Special guest host – Frederick Van Johnson

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Photofocus Episode 27

Show notes by Bruce Clarke ()

This week we are starting things off with a question about tips for working with a new 50mm lens.

Question One – Tips for Dealing with a Shallow Depth of Field

@lcoppa: I just got a great 50mm AF-S for my D90,but I find it a bit difficult to use (very shallow DoF!). Any hints?

Fred: Shallow DOF is the reason why people by these lenses to throw the background out of focus and get your subject to pop – you just have to learn how to control it. You control it with your distance to the subject and your f-stop. The small the number (e.g. 2.8, the larger the aperture and the more shallow the depth of field will be). Experiment with different f-stops and when shooting a portrait, I focus on their eyes.

Scott: I use a lot of fast glass myself. In the movie business they use a tape measure and sometimes that is the best way to do it. I have a 50mm f1.2 for my Canon. On a little side note, you can’t have a 1.2 lens for a Nikon because the mounts will never be wide enough.

Question Two – Resizing Images & Re sampling

Mark Feliciano wrote to us to ask: Wonder if you could explain why we should avoid re sampling when we resize and image?

Fred: If you’re going to resample, it’s best to go down rather than up. If you try to go from 300-600 for example, the program has to guess how to fill in the pixels to make the image larger and you’ll get a softer image.

Scott: Re sampling and interpolation basically means guessing. The best practice is to output to what your printer is going to output. One option for enlarging prints is to use Genuine Fractals 2 from onOne Software.

Question Three – Flash Placement

Brian Downs writes: You always preach ‘Take the flash off the camera’, but once I have it off, how do I decide where to put it? Should I always place it nearer to the subject than myself, and how does the camera and flash determine power output when using ETTL flashes like the Canon 580 EXII?

Scott: You put it where you want to put it depending upon how you want to light your subject. Generally having the flash closer to the subject the softer it will be. As for how it works, it basically just talks to the flash using a remote communications protocol just as if it were in the hot shoe.

Question Four – Shooting Approach & Decision Process

Johnathon Shell wrote to us at [email protected] to ask: I take most of photos on manual and usually do a good job about getting everything right eventually. But I was wondering what your approach was to your photos in general. Do you adjust ISO, Then Shutter speed, and then aperture? Or Shutter speed ISO, Then aperture. What’s your approach taking photos when time is of the essence?

Fred: Understand what all of the functions are doing and then once you understand them, then you can experiment with them. I try to keep my ISO as low as I normally work on Aperture priority because I’m concerned with what i is in focus.

Scott: I work a lot in Aperture (Av) priority unless I’m shooting wildlife, then I will shot in Shutter priority (Tv). On some of the higher end cameras you can now set your ISO to auto ISO and specify certain parameters and then the camera will adjust the ISO on the fly to maintain the correct exposure. That can be very useful in situations where a moving object is moving from bright sunlight to shade or vice versa.

Question Five – Full Frame Sensors and Sense of Depth

Kristofer Blomdahl from Sweden asks: Does a full frame sensor by your opinion Scott deliver images, when printed (large kind) actually offer a greater sense of depth/dynamic? My sense is, that they do. Am I imagining this?

Fred: I would say no in terms of the depth in the scene. It’s going to record the same thing with a larger sensor, you’ll just get more of it.

Scott: Perhaps you may notice something if you were using a Dx lens on an Fx sensor. The sense of depth has to do with focal length, angle of view, depth of field and composition.

Question Six – The Future of Editorial/Magazine Opportunities for Photographers

Dave M. Wheeler asks: With the closing of Gourmet and other top-shelf magazines, what’s the future of photography for editorial/magazine use? It would seem that the trend in magazine closings will continue, meaning fewer opportunities for photographers.

Scott: One word – disinter mediation. I think in the future they will be disinter mediated by online media. If you’re one of the old guys you hate this but the good news is that all these slick magazines are out of reach for 99.9% of our audience but anybody can create a blog or a web site. There are more ways today to sell photographs than there were 20 years ago.

Fred: If you look at the trends out there, disinter mediation is the word. eBook publishers, photographers putting their work online, etc.

Question Seven – External Mics for DSLRs

Chris Cain writes: I was wondering if you could possibly do a quick guide to external microphones for the 7D?

Fred: I recently played with a D90 for video but the on camera mic is not so great. For podcast audio I capture with the Zoom H4N and sync the audio to the video in Final Cut Pro.

Scott: I have the Sony PCMD1 and the Zoom H4N and I love them. In the video business, a lot of guys use a long mic called a boom mic. I like the Audiotechnia 897.

Question Eight – Bag Suggestion for Transporting Gear

Gary Nelson from Darlington UK asks: I’m looking for a convenient way to transport my photography equipment in my car only, as I mainly do home portraits & location work. I have 2 studio Elinchrom Lights plus stands and softboxes (including one big deep throat). My D300, MacBookPro and other leads etc. I want to put all this into one bag! Two questions: 1: Can you recommend a bag/ system 2: I would like to get foam to cushion my equipment. How do you cut the foam & which type of foams can you recommend?

Scott: I think trying to put this in one box is going to be an issue as it will be too heavy to lift.

