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Photofocus Episode 43

Show notes by Bruce Clarke ()

This week we kick things off with a question about exposing for backlit subjects:

Question One – Making Outdoor Portraits with Flash Look More Natural

Adam Silversmith From Las Vegas, NV writes: When I do outdoor portraits of people it is hard for me when using speedlites to make the photos seem like there is no flash being used (All of my flashes are off camera using pocketwizards). If I step down the power of the light the scene goes dark. Do you have any tips for outdoor portraits to make the photos look more natural?

Tamara: I strongly prefer to use natural light whenever possible along with a reflector. That being said, with a larger group there are times when you’ll have to go with fill flash.

Scott: The easiest way to make it look more natural is to move to aperture priority and set your flash to E-TTL. Make sure that you’re turning down the power of the light and not the exposure.

Question Two – Topaz Adjust & Simplify – CS5 64-Bit Compatibility

William Johnson from Tampa writes: I know Scott likes Topaz Adjust and Simplify – when will these plugins be CS5 64-bit compatible?

Scott: As far as I know they are both CS5 compatible as of last week.

Question Three – Hilites on Screen vs. Prints

I signed up with WHCC after hearing about it on your podcasts for my Zune, got my 5 free 8×10’s in 2 days, and I was so impressed with the prints. But it did raise a question. On an LCD monitor highlights are quite often brighter and more brilliant than they appear on a print. Do you have any suggestions on how to get brighter highlights on a print without completely blowing them out on my monitor? And if I do have to bump up the brightness, how do I know how much is enough or not too much? I use Lightroom and CS4 if that helps. Thanks a ton! Joe Colpitts from South Bend, IN USA

Tamara: Make sure that you monitor is calibrated to your printer. If you are looking at a very vibrant LCD, then maybe start experimenting with metallic foils or materials.

Scott: With WHCC in particular, be sure you are working in the sRGB color space. Most commercial labs use this color space. If you have used a colorimeter and created a monitor profile, you can include that with your prints and they should be able to match it more closely.

Question Four – Polarizer for a Beach Wedding

Matt Brennan from Vancouver, BC asks: I am acting as second shooter for my cousins wedding in July. The wedding will be on a beach/lake. Assuming it will be a nice day (the wedding is at 1:30), would you consider using a polarizer in order to bring out the sky a little more or will this saturate the people to much?

Tamara: While I appreciate the look that they can give, I prefer to shoot cleanly with my glass and do those things in post.

Scott: If you’re using really good polarizers then I don’t feel like I’m giving much up. If you’re using cheap polarizers then they will compromise the quality. A polarizer won’t change the saturation – they just reduce glare and reflection.

Question Five – Plans for Future Photographs

Scott in Pittsburgh I know you said that the photo Cranes in the Fire Mist was something you thought of before you took the shot. I was wondering now that you have the photo is there another shot / photo you are thinking of that you want to get?

Tamara: I pre visualize all the time and get ideas for photographs I want to create. I would love to get the feel for shooting what it’s like to be in a racecar.

Scott: I don’t have another photo in my mind at the moment which is good and bad. I worked on that one image for 13 years so I’m glad that I got it but also sad that I don’t another one in mind to strive towards.

Question Six – Difference Between Exposure & Brightness

In post, what is the difference between changing the exposure of a photo and changing the brightness of a photo? Love the show! Bill Ackerman Santa Fe, NM

Tamara: Exposure is a more powerful tool. I don’t adjust brightness much. I always play with the curves tool.

Scott: I think the brightness tool is a little heavy handed. Exposure has effects on the entire image whereas brightness only works on certain areas of the photograph to make them brighter. I think the curves and shadow/hilite tools are more powerful.

Question Seven – Glossy vs. Matte Screens

David Palmer from Oxford, England asks: How do you feel about the glossy vs. matte issue on Mac laptops?

Scott: I’ve used both matte and glossy screens. I did recently get the matte screen on the most recent MacBook Pro that I bought and I’m glad I got it. If you are outdoors a lot then the matte screen is nice.

Tamara: I prefer the matte screen because my studio has a lot of natural light.

Question Eight – Model Releases for Pet Photography

I am getting ready to start a pet photography side business soon and I had a quick question. I am wondering if I need to use any kind of model release form for any of my clients? To start I would only be selling the images to the client, but was thinking maybe down the road of putting books of my work together. Would I need some kind of release for either of these situations? Bryan Panting from Oviedo, FL

Scott: While I can’t give specific legal advice, I would get a release for every creature or person who walked into my studio.

Tamara: I make sure to get model releases for everyone that I work with. Years before I released my book I wasn’t getting them so when I wrote my book I had to go back to the clients and get them to sign model releases.

Question Nine – Networking with Other Child Photographers

I am loving your website. So much helpful information. I had a question about networking. I saw in your audience/traffic post that 75% of your audience is male etc. etc… I was wondering if you have any suggestions on where I can go to network with other child photographers? I know that the majority of them are female so I thought many of them wouldn’t be in your audience (though they should come here, best info I’ve gotten thus far). When I try to google “child photography networks” I get results for either individual photography sites or places that aren’t what I’m looking for. Other than I Love Photography, any suggestions? Thanks for your help! Heidi

Tamara: I think there might be more interest in that field among men than we think. Obviously Photofocus is a great start. I think a lot of photographers pick a niche and just stay there so I think it’s great to expand into other areas and bring elements from them into your photography. In terms of the actual question, I just got back from a retreat in Napa for the National Association of Portrait and Child Photographers ( Another great source is the Digital Wedding Forum which has branched out and now includes forums for portrait photography.

