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Photofocus Episode 37

Show notes by Bruce Clarke ()

This week we kick things off with a question about exposure and ISO.

Question One – Exposure or Higher ISO in Low Light Situations

Livi asks: In low light situations is it better to higher the ISO or adjust the exposure? Could you go through the pros and cons for both?

Syl: Creatively I am always most concerned with Aperture because I want to choose an aperture that will give me the depth of field that I want. ISO is the last thing I think about.

Scott: If you’re making really long exposures, there is a comparison between high ISO vs. a really long exposure but short of that, my advice would be the same as Syl.

Question Two – Selling Excess Gear

From John Salter in the United Kingdom. I’ve collected a number of lenses that I no longer use, but part of me thinks I might need them in the future. How do you discipline yourselves to sell your excess gear before it becomes an antique?

Syl: I have a lot of gear that I try to keep but there are some things that I will sell, in particular digital bodies.

Scott: Digital bodies are generally a no brainer but it is more difficult to part with lenses. In my case it often comes down to not having room to store everything.

Question Three – Extension Tubes

My name is Rick from Salt Lake City, UT. I would like to get into macro photography, but my budget is tight. I’m just a hobbyist and I can’t afford the Canon 100mm 2.8 macro lens. I have however seen on websites things called extension tubes. Do you have any experience with them? Do they work well enough and how much of an impact do they have on image quality and sharpness? Would they be a good fit with a 50mm f1.4 or a 70-200 f4 lens? These seem like a much more affordable option if they work as advertised.

Syl: For around $25 you can get some close up diopters. You won’t get the best quality but they are cheap. Canon makes a high end 500D diopter which is a 2 element diopter and it’s very sharp and comparable to Canon’s 180mm dedicated macro.

Scott: That 500D would be my recommendation as well. Where I use extension tubes is when I want to reduce my close focusing distance. I work with really long lenses with really long close focusing distances so I use them to reduce close focusing distance.

Question Four – Strap Suggestions

Gene Grochowski from St. Maarten, Netherlands Antilles writes: I have a Canon 7D with an L-bracket from RRS. Next month I will be doing some hiking in Switzerland, and I am looking for suggestions about carrying my camera. Walking with the Canon strap results in the camera bouncing around. Do you have suggestions for a better strap that I can use without having to remove the L-bracket because I will likely be taking my tripod with me.

Syl: I really love the Really Right Stuff product and I use a Black Rapid strap with my camera when carrying.

Scott: I am also a big fan of L-brackets. I sometimes use the Kata eReflex strap but in real life I usually just lock everything down on the tripod and sling it over my shoulder.

Question Five – Searching the Web for Illicit Use of Your Images

Dennis Oder from Powell, Ohio writes: I see photogs sending out DMCA takedown notices. How often do you (or should you) search the web for illicit use of your images?

Scott: DMCA notices is a relatively easy thing to do but it must be done in writing. For me, we search everyday but I would do it at least once per month.

Syl: I had to deal with this in terms of someone reposting my blog content without any credit. Search my blog for DMCA as I did a full article on this.

Question Six – Ink Cartridge Recommendations

Paul from Melbourne, Australia asks: I am planning on purchasing a printer to do some larger format (A2) black and white (a well as color) photographic printing. There are some excellent printers out there and I have narrowed down my selection to a couple from each of the main brands (Epsom, Canon, HP). From previous experience, the biggest cost with printing is not the printer itself but the long term cost of replacing ink cartridges. I know NOT to resort to third party inks – their poor quality does not make up for the cheaper price EVER. Can you suggest any methods of reducing ink cost using the printer-branded inks? Do they come in bulk, or can they be used with CISS (Continuous Ink Supply Systems). I appreciate any suggestions?

Syl: I went through this exact same scenario a few years ago. It came down to the Epson 2800 and the Epson 3800 and I analyzed the difference in the ink cost. If you’re going through your ink within 6 months then it’s better to buy a printer that uses bigger cartridges. If you aren’t printing as much, you should be cycling your ink out after six months so it might make more sense to go with smaller cartridges which will be cheaper.

Question Seven – Monitor Question

Petri from Finland asks: I’d like to ask you a question about monitors. I’ve been looking at these expensive LaCie displays with wide gamuts, like 125% NTSC & 123% Adobe RGB (CIE 1976), 14-bit gamma correction for smooth gradients, etc. I just don’t know what it really means in real life and if it is worth the extra thousands of euros/dollars. I don’t think these advantages will carry over to your prints for example since photo printers can’t reproduce these wide gamuts as far as I know (I’ve got a four-year-old Epson R800). I mainly use my photos to view them on the monitor and paint oil paintings from them, so I’d like to get as close to reality as possible. I’ve also looked at Apple Cinema HD displays, but I don’t think they can match LaCie monitors for color accuracy. However, a Lacie can be up to three times as expensive as an Apple Cinema of the same size. So, my question is, what kind of a monitor do you use or would recommend?

Syl: My friend JP Campinegro recommended the NEC 2690W2 which is around $1300 with calibration software and hardware included.

Scott: I have often just relied on the Apple products because they look good to me. I like the 24 inch LED monitors. Having just heard what Syl said, I would look at the NEC monitors.

Question Eight – Learning Techniques for Taking Better Photos

Colin writes: I’ve never had any actual photograghy training; and being an analytical person (mechanical engineer), I would like to know what you think the best way for me learn some of the artistic concepts of photography. I’ve heard that looking at a lot of pictures is a good way to train the eye, but I would like to know if there is a more structured way to go about learning some techniques for taking better pictures or should I say “making” better pictures. For me photography is just a hobby, a skill that I would like to improve in my spare time. At the time being I feel little confused about what I’m shooting, how to make more keepers and what my work flow should look like.

