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Photofocus Episode 35

Show notes by Bruce Clarke ()

This week we kick things off with a question about capturing the true personality of a subject:

Question One – Capturing the Personality of the Subject

Ben from Illinois wants to know: When shooting portraits, can you give me any tips that will help me capture the true personality of a subject?

David: Getting your subject to drop that wall can be really hard. It’s a matter of engaging all of your people skills to make them feel comfortable. Be curious, be patient, and be interested in people. Being calm and knowing your camera is also important so that you can engage with your subject rather than fiddling with your knobs and looking at your LCD. Also go into it open to the experience.

Scott: Getting out from behind the camera really helps with this. If you can get a camera release, that’s a great way from getting out from behind the camera. The camera does look both ways so if you’re having fun then your subject will too. Whether you are photographing people or birds, learn as much as you can about your subject as that will always lead to better photos.

Question Two – Rear Curtain Shutter Sync

Andrew Shaw from Whitburn, South Tyneside, England. How do you use rear-curtain shutter sync?

Scott: If you have a modern camera and flash, you can do rear-curtain sync. It’s a manner that allows the flash to fire just before the shutter closes. If you want to illustrate a moving car or animal for example, you would want to use rear-curtain sync so that the flash freezes the subject as it passes through the frame and not when it enters the frame. That way you’ll get the streak or light or movement behind the subject rather than the subject frozen in front and the movement in front of it. Read you camera’s manual and it will explain how to setup rear-curtain sync.

David: It’s useful because it changes the aesthetic of the image. Light has logic to it so there are times when you want rear-curtain sync. Even on my G9 there is a night setting which uses rear-curtain sync.

Question Three – Backgrounds on Images in Lightroom vs. Flickr

R.P. Piper asks: I edit in Lightroom and upload to Flickr.When I post process in Lightroom, I set the background to black or 50% gray.But Flickr displays pictures on a white background.My final pictures look great on a black background,but they loose a lot of there “pop” when viewed on a white background. How should I deal with this?

David: I think Flickr is a good service but not a great portfolio service. I don’t believe that you can change the background on Flickr to any other color other than white. If you wanted to continue using Flickr, you could apply a black border to your image but the better option might be to create a more specifically designed portfolio site using another service.

Scott: Flickr is great for the social and sharing aspects but if you’re serious about showing off your portfolio, there are a lot of other great services out there including SmugMug, Pictage, LiveBooks, PhotoShelter, etc.

Question Four – Backing up Photo Collections

Peter Annandale from NJ asks: If your photo collection is not resident on a working computer, how you do you manage and back it up?

David: In terms of managing it, I use Lightroom exclusively but Aperture will also manage it too. In terms of backing up, there are a lot of programs out there. I use Super Duper. You could also back that hard drive up to something like a Drobo or another external drive. Make sure that you have an off-site backup.

Scott: You just want to make sure you have something setup where you have one on-site and one off-site. When working in the field, make sure you back it up as soon as you get back. PhotoShelter allows you to keep an archival backup copy of your photo in full-res. Be sure to test your backup and make sure that they un-archive.

Question Five – Cell Phone Cameras and their Impact

Austin from Arkansas writes: As cameras in cell phones become high res and easy to control, what kind of implications do you think that will have on the photography industry? It seems unlikely, even impossible that they’ll be capable of much, but ten years ago, so did most of today’s standard technology.

David: I have no idea where technology is going but I’m sure it will surprise all of us. I think the question really is what is the advance going to provide? One thing that’s for sure is that they will be ubiquitous. I think the other question will be how we will use this new technology.

Scott: I think it will really be a matter of ubiquity where every moment everywhere will be available. I doubt we will see any top notch photographers shooting a wedding with a cell phone.

Question Six – Making a Person Stand Out in a Crowded Situation

Chris Chastine from Lawrenceville, GA asks: Do you have any tips on making one person stand out in a crowded situation?