Scott: I think that is great advice. Looking to other verticals is a great way to get some information. Although not dedicated to child photography specifically, I can recommend WPPI and PPA. Skip’s Summer School is another great resource along with Going Pro 2010. Go to places that have nothing to do with what you’re interested in and see what techniques you can pick up.

Question Ten – Tips for Sneaking Up on Birds

Dan from Montreal, Quebec asks: I have recently taken to trying to photograph birds. I am constrained by my budget at the moment and the longest lens I have access to is a 55-250mm lens. Given this reality I am trying to get better at sneaking up on my subjects to get better shots. Do you have any tips for sneaking up on birds, particularly Herons, or wildlife in general? Sneaking is a valuable tool in any arsenal, and it costs nothing but time and patience :)

Scott: If you want to get close to birds, cars make excellent blinds. I also get a bag blind. Go sit somewhere where you’ve seen a lot of bird activity and situate yourself there. Don’t walk around with your tripod over your shoulder or you’ll start to look like a big eagle and scare them off. Spend a lot of time studying the birds and figure out what they do. You could also rent a long lens from somewhere like

Question Eleven – Protection from the Elements for Camera Equipment

Sven Igawa writes: I am going on a family trip to Kauai at the end of July and was wondering if there is any sort of protective equipment you would suggest bringing along? We’ll probably do some of the hiking tours, river kayaking, relaxing on the beach and taking a boat around the north end of the island with the kids. How concerned should I be about salt spray and sand?

Tamara: I would invest in a great lens bag. I use a Boda bag. Also think about having two camera bodies so that you don’t have to swap lenses when you’re out in the field. Use your lens hoods and don’t be afraid to use your lens cloths and spray to clean your equipment.

Scott: If I’m going to work in a very sandy environment, then I will take what I consider a throw away camera with me so that if the camera gets trashed then it doesn’t matter as much. If you have something extremely valuable then you may want to keep it away from the sand and the surf. If you’re going in a kayak, then there is a chance that it could tip over.

Question Twelve – Suggestions for Protecting Gear While Traveling

My name is Tommy Noles, a very new photographer. I have an opportunity to spend 2 weeks in London and am really stressing about getting my gear over there and not crushed or pilfered. I do not have a lot of stuff, a 7D, a 17-55, a 70-200 and a speedlite, and maybe a tripod. Any advice, suggestions, recommendations would be very much appreciated.

Scott: If you can FedEx it ahead to someone there that will be your best option. If you’re flying within the country, don’t count on being able to carry it on as most British airlines are quite strict on their on the carry-on allowances. You could also rent in the location you are headed.

Tamara: I’ve always carried my stuff with me and haven’t had any issues. I’ll pack less critical stuff like light stands, batteries, etc into a locked suitcase.

Question Thirteen – Lighting Tips for Photographing Rodeos

I am going to begin photographing rodeo’s this weekend. The rodeos are at night and i was wondering if you had any suggestions for lighting.. I know you are a very busy man but if you could offer any advice I would greatly appreciate it. Jami Sullivan

Scott: It’s tough. The new cameras offer very high ISO so go there if you can. If possible, get a couple of strobes and try to work as close as you can to your subjects. Turning off auto focus and using manual focus can sometimes work better as the camera won’t have to hunt.

Tamara: In terms of lighting, look at your lenses and see which ones are your fastest. For example, I have an 85 f/1.2 and an f/1.8 and I find the 1.8 actually captures faster moving subjects better.

Question Fourteen – Tips for Child Photography

My question is about infant and children photography. It’s not something I have done, nor personally aspire to do, but I understand I need to diversify my portfolio and business, and I believe that once I understand this type of photography, I might get over my anxiety and can actually enjoy it (much like I did with commercial and product photography). What kind of tips can you offer, i.e. getting them to smile and snapping that “winning shot”, camera and light set up, etc? – Patrick Onofre

Tamara: Children smell fear and tune into what you’re not saying. Simply tune into your subjects and get to their level energetically so that you can anticipate what’s coming next. Then you know when they are going to break into laughter or need a break.

Scott: There’s no real diagram you can use with kids. Just try to get nice light and get a fast lens. Focus more on what Tamara said than about your light or lens. It’s about connecting to your subject. Rapport is one of the most overlooked tools in the photographer’s toolkit.

Question Fifteen – Tips for Photographing People with Glasses

My question is what precaution should I take while taking portraits of persons with glasses to avoid reflection in the subjects glasses . Thanks Ravinder Takrar Cary, NC

Tamara: Look at your perspective in relation to your subject and your main light and then adjust. Move to the left or right of your subject. Try tilting the glasses down slightly.

Scott: Cheat the glasses down a little bit on the nose. If you have time and the resources, then you could get a second set of frames without the lenses in them. If they normally have glasses then you want to keep them in glasses.

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