Special guest host – Martin Bailey

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Photofocus Episode 25

Show notes by Bruce Clarke ()

This week we are starting things off with a question about street photography and model releases.

Question One – Model Releases and Street Photography

Steve Brazill wrote to us with a question about model releases and street photography. After getting over the fear of asking for the shot, at what point do you ask the person on the street for a release? I understand a random multi-person street shot would not require it, but when the subject is a single person I am sure you would. For the shots of people like those by Rick, Mr. duChemin’s or Steve Simon, when and how do you ask?

Martin: It depends on what you want to do with the images. If you want to use an image and sell it for stock or use it commercially, you have to get a model release for everyone in the photograph who is recognizable. If I’m doing a shoot I will send them a copy of the model release in PDF and ask them to bring it with them to the shoot.

Scott: The good news is that I’ve never been turned down in all the years I’ve asked. I have a prepared release in my bag and I ask as soon as I take the photo.

Question Two – Presenting Images for Sale

Is it better to matte photos for commercial sale or simply dry mount them? Chris Tempelton, Memphis

Scott: It will depend upon how and where you’re going to sell the photos and what the clientele is like. Without more details it’s difficult to answer this question however we can talk preferences. Martin, do you have a preference over matting or dry mounting?

Martin: I live in Japan where the market for this stuff isn’t that great so most of my stuff goes abroad and the safest way for me to send it out is to roll it up and and put it in a tube. More recently I’ve also begun to put together fine art folios which are bound in a book. The more professional it looks the more likely it is to sell.

Scott: I personally would like to matte my photos but if they don’t like the color of the matte I chose they might not buy the photo. The easiest way is to just dry mount it and laminate it for protection. I’ve moved almost exclusively to selling gallery wrapped canvas.

Question Three – Getting Friends to Model

Andrew Bitson asks: The people in my life aren’t very excited (or very willing) to allow me to take their pictures when I get the hankering to make pictures. Any ideas on how to get subjects who will let me ‘experiment’ in my picture making without inconveniencing or potentially angering people? I don’t have much money, so hiring models is out of the question too. Thanks!

Scott: The money thing doesn’t put models out of the question. There are a lot of models willing to do TFP – trade for prints. They need prints for their portfolios and you need to practice so there are a lot of websites out there where models and photographers can meet each other. The best way to get people involved in photography is to let them have the camera once and awhile.

Martin: Just promise them that they are going to look good and follow through on it. Take a nice flattering photo. If they are a larger person, shoot down on them for example. Once you do that they’ll be more likely to agree to do it in the future.

Question Four – U/V Filters & Scratches

Hi my name is Mansour and I am from Iran. I hate lens caps and therefore I slap a B+W UV filter on my lenses. Since I take my gear to rough places some of my filter have scratches. However on the pix I can’t see them. Do scratched filters decrease my lens / Image quality?

Martin: It would have very little effect on the photo if you’re shooting around f8. You may get some lens flare or lose contrast if the light catches on the scratches but it really won’t make much of a difference.

Scott: The scratches will be too close to the lens for it to focus on them so generally you won’t notice any problems with the scratches with the exceptions Martin noted with regards to flare and possible loss of contrast. I’d like to know why all the hatred for lens caps?

Question Five – Tripod Recommendations

I am looking to upgrade my tripod from a very basic (and wobbly!) one that came with my camera (XSi). It all gets a bit confusing as I don’t have the experience to know what works best (ball head? tilt & pan features etc), but what do you see as the important features of a sturdy stable and versatile tripod that won’t break the bank for a general purpose user.

Scott: I think it depends on the type of photography you want to do. If you do landscape photography you will want something light and that doesn’t have a center column so you can get down low. As far as ball heads go, I am extremely partial to the Arca Swiss system. This allows you to put a plate on the camera or lens that uses a tongue and grove feature. This plate slides in and lets you lock it down so that it cannot twist off the camera. You also need one that is tall enough to reach what you want to reach but also short enough if you are going to travel with it on planes. I like the Induro carbon-fibre tripods which are cheaper than the Gitzo and they make ball heads that use the Arca-Swiss style system.

Martin: I totally agree with the Arca-Swiss style system. As for the listeners question, it’s a bit hard to get a sturdy tripod and not break the bank. The Gitzo tripods are sturdy but they are a bit pricey. I really like Really Right Stuff products. I use a BH55 ball head and a gimbal head when using really long lenses. If he/she is looking to do video then they might want to look into a fluid head. As for the center column, look for one that is removable or adjustable.

