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Photofocus Episode 18

Show notes by Bruce Clarke ()

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

Question One Event Photography

vetguy: Hard to do off cam flash, reflectors, etc at family events and/or candid images.What do u guys do for best results at ur family events?

Rick: I use the PocketWizards and I can actually hold my camera in one hand and the flash off camera in the other hand. I can even use this setup to fire another flash remotely. At a large event you can usually find someone who is willing to help out or if you don’t have a helper you can get a stand. You also want to make sure that you diffuse the light in some way to soften it.

Scott: Multiple flashes are the way to go with larger groups. You can setup 2 or 3 flashes behind some light panels and put them over a large group and it will look like natural light.

Rick: One tip around that. Last week I was doing a workshop and we setup a remote flash on a stand with an umbrella. The wind came along and knocked it over so if you’re going to setup a flash on a light stand, be sure to weigh it down so that it doesn’t blow over.

Scott: The other thing is to do some subtractive lighting. Use the bright sunshine as your main and then put your group under a large tree or the eves of a building and that should give you at least 2-3 stops of contrast to work with.

Question Two Portraits with a 70-200mm on a Crop Sensor Body

Kevin Hackworth writes: The 70-200mm lens is a commonly recommended lens for portrait work but does using a camera with a crop sensor effect this recommendation.? My instinct says no since the sensor is merely cropping the image and not truly magnifying the image therefore the perspective of the lens vs your subject is not affected.. Am I on the right track here?

Scott: This is a question that the pixel peepers go nuts with but I won’t get into that here. We use the term effective focal length. The actual focal length of the lens doesn’t change but if you’re using a camera with a 1.5x multiplier then you are going to be starting out at 105mm instead of 70mm. All this does is increase the compression effect. There is no difference if you go with a full-frame or crop sensor camera.

Rick: I normally shoot most of my portraits between 80-100mm so I think Kevin’s choice of lens for portraits is excellent.

Question Three Flash and Distant Subjects

Scot Riethmiller writes: I love to shoot sports and would like to start offering my services in this area. However, for indoor or night sports such as basketball or football I would need more than just the available light. I’ve used straight on flash at full power in the past, but the results were not spectacular. My question is would using a flash extender like the Better Beamer extender you mentioned in a previous post produce better results? Is there a better approach that you would recommend? I shoot with a Nikon D90 with a Sigma flash.

Scott: The Better Beamer would get the light out there for sure but it depends on the conditions you are shooting in. A lot of the professionals actually have flashes that are mounted up in the roof or in other locations that they can trigger remotely so that’s why their pictures look so good. For the regular guy, try to go with a camera that has good performance at high ISOs. The D90 is a decent performer but you really need to step up to something like the D700 or the D3 which will allow you to shoot at ISO 6400.

Rick: If you’re going to do this a lot, you have to be prepared to shoot in relatively low light so definitely consider moving up if you can afford it.

Question Four Matte Boxes

Tom Davis asks: I just bought a new Canon 7D. I see lots of ads in the video mags for devices such as matte boxes, rails etc. What does the matte box do for me as a DLSR shooter making video?

Scott: A matte box is something that video shooters use and it does two things. One, it acts like a lens hood to cut down on light refractions. Second, a matte box is how videographers work with their filters.

Rick: The number one question I get from people buying these cameras is what is the most important accessory to buy? I would say some sort of camera stabilization device like the Steadycam Merlin would be a good investment.

Question Five Video on the D300s

Paolo Valente writes: I have several crop sensor lenses and need to buy a new body which must have video. The Nikon D300s appears to do the trick and is a good fit with my budget, however, Scott, you haven’t talked about it much. I must have missed your review on the one you bought. How does the video compare with the Panasonic GH1 which appears to be excellent based upon the short videos that I’ve seen you post.

Scott: I was getting that camera from the perspective of just shooting video with it but I was disappointed with the results. In my opinion, the Canon’s and the Panasonic do a better job when it comes to video. The D300s isn’t a bad camera but it’s just not quite there compared to others on the market.