Scott: Depth of field is one way you can make someone stand out from a crowd. You could also use a longer lens and narrow the field of view to make someone stand out.

David: Those are the most obvious I can imagine at the moment. Also, walk around the situation and see if there is an angle that would work to make the person stand out. You could also use a tilt-shift lens to adjust the focal plane. If you’re not doing photojournalism, you could contrive the situation by putting them in a red shirt, having them stand still and do a long exposure, etc.

Question Seven – IS vs. Faster Glass

Mikael Johansson from Sweden asks: If you have to prioritize, how much do you value paying for image stabilization vs paying for a lens with faster/larger aperture? For example, when would you choose Canon EF 70-200/4,0 L IS USM instead of Canon EF 70-200/2,8 L USM if they were priced the same?

David: IS is great if you have shaky hands but if I had to make a choice I prefer a faster/larger aperture because they give a better aesthetic All of my lenses are as fast as I can get them. If I can have IS too then all the better.

Scott: Without knowing the context, it’s tough to answer this question. If you were an landscape photographer who uses a tripod, then IS won’t really benefit you. I always get the fastest lens money can buy for the aesthetic qualities.

Question Eight – Lens Sharpness and Aperture

Santiago Ron from Quito, Ecuador wrote to us at [email protected] to ask: I have noticed with my Sigma 150 mm macro lens that sharpness decreases with higher diaphragms (aperture 9 gives me sharper images than aperture 16). Is this a general trend for every lens? Is there a rule of thumb to choose aperture values when you need to maximize sharpness?

David: I don’t get too hung up on sharpness. If you were to ask me where my lenses are sharpest I couldn’t tell you. To answer your question, the sweet spot is typically closest to the centre of the range.

Scott: Most lenses are sharpest in the middle.

Question Nine – Cleaning your Polarizing Filter

Debbi Koplen writes: Can you recommend a cleaning solution and/or technique for my specially coated B+W polarizer filters? I’ve tried using a lens cleaning solution and a microfiber cloth but that only seems to smear the residue around more. It never looks clean to me.

David: I’m probably not the best person to answer this question as my gear gets pretty beat up and I don’t care for it in the same way a hobbiest probably does. I generally just use a handkerchief or the edge of my t-shirt to clean my lens when it gets dirty.

Scott: Get a large blower or brush and brush away any debris first so you don’t grind it into the glass. Then use a micro fibre cloth and breathe on the lens. If you have some schmultz on your lens, then you can use a product from Visible Dust to clean your sensor.

Question Ten – Photographing Through Glass

Nancy wrote to us to say: I take many of my photographs of birds in my yard through windows. What suggestions do you have for optimizing images taken (or made) through glass in many cases, 2 to 3 panes of it?

Scott: Make sure it’s clean. Take your lens hood off and put your lens right up on the glass. You could also try going out into your yard and wait for the birds to arrive.

David: Those are great suggestions. I would also make sure that all of the lights are out in the room. You could also set up your camera outside and trigger it remotely.

Question Eleven – 7D vs. 5D Mark II for Video

Bryan Reisberg wants to know the differences between the 7d and 5DMKII for shooting video.

Scott: The 7D is a crop sensor so that will impact your depth of field. With the 5D Mark II, you’ll get an almost unreal depth of field. The 7D is not quite as strong in low-light compared to the 5D Mark II. Ergonomically, the 7D is better for shooting video and it’s cheaper. In most cases it will perform similarly in terms of the video.

Question Twelve – Guide Numbers & Flash

From Adam in Tamba, Japan writes: I’ve just recently started using flash and am surprised to find so much math required. Are “Guild Numbers” and “Flash Shooting Distance Range” something you use in your flash photography? Or are they remnants from the film days, and just still in the manual?

David: Me and math don’t get along so I’m sure if I had to do math to use flash I would have just sold all my gear. I don’t use a lot of flash but these days with the ETTL and the ability to quickly and easily see your work, I really have no use for guide numbers.