Scott: If you’re shooting video, the Miller DS20 is the head you want.

Question Six – Is Photography Art?

Jim Brewer asks: Is photography art? I was recently having a discussion with a friend about what art is. Can a painting or rendition of something that exists in real life, i.e. the “rote copying” of something seen in real life, be considered art? Or is it just the work of a proficient technician?

Scott: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Is it art to you? There’s no body or government ruling on this stuff. If you think it’s art then it is.

Martin: There is a bit of an injustice there. If it’s done with paint then people automatically view it as art. If you think it’s art then it is. Whenever you put thought into how you compose something, then you’re making decisions that affect what’s in the image and by that you’re making art.

Question Seven – Lenses for Video

Keith Kasputis writes: I am planning on purchasing a Canon 7D soon. I will be using it for stills and video. I have heard the many discussions on lenses and they are helpful. However, I have not heard much about lens and video on DSLR’s. Are there features in lens that I should look for or avoid when purchased a lens for dual purpose? I will try to avoid crop sensor lens if my wallet will allow.

Scott: You have great control over the background with these great cameras and lenses. You want to get the fastest lenses you can afford. A 50mm is great lens to start with on a 7D as it will be the equivalent of a nice 85mm lens which is great for portrait work. A 50mm f1.8 is only $100 and you can get a 50mm f1.4 for around $350. I also have a 22mm f2.8 and the 70-200mm f2.8 gives you a lot of versatility. If you get out past 200mm then your skill with video has to be up there because of the rolling shutter effect.

Martin: I agree with your choices Scott. I don’t have as much experience with video as you. I think locking things down as much as possible.

Scott: Yes, most of my video stuff is shot on a tripod and I also have the rigs from Zacuto and Red Rock Micro.

Question Eight – Shooting from a Boat

Sheila McIntosh asks: How do you get great shots from a boat?

Scott: I bought a boat this year and I found out that I can’t answer this question.

Martin: We shoot from a boat when we do our workshops in Hokkaido. First tip is don’t use a tripod. If you’re shooting something with the horizon, make sure that you rock against the boat and try to time the shot. Also give yourself some room in the shot so that you can crop the shot down if you need to straighten the horizon. One technique that I’ve used is to use a monopod. I stick the foot of the monopod on my boot and that helps to absorb the vibrations from the boat.

Scott: Another trick with monopods I’ve used is to stick the monopod in my boot.

Question Nine – Recording Audio with a D90

Chad Griggs writes: What’s your recommendation for recording audio with the D90?

Scott: My recommendation is the same for any camera. Use an external recording device. That will give you the best audio. The problem is that you’ll have to sync it. I record a scratch track from the built-in mic on the camera and then I use a Zoom H4n mic on a pole to get closer to the subject. Any digital field recorder will do. Another option is to use a shotgun mic like the Audio Technica 897. The last thing you want to do is rely on the built-in mic in the camera.

Martin: I bought the Zoom as well and the Rode Video Microphone.

Question Ten – Business Contracts for Photography

John Tolson would like to know: What are some sources for professional photo business contracts?

Martin: For years I’ve used a book by Tad Crawford called Business and Legal forms for Photographers. I noticed recently that a new edition has just been released. It comes with a CD with all of the forms on it in Word format.

Scott: Another place I would recommend is ASMP – American Society of Media Photographers. Also PPA – the Professional Photographers of America. If you can afford it, you should run these past a lawyer as there may be clauses that don’t apply to the jurisdiction that you live in. Keep in mind that we are primarily a North American podcast so be sure to research the laws that apply in your country.

Question Eleven – Getting Rid of Banding

Jarvie asks: How to get rid of banding in sky for twilight/sunset pictures? (Preferably Using Lightroom) I’m shooting RAW with a D700 and top glass.

Scott: If you’re getting banding, my first question is what are you printing on? It could be that you’re using the wrong printer driver or an incorrect combination of printer inks and papers, etc. If you’re talking about banding on screen then it could be something in the JPEG conversion. Shooting in 32-bit will give you the highest quality image. Banding is a result of some sort of interpolation.

Martin: If, the monitor is set to a lower color setting like 256 then that could cause banding on screen.