Question Six Wireless Shutter Release Recommendations

Bill Mueller from Chattanooga, TN writes: I want to acquire a ‘wireless’ shutter release for my camera. I have a 40D and have a 7D on order. I’m a big proponent of what you guys always say, ‘you get what you pay for’. I want to avoid the cheep ones so I don’t end up buying it twice. What brands would you recommend?

Rick: If you are going to be shooting indoors then you can use the Canon ST-E2. If you are photographing outdoors then I would recommend the Pocket Wizards.

Scott: Now I’m not 100% certain if Bill is looking for wireless flash devices or wireless shutter release devices. If he’s looking for wireless shutter releases, then Canon has the RC-1 and the LC-5 wireless devices that will trip the shutter.

Question Seven Autofocus

Conor on Twitter writes: Am I right in thinking that using Auto Focus is a must?

Rick: Yes and no. It’s no if you’re shooting in a low contrast low light situation. If there is contrast in the scene or even dim light, then autofocus can generally focus faster than we can.

Scott: Sometimes you want to use manual focus for a creative reason. You’re right, if you’re a beginner then throw it on autofocus and your fine but there are some circumstances where you’ll want to use manual focus – particularly if you want to shoot video.

Question Eight Equipment Recommendations for a Wedding Photographer

Jennifer Swanepoel writes: I have just started my own photography business. I do mostly portraits, but I have done a couple of weddings and I would love to do more! I know I need to make a few investments in equipment to be able to take my business to the next level. There are a number of things I know I need- a backup camera body, a monitor calibration device, battery pack for my SB800, a sharper portrait lens– what should I get first?

Rick: There is a lot of different gear that you can buy such as the things you mentioned but don’t underestimate the power of your website. It is your portfolio and your greatest sales tool.

Scott: My advice is not to buy anything. Get more clients first. Spend your money developing your business. You can rent gear now and then once you get more clients and get enough business then you can start to invest in gear.

Question Nine Overcoming Social Insecurities About My Photography

Nick in Portland Oregon writes: I consider myself a decent amateur photographer and I am constantly trying to learn and improve my work by reading, experimenting, and shooting. But one of the challenges I have found when getting out in the world is that I get very nervous around other photographers or in large crowds in general. I get down on myself, overly critique my own work, and make it very difficult to enjoy myself and shoot quality work in more public areas. I went on one photowalk over the summer, and went to a flickr meet up recently. In both occasions I found it very difficult to meet and socialize because I ultimately in my mind consider myself below the others in terms of quality or knowledge be it true or not. Any suggestions to maybe help correct this problem?

Scott: I can sympathize with you Nick as I get to work with some of the best photographers in the world and I wouldn’t begin to hold my work up against theirs although I don’t let that stop me from selling my photography. My advice is to not worry about what other people think and only critique yourself as means of improving your photography.

Rick: If you are shy around people, go to the local fire house and ask the guys if you can take some shots of them to get more experience working with people. Another tip is to take the Dale Carnegie course on Public Speaking and Human Relations.

Scott: You could also look into Toastmasters but above all, have fun.

Question Ten Auto ISO

Kevin Hoffman in Gaithersburg, MD asks Is there shame in using Auto ISO on my D90? I am a dad that normally shoots the kids around the house and doing activities. I only occasionally do more artistic shoots. I usually use S or A mode depending on the effect I want when shooting the kids, but I find managing ISO to cause me to loose more optimal sweet spot then not. Is there any shame using Auto ISO?

Rick: I would never use Auto ISO but that’s just me. If you are just starting out it’s fine to use the Auto ISO but try to learn what the camera is doing and eventually try to set it yourself.

Scott: I agree with you in general on the Auto ISO but on some of the new cameras like the D3, the Auto ISO is something I set when I want to maintain a certain shutter speed and aperture when photographing a subject such as flying birds for example. I’ll let the camera set the ISO so that if I’m photographing a bird that moves from a cloudy sky to a bright blue sky and I want to maintain a certain aperture and shutter speed, the camera will set the ISO automatically so I don’t have to start over.

