Special guest host – David DuChemin, author of Within the Frame: The Journey of Photographic Vision.

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Photofocus Episode 20

Show notes by Bruce Clarke ()

This week we are starting off with a question about the ratio of keepers to rejects as your experience increases.

Question One – Keepers Ratio in Relation to Experience

Raoul Sevier asks: As you approach 10,000 hours of experience in photography, do you find the percentage of ‘keepers’ grows? Feel free to elaborate.

David: I’ve actually found that the more I shoot and the more experience I gain, the pickier I’ve become and the ratio of keepers to rejects has actually decreased. When you first start out, everything is new and exciting so many shots wind up as keepers. For myself, I feel sometimes like I’ve shot a particular image already so I find it hard to pick the keepers that live up to my artistic vision.

Scott: I’d agree with you. In my experience, I’ve found that as I’ve gotten older, I pick up my camera less and I’m more deliberate when I go out shooting so in that sense my keeper ratio is probably higher but that is a result of me being more selective with when I actually press the shutter.

Question Two – Conditioning Batteries

Tad Freeman from Montreal writes: Should I worry about conditioning my camera battery? I’ve heard that you should sometimes let the battery run all the way down before recharging once in a while to give it longer life?

Scott: I’m old and don’t trust the battery conditioners in the camera so I generally like to run my batteries all the way down at least once every six weeks and then let them charge back up. I seem to get better results than others but I’m not entirely sure whether it’s my technique or just luck.

David: 3rd party batteries are so inexpensive these days that I don’t worry too much about conditioning my batteries to get more life out of them. I typically just buy a few spares each year and recycle the old ones once they start to lose their ability to hold a charge.

Question Three – Batch Re-sizing

Lee Brown in North East England writes: As a semi armature photographer for a year or so, I am looking into getting some of my images online, but re-sizing every photo will take forever. Is there a program out there that can batch resize and keep the quality of the images? Thanks and keep up the good work.

David: I use Lightroom and you can resize your photos easily when you export them. You could also do it in Photoshop using a resizing action.

Scott: Any programs such as Photoshop, Aperture or Lightroom have batch processing capabilities built into them so I would recommend taking a look at one of those programs. Even iPhoto will allow you to batch re-size your images.

Question Four – RAW Conversion Programs

denniswright on Twitter asks: Is one RAW converter program as good as another, image quality wise? I’m hearing that DxO works better at high ISO than Aperture/LR.

David: I’ve never tried Aperture or DxO so I can’t comment on those. I’m very pragmatic and I think a lot of working professionals find that they don’t have the time for pixel peeping. I just use Lightroom and I’ve never had any instances where something didn’t turn out where I wondered if there was a tool that could do a better job.

Scott: I have not tried DxO. I do know that those who approach photography as more of a science than an art seem to like it. If you examined your photos with an electron microscope I have no doubt that you could find something that does a better job than Aperture or Lightroom but at what cost? Generally if you are using the programs that the camera manufactures supply there will be some feature that they contain that you can’t find in a program light Lightroom or Aperture but most of these programs may not be as widely supported, are more difficult to learn and may have a clunky interface so there is always a trade-off.

Question Five – Is there Still a Need for Filters?

Remko Westrik From The Netherlands writes: As a landscape photographer I always carry a Polarizer, 3 stop ND, and an ND grad filter with me. However with the great results that are nowadays possible with tools like Lightroom and the Grad Filter in Post I tend to use the post processing filter more than the real filter. With the RAW files from my DSLR this works great with good results. Where do you guys stand on this: A real ND grad filter or (Lightroom) Post?

David: When I switched to digital I sold off all of my filters which was a big mistake so I’m actually in the process of reacquiring filters. While you can replicate some of the effects of a neutral density filter in programs light Lightroom and Photoshop, it’s difficult to replicate the effect of a polarizing filter. A polarizing filter actually reduces or eliminates reflections off of things like water and glass. You could spend hours in Photoshop trying to remove the reflection but why would you when you could spend $100 and solve the issue in camera.

