NOTE: Rick Sammon – A Canon Explorer of Light apparently didn’t know that Canon doesn’t make a 24-105mm F/2.8 lens and mistakenly referred to such a lens during the show. It is actually an F/4 lens and we regret Rick’s error.

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Photofocus Episode 03

Show notes by Bruce Clarke ()

Question One – Legal Issues when Selling Photos of Tourist Areas

Our first question comes from johnvanderbag on Twitter who asks “What legal issues are involved with selling shots taken in tourist areas such Disneyland or Universal Studios?

Rick: You can take all the photos you want but you can’t sell them without a release.If you are going to photograph public building like the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame you need a property release otherwise it’s an endorsement of that place for the product.

Scott: If you are doing it for editorial purposes you generally don’t need a release. If it is going to be used in an ad then you’ll need a release. You also have to make sure that you’re taking it from public property. The easiest thing is to get a release for everything and always consult with your lawyer.

Question TwoCamera Cleaning Tips

Calcrash from Twitter would like some tips on the proper way to clean a camera and lenses.

Scott: The easiest way to clean the camera on the outside is to use a damp towel and blot away any smudges or dirt. When it comes to the glass itself you want to be more careful. Blow all the dust and dirt you can off the lens as small particles of rock/grit can scratch the glass. As for sensors I use a Lens Pen to clean it.

Rick: If you have a finger mark on the lens you can use a lintless cloth like the kind you would get with a pair of glasses. Rub from the centre outward lightly. As for the sensor, cleaning it isn’t hard but if you’ve never cleaned it and you’re in a great location you may want to just leave the spots. I was on a shoot in Antarctica with a well-known landscape photographer who cleaned his sensor out in the field and wound up with streaks which were much harder to get out than if he had just left the spots there. Another tip is to be careful when changing your lenses as you’ll have less of a chance of particles getting in there if you’re careful when switching your lenses.

Question Three – Shooting Rainbows

Johnvercelletto on Twitter says that he is always disappointed when shooting rainbows and wonders if Scott and Rick have any advice on how to make them stand out more and get better colour?

Rick: One thing with photography is that the captured images never will look as good as what you saw in real life due to the emotional factors involved so one tip is to not edit your photos as soon as you take them because that emotional element won’t be the same and you won’t be as happy with the captured image. As far as improving the shots, you can increase the saturation in whatever image editing application you are using. Also making the picture a little darker using levels or curves can also help.

Question Four – Zoom Blur

Fredhill on Twitter asks “Can you explain zoom blur? Do you start in tight and then zoom out or start wide and zoom in close?”

Scott: The simple answer is Yes and yes. It doesn’t really matter which way you do it. The trick to getting it to work is to slow down your shutter speed. If you are shooting at 1/1000 of a second and zoom out you won’t get near the effect you would if you were shooting at 1/30 of a second. Try doing a zoom and pan blur if you really want to have some fun.

Rick: Using a tripod also helps. Night scenes look really good when you use zoom blur. Another option is to apply the zoom blur filter during post production to see what results you get.

Question Five – What Lens Should I Buy?

Winstonavich on Twitter says “What is a good lens for an amateur interested in experimenting?

Scott: We get questions like this every 15 minutes and it’s like asking what kind of car should I buy. There are so many variables. We do want to help but they imply that picking the right lens will solve all the problems so you have tell us a bit more about what you want to do. We can answer this question by looking at some of the generalities that amateurs should look for. For example, a zoom lens is probably a good place to start.

Rick: Many people ask me if I could only use one lens for general photography what would it be? If I could only choose one it would be my Canon 24-105mm f2.8 lens because I can use it for a wide variety of situations include wide-angle, head shots, street shots and close-ups.

Scott: Is there anything else they should look for such as image stabilization, etc. Do they need a super fast 2.8 lens right off the bat?

Rick: Today’s cameras are all so good that almost any lens you buy today is going to produce great results. No matter what lens you have, they key is to get out there and shoot. Try to challenge yourself using whatever lens you have.

Question Six – Pigment or Dye based Photo Printers

DHPerry on Twitter would like to know what are the differences/advantages of Pigment vs. Dye-based photo printers?

Rick: If you want to make archival prints that you will be selling, you want to use a pigment based printer because they last longer.

Scott: Pigment-based prints definitely last longer and they look better. The main disadvantage is that they are more expensive.

The Blog

Just a reminder that you can visit the blog at for the show notes and plenty of other photography related articles. Please email us your questions at [email protected] or you can follow us on Twitter and leave questions with the hashtag #photoqa.

Question Seven – Databases for Keeping Track of Photos

AprilCartoon3 on Twitter asks: “Scott do you use a database program such as Filemaker or Bentoto to keep track of your photos?”