Question Eleven Registering Multiple Copyrights

Bill Mellett writes: I remember you saying at one point that it was possible to register multiple photographs with the copyright office but the copyright office says “At this time, group registration of published photographs is not available through online registration So, how do I do that?

Scott: You still have to use the paper forms to register multiple photographs. Eventually this will all move online but for now just visit the Library of Congress’s website to download the forms.

Question Twelve Selling Photos with Frames

Jerad from Indiana sent us an email. When you sell photographs, do you include a frame? Or do you let the customer choose which frame to use? I know the right frame around a photograph can really boost the effectiveness of a photo, and conversely, the wrong frame around a photo can ruin it. As I am preparing to (try to) sell some of my works, Im wrestling with the decision of whether or not to frame them first. Frames are expensive, and the cost of a frame alone can add $100-200 to the cost of a photo.

Rick: I do sell my photos with frames. I would offer with a frame and without a frame. However gallery wraps are another good option. I do think if you are going to sell and send a print in a tube it will cheapen the image.

Scott: Gallery wraps are definitely a way to solve this problem. The price of a gallery wrap tends to be less than that of a good frame and if you’re buying frames you always have to consider that one man’s perfect frame is another man’s ugh ugh. The other problem with frames and mats is that photography isn’t always as valued by the customer as it is by the photographer. Often times it’s just an accessory in their house so if they have a red couch they may want a red mat or a red frame even though that might not be the best choice for the photo.

Question Thirteen – Recommendations for a Tricky Lighting Situation

Andy Winchester from the UK emailed us at [email protected]. I have a favorite pub that my wife and I frequent here in England. We love to go listen to a local band at the pub and have a few pints. I take my camera most visits (Cannon 40D), and I try to get pictures of the band. Unfortunately, the settings are not ideal for pictures unless you want to use a flash (I don’t). I prefer to avoid the flash and I’d like your recommendation of what lens/camera settings might help achieve this. Here’s the scenario: Decent sized living room type area in the pub where the band plays. Dimly lit by interior lights only (usually dark outside, so no natural light). Canon 40D with either 17-84 f/4 or 60mm f/2.8 I never seem to get great shots. My best so far have come using the 60mm, ISO 3200, at f/2.8. However, the shutter speeds are quite low as you can imagine which means a lot of shots that are not sharp. I’m considering buying a 50mm f/1.8, and I’d like to know if it will this help in this scenario. In general, what do you recommend to get a better shot in this low light situation without resorting to flash photography?

Rick: The lower the light the faster the lens that is needed. A 1.8 lens might help but I don’t think it will make that big of a difference.

Scott: There are only so many things you can do in a situation like this. If it’s pitch black then you can’t take a picture. My advice would be to use a camera that works well at very high ISOs.

Rick: Another thing he might try is to get there earlier while they are practicing when perhaps the light might be better.

Question Fourteen Camera Settings and RAW Files

Carsten Skjerk from Denmark writes: I know what raw-files are, and that they contain all information captured by the camera sensor. BUT….. one point that still confuses me is which of the camera’s settings that are actually applied to the RAW image. That is…. which of all the nice features of modern DSLR’s – scene modes, adjustments of color, exposure compensation, white balance etc are applied to RAW files, and which are only applied to jpegs?

Scott: It depends. If you are using a Canon or a Nikon camera and using the software supplied by the manufacturer (e.g. CaptureNX, etc) then most all the settings can be applied in the RAW conversion. If you are using Lightroom, Aperture, etc then all of those modes like scene modes won’t apply to RAW files. They will only be baked into jpegs.

Rick: I agree but my question would be why would you want to use those. For example, why use something like the B&W mode when you might like to have the photo in color later on.