Scott: I agree 90% with you David. I don’t find a use for the grad ND filters as I can usually address those issues with HDR or other methods. However I agree that you cannot replicate the effect of a polarizing filter in post production so that would be the one filter you should always carry with you. I also use the Singh Ray Vari ND Filters which are a bit spendy but well worth it. Also, if you’re talking about video, it’s a lot more complicated to fix things in post production so using something like a Vari grad becomes your iris.

Question Six – Monitor Calibration Tools

Batt57 on Twitter writes: Is it better to use software or hardware to calibrate a laptop screen?

David: I use an EyeOne display calibrator. I don’t do anything critical color related on my laptop. I always work on a color corrected large display for color critical work.

Scott: Hardware calibration is always the recommended way to get the best results.

Question Seven – E-TTL/I-TTL and Diffusers

GI_Vantage asks: Does eTTL/iTTL also control flash output when using diffuser and/or multiple flashes, even if mixed with “dumb” flashes?

Scott: Yes, it does. The automatic TTL controls the flash output. All the diffuser does is diffuse the light unless somehow it blocks the sensor. The I-TTL or E-TTL will not control a flash that is set on manual.


Last show when I was talking about the Canon 5D Mark II firmware update, I mispoke and said it didn’t have manual video control without using the Magic Lantern. It does so I stand corrected.

Question Eight – Wireless Flash Triggers. Optical or Radio? Brand Name or 3rd Party?

PegaPPP on Twitter asks: Nikon (but also Canon) brand/builtin optical or the radio (cheap version but manual) wireless flash trigger?

David: In my opinion you always want to go with the name brand optical or radio triggers like the PocketWizards. You don’t want to be shooting a wedding out out shooting in some exotic location and have the cheap brands fail on you. Spend the extra money and get a name brand flash trigger.

Scott: Agreed. Avoid the cheap wireless flash triggers and spend the extra money on a good name brand like PocketWizard. If you are shooting outdoors in the bright sunlight or if there are line of sight issues, you’ll want to go with a radio trigger over the optical trigger because in bright sunlight or situations where there isn’t a direct line of sight between you and the camera, the optical triggers may not work reliably.

Question Nine – Perspective

Could you define perspective for me and how it applies to photography? I once read that a person can only change perspective in a scene by moving closer to it or farther away, not by zooming. Is this correct? Thanks. Jerry Nyberg Kalamazoo, MI.

David: The simple answer is that perspective can only be changed by changing your position relative to the subject. However, there is also the appearance of perspective which can change or the apparent space will also change if you change lenses. The bigger question is what do you want the final image to look like.

Question Ten – The Blinkies

Ron Richins Recently I purchased a 5D MKII. One feature of the camera is that blown highlights, aka “blinkies” are displayed on every screen on the back of the camera. There are several instances, however, when a bright area blinks for blown highlights. However, after looking at the histogram, it shows that highlights aren’t clipped. So, what should be believe? The histogram or the blinkies?

Scott: When you look at these histograms they are representative of a JPEG image and may not represent all of the RAW data. If are looking at the greyscale histogram that does not tell the full story. You should look at the RGB histogram and it could be the reds that are blowing out as they are generally the first thing that blows out.

David: Also, if you have any specular hilites in your scene such as the sun or a metal object those will likely be blown out but you don’t have to worry about those. I think that craft is important and the look of the image is more important. For example, there is a lot of lifestyle photography out there right now shot outdoors that has that blown out, ghosty look and I’m okay with that if that’s the look you’re going for.

Question Eleven – Digital Zoom vs. Cropping

shakesmonkey on Twitter writes: Does it make a difference whether I use the digital zoom in camera or crop in post?

Scott: Never, ever, ever use the digital zoom. I’d actually like legislators to pass a law making it illegal to put a digital zoom feature in any cameras.