Scott: I used to work with all of those numbers back in the day but you don’t really need to do that anymore. ETTL works great. Flash shooting distance range is something that you want to pay attention to. If your flash is an SB-900, then you have a much longer distance range than you’ll have with a little pop-up flash on your point and shoot.

Question Thirteen – Using AE Lock

Erno G. from Folsom California writes: I’m shooting a Canon 7D; when doing landscape panoramas, let’s say the Grand Canyon or Horseshoe Bend, AZ. Is exposure lock recommended to keep the sky uniform? I am using the AF-On button to focus and next to it is this nice little * (AE Lock) that is beckoning to be pushed every now and then.

David: Erno is doing a couple of things that I would not do – using AF and Autoexposure when shooting panoramas. You want to be on manual focus and manual exposure.

Scott: You don’t want to use anything auto when doing landscape panoramas. Leave it in manual to get the same exposure.

Question Fourteen – Displaying Other Photographer’s Work in your Home or Office

Doug Logie from Didsbury, Alberta, Canada writes: As a pro photographer, do you own and display works by other living photographers in your own residences or offices? If so, whose works do you own and what drew you to their work?

David: I don’t have a very large place and I’m sad to say that I only have my own work on my walls. I do have a lot of photography books from other photographers and that’s where I get my inspiration from.

Scott: I have some work by current living photographers but nobody you’ve probably ever heard of. Some of them might be my students and others may have been gifts from other photographers. Working with books, I’m able to get the books of many photographers in front of me. If a photographer buys your work, that is the ultimate form of respect.

Question Fifteen – ND Filter vs. Exposure Compensation

Ken Zuk from Lipetsk Russia writes: Love the show! Hey, I have a quick question. Recently our friends over at DTownTV (Scott and Matt) showed a tip for shooting with fast lens in bright outdoor light. The problem is that sometimes we want to throw the background out of focus (i.e. a 50mm 1.2 or 1.8) but there is just too much light. They suggested adding a ND filter to the lens (or several to drop it several stops if need be). My question is, can we also get this same help by dropping the exposure compensation, or are the ND filters going to be the only solution for this?

Scott: If you drop the exposure compensation, you’re still limited by all the traditional factors. You can’t get the effect that they were talking about in that show without using an ND filter or doing something in post.

David: The exposure compensation will just make your image darker. It doesn’t change the amount of light coming into the camera so the ND filters are the way to go. I would recommend the Singh Ray Vari-ND filter.

Question Sixteen – Prioritizing Equipment for a Trip

Gunnar Hood writes: For over a year I’ve been planning a trip to Kenya to go on photo safari and while I’m still planning to go, it’s clear I may need to adjust the things I pack. In addition to the security complications, I’m also told that in country, I’m limited to 33 pounds of luggage including cameras. I’m trying to strategize how to balance my desire to bring the right gear against the weight and security challenges I might face. I almost feel as if I bring anything more than a point and shoot that I won’t be able to bring that gear home. If you were facing these challenges and wanted to make sure you had the right equipment for a safari, how would you prioritize your equipment and travel checklist and what factors would you take into consideration? Keep up the great work.

David: That weight limit is probably a limit of the internal charters to get you from camp to camp. You don’t need a lot of clothes on safari. Leave the mono pod at home and just bring an empty bean bag that you can fill when you get there. A great one is the Kinesis Bag which you can buy empty and fill when you get there.. If you have enough CF cards, then you could leave the laptop at home or bring a photo tank. Bring 2 bodies, a few lenses and some extenders.

Scott: Go to REI and get clothes that have SPF and wicking which are lightweight and dry quickly. Go with lighter bags. Andy Biggs makes a great bag called the Kiboko which is great for travel and then go with the longest lens you can afford and fit in there. Two bodies is a must. You don’t want to go all the way to Africa and have your only body fail and not be able to take pictures. I wouldn’t worry about bringing a flash. Also be sure to get the right customs forms and declare your gear before you go.

The Blog

Wrap Up

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Show notes by Bruce Clarke