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Photofocus Episode 29

Show notes by Bruce Clarke ()

This week we kick things off with a question about knowing when you’ve made it as a professional photographer.

Question One – Making it as a Professional Photographer

Patrick Edget writes: When did you know you made it as a photographer? By that I mean, there are a lot of people that can get paid for their photographs, but only a select few who can consider photography their “day job”. When did that transition happen for you? And how did you know you were ready for it?

Scott: For me it was a specific moment. I was assigned to take a photo at the Indy and happened to capture a crash that occurred right in front of me. That picture wound up in papers across the country and at that point I knew I was going to be a professional photographer even though it would be another 2 years before I was paid for a photograph. The way I knew was when somebody offered me a job. Just know that if you do decide to get into photography full-time, it is an extremely competitive industry and most photographers don’t get rich. You have to really love what you do and enjoy taking pictures but recognize that very few get rich doing it.

Question Two – Transporting a Beauty Dish to Exotic Locations

Jeremy Quant asks: I was hoping you’d have some advice on a really slick solution for transporting my 27″ Elinchrom beauty dish to exotic locations.

Scott: I put my gear in a Pelican case. I would recommend these as they come with pluck foam, are waterproof, will float, etc. The only downside is that they are a bit expensive. Another option is to ship it ahead of you in the original box.

Question Three – Aperture Library Sizes

Arthur Kroms sent us an email at [email protected] to ask: I have just a quick question on Aperture library, and i know that there’s no definitive answer to this. i’ve herd you talk about making a new library when it reaches 10,000 or so images to make shore it stays snappy. Do you mean this for both Managed and Referenced libraries? Or could the referenced library potentially be much lager before experiencing problems?

Scott: I use Aperture with managed libraries for the most part so I don’t have a lot of experience with referenced libraries however Lightroom uses referenced libraries and the general recommendation is to keep the library size small enough that it will stay snappy and won’t crash. I think for both managed and referenced libraries my advice would be to keep the library small for now. Lightroom 3 and Aperture 3 may change that.

Question Four – iPad for Photographers

David Massa would like to know: Do you really think the iPad may be of use to photographers? Isn’t the memory too small to be of value?

Scott: I do think the iPad will be of use to photographers as a portfolio. The iPad will be more mobile, it’s lighter and easy to hand over to someone to review your portfolio. I think it will also be a publishing platform for photographers if we can get our books in the iBookstore. As for the memory, even the most minimum configuration is large enough to show a lot of photographs.

Question Five – External Drives vs. Internal Drives for Photo Libraries

Jerry from Michigan writes: Do you advise keeping a working photo library on an external disk instead of the computer’s HD? I use an iMac with Lightroom and Aperture.

Scott: That all depends on how big and how fast your internal hard disk. If you have a 1TB 7200 RPM internal hard disk then I’d say it’s fine to use that. If your internal hard disk is too small or too slow, then an external disk is the way to go. In any event you should have your library in multiple places.

Question Six – Tips for Photographing in Difficult Environments

Brad Siefert asks: I (like I’m sure you) saw the pictures of the chaos from the tragic earthquake Haiti. My question is have you ever had shoot in environments that were hostile or chaotic and what tips would you have to someone who might be in environments like those. I would be interested in technical tips (how you would setup your camera) and also tips to keep yourself as safe as possible, but also capture the depth of the what is actually happening.

Scott: I have never been in anything like that (if you don’t count weddings ;)) so I can’t give you many tips. . What I can say is that if you are going to be photographing in a situation like that, you better know your gear inside and out so that you can focus on getting the shots while remaining safe rather than fighting with your camera.

Question Seven – Long Exposures and Blown-out Hilites

Michael Backman from Sweden wrote to us to ask: I take a lot of panoramic 180-360 degrees shot and lately I have started doing it during night or early morning. In a lot of places in the cities there are really strong light sources lit all night. Since I have to use a pretty long exposure to catch the details I often get many burnt out areas and harsh shadows around those light sources. The tend to take too much attention in the final image. Using the burn tool in Photoshop doesn’t solve the problem in a nice way. Do you have any tip in how to handle this, either when shooting or in post?

