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Photofocus Episode 30

Show notes by Bruce Clarke ()

This week we kick things off with a question about photography workshops vs. photowalks.

Question One – Photography Workshops vs. Photowalks

Ryan Harman writes: I am just starting my Career as a photographer and I was wondering what kind of experiences I can expect from attending photography classes at a college or spending a few weekends at photo workshops. What is better to start off with? Is there a difference between photo walks and photography workshops? What are the price points of these options?

Scott: Workshops are a great way to start your career. Workshops are cheaper and less intrusive than college and will give you an idea if this is something you’ll enjoy. Photowalks are typically not teaching situations and typically don’t have an instructor but rather a leader. I think you are better of starting with a workshop. If you have the money, time and interest then you can go to college as well.

Question Two – Photoshop vs. Photoshop Elements

Douglas N Crum asks: I’m going on a cruise to Europe in early March, visiting several countries. However, I think that I will have too much time on my hands on the cruise ship…. Idle hands are the devil’s workshop. SO… I want to learn something worthwhile. I am a mac user. I have a A300 Sony SLR. So far, I just use iPhoto but would like to learn more image manipulation/fixing type stuff than iPhoto will do. I am thinking of getting Photoshop Elements, or maybe Aperture. I have looked at some photoshop tutorials online and it looks a little intimidating. Also what is the difference between Photoshop and Photoshop Elements? What, from your perspective, are the relative merits of those, learning curves, etc.

Scott: Photoshop is much more expensive and much more inclusive then elements but Photoshop Elements includes about 95% of what most photographers need and will use. Certainly it’s a great place to start. You can download trial versions of both products to try them out for yourself. As far as learning Photoshop and Aperture, there are several resources including Sara France,,& Kelby Training.

Question Three – Lens Sweet Spots

Tim from Indiana sent us an email at [email protected] to ask: I’ve heard you talk about the sweet spot for a lens where you can expect to take the sharpest photo. What are the sweet spots for the following Nikon lenses: 50mm 1.4, 17-55mm 2.8, 105mm micro, 70-200mm 2.8, 10.5mm Fisheye?

Scott: Here’s how you can find out the sweet spot for each of those lenses. Set your camera up on a tripod with a newspaper taped to the wall and ensure you have consistent lighting conditions, etc. Then take a picture from wide open to stopped all the way down and decide for yourself where the sweet spot is. In general, the sweet spot on most lenses is going to be between f5.6 – f8.0 in most cases.

Question Four – Prints Under Glass

Eric Vogt writes: I recently received my 5 free 8×10’s from WHCC. They are gorgeous! I put one in a matted frame behind glass and hung it on a wall, not in direct light. It seems darker under glass on the wall. Are there any considerations or tips to processing photos when showing them behind glass, or is there likely not enough light on this photo of mine?

Scott: You were right to keep your pictures out of direct sunlight but you need to put some artificial light on them. It’s nothing to adjust in processing, it’s something you adjust in your presentation.

Question Five – Tips for Shooting Level

Peter Annandale from NJ asks: When I shoot handheld, all of my pictures are always slightly out of level. The left side of the frame is always slightly lower than the right. Do you have any tips on how to get the shot level right out of the camera when shooting hand-held?

Scott: A good old fashioned bubble level will help. Also, you can find tripods that come with leveling heads and bubble levels. Some of the more recent and high end cameras come with built in levels.

Question Six – Tracking Ideas for Photography Projects

Matt Johnson writes: How do you organize and track your ideas for photographic projects, possible site locations, and specific shots or techniques you want to try? Is there good software that enables you to do this? Or is pencil and paper the best option?

Scott: In the old days I wrote stuff down in a notebook. Now, there a number of great programs available. Stickies which comes with a Mac or Evernote are great programs to keep track of notes.

Question Seven – ND Filters

Geoff Clark asks: I have recently obtained 3 Cokin ND graduated filters. My question is, how do you decide which filter to use when you have the choice of 1,2 or 3 stops?

Scott: The answer is really simple. Try the 1 stop filter first and if that doesn’t give you the result you are looking for, then try the 2 stop filter and so on. It boils down to experience. Eventually you start to get a good eye for this stuff and you’ll just grab the right filter organically.