Syl: I love this question and I love Colin’s honesty. I am going to give you three assignments. Go out into the world and photograph the alphabet. The only rule is that you can’t point your camera at a letter on a sign. Get a basketball and photograph it in as many different ways as you can without ever photographing the entire basketball. Tape a piece of black tape over your LCD and view finder and go out and take 100 photos. Take photos without getting structured.

Scott: Go out with just one lens and make an agreement that you’ll just use that lens. Try going out to shoot just certain colors. A third excercise is to go out with a little kid and ask them to help you take photos.

Question Nine – Flash Help

Annette Keeter from Nashville asks: I have a Canon 30D. I have an external flash (not a bounce flash) and when I use it indoors I’m getting washed out subjects and shadows. What can I do to help prevent this? I don’t really like the built in flash that much at all. My external works well outdoors, but indoors I just can’t figure it out.

Syl: I’m assuming that it’s some sort of hot-shoe Speedlite but I’m not sure what she means by it not being a bounce flash. It might be an old EZ model and it migh be in the old A-TTL mode and it will fire at full power everytime. If that’s the case, take it out of A-TTL mode and switch it to manual.

Scott: Understand the relationship between the camera exposure and the flash exposure. See if you can lower the power on the flash.

Question Ten – Green Screens

Craig wrote to us at [email protected] to ask: In Episode #31, you answered a question about what color of backdrop to use. If you were planning on replacing the backdrop with a digital background in post processing, would you use the white or the green backdrop? What is the significance of the green used (the why)?

Scott: I would go with a blue or a green screen and not white. Blue or green can be easily knocked out. There are many plugins that can do this. Green and blue screens are typically used because their color isn’t typically found in a lot of images or scenes and is easy to mask out. If you really want a program for this, check out Alex’s program at

Syl: Keep in mind what you shooting. You may not to want to use a green screen if you shooting plants or a woman in a green dress. One tip I can give is to light your background independant of the rest of the scene in an X-pattern. That will make it easier to cut the green or blue out. Also make sure your subject is standing far enough away from the background so they aren’t casting a shadow on it.

Question Eleven – Why 24 Frames Per Second

Brett Ginsberg from Bentleigh East Victoria Australia writes: My question has a video slant to it …. why is it that photographers / videographers have been eagerly awaiting the 24 fps firmware on the 5DII ? In real terms (visually) what does 24 fps do that 30 fps cannot ? And secondly, you have recently been talking about having a fairly slow shutter speed when shooting video ( around 1/50th ) – again why is this relativity slow speed so desirable?

Scott: 24 fps is what gives you that film quality in motion pictures. 30 fps is more of the camecorder look. If you’re shooting 24 fps then you want to be at 1/50. If you’re shooting at 30 fps then you want your shutter speed to be at 1/60th of a second and it all has to do with the 180 rule.

Syl: My view is that 30 fps is fine for web based projects that are mainly going to be viewed online.

Question Twelve – Posing Recommendations

Bill Cady from Minneapolis, MN asks: Do you have any recommendations for learning posing or how to photograph people so they look their best?

Scott: Look for any book by Bambi Cantrell. She is one of the best posers. There a couple of other resources on posing which you can find by searching for them on Google. There are also several iPhone applications dedicated to posing. One is called Poses. Also look at current magazines and see what kind of posing is being used in them.

Syl: I don’t pose them in the traditional sense. For me it gets down to the rapport between photographer and subjects. It’s about how you communicate with the subject your shooting.

Question Thirteen – Getting into Flower Photography for a Living

Jeni Anchorage from Ak writes: I was getting sick of my job recently and while I was sitting in a waiting room reading a gardening magazine I saw these flower photos and I said to myself…”I can do that! That looks just like my shots!” because my main subject I take photos of are flowers… How does one go about to maybe get into that field for working for a magazine publication? Or do they only select from places like iStock? I tried looking at that magazine website and had no luck in where they get their images from.

Scott: If you want to shoot for magazines, it is very competitve and with the current economy, there are less and less opportunities out there. For flowers in particular there is a lot of stock photography available so a lot of these photos are from stock agencies. Almost all magazines do have publishing guidelines. Get the Photographers Market published by Writer’s Digest. They query all the major magazines to see if they take unsolicited submissions and how to send your photos into them. Quitting your day job to do this is probably not recommended.

Syl: I photographed roses for about 15 years and produced speciality catalogue images. The reality is that the world of communications is going through a huge and rapid change and if you are considering pursuing a career in photography I would recommend checking into the website

Question Fourteen – Improving Audio Quality

Anthony Lattanzio aka “Tonylimo” writes: I like to subscribe to photo magazines and was wondering if you could recommend one. I been getting Popular Photography for the past year and do like it. Are there any you like? I’m a Chauffeur / photographer / podcaster, trying to break into the business.

Scott: The magazine business is shrinking and so are the photography magazines. Online is where everything is going so I would check out everything on line. Check out David DuChemin’s blog, Scott Kelby’s Blog, etc. Go to and search the photography sites on there. In terms of magazines, I still read Photo District News and Popular Photography.

Syl: PDN (Photo District News) is still one of the great photography magazines that I read. Blogs and podcasts are so great these days.

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.

Syl Arena is at or

Show notes by Bruce Clarke