and then make a selection of the subject and select 1.4 or 1.8 and it will blur out the background.

Question Nine Focus Range Button

flienhardt: Big zoom lenses do have a switch which indicates the minimum focus distance.What shooting conditions lead to what switch position?

Scott: Most big lenses have this setting and it is a focus limiter. Here is when you can use that setting. Suppose you are photographing birds in flight. You generally don’t have to worry about them being 5 feet away from you so you can set that focus limiting so that it starts somewhere out there far away before it even starts to autofocus which means it will focus faster.

Rick: It reduces the focusing time and if you are photographing moving subjects time is very critical.

Question Ten Panoramic Stitching

majourJD on Twitter writes: Digital stitching with Photoshop CS4; any advice with panoramic photos? I’d like to use Aperture, but forced to use Bridge.

Rick: You have to start with good pictures. I shoot verticals when I am going to do a panorama stitch because you will often lose information at the top and bottom. If you were shooting mountains for example and only used horizontals, there is a chance that the tops of the mountains might get cut off when you do the stitching. Select your pictures in Bridge and then use Photomerge to stitch them together and once they are stitched you have to flatten the image to get rid of all the weird lines. It’s also important to shoot on manual so you have full control over exposure.

Scott: You definitely don’t want to have your Aperture change as that will affect your depth of field. You also want to keep the camera level as that improves your chance of getting all that information balanced.

Rick: If you want to have some real fun, try an HDR pano.

Question Eleven Sidecar XML Files

razz2 on Twitter writes: For RAW image edits in ACR or LR etc, do you guys prefer Sidecar XML files or the RAW database and why?

Scott: I hate sidecar XML files because they get lost. I switched to DNG because the sidecar file gets embedded in the image file and it becomes one file which takes up less space. Recently Adobe agreed to turn over DNG to the open source standard so that even if Adobe goes out of business you can be sure that the DNG format will still be supported in the future.

Rick: Keep in mind that if you change to DNG they will take longer to convert and process.

Question Twelve Photography Vests

aduncanator: Photographer’s vest: wardrobe for poseurs or utilitarian garment?

Scott: Not wardrobe for poseurs as I use one all the time. They may not attract the ladies but they make great carry-ons to get extra gear on a plane.

Rick: If you are serious about being a photographer then you shouldn’t care how you look. I carry my filters, extra cards, spare batteries, lens cloths, small lenses, etc in my camera vest.

Question Thirteen – Benefits of Fixed Lenses

deejaydoubleyoo on Twitter writes: Hey guys. I was wondering why I would need a fixed 50mm lens when I have a 18-55mm canon lens? What are the
benefits of fixed?

Scott: Any Canon 50mm is going to be sharper than the 18-55 kit lens which has a lot of plastic in it.

Rick: That 18-55 is the kit lens and if you have a really contrasty scene you will chromatic aberrations.

Question Fourteen Flash Choices

M.C. O’Connor wants advice for a flash unit for her D80. SB600, SB800 SB900?

Scott: I’d go with SB900 if you can afford it. It’s far more user friendly than the SB600 and works with the Creative Lighting System.

Rick: I agree. On the Canon side I shoot with the 580 EX II which is expensive but you get what you pay for. The features you want to look for in a flash unit are the swivel head so you can bounce it and the ability to control the output of the flash. Also make sure you can fire it remotely with a wireless transmitter.

Question Fifteen High Speed Flash Sync

Robert Williams I have a Nikon D200 with an SB600 and ever since I found out how to use High Speed flash Sync I’ve had it turned on. I was wondering if this has any disadvantages?

Scott: No but if you get into a situation where you need to use the high speed sync you will get less power out of the flash. You can go out on a bright sunny day and shoot at 1/8000 of a second and make day look like night. However you’ll get less power out of your flash so you’ll have faster fall off and a lower guide number.

Question Sixteen – Tricky Lighting Situation

Glenn Miller from Boston writes: I do a lot of sports photography at fencing competitions (the kind with weapons not chain link). One of the venues in which I do most of my photography has large sunlit windows, 30 ft. high ceilings, white walls and white or light gray floors. The standard fencing uniform is also white. As a courtesy to the fencers you cannot use a flash because of the affect it would have on their vision during a bout. While I try to expose for the highlights it seems like the entire scene is one big highlight. Any thoughts on how I can get the right exposure in a very white, bright room while making the shot contain some interesting contrast and capturing a VERY fast sport? I use a D700 with a Nikon 24-70mm lens for most of this work and can get fairly close to the action.

