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Photofocus Episode 36

Show notes by Bruce Clarke ()

This week we kick things off with a question about getting kids to settle down for a decent picture:

Question One – Working with Children

Betty Allison from Columbus Ohio asks: How do you get children to “settle down” for a decent picture? I’ve been trying to photograph my neighbor’s kids but they won’t sit still. I am accomplished at adult portraiture but having little luck with kids.

Tamara: With children, the question is really to recognize the personality types of the children you are photographing both individually and in groups. With some children, if you are looking for a calm photo, that might happen right at the beginning when they are just warming up to you. With other children, you just have to wait them out so that’s why I don’t normally set an end time for a shoot. Sometimes it will only take one hour but at the extreme end I have shoots last for six hours.

Scott: You could be a wildlife photographer with that kind of patience! When I photograph wildlife, I will often focus on the group leader who controls the rest of the pack and try to get their attention.

Question Two – How Do You Know When You’re Good Enough

Dan asks: How do I know whether I’m good enough to start making money from my photography, and how the heck could I possibly get started? To put it another way, what am I worth, and who else can I convince to believe it?

Scott: You are ready to make money when people start offering it to you. Getting started is as simple as taking photographs and taking every opportunity to show the work. If you’re ready, people will start coming to you. The more preparation you put into being ready will also help.

Tamara: Education will lead to confidence which helps convince others to believe it.

Question Three – Portrait Lenses

Simon in Johannesburg South Africa wrote to us to ask: When you mention a portrait lens, what do you mean?

Scott: We are talking about a lens that you would commonly use for portraits. There are a variety of focal lengths and apertures which are quite common when shooting portraits. Tamara, what is your favorite portrait lens?

Tamara: My favorite is the Canon 85mm f1.2. It’s crisp and clean and has a great look.

Scott: In school we were taught that a 100mm is a good portrait lens. Many portraits today are shot with a long telephoto lens for that compressed look. I also love the 85mm f1.2. Be sure you keeps the eyes in focus.

Question Four – ISO Settings for Skylines

Larry Maleszewski from North Arlington, NJ asks: What’s the preferred ISO to use for day or night skylines? I’m using ISO 100, but is there any advantage to going to ISO 200 or 400, and why? My camera is a 5DMkII, with either the 70-200 IS f/4L or the 28-135 IS, depending on what I’m doing, and usually mounted on a tripod. I love shooting New York skylines, and am starting to play heavily with HDR.

Scott: With today’s modern cameras, ISO 800 is the new 200 so I personally have been shooting my nightscapes around ISO 800 and getting great results. If you are moving into really long exposures then you can use the lower ISO. You will want to use your long exposure noise reduction. You’ll get more noise with a low ISO and a longer exposure than you will with a higher ISO and a short exposure.

Question Five – Copyright Limitations at an Air Show

Larry Reed from College Station TX wrote to say: I notice that an air show in the area says that they welcome cameras, but that “the Airshow performance and many performers’ acts are copyrighted, and your photography or video cannot be used for commercial purposes.” I can understand (somewhat) video not being used for commercial purposes. I’m not sure that I buy still shots being similarly restricted. Am I out of touch?

Scott: The airshow takes place on private property so they are legally allowed to control what they want. You can vote with your wallet and feet and not go if you’re not happy with the rules. One tip I can give you, if you offer to pay an extra fee – their concerns might go away and they might allow you to shoot.

Question Six – High Speed Sync Setting

Leoral Torres asks: Is there any disadvantage in having the high speed synch setting on all the time on my Nikon camera (D90) when shooting under 1/200 of a second?

Tamara: I try to work with natural light as much as I can so I haven’t worked much with fast shutter speeds and flash.

Scott: Flashes usually have a synch speed of around 1/200 of a second. To use a faster shutter speed you have to enable the high speed sync function. The disadvantage of leaving that on all the time is that it changes the output of the flash so when you don’t need it, you won’t get the full output from your flash if it’s on. I would advise not turning it on unless you need it.