Fred: I would say at least a few boxes. Depending upon how rough he needs to go, I would recommend looking at Pelican cases

Scott: Pelican cases are great and they have the pluck out foam so you don’t have to cut it. You can save 30-40% if you buy them from

Question Nine – Suggestion for Panoramic Stitching Software on a Mac

Marc Vogel writes: I shoot with Nikon and use a MAC. What is a good panoramic stitching software that is preferably free or low cost? On another note, what do you use?

Fred: I use Photoshop CS4 and it does a fantastic job. I did some research and I came up with a piece of software called Hugin which is open source.

Scott: I use Photoshop CS4. I’ve used some of the other solutions out there and they’ve been a pain in the butt. I was hoping that we could crowd source on this one and get our listeners to let us know what they use. Send us an email at [email protected] and let us know what you’re using.

Question Ten – Teleconverters

Barry Nelson asks: I have a Nikon D90 and I am using a Nikkor Lens (AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED). I would like to extend the distance that quality photos can be shot without breaking the bank. I like shooting at sporting events and in nature. I was wondering if a teleconverter would be a good solution and which one do I need use the auto focus, etc. if this is the right solution?

Scott: Teleconverters on this particular lens would be not be recommended. Anytime you put something between your lens and the body you are going to degrade the image. When you use a slow zoom lens you’ll also lose the auto focus function. I’d recommend renting a longer zoom lens from a lens rental house.

Question Eleven – Model Releases for Commercial Photography

Greg West would like to know: If you are hired by a store-owner to generate images that he will use for advertising, and he utilizes his employees in the pictures, is it solely the store-owner’s responsibility to attain permission or does the photographer, whose job it is to provide/capture images, have responsibility as well?

Fred: I believe it is the responsibility of the photographer to get the model releases. In the end, when the lawyers come in, they are going to look for the photographer who shot it.

Scott: If I’m the photographer, I will ask the store owner for them or I will get them.

Question Twelve – Software Suggestion for Organizing and Tagging Images

Boca Dogs asks: I want the best software to easily tag and organize my images so that I can find them easily, be it by person, place where I shot it, time, tags, etc. Since you now have experience with both LR and Aperture, can you comment on the pros/cons of each of these and especially how they compare in the way the tag, file and manage its files.

Fred: I would encourage you to download the 30-day trials of both programs and try them out. Then you can decide which one works for you.

Scott: I have the same advice as you Fred. Aperture will do a managed library or a referenced library whereas Lightroom doesn’t give you that choice. I really like the presets and adjustment brush in Lightroom. You can do some great books out of Aperture. Obviously if Boca Dogs isn’t on a Mac then Lightroom will be his best choice. As for trying both programs, I would recommend trying one for a full 30 days and then try the other one for another month so you can make a good decision. Don’t try to use both programs at the same time.

Question Thirteen – 1/3 or 1/2 Increments – Which is Better?

Jay Morse from Denver Colorado writes: I have a Canon 40D and recently came across a Custom Function Setting called Exposure Level Increments. Is it best to have the setting at 1/3-stop so I can have better control? Also, same question for the ISO speed setting increments as well.

Fred: I like setting it to 1/3 increments for more control and so I can get that extra latitude.

Scott: I go with 1/2 increments because I don’t like to have to turn the dial more than I have to.

Question Fourteen – Approaching People to Sign Model Releases

Houston Brown asks: I’ve heard you say on a previous show that you’ve never had a model release refused. My question is what exactly do you say to them to get them to sign the model release. I would think that some people may want a cut or percentage of your profits if you intend on making money off the image. Have you ever encountered that problem and if so what do you say?

Scott: I don’t really do anything special. Something I also do is to let them know that I’ll send them a print and I make sure to follow up on it. In many states that is also considered legal consideration.

Fred: That’s a great tip Scott. Can you send them a digital file and would that work for legal consideration?

Scott: Yes it would.

Fred: As for my approach, I just smile and ask. I think most people I ask are happy that I’m asking and not just taking their picture and running away.

Question Fifteen – Suggestions for Online Slideshows

Buford Koechig writes: My wife and I would appreciate any advice you have on the workflow for turning digital photos into an online slide show. Once we have the images selected, which Mac program works best for creating a good quality slide show for online viewing. The Hi-Res options offered by FotoMagico are great but not practical for web viewing. Any suggestions?

Fred: Flickr is a great option. Each gallery or set you create has a slideshow in it. If you have a Mac and iLife installed, the slideshows from iPhoto are actually really good.

Question Sixteen – Extension Tubes

Ike Svenson says: Can you explain extension tubes to me?

Fred: Extension tubes allow you to get closer to your subject and keep it in focus.

Scott: It changes the close focusing distance of your lens. For example, I have the Sigma 300-800. It has a minimum close focusing distance of 19 feet. I can throw an extension tube on there which reduces the distance down to 8. Some people use it as a poor man’s macro. Make sure that you buy the extension tube from the manufacturer of your camera to ensure that all of the electronics work.

Fred: Unlike the teleconverter, this is just empty space so you’re not going to use any resolution.

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.

Frederick Van Johnson is at

Show notes by Bruce Clarke