Scott: Find the brightest part of the scene and make sure that you’re holding detail there. If there is no specularity in the room then it’s not a bad situation but if there is specularity in the scene then they are going to blow out and there isn’t much you can do about that.

Rick: This sounds like a perfect opportunity to experiment in Photoshop or Lightroom. Play around with contrast and experiment with the shadows, hilites, levels, etc.

Question Seventeen – Rangefinder Cameras

Gary Orenstein writes: I keep hearing more people describe some of the new cameras (Olympus PEN, etc.) as rangefinder like Could you go through the classic definition of a rangefinder and what made the category stand out.

Rick: With a rangefinder you are looking through a window and not looking through the lens. Since you’re not on the same axis as the lens you won’t see exactly what the camera sees but you can learn to compensate for that once you start working with them. An advantage of the rangefinder cameras is that they are very quiet.

Scott: Rangefinder cameras are big favorites with people who do street photography. Typically they are not bulky and they are quiet, etc. When they say rangefinder like, what they mean is that they look like one but they don’t operate like one. These kind of cameras have an electronic viewfinder in them.

Question Eighteen – Macro Lens Suggestions

Frank Sammut writes: I will be in the market for a Macro Lens soon with my main subjects being plants & bugs. Now I do not want to get too close to the subjects when they are bugs or insects for obvious reasons. I see there are 50mm & 100mm Macro lenses along with other lengths. I get confused when ratios are brought into the equation, such as 1:1, 1:2, 2:1 etc. Could you advise to the best combination of Focal length & ratio for the fullest frame shot possible.

Rick: 1:1 means life size. What the 100mm will do is allow for greater distance between you and subject. Most of the macro pictures are taken with a 100mm.

Scott: I use the Nikon 105mm 2.8 macro lens but I would look at 100mm as a minimum distance. 1:1 is life size. 2:1 is twice life size.

Question Nineteen – TIFF Format & Printing

Ross Robinson asks: Some of our local photo printers say that their equipment converts all images to JPEG prior to actually producing the print. These printers usually seem to have FUJI commercial printing equipment and their prints are a good bargain in many respects. Are there printing companies that can take advantage of photos sent to them in TIFF format and will it make an appreciable difference? After capturing an image in RAW and converting it to 16 bit TIFF it just seems a waste to have a printer convert it to 8 bit JPEG. Sorry if my question is too elementary but I have never heard this subject addressed. (I have heard Mr. Sammon address the ability of photoshop to use CMYK as a color output for publishing).

Scott: CMYK requires you to use a different kind of press for printing so this is used more in book publishing. None of the major print labs like WHCC or MPix use CMYK for printing regular photos. Almost all of the big commercial printers will still down convert them to JPEG and when I looked at them in comparison to the TIFF files there was no noticeable difference. This is really camera club stuff for the pixel peepers out there.

Rick: I don’t know of any that take advantage of the TIFF files so stick with the JPEGS and you’ll save time on uploading.

Question Twenty – Ring Photos

Wally writes: I just got engaged this past weekend and my fiance and I would like to send a few pictures of the ring out to our family members and friends. I was wondering how take great shots like those I have seen elsewhere on the web and TV. What type of lighting should I be using to make the diamond sparkle and maybe some other shots to make the diamond look good. Most of my shots have come out kind of flat and boring.

Scott: When lighting something like a diamond you have to control the specular hilites and most people who shoot that kind of stuff use something called a product tent. It’s just a big piece of diffusion cloth that is shaped like a cone or a tent and then you put your lights on the outside of the tent. That material diffuses the lights which creates nice pleasing modeling on the subject.

Rick: You also want that nice shallow depth of field when shooting something like a ring.

Question Twenty One – Learning Photography

Our next question comes from one of our Twitter followers – @Bestphotogever says: While I pretend I know something about photography, the truth is I don’t know a darn thing. I’m jealous of you guys and your success. How can I go about starting to learn something – anything about photography?

Scott: Don’t be jealous because we want to help you. Rick has over 30 books that you can read and start to learn more about photography. Head on over to places like Don’t be jealous – just go out and have fun.

The Blog

Wrap Up

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

Show notes by Bruce Clarke