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Photofocus Episode 51

Show notes by Bruce Clarke ()

This week we kick things off with a question about photographing children:

Question One – Photographing Children

What’s the best way to get my child to “settle down” before a photo. Is it just a waiting game? Do you have any tricks? Is there anyway to make the shoot seem more like playtime to the child? Donella Williams from Tampa

Tamara: Kids respond really well to mirroring so anytime you want them to settle down, you should try to put out the same energy that you want than to emulate. If you want them to be more excited then you should act more excited. Turn it into a game where you are pretending to go to sleep or pretending to whisper, etc. Try to get them involved and role play.

Question Two – Flash Brackets

I have a question regarding flash brackets for flash photography, and I’d like to hear the reply if possible on your Podcast so I can get both your opinion and Mr. Sammon’s. First, does the bracket satisfy getting the “damn” flash off the camera? Is this what you’re taking about? Second, do you have a favorite bracket type, feature and/or manufacturer? I see several in the $300 range. That seems high to me. Your thoughts are appreciated. Rick Montgomery, AL

Scott: Yes, a flash bracket will help with getting the flash off the camera and reduce the occurrence of things like red eye. As far as types and manufacturers, there are a bunch of brackets available from companies like Really Right Stuff and Kirk Photo. There are also inexpensive frames from a company called Stroboframe.

Tamara: I used to use them but now I find it easier to just bounce my flash.

Question Three – Monopod Materials

Evan Pioch wants to know what sort of materials are used to make monopods and which offer the best performance for the money?

Scott: Carbon fibre is the best because it’s the strongest and the lightest but not the cheapest. There are different brands and quality of carbon fibre. You can save some money by going with a stainless steel but it will be heavier. A carbon fibre monopod will be much cheaper than buying a carbon fibre tripod.

Question Four – Using Aperture & Photoshop Together

Mike Norton from Bristol, England wants to know how I use Aperture and Photoshop together?

Scott: This really applies to both Lightroom and Aperture. The process is called round tripping and basically it involves taking the files from Aperture or Lightroom and sending them out to Photoshop for additional processing and then bringing them back into Aperture or Lightroom. In Aperture, you simply work on the file and then in preferences you can set Photoshop as the third party program to edit with. When you select Edit – it will open the photograph up in Photoshop where you’ll make your changes and then click Save (not Save As) and it will round-trip back into Aperture (or Lightroom). The changes you made on the Photoshop side will get baked into the copy.

PMA 2011

Mark your calendar and plan to attend PMA 2011 September 6th – 11th. It’s being opened up to the public for the first time and we’re planning to do a live Photofocus during the event.

Question Five – ISO vs. Exposure

Previously you’ve said that you’re better off using a higher ISO to maximize the data you’re gathering rather than increasing exposure in post. On my camera, a canon 40D, it’s normal ISO range is 200-1600, but I can change a setting to have it increase to 100-3200. It’s far noisier at 3200 than 1600, so I’m wondering does your advice still apply here? Should I push it all the way to 3200 or shoot at 1600 and increase the exposure in post? Steve from Chicago

Scott: The advice applies but there are still physics of law and man at play. I wouldn’t push the 40D past 1600 as it doesn’t have the low light capabilities of some of the newer cameras. If you’re still not getting enough light then my guess is that you’re not shooting in the right places.

Tamara: The answer about whether to increase ISO or adjust it in post is changing as these cameras keep getting better and better in low light conditions. Now I generally shoot at fairly high ISOs and use some of the great noise reduction programs out there.

Question Six – Best Method to Import into Lightroom or Aperture

What’s the best way to import photos into Lightroom or Aperture? Jay Carlson, Bedford, TX

Tamara: It’s quite simple. I use the Import feature and a card reader. I use the Lexar brand of card readers.

Scott: Yes, using the import button in either program will import the photos. I also recommend going the card reader route rather than hooking the camera up to the computer with the USB cable. If you really want to speed up your importing, get a UDMA card reader with UDMA cards for the fastest performance.

Question Seven – Thoughts on a Sigma EF530 Flash

I am looking at getting a sigma EF530 DG Super flash. I was wondering how you thought it compares to the Canon 430 ex II. I usually stick with canon gear but ear this is a great flash. Thanks, Josh Foster Niles, Ohio

Tamara: I actually shoot with Metz flashes because I like the pop of light in the front that get with them.

Scott: I would say that unless your dealing with a company like Metz, I’d tend to lean towards the manufacturers products like those from Canon or Nikon. I have not personally used this particular flash but I have seen images made with it and it appears to be very functional but my personal opinion would be to go with the 430 EX II.

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Question Eight – Suggestions for a Lighting Kit for Portrait Photography

I am looking at buying some form of lighting for portrait photography. I have a budget of $600 would you recommend a flash unit like a 580ex with a stand and shoot through umbrella with a gobo or a starter strobe kit from Wescott. Ray Hull

Tamara: In studio situation, I prefer to heavier studio lights. You could also look at continuous light sources.

Scott: The Westcott Spider Lights are a great option and are easy to learn. If your portrait photography is mostly going to be on location, you might be better off with a system that’s more portable like the flash unit and umbrella but if you’re going to be staying in the studio you should try to get something a little more studioesque.

Tamara: I actually bought the Spider Lights last year at Photoplus and they had a great convention deal so if you’re headed there this year you might look for those.

Question Nine – Long Lens vs. Short Lens with a Teleconverter

Steve wants to know how the quality of a long lens compares to using a shorter lens with a teleconverter.

Tamara: I prefer a long lens for quality purposes.

Scott: Teleconverters are cheaper but you do lose image quality in addition to a few stops of light.

Question Ten – Minimum Kit to Photography a Wedding

Daniel Barnes in Toronto wants to know what is the sort of minimum kit we’d recommend to go out and photograph a wedding.

