Special guest host – Sara France

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Photofocus Episode 26

Show notes by Bruce Clarke ()

This week we are starting things off with a question about options for albums and books for a wedding.

Question One – Album and Book Options

David La Roche writes: I’m going to be second shooting at my friend’s wedding in April, and was thinking about getting some of the photos printed up as an album or book, do you have any suggestions on services that do this sort of printing? I’ve thought about maybe a Blurb book or something like that, have you had any experience with them?

Sara: I can recommend a few different options to check out including: Aperture’s book designing capabilities, Couture Book, Leather Craftsmen, Queensberry, and Pictage.

Scott: I have not used Blurb personally but I’ve heard good things about them. The Aperture books as Sara mentioned are a great choice and our sponsor WHCC also can create books for you. The great news is that there are lots of great resources out there and they are all quite good.

Question Two – First Steps to Moving Away from Auto

William Tootson from Denmark asks: What’s a good first step for someone with a new DSLR and who wants to take the first step away from shooting everything in AUTO?

Scott: A good first step to try shooting in Aperture (Av) priority. You pick the aperture and the camera will control the shutter speed.

Sara: That would be my suggestion too. I shoot normally in either Av or manual mode. Learning to shoot in shutter priority (Tv) is good to know as well. The main thing is to make sure that your shutter speed is fast enough so that your images aren’t blurry and then you can adjust your ISO and Av accordingly.

Scott: That’s a great point and if you are shooting sports or wildlife then you may want to start out shooting in shutter speed priority (Tv). Just remember that “P” on your camera does not stand for perfect.

Question Three – Post Shooting Activities

Basil asks: Do you have any recommendations for how best to convince potential clients that it is in their interest that I spend time for post-shooting activities?

Sara: I think showing them before and after pictures is a great way to do that. Showing clients that they are not just getting value in what you’re shooting on the day of but also what you bring to the table with your post processing.

Scott: I like that advice but once you have more experience and want to move to the place where you want to get the big bucks, I don’t discuss processing at all. I just show them the pictures they want to buy that are post processed and build the money into that. I wouldn’t recommend starting there but once I got to a point in my career I decided that I wouldn’t show a client a picture that wasn’t post processed.

Question Four – sRAW & Image Noise

Peter Annandale from New Jersey writes: My Canon 50D can shoot sRAW images. The sRAW1 setting will shoot about 7.1 megapixels RAW images compared to the standard 15.1 megapixels. I am thinking that shooting sRAW should reduce the noise in low light images – all else being equal – and that this could be an advantage. I am thinking that less megapixels on the same sensor could be a good thing in some situations. What do you think about this?

Scott: sRAW doesn’t change the number of megapixels on the sensor. It just reduces the amount of data being captured and in my experience the more data you can capture the less noise in the image. sRAW will keep the file size smaller but in my experience you are better off trying to capture the most data that you can. Remember that if you’re in Photoshop, almost everything you do degrades the quality of the image so starting with 15mp is better than starting with 7 mp.

Sara: Very rarely would I shoot in sRAW unless I got into a situation where I didn’t have any additional memory cards available and I needed to capture some more images.

Question Five – Thoughts on the Nikkor 80-400mm Lens

Tom Gordon asks: I’ve read many pros talking about how nice Nikon’s 200-400 (I have a car that not worth what that lens cost!) and the 70-300 lens, but do you have any experience with the 80-400 lens? I photograph wildlife and would like a longer lens than my 18-200.

Scott: I own all of those lenses. The 200-400 is a sweet lens but as you mentioned it is a bit spendy and a bit heavy. The 70-300 is also a great lens and is a bit lighter. The 80-400 is one of Nikon’s older lenses and although it will give you greater reach it really takes a lot of technique and skill to get the most out of it. If you can save your pennies I would recommend getting the 200-400mm lens or renting it first to try it out. Sara, you are a Canon shooter so I assume you haven’t shot with these lenses? What’s the longest lens you shoot with?

Sara: You’re right. The longest lens I shoot with is a 70-200mm f2.8 and because we shoot weddings we need fast glass so an f4 lens wouldn’t be fast enough in situations with poor lighting like the inside of a church.

Question Six – Digital Gray Card vs. Film Gray Card

My question is, what is the difference between a digital and film gray card? Why would they be different from each other? And most importantly, for both of the purposes I’ve listed above, is a digital gray card appropriate?

