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Photofocus Episode 48

Show notes by Bruce Clarke ()

This week we kick things off with a question about JPEGs embedded in RAW files:

Question One – Uses for JPEGs Embedded in RAW Files

There is a Jpg image imbedded in the raw image of many pro body cameras. I use a 1D Mark IV. How can I put that to use? Rhett Gibson, Auburn, AL

Scott: You could use the embedded jpeg on import as the preview file rather than creating a new one from the RAW file. Some people just import the jpegs.

Question Two – SSD Drives as Scratch Disks in Photoshop

Rich (from Atlanta) This is a computer question, but hey I’m sure if you don’t know the answer, you know someone who does! I recently purchased a Macbook Pro 15″ i7. I opted for the 128gb SDD for a more secure storage option, and potential speed increase. My question is about assigning scratch disks in Photoshop. Since I don’t have the option to use an additional internal drive, is it ok for me to assign my SDD as a scratch disk to utilize the fast read/write speed? Or am I just asking for trouble? Would a partition be a good idea? I know regardless of how much RAM I have in my machine, Photoshop still has operations that utilize the scratch disk. I’m just concerned that I may be playing with fire just because I hear that SDD’s have a finite read/write number.

Scott: It doesn’t matter if it’s an SDD drive or not, it’s not a good idea to put your scratch disk on the same drive as Photoshop. You could use an external drive as your scratch disk..

Question Three – Uses for Tilt-Shift Lenses

I’m Frank from Hong Kong. I enjoy your show so much and really earning from your show. I have a Canon tilt-shift 24mm version 1 lens in hand. What can I make a good use with this lens? What sort of interesting and creative idea can throw in with this? Are interior and exterior shots the only purpose for this lens?

Scott: Titl shift lenses are primarily useful in situations where you want to remove distortion by keeping everything on the same plane. Lately, a lot of photographers have been using them to do stop-animation or making things look like they are little toys. For me, tilt-shift lenses are primarily used when shooting landscapes or architectural and I want to ensure there is no distortion.

Question Four – Daytime Shooting on a Tripod

Erick Is silly to get caught up psychologically about needing to shoot on a tripod for the sharpest image? I know it can be more beneficial at night but is that the case during the day?

Scott: It depends on what your circumstances are. In almost every case, I shoot on a tripod because it gives me a better result than I can get hand holding. How steady are you? If you are at fast paced, fast moving events then a tripod isn’t really helpful. If you are doing something deliberative like landscape photography, then tripods are very helpful. When I’m shooting with my big lenses like the 800mm, there is no way I can hand hold it so I have to use a tripod. Make sure you get a tripod that is sturdy enough to hold your rig but also light enough that you’ll actually use it. I use the Induro tripods and really like them.

Question Five – Questions about a Fast 50mm Lens

I hear get a “Fast 50” lens, ie a 50 mm f1.8 or better yet an f1.4. I have a D90 with a crop factor of 1.5 and I’m currently using a Sigma 18-50 mm f2.8 lens. Does this recommended lens only hold for the full frame cameras and for the D90 I should be looking for a 35 mm? Or does the recommendation mean 50 mm no matter what camera? I’m confused because realistically (and I think I’ve heard you say this) a 50 mm lens is still a 50 mm lens and makes no difference in terms of the angle of view. It’s more that the cropped sensor is the equivalent of cropping a full frame view. Perspective wise, a 35 mm and 50 mm look different. Glenn Hubbers from Aurora, Ontario, Canada

Scott: It doesn’t matter if you have a full-frame or a cropped sensor camera, the thing about having a fast 50mm lens is that it is fast. The 50mm is also affordable so that is why it is often recommended. A 50mm lens has an effective focal length that is different on a crop-sensor camera but it will still be fast. You could try to get a 35mm to try an emulate a 50mm but you’ll have issues with perspective. What is more important for you – the focal length or the speed?

