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Photofocus Episode 38

Show notes by Bruce Clarke ()

This week we kick things off with a question about canvas prints.

Question One – Canvas Prints

Scot Thomas from Silverdale, WA asks: I have always hated framing and mounting prints. I recently had a print done on canvas instead of paper and I really loved to be able to just hang right away as is. In your experience, do you think certain subjects make better canvas prints than others or do you think canvas is as versatile as paper?

Tamara: We offer our clients a variety of printing options but I like to use canvas prints for really emotional images. We recently did a shoot for a hospital and produced all the images on canvas and I love how they turned out for their emotive qualities. You can also use lower quality images when trying to go bigger on canvas.

Scott: You do lose some detail when using canvas so if your photograph has a lot of detail that you’re proud of, you may lose some of that. Things like fields of wheat which have great texture already, look great on canvas. Overall paper is more versatile because there are more types but I think canvas is just as versatile.

Question Two – Rights Managed vs. Royalty Free

Audio question from Tony – What is the difference in the stock world between rights managed and royalty free business models?

Scott: Rights managed means that the user pays a license fee for a very specific use of the photograph. In a royalty free scenario, the user will pay a single one-time license fee that gives them irrevocable full-time use of the image in a non-commercial use (e.g. they can’t resell it).

Question Three – Curves Adjustments

D’Andra in Houston asks: I’m an iPhoto user upgrading to Aperture 3. I have read all this fuss about how important the new curves adjustment is and have seen a few tutorial videos showing people making these adjustments, but they all assume I already understand this curves business. What exactly is a curves adjustment, and how do you do one?

Tamara: Curves allow you to finesse you image with tones and levels at the same time. You work with shadows, mid tones, and hilites.

Scott: A curve allows you to control how bright the bright spots are and how dark the dark spots are along a curve which goes from 0 to 255. In my workflow, curves are used to adjust contrast and give images more pop.

Question Four – Storing a DSLR in a Camera Bag

Noy G. from Hanover, MD writes: Is there a proper way of storing a DSLR camera inside a camera bag? I store my Nikon D80 with the 18-135mm lens facing up (view finder/display screen down). Will this ruin the mechanism inside the body and lens?

Scott: I don’t there is a proper way for every camera in every camera bag. Just make sure it’s well padded.

Tamara: I pack it in a way that enables me to pack it with other stuff as long as it’s protected.

Question Five – Camera Bodies or Glass – Where to Invest

Wayne asks: One problem that I run in to comes when trying to decide where to spend my money when upgrading — buying a new camera body versus lens versus lights, etc. For example, would it be wiser to invest in a newer DSLR with a low noise sensor, or invest in better glass.

Tamara: It depends on the shooting your doing. If you’re doing a lot of low light photography then getting a better body might make sense but I would always go for better glass.

Scott: If you’re going to balance your budget, buy a low noise sensor camera body but put more money into fast glass. Generally the faster the glass the better it will be.

Question Six – Under Served Markets for Photography

Shawn Guilbault asks: I hear a lot of people talking about all the different photography job markets that are saturated. For those of us looking to make the leap, I was hoping you could offer an insiders look at what might be upcoming markets and under served markets.

Scott: The low end of all markets is very saturated but I do think there are some genres which are more difficult to compete in. For example, landscape photographer – do not quit your day job. Weddings are always going to happen so that is always going to be strong but that can depend upon your local market.

Tamara: In North Carolina, the market has been pretty good so I know a few photographers who have moved here recently because they heard that the market was better than it was where they came from. Boudoir and beauty photography is definitely up and coming and gaining more popularity.

Scott: In terms of specialties, food and fashion photography pays really well but are quite saturated. Wedding and portraits are a great way to break in where there is a consistent income. Boudoir is becoming more popular and I think that the pet photography market is very under served.

Question Seven – Tips for Great Group Shots

Mark Dolby from Leeds, UK writes: I’m asked to shoot quite a lot of group shots at work for inclusion on internal web pages and newsletters. Could you give me some tips on getting great group shots. In particular how to arrange the subjects for a better composition. I’m usually shooting between 3 and 10 people and often find my subjects looking quite uncomfortable in the pictures and don’t get the tight compositions you see from the pros.

