Special guest host – Scott Kelby

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Photofocus Episode 24

Show notes by Bruce Clarke ()

This week we are starting things off with a question about Camera store scams.

Question One – Camera Store Scams

Allen Smith writes: I tried to buy a camera from a store listed in the back of a prominent photo magazine. The price was fantastic. About $200 lower than B&H, but when I called to buy the camera, the store said I had to buy a filter and accessory pack with the camera to get that special price. Is this a scam? Am I missing something?

Scott K: If the price seems to good to be true then it probably is. If you have to buy a filter and accessory pack to get the lower price then you’re not really getting the lower price. I try to stick to the reputable places like B+H Photo, Midwest Photo Exchange, and Adorama.

Scott B: I think you hit it on the head. A lot of those stores advertising in magazines are basically mail drops or some guy in a warehouse. You’re better off sticking with name brand stores like B+H, Adorama, or Amazon. Now just because we didn’t mention a store here doesn’t mean that it’s not reputable, those are just some of the stores that we know of. If the price is way lower than places like B+H then you should think twice about shopping there.

Question Two – X-rays & Memory Cards

Willhelm Albrecht from Berlin asks: I am traveling to Africa. I am shooting digital not film. Should I be concerned about allowing security to put my compact flash memory cards through the X-ray?

Scott B: Your flash cards will be fine and will not be affected by the X-rays.

Scott K: I run my stuff through the X-ray every single flight. I’ve even washed mine in the washing machine and it came out okay.

Question Three – Selling a Photograph Taken without Permission

Robert Miller writes: I just read a blog post you wrote regarding the permission required for taking pictures. My son had his picture taken at our library and it was in turn published in the local newspaper, I was never asked permission nor even told about it. Once Ii saw the paper I was fine with it in the respect that it is the news and a public place which gives them a more liberal stand point on taking the photo. The issue is I found his picture published on their web site with full meta data and more shocking was the link to purchase the photograph off their web site. I know you’re not a lawyer, however I was hoping you could tell me the topics to looking for during my searches in order to find out if this is legal.

Scott B: I checked with my lawyer and he said it’s absolutely legal unless there is some local law that would prohibit it. If people are selling fine art prints then there isn’t much you can do. Now if that photograph was used in an advertising campaign that may be a different issue.

Scott K: You won’t have much recourse if they are selling fine art prints. Ed Greenberg is the attorney we have teaching at Photoshopworld and he said you can print up to 1000 fine art prints before it might become an issue. You can’t go selling it as a poster into the mass market at places like Target and WalMart but just selling fine art prints there isn’t much recourse.

Scott B: When you’re out in public you are basically fair game. The way the courts view it is that if you don’t want your photograph taken then you shouldn’t go out in public.

Question Four – B&W Printing

Levent Cimkentlwrites: What is the advantage of gray cartridges in B&W inkjet printing? And since I don’t want to spring for a $1000 plus pro printer, can you recommend any printers in the $500 – $700 range for good B&W prints?

Scott B: Depending upon the manufacturer, gray cartridges help to do a couple things. They help to keep black and white prints from having a color cast. They reduce problems like bronzing and they help to keep a full array of shades of black and gray When you don’t have a gray cartridge, you have really nice blacks and really nice whites but your grays may look blocky.

Scott K: I have a couple of recommendations. The Epson Stylus Photo 1900 does great B&W. It does A2 sized prints and although it’s specialty is not B&W, it can do some great B&W prints. If you are serious B&W photographer then I would go to the Epson 2880.

Scott B: If you use those Epson printer, be sure to use Epson inks, Epson papers, and Epson profiles.

Scott K: Another add-on tip is to use Epson Exhibition Fibre is insane for B&W prints.

Scott B: I agree. That paper combined with Nik Silver Efex Pro and I get better B&W prints than I was ever able to get in a wet/dry darkroom.

Question Five – Shooting Speedlights into Umbrellas

Dennis Brennan asks: I have flash question. I’ve been shooting more and more with multiple off camera speedlites – mainly with umbrellas. I typically set the flash zoom to 24mm thinking that will spread the light out the most when it bounces or shoots through the umbrella. Is this the ideal way to shoot speedlites into an umbrella? Just wondering what your thoughts are on this.