Scott: I do use a database and it’s called Aperture. You can use it to find your photos using all sorts of information. In the old days before Aperture I used to mess around with some of the various photo databases but now I strictly use Aperture from Apple. If you are using Windows you can take a look at Lightroom.

Rick: I agree with Scott and if you’re not sure what you want to use, you can download both programs for free and try them out for 30 days to decide which one suits you best.

Question EightWhite Cards vs. Grey Cards

patterbt on Twitter asks if they should use a white card or a grey card for setting a custom white balance?

Rick: I’m a travel photographer and not an advertising photographer so I don’t use anything. I set the WB to match the lighting of the scene I’m shooting. If were doing advertising shots then I would use a White card for the custom white balance or an Expo disk. If you are serious about shooting for advertisements then you definitely want to do a custom white balance.

Scott: You want to think about whether you want to think about whether you are setting your custom white balance for the camera or are you talking about setting it in post. I have not used the Expo disk but one thing I have used is the Data Color Spyder Cube. Color balance and exposure are really intertwined when it comes to post but I find better results using grey.

Rick: Also none of this does you any good if your monitor and printer are not calibrated. Another thing is that we see colors in different ways at different times of the day so when you’re working on your pictures make sure you save your different layers because you might want to change that later on.

Question Nine – Best Practice Workflow for Adjusting Histogram Levels

MiniBTweet on Twitter asks about using histograms when making adjustments to photos. Is there a particular workflow that you recommend in terms of what order to make particular adjustments? For example, exposure, definition, noise.

Rick: It doesn’t really matter but I typically start with the highlites and work from there. It’s also important to note that there is no one right histogram.

Scott: Don’t be paranoid about making all of your histograms look alike because then all of your pictures will look alike.

Special Guest – Frederick Van Johnson from This Week In Photography (TWiP)

This week’s special guest is Frederick Van Johnson from TWiP. Fred is an accomplished combat photographer and one of the hosts of This Week in Photography.

Question Ten3rd Party Lenses

First question for Fred is from SPD on Twitter. “I can’t swing the $2000 for the Nikon 70-200mm f2.8. Is the Sigma 70-200mm f2.8 worthwhile?

Fred: For me personally I always stick to the manufacturer’s glass but that said, I’ve heard from several people using Sigma glass who had great things to say. Where lens optic technology is today I don’t think there is a wide rift between the manufacturer’s lenses and the 3rd party stuff. The more important thing is to get out there and get shooting.

Scott: I use 2 Sigma lenses on a regular basis. The 100-300mm f4 and the 300-800mm f5.6 and I find them to be very high quality lenses. I actually tried the Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 lens on my Nikon D3 and got big-time vignetting. So I sent it back and got the Nikon 80-200 AFS.

Question ElevenGeneric vs. Name Brand Memory Cards

zuesh8su wonders about name brand memory cards vs. generic cards. Do they feel safe? Should I stay away from them?

Fred: Of all the items in your kit, the memory card should be the one thing that you invest in and buy the best. Don’t go with anything substandard and risk losing those shots.

Scott: There are two things in life you don’t want to cheap out on. Toilet paper and memory cards. I use the Hoodman UDMA and the Lexar cards. The argument you hear is that there are only three or four factories so they are all made in the same place. Not true. While there is a chance that they may be made in the same factory they are not made to the same spec or using the same materials.

Be sure to listen to Fred every Monday on

Question Twelve – Focusing Techniques

Last question is from Angel Depalma from Montreal via email and she is looking for an in-depth discussion on how to focus. She uses the centre focus and finds that many of her photos come out looking soft. When shooing a portrait, where should the point of focus be?

Rick: It should work. When I take a photo of a person, I use the center focus point, I focus on the eyes and then recompose the shot. Perhaps if Angela is shooting wide open at f2.8 and using a very long lens, she has a very shallow depth of field and if either she moves or the subject moves, it’s possible that this is contributing to the softness.

Scott: I would wonder about shutter speed. If they are working in low-light and working at slow shutter speeds then any movement could be the cause. Another option is that there could be an issue with back focusing. There are the occasional lenses that can have this issue so you should test your lens. The other possibility could be if they are too close to the subject. Having said all that, there are some best practices to achieve sharpness in your images. Put your camera on a tripod. Make sure you have enough light on the subject to use a decent shutter speed. Make sure that you put the focusing point right on the eyes.

Rick: Another thing is that the lens could be soft around the edges so if the focusing point is near the edges that could contribute to the issue. Also if they are shooting outside and not using a lens hood, there could be stray light falling on the lens which reduces contrast and reduced contrast leads to images that appear soft.

Scott: Speaking of lens hoods, I always preach to keep your lens hood on at all times.

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