Scott: If people look uncomfortable the first place is to look at yourself. Make sure you aren’t uncomfortable because if you bring a lot of tension to the shoot then that will be reflected in your subjects. I like to get up high and shoot down on them and put them in a circle. It changes the composition and makes height less concerning and it gets away from things like double chins and body issues. Also be sure to get 2 or three shots so you can do some head swapping if it turns out that people were blinking.

Tamara: I agree with your comment about the camera looking both ways. One thing to consider is the amount of time are you being allotted to do these photos. The more time you have, the better results you will get. When posing a group, think about the fact that you want to the photo to reflect that they are one. Also be careful about who you’re placing where in the image. Lastly, think about stepping back and zooming and leaving room on the edges.

Question Eight – When to Update Your Firmware

Craig Willhelm from New York City asks: Many camera manufacturers release firmware updates on a semi-regular basis. Is it always a good idea to upgrade or are there times you should wait?

Tamara: I send my cameras in annually for a tune up and that’s when I get my updates.

Scott: I think that if there is a particular feature that you’ve been waiting for, then it’s usually a good idea although occasionally the updates can cause some issues. The safest rule of thumb is to wait about 15 days and then upgrade.

Question Nine – Shooting with Mirror Lenses

Josh Petok from Los Angeles, CA wrote to ask: I want to shoot a time lapse video of the moon trailing through the sky. I came across a few posts that suggest using mirror lenses. Since you are THE long lens dude, is there any benefit to using these or is it the age old adage of you get what you pay for?

Scott: Bad news, you get what you pay for. The mirror lenses don’t stack up to the high end long lenses. You can always rent a high quality long lens to do your shoot and then send it back if it’s not the type of photography that you’re going to be doing a lot of.

Tamara: I would agree with Scott. Mirror lenses are cheap so they are probably fine if you’re just messing around but if you’re going after quality then you’re not going to be pleased with the results from mirror lenses.

Question Ten – Multiple Exposures vs. Bracketing for HDR Images

Chris from Comcord, CA writes: I’d like to try my hand at making HDR images. While looking through my Nikon D90’s manual I noticed settings for “Multiple Exposure” as well as Bracketing. I’m not sure I understand the difference. Would you mind explaining? And, as a follow up, is one method better for HDRs than the other?

Scott: Multiple exposures are different from HDR. Bracketing is much more to the point.

Tamara: Bracketing is taking multiple shots of the same thing using multiple settings so you could be doing focus bracketing or fill flash bracketing or white balance bracketing and exposure bracketing.

Scott: You would use bracketing to make your HDR images as long as you didn’t change your aperture. You set the bracketing to change the shutter speed. If you change the focal point in the shot then the focal point is not going to look right. Set it up to bracket at the farthest ends you can. If you’re using Photoshop CS5 then you can tone map them in there, otherwise Photomatix Pro is the best software solution on the market for making great HDR images.

Question Eleven – Macro Lenses for Portraits

Thomas asks: Are macro lenses only good for macro work? Can they be used in portraits? I am guessing that it wouldn’t be because of the details they are capable of producing but I can be wrong. I know some people are self conscience and may be upset over the results.

Tamara: I use a 50mm macro lens all the time for photographing babies. They are great for capturing all the details. Ring shots at weddings are also great with macros.

Scott: You can definitely shoot portraits with a macro lens. I like the 105mm Micro lens from Nikon.

Question Twelve – Finding Your Images Online

Kerry from North Wales, UK asks: On several of your podcasts now you have mentioned that you scour the net to find breaches of copyright on your images, but how exactly do you do this? I have found one of my images used by someone else without my permission, but that was by accident, so I would be interested to know how I can find out if other images are being used?

Tamara: I don’t generally scour the Internet looking for my images but some people have pointed it out to me when they’ve run across one of my images being used somewhere.