Scott: This is one of those situations where compromise comes into play. This might be a place to create an HDR image. You could take your panoramic shots with long exposures and then repeat those shots in a way that would capture the lights without blowing them out. Then in Photoshop you could combine the images so that the lights that were burnt out are replaced by the ones that aren’t.

Question Eight – Rotating Sensors

Lucas Frykman writes: I can’t be the first to think of this, but I haven’t seen it implemented yet. Instead of, or in addition to the built in level display such as that on the 7D, the sensor could be rotated to automatically level the image. Do you think we might see this soon?

Scott: I have no idea but these are the sorts of things that drive me crazy about the current crop of digital cameras. Most of the things that current cameras don’t do are that way simply because of convention and manufacturers being afraid to change. The only thing that physically has to be the same is that the lens has to be in front of the sensor.

Question Nine – Tripod Suggestion

Izzy says: I am considering buying a new carbon fiber tripod. I use a Right Stuff B55 ball head. I believe you now use the Induro tripods. Are you familiar with the TVC-33 tripod from Really Right Stuff? If not, what model Induro do you recommend for daily use? Assume money is not a consideration (within reason) The Right stuff tripod is $925.

Scott: I personally don’t have any experience with that particular ball head but everyone that I know who has one is happy with them. I find the Really Right Stuff hard to get ahold of. The higher end Enduro carbon fibre tripods are every bit as good as the Gitzo tripods.

Question Ten – Genuine Fractals and Bicubic Interpolation

Ken Toney from Spartanburg,SC writes: I use Genuine Fractals (OnOne software) do I need to make a change to my bicubic interpolation settings if using this plug-in?

Scott: No, not if you’re exclusively using Genuine Fractals to do your resizing. You will need to check your settings if you are resizing in Photoshop on a case by case basis. Some are best for going up and some for going down. In my experience, Genuine Fractals does a much better job than Photoshop, particularly when you have to go really big.

Question Eleven – The Importance of Flawless Glass

Azlan from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia asks: My question: do people get too hung up about having flawless glass? Obviously if it’s on the outer surfaces, it’s straight forward for a user to clean. But if there are a few specks of dust in side the lens, a little bit of fungus, ‘fogging’ (what exactly is that?) – how much is that going to affect the quality of your images? I know – ‘how long is a piece of string….’, but I’m hoping for your views on whether it’s really necessary to have ‘clean room grade’ glass!

Scott: If there is a little bit of dust in the lens and it’s used then I won’t buy it. If it’s my lens then I won’t freak out about a little dust. If however, there is mold or fungus inside a lens then I won’t buy it. If it was my own lens then I wouldn’t use it it unless I sent it in to be cleaned.

Question Twelve – Digital vs. Film

David La Roche writes: I was recently talking to a professional photographer who still shoots film. I’m a digital shooter and when I told her, she started on a rant about why film is so much better than digital.

Scott: In my personal opinion, digital is better than film and it works for me. There are really two groups who like to shoot film. One group is make up of generally older photographers who didn’t want to learn digital and working with film fits their workflow. The other group like to shoot film because it’s harder and by making it harder they feel that makes them more of an artiste. In my opinion, this group is more focused on the process rather than on the results. I spent 18 years in a wet-dry darkroom and I can tell you that I never made a print that is even close to what I can get today with digital. If you still like to shoot film and can find a good lab to process it – great. For me digital fits my workflow better. In the end, whether it’s film vs. digital, Mac vs. PC, Canon vs. Nikon, it doesn’t really matter.

Question Thirteen – Property Releases

Ikaika from Kalaheo, Kauai asks: My question is regarding inanimate objects. Do you need permission to photograph inanimate private property. For example, you go to a private botanical gardens and photograph their plants or sculptures or landscapes. Do you need their permission to publish those? Another example would be photographing a building while on the property? What if you’re off the property?

Scott: On private property you need permission. If you’re on their private property they can control what you can do. As far as photographing a public space while you are on public property; they can’t stop you unless there are special laws in place (e.g. nuclear facility, military installation, etc.). As to whether you can publish, I can’t really provide legal advice but generally if you are photographing public property from a public location you should be okay.

Question Fourteen – Umbrella vs. Softbox

Oskar Lindell from Stockholm, Sweden asks: What would you suggest I should get – an umbrella or a softbox for my strobe? I want to take portraits. I know that an umbrella spreads the light around a lot more than a softbox, but is this desirable? Is it better to have a softbox so as to be able to control the light better?