David: Yes, it makes a big difference. Don’t use the digital zoom. You are better off to capture as much of the scene as you can and then crop it in camera. If you use the digital zoom you are essentially throwing away information.

Question Twelve – Shooting Modes

Kevin writes: What shooting mode(s) should I use when using my Nikon D90 with Nikons Creative Lighting System (SB800 and SB600)? The manuals are not really clear on this. Do you select the shooting mode just as you would when shooting without flash (e.g., Aperture priority to control depth-of-field, or Shutter priority to control motion)?

Scott: If you are going to use the CLS, the way most people use it is to balance the ambient light. We used to call it dragging the shutter but essentially you are saving the ambient light and then using the flash to fill in the subject. In that situation you would shoot in aperture priority mode (Av). The camera will lock in the exposure for the ambient light and then let in enough flash to expose the subject. If you wanted to do something creative and make the background really dark, then you would shoot in shutter priority mode (Tv). Set the highest sync shutter speed to darken the background.

Question Thirteen – Travel Insurance and Paying Subjects you Photograph

Coventry Bob in the UK writes: With your travels overseas do you take out (extra) insurance for your camera gear and secondly do you pay the subjects you photograph or not? What is your stance?

David: If you do this as a working photographer, you should already have a policy that covers international travel, loss from vehicle or studio, errors and omissions, etc. If you are a hobbyist or enthusiast, check with your home insurance. You may have to add a rider to cover your camera gear since it can be quite expensive. If I go out and I’m photographing in a place and I really want to get an image and I know I’m going to have to work with someone to create that image as if they were a model, then I am going to compensate them somehow. However if I’m on the street and I’m photographing people with their consent and they pull their hand out to ask for money, I try to find a way out of it and it’s not because I’m cheap. I’m very generous with my money when I travel but I don’t want to create a precedent where people see photographers as a source of money rather than another traveler with whom they can interact and relate. I carry around a portable printer – the Polariod Pogo. I smile with them and laugh and then try to give them an image. I think with photography there should be a giving and not only just a taking. If you don’t have a printer, get an email address from them and offer to send them a picture.

Scott: Make sure you have an Inland Marine policy with international coverage. That gets you replacement value and not equity value.

Question Fourteen – Exposure Compensation vs. Flash Compensation

Balliolman on Twitter writes: As a general rule is it better to use exposure compensation or flash compensation and do you have preference? Thanks!

Scott: If you to affect the exposure then you use exposure compensation. If you want to affect the flash then you use flash compensation. If you are trying to reduce the output of the flash but you want the exposure to stay the same, then use flash compensation and vice versa.

David: It sounds like getting a balance between the ambient light and the subject light.

Question Fifteen – Understanding Exposure

Liza Katherine asks: How is it that you can have a correct exposure with different aperture and shutter speed combinations? And how does your camera meter determine proper exposure in situations where the dominate color is black or white?

David: It’s like you have a bucket you need to fill up with water. Instead of filling it up from one hole you have two holes. If you shut one up and open the other one up, both are going to affect the same thing. It’s just a question of which hole. You need to get enough light into your camera. The question is do you that using aperture, shutter speed or to complicate things you can now adjust your ISO on the fly. How do you fill that bucket.

Scott: It’s one of those concept things that you can take 100 tries to explain it and each one will make sense to a different person. I just thought it would be good to have you answer that questions since you’re such a creative person.

Question Sixteen – Slim Filters vs. Regular Filters

Michael Cheung asks: What are the advantages of a slim polarizer vs a “regular” one?

David: Typically a slim polarizer cuts down on the amount of vignetting you get particularly on wide-angle lenses.They also do not have threads on the front so you can’t stack another filter on top of them although you typically would not want to stack filters up if you are using a slim filter.

The Blog

Wrap Up

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Show notes by Bruce Clarke