Question Fifteen Emotion in Photography

Erick Puentes from Edgewater, NJ writes: My question is about the role emotion plays in photography. More specifically the emotional state you are in at the moment and how it effects your photos. I know that Rick always mentions about having “fun” with your photography BUT “fun” equates to actually being in a state of mind to have “fun”. I’ve found myself being in various states of mind and taking long drives, then stopping to take photos. Photography is sort of therapy and although it helps to clear the head, I am fascinated with how different people view the world or a scene through the lens and interpret it at that very moment based on there head space. Without going too much into it, have either of you gentlemen gone out to take photos in various states of mind, be it (sad, pissed off, nervous, etc.) and how if at all has that effected your photos? Can you look back and actually see the difference your state of mind played on the photo’s you took? PS-> I grew up in right across the river from Rick in Stony Point (rockland county)

Rick: Maybe fun isn’t the right word but I like to enjoy the experience no matter what I’m doing. I think the photographs are really a reflection of our personalities and I try to create my own reality everyday by having fun.

Question Sixteen – Landscape Photography Tips

Sam Harvey from Brisbane Australia writes: I was hoping to take some landscape photos of the sounds, mountains, lakes etc. Do you have any advice on how I could best tackle this?

Scott: Think in layers. You want to have a strong foreground, mid ground and background. Have a strong foreground object with a super wide angle lens is always dramatic and cool. Also watch your skies. If they are gray, white and ugly then crop them out.

Rick: Use a wide angle lens, use a small aperture and set the focus 1/3 of the way into the scene if you want everything in the scene to be in focus. I think it’s also important to have an anchoring point in your photograph. For example, a photograph of just trees might not be that exciting but if you add something like a barn to anchor the photograph then it becomes much more interesting.

Scott: John Shaw once said “The difference between a pro and an amateur is that often pros will know what to leave out of a scene. Try to drill down to the details in a scene. I use SAS which stands for Subject, attention, simplify. What is your subject, how can you draw attention to it and then how can you simplify things even more.

Question Seventeen – Hiding Gear Purchases from the Spouse

John Salter writes: “Based on your advise about taking the flash off the camera, and reading Hot Shoe Diaries after your recommendation, I’ve just bought a SB-900 to add to my SB-800 and D90 – and am loving the results; however, I have not told my wife. What strategies do you suggest for letting my wife know about this purchase without suffering too much grief?”

Scott: This is my favorite question of all time so please send me your mailing address to [email protected] and I’ll send you one of Rick’s books. My advice is when she asks about a new piece of gear, just say “What, that old thing?”

Rick: Try taking her out for a nice dinner and explain that the new gear is help both of you.

Question Eighteen – Protecting Your Images

Tony on Twitter asks: How do you protect your image once you license it for use a few times? Won’t it appear on Google and be easy to re-use for free?

Scott: Not unless they want to get sued. Just because it’s online doesn’t mean it’s free to be used. I copyright all of my images and register all images I intend to make money with. We use a variety of programs to help notify us when our images are being used without permission including a proprietary system we developed. Good strong contracts will also protect and acting on your rights after that when someone doesn’t follow the rules is appropriate. There are strong rules and strong consequences including potential jail time.

Question Nineteen – Ringlight vs. Umbrella

Bill asks: For small one-light home portrait studio. What’s better? Using Alien Bee ring flash “moon unit” or AB400 with umbrella?

Scott: That’s a very specific question that I can’t answer directly but I included this question for us to discuss. Ring lights serve a very specific function and give you that light that you see in publications like Maxim magazine and others. It’s great if you are working in a smaller space where you can’t get a great deal of separation between the subject and the background. The ring light gives you that pleasing halo effect which a lot of people seem to like. An umbrella gives you more creative choices and is far more versatile.

Rick: Umbrellas are nice. We also just did a workshop using a spider light in a softbox and it produced some nice light. I would concentrate on the size of the light.

Question Twenty – Lightroom Locations

Jerry from Commerce, Michigan writes: I am about to set up Lightroom with my new photos. Do you store all of your photos you use in LR on an external HD or on your Mac?

Scott: I use an external drive with my MacBook Pro because the hard drive in the laptop just isn’t big enough for a large photo library. When I’m working out in the field I always carry a couple 500 GB USB drives and carry my Lightroom library on them for that job and when I get back to the studio I copy them down to my main drive system.

Rick: I use external drives as well. Right now I’m using the Drobo.

The Blog

Wrap Up

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Show notes by Bruce Clarke