Question Seven – Best Practices for Installing Aperture 3

William from Miami asks: I’m having trouble installing the new Aperture 3.0. What are the best practices?

Tamara: I’m a Lightroom user so I can’t really help with this one.

Scott: Do a clean install. Dump your preferences list. Start with a fresh library Aperture 3.0 library and then import into that.

Question Eight – Protecting Flickr Photos

Dana is wondering about how to secure photos online: I was trying to research how you protect your flickr photos from right clicks. I notice they save as a blank gif. Have you shared this info anywhere? If so, where? If not, would you be willing to?

Scott: When you setup a Flickr account, you have the choice to list your images at Copyrighted or Creative Commons. If you set them up as Copyrighted, then Flickr protects them by inserting a blank gif but that still won’t’ stop someone from taking a screen grab of the image. You can keep it at 72 ppi and no longer than 600 pixels on the longest edge.

Question Nine – Advantages of External Battery Units for Flashes

Brian Casey from Seattle writes: When I used the battery unit connected with my Nikon SB-800 speedlight on my camera, it didn’t give me an advantage of taking more photos in a row of the bride walking down the aisle with her father than when I use my AA rechargeable batteries. Why would I use a Turbo battery unit if it has the same performance as the AA batteries but weighs a lot and is bulky to wear on my belt?

Scott: If it didn’t give any better performance than I don’t know why you would use it either.

Tamara: I don’t use flash often but I will use it when the bride comes down the aisle. I use the Quantum Turbo 2×2 and I did find it had a faster recycling time. They are bulky but they are getting slimmer.

Scott: In my experience, Quantum has a great reputation so if Brian was using a Quantum, perhaps he has a defective unit. Canon and Nikon also have external battery packs. You can also rent this stuff.

Question Ten – Setting Your Focus Point

Andre Mostert from Zurich, Switzerland asks: I read and look at a lot of photos but I find it hard to figure out where the focus points are. For instance you are taking a picture of a small water stream and you want to blur the water with a slow shutter speed, do you set your focus point on the closest stationary object or on a object further into the frame?

Tamara: I don’t photograph a lot of waterfalls but I would be putting more of my emphasis on shutter speed to blur the water. As far as focus points, I’d probably be trying to shoot in the middle of the frame.

Scott: I would put the focus point on the focal point of the photo. If you want the entire scene to be in focus, that relates to something we call hyper-focal distance. Focus about a third of the way into the scene which puts you closest to the hyper-focal distance. The aperture you set will also affect how far into the scene that is in focus.

Question Eleven – Pixel Problems

Gilles from Montreal has questions about pixel problems. Have you ever encountered hot pixels in your professional gear? Have you done this “pixel mapping” technique and what are your thoughts on it? Lastly, am I just being too much of a perfectionist (which is my girlfriend’s theory)? In other words, is this problem so minor that I should just ignore it? I understand that a lot of sensors suffer from this problem, however I am afraid that it will be an issue in long exposure nighttime shots (I would like to eventually experiment with star trail shots) and of course in high ISO shots.

Scott: Hot pixels are real but if you didn’t notice it, then it’s not a big deal. I recently bought a 5D Mark II that had some hot pixels which spread to the point where I noticed it so Canon fixed it under warranty. If it’s not under warranty then you may be paying for something that may be minor. For professional gear, your lenses and camera should be sent in every year to be cleaned and checked.

Tamara: I have had them but nothing that showed up on prints or that has concerned me.

Question Twelve – Flash Wide Panel

Brett Hovenkotter from Issaquah, WA writes: I recently bought a Canon 430EX II Speedlite for my 7D along with a third party diffuser. I noticed that the Speedlite has a Wide Panel built in. How does using the Wide Panel compare to using the diffuser? Obviously the Wide Panel is more convenient to get on and off, but is it inferior? Also, should I take off the diffuser when bouncing the flash?

Tamara: I have worked with diffusers but I prefer to just bounce my flash. I haven’t really had a use for the wide panel.

