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Photofocus Episode 19

Show notes by Bruce Clarke ()

This week we are starting off with a question about credentials required to be a photographer:

Question One Credentials to be a Photographer

Bob Mayhan from New York writes: Does one have to attend a college or other post secondary school to become a professional photographer? Does one need a license?

Chase: Absolutely not. In my case I’m all self-taught although I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that as an approach that will work for everyone.

Scott: For the second part of Bob’s question, most communities have some sort of business licensing procedure that you may have to consider regardless of the type of business that you want to run but very few if any require a special photography permit.

Chase: I’ll add that for our International listeners you may have different requirements in your country so be sure to check into that if you are planning on starting up a photography business.

Question Two Horizontal vs. Vertical Shots

Linda Wilson from Ft. Myers Florida writes: How do you know if a photo would look best as a horizontal or a vertical shot?

Scott: One of my old teachers used to say that the best time to take a vertical photo is right after you take a horizontal one.

Chase: I agree and one of the dirtiest secrets is that the key to good photography is taking a lot of photographs. I wouldn’t take just one picture – I’d take several and include both a horizontal and a vertical and maybe even at a 45 if it looks interesting. Technically, composition is a learn able skill and the more you practice that better you will get at it.

Scott: There are certain subjects that lend themselves to a vertical such as a tall tree or a tall building.

Question Three Autofocus, Aperture and Shutter Speed with Video

elonbezner on Twitter writes: Looking to buy a VSLR to replace my D300. Wondering how autofocus, aperture and shutter speed controls work while shooting video?

Chase:I was lucky enough to play with one of the first DSLRs to shoot video and that was the Nikon D90. That camera doesn’t have autofocus. The D300s does have autofocus.

Scott: On the Canon side, the new 7D has autofocus, aperture, and shutter speed control. They really dialed that one in for video whereas with the 5D Mark II there are some software workarounds from a company called Magic Lantern for some of those things.

Chase: For me I actually prefer the manual focus when I’m working with video.

Scott: You should try to experiment with follow-focus and when I got my Red Rock Micro rig for my 7D I looked more like I knew what I was doing.

Question Four – AE/AF Lock Button

GI_Vantage Is there an advantage to use the AE/AF lock button vs half-press shutter release and recompose? AE/AF button is unnatural for me.

Chase: I’ll lock in on what I want using the shutter button and then play with my focus lock.

Scott: I use the same method as you Chase. I compose with the half-press and then experiment with the focus lock button.

Chase: At first it might seem weird to use but after awhile it becomes like driving a stick shift and becomes more natural and you’ll find yourself having to think less about it.

Question Five – Mentors

jkapcoe has a question for Chase. Mr Jarvis, did you have a mentor when you were starting out? If so what was it about their work that you found interesting?

Chase: I did not have a mentor which is one of the reasons I try and give so much back to the photo community. I’m so good at making mistakes you have no idea. I was somewhat negatively inspired by what I discovered when I actually tried to find mentors. It was part of that helped me create a platform of transparency among the pros so in some ways I think things are changing for the better and the need for a single mentor isn’t as crucial as it was early on. I don’t mentor individually because my schedule is too busy but that’s what the blog, Facebook, Twitter, the books and videos are all about. If I had to point to some inspiration I would say that the painters of New York in the 50’s – 80’s were inspirational to me because they did things differently.

Question Six – Direction & Control when Shooting Commercial Work

RyanSiemers has another question for Chase. When shooting commercial work or campaigns, how much do you control in the direction/creation of the work?

Chase: It goes on in a myriad of ways. I tend to think of it as a spectrum. On one end it can be very rigid because we have to meet a set of certain objectives that a client wants. More typically it is like a set of rails where the client doesn’t want to go too far on one side or the other to go off brand or off message but within the context of those two rails we bounce around between them to see what we get. Typically there will be a format discussion that goes on based on the medium (e.g. full page magazine ad vs. billboard) and that will sometimes drive whether the piece will be shot vertically or horizontally. There is a lot of freedom to work within the boundaries so a lot of times we’ll try to get some of the safe shots in the can and then we can go wild and it’s often the more crazy things that push the limits of the concept that end up in the advertisement because those are the magic moments when those things happen. Of course I like to have the most freedom possible.

Question Seven – One Lens for Sports, Grads & Weddings

dkalip on Twitter asks: I shoot sports, graduations, & weddings. Would you recommend a does-it-all-lens? If so, what mm to mm?

Scott: I wish we could help you with a do-it-all lens. I think it would be tough to pick a single lens that work in all those situations. For example if you’re shooting sports you’re likely going to need a really long lens but I don’t see you walking around at the graduation ceremony with a 600 f4 IS. At weddings you want to work a little more in the portrait mode so something in the 100mm range would be good. Let’s give the listener a good range of lenses. What would you say would be a good range of lenses?