Scott: We created a proprietary solution because it was such a problem for us. We insert a hot pixel in the photograph that contains tracking information that comes back down to a database that we maintain which checks to ensure that the person using the image has permission to do so. There are professional services that you can buy into. One of the more popular ones is Digimarc and I’ve just been asked to join the board of advisors for another company called Image Rights which isn’t ready yet but should be soon.

Question Thirteen – Picture Modes

Kirk from Hong Kong writes: My question is regarding setting the picture control on my (Nikon) camera, i.e. standard vs. neutral vs. vivid etc. I understand how the picture controls work in terms of varying amounts of contrast, hue, saturation and so forth and how those are useful to create different desired visual outcomes. However, assuming one can adjust those things in post, am I wrong to want to focus more on maximizing data capture (i.e. not just the shape of the histogram but the size of the histogram?) And if my assumption isn’t misguided, in a digital world couldn’t camera manufactures give a numerical value to each histogram as it comes out?

Scott: I don’t think you’re wrong trying to maximize data coming into the camera unless you’re shooting JPEG. If I’m shooting RAW then these controls don’t matter. If you’re shooting in JPEG and you know that you want to do some of these effects then you might consider using some of them in camera.

Tamara: I shoot Canon and I just shoot neutral so I get a nice simple palette to work from.

Question Fourteen – Website Suggestions

What I need is a full website for my business with back end capabilities (somewhere Clients can review the photos I shot for them etc). Ideally I’d like it to be plug and play type. Can you remind which website it was that offers such a service for photographers?

Tamara: There are so many on the market. Be careful about any type of service that includes web hosting without looking into their customer service first. I have a custom blog and use White House’s Pick Pick. I’ve heard Big Folio is good.

Scott: Pick Pick has a nice back-end. Pictage is also a great choice if you’re shooting events or weddings. SmugMug is also another great service. Try to stick with the name brands.

Question Fifteen – When Not to Use Vibration Reduction

Jeff in Puyallup, WA writes: I was looking at the VR switches on the new lenses for my new Nikon D90 and I started to wonder, what would the situation be to want the VR turned off?

Tamara: I keep it on most of the time unless I’m mounted to a tripod or unless I’m going for a motion blur effect.

Scott: There are some forms of VR, in particular the older models of VR or IS where you can’t use them when mounted on a tripod. The other situation is that it does require about a 1/2 second to get stabilized so if you can’t afford that delay then you’ll want to turn it off. Also, if you’re shooting at faster than 1/1000 of a second then VR can be a problem.

Question Sixteen – Video Editing Software Suggestion

Donny Boy asks: What video editing programs work with my Canon 5D Mark II on my PC (when shooting videos)? Which one do you like best?

Tamara: I love Final Cut Pro but it’s not PC happy.

Scott: I would use a Mac and Final Cut Pro. Most of my PC friends like Sony Vegas.

Question Seventeen – Registering Images with the Library of Congress

James Brown from Fort Wayne, Indiana writes: How often do you register your images with the Library of Congress? Do you batch multiple photo sessions into a single filing, or do you do them all separately, incurring the $35.00 charge for every session? Do you register photos before making them available to the client?

Tamara: I don’t register my images with the Library of Congress.

Scott: You don’t have to register every photograph separately. You can register up to 750 images in a single filing. More information can be found on the Library of Congress website. After a shoot is done we go through and do our selections and delete the ones we aren’t going to keep. Everything that’s left gets registered before we publish the images.

Question Eighteen – Scanning B&W Film

Zach Silvey from Battle Ground, WA asks: When scanning B&W film with a dedicated film scanner is it better to scan in RGB or Monochrome? I know when shooting digital you always want to shoot RAW in camera and do the B&W conversion in post but what is the best way to go about scanning?

Tamara: I have done scanning and I prefer RGB as I find they come in a little flat when scanning in monochrome.

Scott: Scan in RGB at the highest quality possible. Then you are at a starting point that allows you to go a lot of different directions.

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.

Tamara Lackey is at

Show notes by Bruce Clarke