Question Eight – Photo Tagging

M. Ball wrote to us to ask: I’m wondering if there is an accepted ‘better’ system for tagging photos with information. Currently, I’ve been using a system of IPTC metadata (especially with Aperture 3), and custom fields to store all my info. But, since I’ve been doing this, I’ve basically stopped key wording photos because it was redundant info and took much more time than on-import info (which is also more accurate per my memory!). Is this fine? I feel like a save a lot of time, and don’t need to maintain an organized keyword structure. Also, is one system better for longevity?

Scott: Metadata is the new search. If you have metadata on your photos and keywords then you’ll increase your chances of finding what you’re looking for when searching.The real question is how big is your library? If you have 1000 photographs then it’s not that big of a deal but it becomes very important if you have 100,000 photographs. What I do is I set four or five keywords to come in on import. Then naming conventions also help me to remember where the job was. I think the combination of file naming, IPTC metadata and on-import keywords is enough.

Question Nine – Future of EF-S Lenses

Stephen Valera from the Philippines writes: I own a Canon 350D, two EF lenses and 1 EF-S lens – the Canon 10-22mm. Just wondering how long will the EF-S lenses last? I mean are we heading all full frame in the future? Will camera makers abandon the APS-C all together or can full frame and APS-C sensor lens go along?

Scott: Two years ago I received information from Canon that they were going to go more full sensor but I think what’s happened is that the marketing departments have overridden the engineering departments and decided that this is what people want. That said, my opinion is that you should invest in lenses that you can use on full-frame sensors in the event that you decide to switch to a full-frame body. Full frame lenses tend to be a bit sharper and more expensive.

Question Ten – Tethered Flash vs. Remote Mode

Tommy Moore writes: I am starting to experiment with flash photography. I recently purchased an SB600 for my D90. Is there an advantage to keeping the flash tethered to the hot shoe via extension cord (Nikon SC-28) vs. remote mode?

Scott: If you shoot with the flash tethered, the advantage is that you don’t have to worry about sync issues caused by interference. The disadvantage is that you have to keep your flash closer to the body of the camera. If you only have to get your flash a few feet from the camera then tethered will be the way to go. If you use a remote, you can get the flash further from the body.

Question Eleven – Filters for Landscape Photography

Thomasz asks: My question is about filters for landscape photography. Do you have experience with the Singh-Ray Gold-N-Blue Polarizer? I already own a high quality standard circular polarizer and was wondering if the additional benefit of the Gold-N-Blue polarizer can be fully reproduced with the split toning sliders in post processing of raw images. I love the effect but the filter is not cheep, so before buying it I would greatly appreciate your opinion.

Scott: Back in the day when I shot film I used that filter and it’s very well built as are all the Singh-Ray filters. I do know that I can duplicate that look with a number of post processing products but the disadvantage is that I won’t see it in the field. There is something to be said for seeing the effect while you’re there in the field.

Question Twelve – Preventing Mold from Infesting a Lens

John P writes: What causes mold and/or mildew to fester in a lens ? I don’t have any problems with my lenses <knock on wood>, but I want to prevent anything from causing it. Is it related to shooting in a wet environment? I’d estimate a rainy city such as in the north west? If so, what are common ways to prevent your lenses from being a home for mold?

Scott: Basically what causes mold is condensation. Say for example you bring your lens in from a hot, humid environment into an air conditioned room, condensation can form and that can lead to mold and mildew. To avoid that from happening you can put your camera in a plastic bag and let the condensation form on the bag rather than on the camera and lens. If you have a push-pull lens, sometimes moisture can get in but most of the time it’s from condensation.

Question Thirteen – Online Storage Solutions

Richard Sylvester from Scott Depot, WV asks: I am looking for an online storage solution especially one that you can seed first and does scheduled backups. Do you have any suggestions? I have looked at SOS, Carbonite and Mozy.

Scott: I don’t use any of those systems personally but I have heard both good and bad things about all of them. is a combination of place to show off your photos and a place to store them. They are affordable and reliable. You don’t want to rely on any of them exclusively as any one of them could go away tomorrow.

Question Fourteen – Exposure Advice

Kevin Williams asks: If a given scene averages out to a 2,3, or 4 on Ansel Adams’ zone system (a dark scene), is it better to expose for that level of darkness OR is it better to expose so the histogram is as far to the right as possible without clipping, and then lower the exposure in post?

Scott: My opinion is to expose as far the right as I can, without clipping. More data lives in that part of the file than in the dark part of the image. Be careful to not expose too far to the right though.