Scott K: I don’t mess a whole lot with zoom when working with flash. I’m more concerned with where I place the flash in relation to the umbrella. I like to use a shoot through umbrella.

Scott B: When you start talking umbrella, you don’t have to worry about spreading the light out because they are like light grenades; the light will go everywhere. Use the biggest umbrella you can and get it close to the subject but better yet, take off the black fabric and use it as a shoot-through umbrella.

Scott K: My friend David Ziser is a wedding photographer and he has a great product made for him by FJ Westcott called the Zumbrella. It’s a great shoot-through umbrella made from the same material that Westcott makes their Apollo soft boxes out of.

Question Six – Online Degrees

Frank wrote to us to ask: Are online degrees worth it? The town I live in doesn’t have any colleges or programs that offer a photography course and so my next best option is to do it online, but is it worth it? Do you have any experience or know of their credibility and value? I was looking at the Art Institute’s web site which seem like a reliable route to take but I just wasn’t sure how they work. I worry that I’d miss out on the one to one, hands-on approach that I’d get by physically going to a school for it, as well as miss out on using equipment too.

Scott B: The question I would ask you is why do you need a degree? I don’t know very many photographers who have been hired on the basis of their degree. Most photographers are hired based upon their ability to create great images. You could learn a lot about photography for around $25 a month just by signing up for the training that Scott offers on his site at Some of the best photographers in the world are there to teach you what you ned to know. Some of these online degrees can be very expensive.

Scott K: At the end of the day it’s the kind of images that you create that will get you hired and not your degree. When we hire photographers or graphic designers we hire them based upon their portfolios. Going to school is not a bad thing but it depends on if you feel you need it or not.

Scott B: Look at getting an education and not a degree. You can get an education by going to workshops, meetups, photowalks, reading books, blogs, magazines, etc. If you put the same focus you would into school into doing that for 2 straight years, you could probably outshoot many of the great pros out there today.

Question Seven – HDR Panos

Tom Li asks: I remember that you mentioned you did some HDR panos recently. Could you share your workflow in putting these together? Do you stitch first then merge the stitched photos in Photomatix or do you merge then stitch? Any other hints?

Scott K: I don’t think you could merge first. I think this is trick question.

Scott: First I shoot the pano the way I would normally shoot a pano but I shoot five exposures for each image. I shoot vertically and overlap them by 25%. Then I go into Adobe Camera RAW to process the images which I then export as TIFFs to Photomatix. Once I’ve done that I merge them in Photomatix and finally do my stitching at the end.

Scott: Here is a great tip for shooting panos. The trick to getting less of that bow tie effect in Photoshop when you merge your pano, reset your feet as your shooting. To see Scott demonstrate this technique, head on over and watch Episode 23.

Question Eight – Video Capture Shutter Speed

David N. from Templeton III writes: I just bought a Canon 7D on your recommendation Scott for shooting video. I’d like to know what shutter speed I should use when capturing video. I’ve heard there is some formula to use when you want to shoot at 24p v. 30p. I’ve also heard you need to double that shutter speed for slow motion capture. Any help?

Scott B: You’re pretty close. For 24p you want to shoot at a 1/50th of a second. For 30p you’ll shoot at 1/60th of a second. You double those numbers again if you want to do a slow motion capture. You can shoot at higher shutter speeds but you’ll often wind up with that stuttery effect. If you go too slow then you’ll get some streaking. Scott do you shoot a lot of video?

Scott K: I love editing video but I don’t really enjoy shooting video so I don’t really experiment with this too much. Thankfully I work with a lot of guys who do enjoy shooting video so I get them to do it.

Question Nine – Batteries in Cold Weather

Tom Smivey from London asks: I heard that camera batteries can expire more quickly in cold weather. Is this true and if so, what sort of actions might I take to make the battery last longer in cold weather?

Scott K: The batteries will rapidly deplete in cold weather. You have to have backup batteries and secondly, try to keep your batteries warm by keeping them in your pocket.