Scott: You are correct about the umbrella. It will act like a light grenade and spread light all over the place. A softbox will give you more control but it’s more expensive and more bulky. Personally I prefer softboxes. Westcott makes a great speedlight kit that can work like a softbox and an umbrella.

Question Fifteen – Telephoto Lens Suggestion for Sports Photography

Ken Jancef writes: I am looking for a decent telephoto lens, for the soccer and NASCAR stuff. Was thinking 70-200mm f/4 lens, at around $500 or so. Would that be decent?

Scott: If you are able to get to field level, the 70-200mm might be okay for soccer but for NASCAR and to get the shots you see in Sports Illustrated, you are going to need at 400mm, 500mm or 600mm lens. These lenses definitely won’t be in the $500 range so I’d suggest renting them for the times you need them. The 70-200mm might work for establishing shots but a 300mm might be your minimum.

Question Sixteen – Storage Suggestions

Beth Meckley asks: I take lots of photos, and the hard drive on my computer is almost full. I’m trying to figure out the best solution for creating more space to store & edit all my future photos. I am considering getting an external hard drive and dumping everything on my computer to it. Then clearing away everything on my computer to start anew. Or is it more efficient to leave everything that’s currently on my computer, and just use a new external hard drive for all future photos & edits? What is your work flow for computer storage? Do you have any specs or suggestions on what to look for in a new hard drive?

Scott: I look for few qualities when considering storage. I try to get a fast drive – 7200 RPM. The next thing is to look for drives with a triple interface: USB, Firewire 400, and Firewire 800. That way you can move the drive between different machines which may have different connections available. The third thing is how rugged is it. If it’s portable then it has to be rugged. If it’s just going to sit on your desk then it won’t have to be as rugged. I recommend sticking with brand names. I like to use G Drives from Hitachi.

Question Seventeen – Continuous Lighting for Video

Derek in Louisville wrote to us to ask: I have been shooting video with DSLRs for six months but have yet to find a suitable and portable solution for continuous lighting. I mainly need lighting for sit-down interview footage. I see a lot of LED kits out there but don’t know where to start!

Scott: You are on the right track with LED lights. They don’t run hot, they are very portable and can run on standard batteries depending on the size. It will depend on where you’ll be showing this video. If you are just showing on the web you can get away with less expensive solutions. The LED Light Kit works pretty well. Photon Light has some professional stuff. The LED Micro Lite Panel Micro Pro is an amazing little system that I like to use. It won’t light up a full set but it’s a great key lite for a sit-down interview situation.

Question Eighteen – Ideas for Physical Changes in DSLRs

Adam Schellenberg writes: Modern Digital SLRs seem to operate very much like old film cameras. Given the advancements in technology and photography, what are some physical changes you’d like to see in SLRs?

Scott: I actually answered this one earlier in the podcast so apologies for including the same question twice.

Question Nineteen – Migrating from iPhoto to Aperture

Brian Trammell from Mobile, Alabama asks: I am considering migrating from iPhoto to Aperture when Aperture 3 is released. Since the iPhoto folder is a “package folder”, what is the proper way to transfer my photos from iPhoto to Aperture?

Scott: Only the Beta testers know what Aperture 3 will offer you so I can’t speak about that. However, in Aperture 2, I recommend exporting projects or events from iPhoto and then re-import them into Aperture. There is an import function from Aperture to iPhoto but I’ve found it to be extremely slow.

Question Twenty – Equipment Insurance

Abra Morris writes: I have just now become and LLC/S Corp and am now in the market to insure my equipment. My problem is, I have no idea where to begin. I am sure you have a few good input as to where to begin and it would be greatly appreciated on my part.

Scott: Your homeowner or renters policy isn’t going to cover you. Most include an exemption that says the insurance company is not liable if you’re running a business from your home and something happens to your professional gear. You’ll need business coverage and be sure to ask for an Inland Marine policy which provides replacement value rather than fair market value. With an Inland Marine policy, then you get whatever cost to replace the equipment. The easiest way to do this is to join an organization like PPA, WPPI, etc and all have plans that they’ve worked out.

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.

Show notes by Bruce Clarke