Scott: The wide panel is not intended to diffuse flash. It’s intended to make the flash go wider so you would use it if you are shooting a large group. In general you are always better getting the flash off the camera and trying to bounce it.

Question Thirteen – Shutter Speeds for Video

Myron Glova from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan Canada asks: I recently bought a Canon 7D and absolutely love it. I am wondering what to set the shutter speed at while shooting video and which Compact Flash card you would recommend?

Tamara: I haven’t started to incorporate video into my workflow yet but as far as CF cards go, I use the SanDisk extreme 32 GB cards.

Scott: Shutter speeds are governed by the 180 rule. 1/50, 1/60 and 1/125th of a second. If you’re shooting at 24fps to get that film looking, you have to shoot at a 1/50th of a second. If you are shooting action or something at 30fps you will use 1/60th and if you are shooting slow motion then you would shoot at 1/125th. You can break this rule but there will be consequences. If you shoot below 1/50th then you’ll get blur. If you shoot faster then 1/125 then you get that staccato look. I recommend the UDMA cards as well, particularly for video.

Question Fourteen – Improving Audio Quality

Marty Williams from Los Angeles wrote to us at [email protected] to ask: How can I enhance the audio quality I record when shooting video on a hybrid DSLR?

Tamara: Using external audio is the way to go but it’s a whole new ball game when it comes to working with video and audio.

Scott: You want an external audio recording device. The built-in mics aren’t that great. Rode makes a great shotgun mic that you can stick on top of your camera. You can also use a hand-held audio device like the Zoom or the Sony PCMD1 and then you just have to sync it. Just clap when you start every scene that you are going to sync so that you can look for that clap in post.

Question Fifteen – Converting to DNG

Jerry in Michigan writes: What’s your take on converting to DNG? Do you recommend it? If so, do you still save all your NEFs?

Tamara: I actually shoot JPEG along with my good friend Jerry Ghionis. I’m comfortable with my exposures and settings.

Scott: In the wedding business, I can understand why some people shoot JPEGS. I have started converting to DNG in Lightroom because it takes the sidecar file and joins it to the image so you don’t have to deal with those XML sidecar files.

Question Sixteen – Websites – Use them for a Portfolio or Print Sales?

JimmyNotJim from Boston asks: I know you have touched on portfolios and web pages separately, but I have a more specific question. Should a web site be your portfolio you direct perspective clients to or should it be a gallery to sell prints. I’m working on building a site and I’m thinking of slimming down the number of images shown. Some images that might not be my best work have gotten requests to purchase as prints and wouldn’t have gotten exposure otherwise. I don’t want to send people to my Flickr stream as I like to use that more for social networking, critique and sharing with other photogs.

Tamara: I don’t think there is a problem with having your portfolio online. I’m a huge believer in only including your best stuff in your portfolio. I would rather see 5 unbelievable images rather than 20 mediocre ones.

Scott: I think you need to focus on what you want to do, put your best stuff out there, and forget about the odd stuff you might sell on a long distance hail Mary pass.

Question Seventeen – Color Casts on Interior Photos

Fred Light wrote in to ask: I do real estate photography, and have problems with the correct white balance for interiors. If I use AWB, the photos have an orange cast. If I use Tungsten, the photos have a blue cast (mostly outside the windows). How do I reconcile the different color temperatures on the interior of a home? What’s the best setting to use?

Tamara: The first way depends on your workload. If he’s shooting a large volume, I would set it to Auto White Balance (AWB), knowing that you’ll have casts. Do a nice general edit and then use the appropriate filters in post. The other option is to set your camera up depending upon your lighting situation.

Scott: There are any number of gray cards or white balance cards that you can put in a scene and then key off of those. I like to color balance off of gray cards and set my exposures off a white card. Then I’ll batch process them in post. The XRite could also do this. This is one advantage of shooting RAW compared with JPEG.

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.

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Show notes by Bruce Clarke