Chase: I would get a 14-24, a 24-70, and a 70-200. If you’re trying to save money and you are a Nikon shooter, an 18-200 is a nice travel lens but it won’t be as fast as a nice 2.8 lens will be.

Scott: On the Canon side, their 70-200 IS L is a wonderful lens and the 24-70 L version is also very nice.

Question Eight – Macro Converters

joshua1v9 on Twitter asks: Do macro converters work? Im 16 and broke, I have a Rebel t1i, 18-55 & 55-250. Thanks, great show.

Chase: I have to be honest that I’ve never used one.

Scott: I’ve never used one either but I checked with a friend of mine who has used them and if you’re not doing critical work they are just fine and offer a great way to break-in to Macro photography. Be sure to buy the macro converter that matches the brand of your camera. Don’t buy a 3rd party macro because they don’t work very well. Same goes for teleconverters.

Question Nine – Dealing with Condensation

alan_ngo has a question for Chase: For your on location photo shoot such as in the NZ snows, how do you deal with the problem of condensation?

Chase: It’s an ongoing battle with the elements. The reality of it is that I look at my camera and my lenses as tools – they are hammers, nails and saws for my job. While I’m careful to make sure that they don’t break on me – I’m out there pushing what’s possible with the gear. I generally don’t go out there with big plastic bags. The pro cameras are much better at this than the consumer cameras but I don’t go crazy trying to protect them from the elements. As to dealing with condensation and the cold, the best tip I can give you is that once your cameras get cold – let them stay cold. Keep your batteries warm and next to you but the last thing you want to do is take that cold camera into the lodge with you and expect to go back out and shoot again. It will condense.

Question Ten – Agents or Reps

Aubrey in Hawaii asks: Have you ever used an agent or rep? I have had so many people ask me about it that I am finally jumping in to explore my options. I would love the extra income from my stock photography and am willing to share a cut of the profits if I can add a stream of income to my work and have someone else sell my work. Any ideas/tips/tricks to working with agents? Warmest Aloha.

Scott: I had an agent and they can be really good but their role is changing. In some areas of the business their role has been greatly diminished because the internet has replaced them. It’s actually hard to get an agent because they only want you if you’re already popular because that’s how they make money. If you are an unknown it’s hard for them to take you on.

Chase: There are a few different types of agents out there. Some agents like a Corbis, Getty or iStock are out there selling your commodity and pushing your images. That agent is usually image specific and while there can be some money to be made in that market it is getting more and more difficult. The other type of agent is one that sells your services and your creative vision. Think more along the lines of the show “Entourage” where they are out there pushing for you to shoot the latest big ad campaign for a big company by getting your portfolio out in front of the ad agencies. For me personally I have been with and without agents and I’ve enjoyed success in both situations. What I can say is that it’s very much like a marriage in that it’s a collaboration when trying to decide who to work with and which clients to go after. They also take a significant portion of the business because they are out there working to bring it in and are entitled to their cut.

Question Eleven – Protection from the Elements

macmcapple on Twitter writes: I like to shoot lightning with my Sony point and shoot in a Ziploc bag with a hole so the lens can poke through to zoom and a hole in the bottom for the tripod mount. This works well for taking 30 second exposures of the lightning without wetting my camera too much. I will be getting my first DSLR (a Canon Rebel T1i) for my birthday in December and I was wondering if the camera body has waterproofing on it’s own or if there are any hard or soft weatherproof cases for the T1I? If so I would like to know what price range they are in?

Scott: That particular camera is not waterproof so you may want to think about getting a rain cover. I like the ones from Thinktank. Some work better than others and they will restrict your access so you’ll need to practice with them. If you have some of the pro bodies then it’s less of an issue.

Chase: Umbrellas are a good option to give you some protection. In the most extreme cases there are cases out there that will let you take your camera underwater so if you’re going to be out in a deluge and you don’t want any moisture getting into your camera then you could look at getting one of those units.

Question Twelve – IS vs. L Lenses

Jim Rosswog asks if we can offer any advice for choosing between the IS and L Lenses.

Chase: I tend to err on the side of image stabilization.

Scott: I tend to agree with you on that one. The myth that you have to buy the L glass to get the very best glass is a myth in my opinion. I remember back in the 70s when we were shooting with 70-200mm lenses that were crap compared to even the cheapest zoom lenses that you’ll find out there today. The new IS lenses that are coming out these days allow you to gain up to 3 stops so they keep getting better and better.

Question Thirteen – RAW Sharpening

Robert Murch asks: I’ve heard many times that RAW photos need to be sharpened. My RAW software’s default is to slightly sharpen a picture on open. Would it make more sense to turn this off and do all my sharpening during my post processing? i.e. all at one time?