Question Fifteen – 32 Bit Plug-ins for Aperture

Stepgen from Dublin, Ireland writes: I was just wondering what your feelings are on Aperture and 32-bit plugins. Its seems that Aperture 3 launches in 64-bit mode on machines that will support it. However, if you use a plugin that was written for a 32-bit system, Aperture 3 has to quit and re-launch in 32-bit mode.

Scott: This is part of Apple’s sick system of not releasing any information to it’s partners about new software so now we have to wait for everyone to catch up and update their plugins to work in 64-bit mode. The only one that I know of that’s available so far is Hydra which is an HDR plug-in. I’m treating Aperture 3 like a beta until most of the 3rd party plug-ins are updated and the bugs are worked out.

Question Sixteen – Guide Numbers on Strobes

Levent Cimkentli (on a cruise ship in St. Thomas) writes: I have zero experience with strobes and I would like to experiment with them. A friend gave me several cheap strobes that I plan to attach to GorillaPods and remotely trigger them. These strobes do NOT have TTL ability. I assume that if I get a handheld flash/light meter I can simply trigger the strobes and take an incident reading to get a recommended exposure from the light meter. My question is: Is this how the flash meter is typically used? Any tips on the use of the flash/light meter? Finally can you explain the “guide numbers” on the strobes?

Scott: Read the guide numbers information in your manual. It has to do with the power of the strobe. The way you use the meter is either through a PC sync cord or through a remote trigger and you can put the meter in front of your subject’s face and trigger the strobe. That will tell you your exposure.

Question Seventeen – Glossy Monitors

Rafael Otoya says: In the last episode of your podcast, you had two questions related to monitors. I got me curious to know what’s the problem with glossy monitors. When I started my photography hobby, I made an initial investment on a IMac 24 inch unibody. I’ve heard that some people complain about this type of screens. I don’t know better because this is what I have been using ever since I started taking pictures seriously. Am I missing out on something? Can you tell me about the advantages and disadvantages of a glossy monitor and best practices in dealing with this?

Scott: I have glossy monitors on all my computers and I don’t mind them a bit. All the work that I do is done in my studio in a dark room with just a child’s night light behind my monitors so I don’t get any reflections. The best practice is to control the ambient light. If you can’t control the ambient light then you might want to consider a matte screen.

Question Eighteen – Off Camera Flash

Nick Bull from Nottingham, England ask: What is the best approach to using the flash off the camera when you are outside with no flash stands to hold it, and you are taking a picture of the person with you (so you can’t get them to hold the flash). Would you still advise getting the flash off the camera and perhaps holding the camera with one hand and the other arm out-stretched with the flash on it, making do putting the flash on the camera, or do you have any other approach/ideas?

Scott: Manfrotto makes all sorts of clips and Gorillapods are great for this.

Question Nineteen – How Much is Too Much When it Comes to Editing

Lee from County Durham, England writes: After many arguments with a photo buddy of mine, I’m still no closer to getting an answer so I’m throwing this question out to you. Will I ever be as good as a pro if I refuse to heavily edit my photos? It seems most photos I look at have an hour or two spent on them in post, whereas I spend 10 min to brighten, darken, or straighten etc. At what point does a photo stop being a photo when editing, and when they have spent alot of time in post, should it come with a disclaimer to stop new photographers like me from getting disheartened?

Scott: My take is that if an image starts it’s life in a camera then it’s a photo. The people who buy the photos and who look at the photos are the ones who count and those questions never come up from them. They don’t care what was used to create the photo or how long you spent in post working on the image – it’s mainly the pixel peepers and photography folks who like to get in rooms and debate this kind of stuff. I like to get my images as best as possible in camera and typically will only spend a few minutes in post working on a photograph. I have also developed lots of actions and presets which I use to cut down the amount of time I have to spend in post.

Question Twenty – Protecting Images from Being Scanned or Duplicated

Joshua in Austin asks: Is there a way to print or protect printed images from being scanned and duplicated. Are there any preferred print services or home remedies to protect photos from being scanned. I would appreciate any input on the subject.

Scott: I am unaware of any way to do that. You can put your watermark or signature on a photograph so then they would have to go into Photoshop to remove it but I don’t know of any way to protect a photo so that it can’t be scanned by modern technology. If anyone knows of a reasonable way, be sure to let me know and we’ll add it to the show notes.

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