Scott B: Try to buy the camera manufacturer’s batteries rather than the 3rd party batteries as they tend to last a bit longer.

Question Ten – Getting Close to Your Subject

Alfred Sizemoore from Scotland wrote to ask: I’ve heard you say that we should get closer to the subject as a way of improving our photos. How do we know when we’re close enough?

Scott B: When you think you are close enough, take three more steps closer. You can’t be too close. The name of the game is to fill the frame. For beginners, this is the single most important piece of advice I can give. John Shaw always says the difference between a pro and an amateur is that a pro knows what not to include in the photograph.

Scott K: A lot of people struggle with this. I give the same sort of advice when I’m teaching Photoshop and talking about using sliders. I tell people to start moving the slider to the left or right until it looks bad. If you look at a lot of portraits, you’ll often see the top of the head chopped off which fills the frame with the face.

Scott B: We want to see who or what it is that you’re photographing so try to get as close as you can. When I do my bird photography, I want you to be able to count the feathers around the eye.

Scott K: I apply the same approach when I’m doing my sports photography.

Question Eleven – When to Sharpen

Margie Hammer asks: Is the rule that you should sharpen last in Photoshop still applicable?

Scott K: We still sharpen last. If you are shooting RAW there are two types of sharpening. One is called capture sharpening which is the sharpening that is applied when you process the RAW image and this is the sharpening that would have happened if you had been shooting in JPEG. If you open a RAW file in ACR, you’ll notice that the sharpening slider is already preset to 25%. Once you’ve done all your processing, before you save the file you’re going to sharpen for output sharpening. One level for web, one for print, and one if you’re going to a printing press. It should be the last thing that we do before we save the file because it messes with the pixels.

Question Twelve – Suggestions for Food Photography

Working on my composition, especially for food photography. Creative suggestions?

Scott K: We are fortunate to have worked with Joe Glyda who is one of the best food photographers out there. He used to work for Kraft and really knows how to photograph food. You can watch a video of Joe on Scott’s site at Food photography is actually one of my hobbies as well and I’m happy to share a couple of tips. One thing is that when you see food photography in magazines and advertising, they will often use a very shallow depth of field. It’s not unusual to use a Macro lens or a 70-200 racked out at 200 at f2.8 for food photography so lens selection is critical. Most food photography is backlit for the primary light. I would have one strobe behind the food with a reflector and a grid spot with a soft softbox in front to fill in the harsh shadows. Besides brushing vegetable oil on the food to keep it looking wet, food photographers will also use mirrors and bounce the light and they become tiny little spotlights. You can aim those mirrors back at the food to light parts of the food.

Scott B: I can’t be a food photographer because it wouldn’t last long enough to shoot it!

Scott: That’s where you ask for stunt food. Use the stunt food to get the lighting all set. Then you can eat the stunt food and shoot the freshly cooked dish.

Question Thirteen – Cable suggestion for Shooting Tethered

Steve asks: What kind of cable do you use to connect your camera (I have a D300) to your laptop when you shoot tethered?

Scott B: Any cable will do but it’s typically a USB cable.

Scott K: Any USB cable and there is normally one in the box that your camera camera came with. The idea was to use that cable to transfer images but it’s the slowest method but it will work to shoot tethered.

Question Fourteen – Camera Bag for Traveling that Doesn’t Look Like a Camera Bag

MaiGi writes: What is the best camera bag that doesn’t look like a camera bag? (for 3rd world travel, not those “urban bags”).

Scott K: I’m just like you Scott. I’m a bag whore but my favorite bags are from ThinkTank. It looks more like regular luggage and not like a camera bag unless you strap a tripod to the side like I do sometimes.

Scott B: They do have one called the Urban Disguise. The good old fashioned Domke journalist bag looks less like a photography bag these days too. A good third world travel tip is to black out the camera manufacturer’s name on your camera and they don’t draw near as much attention. I cover up the word Nikon on my cameras and I also don’t wear the strap that has the words Nikon D3 all over them. I also make sure that I keep my camera bag on me at all times.

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.

Scott Kelby is at

Show notes by Bruce Clarke