Chase: We don’t do any sharpening until the very last step. Primarily it’s aesthetic and what looks good but it’s mainly determined by the final output whether it be printed or on screen.

Scott: I agree with that generally although I have spoken recently with some Adobe engineers and they are trying to convince me if you a product like Lightroom or Adobe Camera RAW, there is a different kind of sharpening they apply that just works on the RAW part of the file and it’s just to tweak a bit of sharpening in to make up for the loss that you get during the conversion. Then they say stick with your traditional work flow.

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Question Fourteen – Focusing in Landscape Photography

Julie Hernandez in LA writes: Landscape shooters often say pick a focus point that’s 1/3 of the way into a scene. Why is that?

Chase: They are trying to get the depth of field that’s at the right place in their image without having to choose a depth of field that is infinite (eg f22).

Scott: I think what she’s referring to is the hyper-focal distance which is where everything in range from point A to point B is in focus but I could be wrong.

Question Fifteen – Bubble Levels

Tony Luganno from New York asks: Does it help to have a bubble level on your camera and/or on your tripod or ballhead and if so how?

Chase: I tend to default to what I see in the camera as my reality rather than relying on a bubble level. There are all kinds of optical tricks that can be going on like bending trees or the shading of a horizon.

Scott: I used to use them but a lot of the new cameras have these level things built in. One place they do come in handy is on tripods if you’re doing a lot of panoramic shots where you are going to stitch three or four photos together.

Question Sixteen – Photobook Recommendations

Jason Mills from Toronto would like to know if we have any recommendations to get really good photobooks printed?

Chase: On some projects we use the ones that come straight out of Aperture and I’ve been impressed with the quality that has been coming out of them lately.

Scott: By way of disclosure I did give some advice and suggestions to the team at Apple who worked on improving their photobooks and I have to say that I’ve been impressed with what they’ve come up with. Another good source is White House Custom Color who also happen to be a sponsor of the show.

Chase: I also used Blurb when I was putting together “The Best Camera” book and I was really impressed with their products as well.

Question Seventeen – Full Frame vs. Cropped Format Lenses

Steven Rodriguez writes: Nikon D3000 versus the Canon EOS Rebel X line, specifically the Rebel XSI EF-S. Both of these cameras are in the same price range, $600 dollars to $700 dollars, so I guess it comes down to which brand I want to make a commitment to. Although, I am a bit concerned with the fact that both of these cameras do not have a full-frame censor, they use the smaller DX/APS-C format. Would you recommend spending the extra money on full-frame lenses rather than the DX/APS-C format lens?

Scott: If you are trying to decide what brand to go with, go with the brand that your friends have. Then you can borrow lenses and they can help you out to learn features, etc.

Chase: Both are great cameras but ergonomics are an often overlooked aspect when considering a camera. Full-frame is definitely the way to go if you can afford it.

Question Eighteen – Suggested Catalog/Library Sizes for Lightroom or Aperture

Vern Snow from North Fort Myers, FL writes: What is a good size for a Lightroom catalog or Aperture library before creating new ones ? It’s not clear to me how to create additional libraries in Aperture? Lightroom has a option for a new catalog.

Scott: It’s easy to create a new library in Aperture. Basically you can start Aperture without linking to your existing library and it will ask you to create a new one and then you can simply double-click the library to launch that library in Aperture. Size-wise, I have a lot of photos in my main library and it got to the point where I had to start a new library because it was starting to bog down.

Chase: We are in a very traditional workgroup/server environment where we have 8 different workstations that come into one massive storage box. We create individual Aperture libraries for each project.

Scott: I agree and that’s we are starting to do now as well. We break project down into a single library or Lightroom catalog and that has made the catalogs and libraries run like the wind and we don’t have to rebuild the database. For people who don’t live in this crazy world, I’d say no more than 10,000 images in a library. I don’t have any test data to back that up. That is just my opinion.

Chase: Another shortcut in Aperture is to hold down the Option key when you open a library and it will pop you right into a new one.

Question Nineteen – Freezing Moving Objects While Leaving Some Motion Blur

Chris Reed from Washington D.C. writes: was recently photographing planes at a commuter airport on a bright day using a Canon 70-200 2.8 on a 40D. I found that the shutter speeds I needed to freeze the aircraft also causes the propellers to freeze which looks a little odd (like the plane is floating). Any thoughts on how to achieve nice blur on the props without getting motion blur on the aircraft itself? I’m interested in any in-camera or post ideas you might have.

Find out at which shutter speed you think the propellers look the most natural with a bit of motion blur. Once you find that shutter speed then you can pan with the aircraft to freeze it’s motion. You’ll probably have to go through a few more shots using that technique to get the right mix of the motion blur on the propellers and the plane locked down but the result will look much more natural.

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Wrap Up

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Show notes by Bruce Clarke