Scott: My guess is that it’s just a marketing thing. We actually purchased a number of gray cards last year from a bunch of different manufacturers and none of them had the same percentage gray.

Sara. Gray is gray I can’t imagine that they’d be any different. Gray cards are used for frequently for White Balance and because we are shooting so quickly we just shoot in RAW and white balance in post.

Question Seven – Bag Suggestion for Home Storage

Mylan Dawson wrote to us at [email protected] to ask: I am have accumulated a decent amount of photo gear (2 camera bodies, too many lenses (according to my wife), filters, sync cables, speed lights, etc) and while I am pretty satisfied with my travel bag(s), I am having trouble finding a great way to store all the stuff at home. I am looking for something that makes it easy to see and find everything, get to everything when I need it and keep it all reasonably protected.

Sara: We converted a utility closet into our gear closet and we keep all of our bodies, lenses etc in there. I use a Tamrac rolling bag that we roll into the bottom of the closet. We use a clear plastic organizer for all the other accessories. It depends on how much gear you have and what kind of shooting you’re doing. For us, we have a lot of gear and we’ll take different gear with us depending upon the shoot. For some people who don’t have a lot of gear, I think it’s fine to just store it all in a single bag and then you have it all ready to go.

Scott: My system is really convoluted and I don’t recommend it to anyone. I have a different bag for each system and a smaller bag for lenses and accessories. Somehow I manage to keep it all straight. Some of my friends like to use the Pelican cases to store stuff in.

Question Eight – Extension Tubes vs. a Macro Lens

James Rodberg asks: I’ve been thinking of getting either a close up lens or extension tube for doing macro photography with a 50mm F1.8 lens on a Canon 7D instead of investing into yet another lens right now. After reading some reviews I can’t figure out which would produce better results. What would be your suggestion?

Sara: I’ve been testing this over the last year. We got an extension tube about 6 months ago. We tried it with the 50mm 1.2 vs. my 50mm f2.5 Macro lens. It was a really beautiful image with the 50mm 1.2 and the extension tube. One drawback is that you’re kind of stuck with the distance you can be from the subject so you have to switch to different sizes of extension tubes. Another drawback is that you lose about one stop when using an extension tube. There are also some auto focus issues when using the tubes so you have to use manual focus. The great thing is that he can use it with any lens that he brings into his arsenal.

Scott: If money is an object then I agree that the extension tubes are the way to go. If money isn’t an object you are always going to get a better macro image with a dedicated macro lens. Anytime you insert something between the camera and the lens you increase the chance for light refraction, loss of contrast, etc. A dedicated macro lens is much more expensive. If you’re serious about macro photography then you’ll want to get a longer focal length lens such as a 180mm so you can get close to the subject without have to get as physically close to the subject and scare it away (e.g. bugs). Another advantage of an extension tube is that it reduced the minimum close focusing distance on any of your lenses so that can be an advantage if the subject you are photographing moves closer.

Question Nine – Color Spaces and RAW Files

Chris Garverick writes: Does the color space I select in my camera settings affect both the RAW and the JPEG, or the JPEG only? If it only affects the JPEG, how do I set the color space for my RAW files?

Scott: It affects RAW and JPEG. The difference is that if you’re shooting in RAW you can change it in post whereas if you are shooting in JPEG that information is baked in when you take the shot.

Question Ten – Landscape Photography with a Wimberley Head

Rhett Gibson from Auburn, AL writes: I use a Wimberley head the majority of the time. What is the best way to take a landscape photo with my tripod? Specifically, with my camera body mounted to a arca-swiss style plate, I can’t level it out the way I would be able to with a ball head. I’ve got the new Gitzo 3541 tripod, which requires an allen wrench to remove the Wimberley mount, so removing the mount isn’t really a good option.

Scott: The Wimberly head is designed as a gimbal head to balance out those long lenses so it’s not really designed for traditional landscape photography. You might want to get a less expensive tripod and ball head for those applications.

Sara: Being a wedding photographer I haven’t used a tripod for about 4 years. There is rarely a time when you need a tripod in wedding photography.

Question Eleven – Fast Battery Charger

Rafael Otoya from Southlake Texas asks: About two weeks ago, you were talking about rechargeable batteries. You mentioned you use Eneloop batteries. Can you recommend a fast charger?