Question Six – Eyepiece Extenders

What is your opinion of eyepiece extenders? I wear glasses and they tend get in the way when I’m shooting, forcing me to smash my face up against the camera to make sure I’ve framed my shot correctly. Unfortunately, even at 27 my eyesight is beyond the point that a diopter adjustment can make up the slack and I’ve read online about eyepiece extenders. Other than the added comfort for glasses wearers, what do you consider the benefits (if any), and more importantly, the drawbacks of their use? Tim Freitag from St. Louis, MO

Scott: I don’t have any personal experience with these. I’ve been using the Zacuto Z-Finder if I want to take a look at what’s on the LCD screen. Hoodman has invented some new products along these lens. If you are going to buy one, don’t buy a cheap one. Get the best one money can buy.

Question Seven – TIFF or JPEG for Export

I have a number of my best photos I want to enlarge & print. I shoot RAW & am using Aperture 3 to tweak, etc… My question is… What file format should I export to if I want to print 11x14s or up to 20 x 30 prints? I know the TIFF 16bit files are much larger than JPEG, but I assume the TIFF would give me a better end product. (Of course, uploading JPEGS goes much quicker, but I want the best I can get in the end) I appreciate your input as to exporting TIFF or JPEG. Keith Burrows Wellington, FL

Scott: What does your lab require? In the case of WHCC, I upload very high quality JPEGs. Where a TIFF file comes into play, is when you’re doing your editing and then export to JPEG. The only exception would be if you were doing museum grade exhibitions with a printer who does everything by hand.

Question Eight – Photographing a Monsoon

I’m in India at the moment, and the monsoon is in full swing. I was standing on my balcony watching the rain, and it struck me as a good opportunity to take a photo of the vista – the driving rain, the greenery of the trees, the street below, and so on. I grabbed my D40 (yes, I don’t have a fancy camera), and tried to take some photos. I played around with aperture/ shutter speed to see what effects I could generate – I generally shot a higher-than-usual aperture so I could slow down the shutter speed to see if I could get some sort of cool streaky or “curtain” effect. None of the photos really did justice to what my eyes could see, and I think I either had the wrong idea, or didn’t understand how to shoot in this particular environment. Akshay

Scott: To get that cotton candy or streaky effect, go for a slow shutter speed around 1/30 or slower. You could also try shooting at 1/1000 to freeze the raindrops.

Question Nine – Photographing Swans

I’m trying to get some decent photos of a pair of swans that live nearby. The problem is, where they hang out only gets enough light for my camera during the middle of the day. If I expose for the swans, I completely lose the background and I still get blown highlights. Which considering that the swans are white, is usually a large patch of my subject. And if I expose for the background, the entire subject gets blown out. I’m trying to find a middle ground by using the exposure compensation to underexpose the birds, but I’m not having much luck. My latest attempt was to underexpose by a full stop, which exposed the highlights well, but the rest of the frame is so dark, that even though I was shooting RAW, I was unable to recover it to my satisfaction: What wasn’t exposed right was very color-noisy when I adjusted the blacks, fill light and exposure settings in post. Jeff

Scott: Photography is about compromise. Depending upon the camera you use, there are a couple of tricks you can try to extend your dynamic range. You might experiment with an HDR image. Shoot the background and then shoot another frame with the swan perfectly exposed and drop it into the first photography. You have to decide if you want to control the hilites or the shadows. You can also experiment with the shadows and hi light sliders in post.

Question Ten – Lens Bags

Do you use or recommend lens bags? ie bags that you wear while shooting only holding your lenses and anything else you might need access to quickly, rather than bags for transporting gear. Examples of these are the shootsac or boda bags. Kristen from Brisbane, Australia

Scott: I do occasionally use and recommend them. I have used the Boda bag and it’s very good but they are a bit more expensive. You can often accomplish the same thing with a photojournalistic bag. Domke makes some great top loading bags. Think Tank also makes some great bags.

Question Eleven – Center Focus Technique

Scott in Australia writes: I take a mix of both sport and portrait photos and have read that many photographers shoot center point focus only, they focus on the subjects eyes, wait for the af to lock, then recompose your shot, my question is two fold. Firstly when I employ this method with portraits how far can you recompose the shot, I know the depth of field will affect this but was wondering if you have any tips for getting sharp photos. I use single shot and one shot for the focusing settings on my Canon 7D with a 24-70mm at 2.8 and find that my shots are not sharp?