Tamara: If you’re really watching your budget, I would start with a backup camera. The last thing you want to have happen is have it go on the day you’ve been hired to photograph a wedding. Then I would get at least a couple of lens perspectives followed by memory cards, batteries, etc. Then you can start to add on creative stuff like reflectors.

Scott: I agree with all of your suggestions. I also brought a tackle box filled with things like mints, bobby pins, safety pins, paper clips, scotch tape, and other emergency provisions for the bride which was always popular.

Question Eleven – White Balance Lens Caps

Rob Stone wants to know if we have any experience with white balance lens caps?

Scott: There is a great WB lens cap out there called the Expo Disc from a company called Expo Imaging. You put this white lens filter over your lens and then you point it at the light source and set a custom white balance. If you don’t know how to read for the light, one tip is to pick a White Balance like tungsten and leave it there rather than using AWB. In AWB, the light will change from image to image so by picking one, the WB will be consistent across all images and will be easier to correct in post. You must be shooting in RAW to use this tip.

Question Twelve – Benefits of a Full-Frame Sensor

Why do I need a full frame sensor? I understand the crop factor issues with lenses when using the smaller sensors but I am thinking that so long as I capture the scene in front of me, who cares what sensor was used when I have the shot on the card? Is there anything I have overlooked with regard to the benefits of a full frame sensor? My current preference seems to be the 7D to get some of the new features, particularly integrated speedlite control but should I be swayed by the full frame sensor on the 5D? Steve James.

Tamara: I do have a full frame and a cropped frame sensor and I do see better image quality from the full frame sensor. If you’re doing a lot of long lens work, then a cropped sensor can be an advantage.

Scott: The 7D is pound for pound one of the best cameras on the market for the money so if you’re happy with it, then there really isn’t a specific reason to move to a full-frame camera unless you need to shoot wide. For example, if you are doing architectural photography and need to go wide, then it would be difficult to shoot wide and get a proper rectilinear corrected photo with a cropped sensor camera. You do tend to get a larger field of view with a full frame camera. Renting some of these cameras might be a way to figure out whether you want to buy one or not.

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Question Thirteen – Tips for Getting Good Skin Tones

I’m having a hard time in Lightroom and Photoshop getting good skin tones from shots taken on my D700. I only shoot in RAW and in natural light. Can you recommend any filters or plug-ins, or other tips to get realistic skin tones, either in post or in capture. John from Seattle

Tamara: Look at the color of light when deciding when and where to shoot. Set your camera in a way that will most compliment skin tones based on the way you shoot.

Scott: Natural light doesn’t necessarily mean neutral light so getting good white balance is key to getting good skin tones.

Question Fourteen – Thoughts on Nikon’s 70-200 VRII

I have heard you say that the the one of the thing’s that you were most disappointed in from moving camp’s (from Canon to Nikon) was the performance of the 70-200. Have you reviewed the 70-200 VRII and if so what is your opinion? (I value your opinion greatly) -Mark King Columbus, OH

Scott: The original 70-200mm VR vignetted very heavily. So much so that I sold it just a few days after buying it and went to the older 80-200mm. I have since tired the new VRII model of the 70-200 and I like it much better but it is very expensive. If you can afford then go for it but if you don’t have the budget, I would look at the 80-200mm.

Question Fifteen – Cleaning the Image Sensor

Cleaning the image sensor. Should this be done on a regular basis or only when dust is detected? Paul Brace

Tamara: I used to bring my camera into the shop every couple of months but with the newer cameras with sensor cleaning have really helped so now I only have to bring it in once or twice per year.

Scott: I think you clean it only when you see the problem. I do recommend that people send in their lenses and bodies for a check-up at least once per year.

Question Sixteen – Focusing When Shooting Video with a DSLR

I have heard Scott talk about the great advantage of a camera, like the 5D Mark II, that can shoot quality video and stills. But in practical use, I find I generally can’t use my 5D Mark II for everyday video as I hoped, because it doesn’t auto focus like a typical cam corder (in fact I went out and bought a $1000 Canon Vixia for small client video projects.) I can’t seem to find info online on how to work with the focus issues for the 5D Mark II. Any ideas? Jon

Scott: Focusing with video is difficult. You can use autofocus to get a starting reference point but from there you’ll want to use manual focus. In addition, you’ll want to consider a couple of items including a follow-focus from places like Zacuto or Red Rock Micro and a Marshall field monitor. These monitors have a feature called peeking which show you what is in and out of focus. If you need constant, continuous autofocus then you’ve made the right choice with the Vixia but the problem is that everything will be in focus so you won’t be able to get the same cool effects that you can get with the DSLR.

Question Seventeen – Is It a Disadvantage to Not Know Photoshop

I’m an amateur photographer, looking for some advice. I currently use Aperture and the Nik Software (Thanks for the recommendation Scott!) to edit and manipulate my photos. My question is this, am I crippling myself in not learning to use Photoshop? It is prohibitively expensive on a grad student’s budget and seems a bit overwhelming to be honest. However, when I search Flickr for the most popular photos, many of them seem to have had something mask here, or layered there. What do you guys think? Jeff

Tamara: If you want to become very good at editing your photos, then I can’t imagine not knowing Photoshop. I live in Photoshop and prefer to work on my own images. Another option is outsourcing your editing or letting your lab take care of your editing.

Scott: I do use Photoshop a lot less than I used to now that Aperture has so many features. Where I do use it is when it comes to working on the eyes. If you’re on a budget, you may want to take a look at Photoshop Express which has most of the features a photographer will need and is much less expensive than the full version of Photoshop.

Wrap Up

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

Tamara Lackey is at

Show notes by Bruce Clarke