Sara: I would recommend the Maha/PowerEx C-204W

Scott: Those are my favorite ones as well.

Question Twelve – Naming Digital Negatives

Matt Vanecek asks: What is a good sustainable convention for naming the digital negatives?

Sara: What we do for naming convention is the full year – month – day then a space and then the event name. All of our folders are named that way. For our clients it’s both of their full names and then wedding or engagement. For the image number we just use a 4 digit number. Using Aperture you can also do your key wording and tagging.

Scott: I’m one of those do as I say not as I do. Back in the day when I shot weddings I used the bride’s maiden name followed by the wedding date and then a generic numbering system. I don’t think there is any one right way. Whatever convention you use, just stay consistent. Metadata is really the new naming convention so make sure you use the right keywords.

Question Thirteen – Recommended DPI When Enlarging Images

Edward J. Allen from Alberta, Canada asks: What’s your recommendation on a safe DPI to use when blowing up an image for a large format print without a loss of image quality to the eye?

Sara: This depends on how far they will be away from the image. Around 200 DPI is usually a non-visible difference but it depends on how close you’ll be to it.

Scott: I think there is a best practice answer to this question and then a what will work answer. The best practice is the output resolution that is native to your printer. If you’re dealing with a lab then you’ll want to follow their recommendations. What will work in real life? Everything Sara just said.

Sara: Another best practice thing is that the more DPI you can get the better. You probably don’t want to go lower than around 200 DPI.

Question Fourteen – Should I Upgrade to a 27″ iMac

Steve Wright asks: I have a 15 inch MBP w/ a 24inch Apple LED display. I want to know should I sell this and get the new 27″ iMac because I’m constantly running out of space on my MBP. I use a Canon 7D and always shoot in RAW. I do a lot of wedding HD/video and stills. What do I need to do?

Scott: The 27″ iMacs have had some problems with the displays so I would recommend holding off for a bit until Apple gets it sorted out. I think what you really need is just an external hard drive. I like the G drive mini.

Sara: I think space is the issue he’s trying to address as well. I have a MacBook Pro and I don’t really store anything on it. I use external drives for all of my storage. The iMacs are really fast but I’m not a big fan of the glossy screens.

Scott: I always have worked in a dark room so I haven’t had problems with reflections but I know some people who don’t like working on the glossy screens.

Sara: Rather than selling the MacBook Pro, I would recommend adding another computer to his arsenal. I work with 2 computers all the time and even then I find that they can’t keep up with me and the speed I want to work at.

Question Fifteen – Should a Nikon Guy Upgrade to the Canon 7D

Dominic DiMaria writes: I’ve been planning on going with a D300s, but then Canon released the 7D. I am a filmmaker, so good video features are a must for me, and the D300s just doesn’t cut it as far as video features for me. So, my question to you is this: should I replace all my Nikon gear with Canon gear and go with a 7D, or wait to see if Nikon releases the D400 or another future camera with better video features?

Scott: I faced the same struggle and ordered 2 Canon 7D’s just for video. If you can afford it, the 7D with a 50mm 1.4 lens is a very affordable video solution.

Sara: For now we are sticking with stills although I do love video. My suggestion would be to take stock of what he has in lenses and what it would involve if he wanted to move to Canon. It might make more sense to do as your suggesting and stick with Nikon for his stills and pick up a 7D with a few lenses for shooting video.

Question Sixteen – No Time to Process RAW Files – Should I Stick to JPEG?

Aaron in Louisville writes: My photography is strictly for family use. One of the first things I did after listening to you was change my camera to RAW files. I constantly heard shoot raw, shoot raw. Recently I heard that all raw files need to be sharpened. I currently do not have time (or expertise) to do any post editing except an occasional crop. Are my photos worse for shooting raw and not sharpening? Would I be better just shooting JPEG?

Scott: If you’re not going to do any post production then there really isn’t any advantage for you in shooting RAW. If you’re not going to do any post processing they will probably look better on screen if you shoot JPEG.

Sara: I think that’s true. If he’s really not going to do it then stick with shooting in JPEG. There are some in-camera adjustments you can make to control contrast, saturation, etc in camera if you are just shooting JPEG. Then your image out of camera will be a little closer to what you expected to get.

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.

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Show notes by Bruce Clarke