Scott: The autofocus on the 7D works really well so you don’t need to rely on just the center focus point and the 24-70mm is a very sharp lens so I’m going to guess that it’s technique. Are you using a tripod? Are you using enough light? Autofocus works best in good light. I think it’s a matter of practice and technique.

Question Twelve – In-Camera VR vs. Lens-Based VR

Is there any advantage to in-camera vibration reduction vs. lens-based VR? What are the pros and cons of each? Dave DeBisschop

Scott: Most camera bodies that have VR built-in definitely work but not as well as when it’s in the lens. Lens based VR is more expensive. In terms of in camera pros – every lens you attach will benefit from the VR but the con is that isn’t doesn’t work quite as well as it does in the lens.

Question Thirteen – Tips for Achieving Pleasing Lens Flare

You’ve given us plenty of good advice for avoiding lens flare. How about doing the opposite? Can you give me any tips for achieving a pleasing lens flare on purpose?

Scott: Stop down. F16 or F22 and point your camera in the direction of the light source. I would also remove your lens hood.

Question Fourteen – Car Photography

I was thinking about how to photograph friends, who have sports cars, in a way that will showcase themselves in their cars in different types of scenes. It will be a photoshoot of some sort and the reason why I’ve thought about this idea is because I was thinking of photographing a friend in his Porsche for a print I want to market with my car photography website down the line. So, too far fetched? Too risky? Oke

Scott: I don’t think this is a bad idea at all. I love cars and love to be photographed with my car. If you’re shooting a guy, shoot low to establish dominance and power. Shoot them in their car with the door open. Put some ambient light inside the car with little LED lights as well.

Question Fifteen – Suggested Amount of RAM

I’m in the process of getting a new computer with much more RAM than the 2GB I now have. The question is, is 8GB enough, or should I go for 16GB of RAM? Can photo editing software such as Photoshop take advantage of all 16 gigs of RAM? The cost increase is considerable but is it worth it? I’d be editing hi-def video too from my 5D MarkII. What’s your setup like, Scott? Petri, Finland

Scott: There are 3 things you can never have enough of: KFC, money, and RAM. You’ll get more overhead for things running in the background. 4GBs is the standard minimum so pretty soon we’ll be looking at 8GB as the standard so if you can afford it, go for 16GB. A great place to buy RAM and CF cards is

Question Sixteen – Using Fill Flash More Realistic

I find that using fill-flash outdoors often generates images that look “fake”- it appears that the subject is standing in front of a backdrop and not in the middle of an actual scene. I’ve tried to analyze the cause, and part of it may be that using too shallow a depth of field with no in-focus points between the subject and background creates this illusion. But I’m wondering if there are lighting angles that also may be involved. Any advice for the most “realistic” lighting using fill-flash? Greg

Scott: Make sure you are using fill-flash. Use the TTL features and be in aperture priority mode. It may be that you have too much depth of field but usually it’s a case of too much flash. Use the flash compensation mode to turn down the flash.

Question Seventeen – DPI on Output

I use Photoshop Elements to ‘finish’ my keepers. PSE displays at 72 dpi, but prints at 300 dpi (I get this) When I save as JPEG at quality 10 (say 1.7Mb file) for upload to MPix, what dpi am I getting? Ted Seidl from Avon Lake, Ohio

Scott: DPI and PPI are different although quite often we see them used interchangeably. DPI is dots per inch and PPI is pixels per inch. On monitors or displays, it is PPI but when you are working on prints you want DPI. What’s important is what your lab wants.

Question Eighteen – Avoiding Particulates when Changing Lenses

I am wondering what is a proper way of changing lenses on a interchangeable camera like an SLR to minimize particulates from entering the camera body? John Pavlish Seattle, WA

Scott: Don’t change lenses on very windy or dusty days. Keep the opening of your camera pointed down or perpendicular to your body. Make sure that you keep the area around your lens mount clean and clean the back of your lenses occasionally. No matter what you do, you’re going to get some but most cameras today do have dust removal systems.

Wrap Up

We want themes and questions from you. Be sure to visit the blog at for articles, how-to’s, videos and more. Email us at [email protected] follow us on Twitter. Don’t just take pictures – make pictures.

Show notes by Bruce Clarke