Scott: Another thing it could be is if he is enlarging the photos too high.

Question Twelve – Registering Images with the Library of Congress

Scott Thomas wrote to us to ask: How do I register my images with the Library of Congress?

Scott: Technically, as soon as you press the shutter, a photograph is copyrighted but it doesn’t do you any good if you don’t register that copyright with the Library of Congress. The way to do that is to search the Library of Congress website and there are two ways to do it. There is a paper form that you can send in or you can register online but keep in mind that they will do away with the paper version soon. There are also sites like, Carolyn Wright has information on her site, and others, all have information on how to register copyrights.

Question Thirteen – Low Light Photography – Invest in a Better Lens or Better Body?

Darrel Key from Waco, TX writes: I have been trying to determine my best choice for achieving a good low-light photo. On one hand, I have been drooling over Canon’s 70-200 2.8 IS L series lens. On the other hand, I have considered an upgrade to my Canon Rebel XS to one of the models, like the 7D with higher ISO capability. My question for you is: Will I get a better low light photo using a camera with a higher ISO capability or using a faster lens? I am somewhat concerned with the limited depth of field that is associated with using a wide aperture, but I like the low obsolesce of buying high quality glass.

Martin: Darrel is definitely thinking about the right things. An IS lens is going to give you a few stops more. It’s not going to get you as much as the difference between the XS and a 7D in this particular case. The 70-200mm f2.8 is a great lens however in this scenario I’d go with the body upgrade. 99% of the time though you’re going to want to go with the glass.

Scott: I think that a fast glass is never going to go out of style and in the case of Canon I would go with faster glass unless he was going to move up to the something like the 5D Mark II.

Question Fourteen – Storing a Camera Body and Lenses

Hugo Boleto from Portugal asks: Is it ok to store a camera body and lenses in a camera bag or should they be stored in a dust free “container” that gets sunlight?

Scott: I have stored my gear in camera bags for years and I’ve never had any issues. For me, cameras are tools and are not museum pieces.

Martin: I do baby my gear but I also treat them as tools. I’m not sure how humid Portugal gets but I know that here in Tokyo I’ve had lenses that have gotten moldy if I’ve left them in bags. Now I have a humidity controlled cabinet that I throw everything into. I also try to keep my stuff out of direct sunlight for prolonged periods of time.

Question Fifteen – Camera Meters and Middle Gray

Rhett Gibson says: Can you explain the relationship between camera meters and middle gray?

Scott: Camera meters are stupid. They have one goal and that is to make everything middle gray. Point your camera on Av at f8 and point it at a black wall and then point it at a white wall. Both photographs will come out gray. Know that is what’s important. For example, when photographing in the snow you’ll want to use the exposure compensation to increase the light by adding one or two stops. The inverse is true on the black wall. If you want to go further, then you can learn about the Zone System that Ansel Adams developed.

Question Sixteen – Offline Lightroom Tagging

Alan in Vancouver writes: I’m wondering if there’s an elegant way of doing “offline” lightroom tagging. I have a windows desktop with my lightroom library and 30,000+ photos on it the majority untagged/described, and a mac laptop and an hour-plus-each-way commute on a train. I’m sure you can see where this is going! I’d love to be able to do a bunch of tagging/rating/adding descriptions/etc to my lightroom library and sync it all back at the end of the day. I know you can export/import your library (without negatives obviously), but the Lightroom import doesn’t seem all that elegant, ie: if it works the way I think it does I’d be creating a new library on each import, instead of being able to do some sort of one or two way sync of metadata. I’d really like to keep my “master” library as pristine as possible. Do you know of a way to do this, or a more elegant solution than exporting my whole library, copying it to the laptop and re-importing it back under a new name at the end of the day?

Martin: You can do all of that key wording offline. If he wants to sync the library and previews that could be a big job to copy them both across. If he is using one central library from both machines then it shouldn’t be a big job. One of things I do when I’m on the road, is that I bring them into Lightroom and do some key wording on the road. Then you can sync the Metadata. Then I select them all and copy the library from my laptop to my home system and then re-import them all into my main Lightroom library.

Scott: If the photos are offline you can still do all of the things he mentioned below. You just can’t do any Develop edits to the photo, but anything in the Library module is fair game even if the drive isn’t connected. So there shouldn’t have to be any syncing involved.

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.

Martin Bailey is at

Show notes by Bruce Clarke