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Photofocus Episode 52

Show notes by Bruce Clarke ()

This week we kick things off with a question about circular polarizers:

Question One – Picking a Good Circular Polarizer

I would like to try/use a circular polarize filter to get the darker/bluer skis. When I search, B&H and even if I choice one brand and size, I find still many choices. They don’t have much in the way of descriptions. How do I make an good decision. W. Kirk Crawford Tularosa, New Mexico

Kerry: There are a lot of choices. First you have to decide what lens you want to use it with because you may have several lenses that require different size filters. Next would be to narrow it down to the brand you want and that’s tough as there a lot of great ones out there but little in the way of reviews. Eventually it will probably come down to price and my experience has been that if you try to go with the cheaper brand to begin with, you’ll wind up spending more money in the long run because the quality just isn’t there and you wind up buying a more expensive one later on down the road.

Scott: Color shifting is a big thing to watch out for if you’re looking at the cheaper ones. If you can, take a piece of white paper with you into the store and hold each of the filters in front of the paper and look for a color shift. My recommendation would be to go with a B+W circular polarizers.

Question Two – Aperture or Shutter Speed

I’m using aperture priority, hand held, 100mm lens. My problem at times is I’m so focused on my aperture, my shutter speed falls to 1/30 or lower. I know there is another rule to keep the shutter speed at your focal length. In this case should be at 1/150 (using crop sensor camera), confused, should I be more concerned with shutter speed? How to obtain an equal balance shutter/aperture. Thanks, Rick

Scott: If you use a tripod, and are not trying to photograph action, then you can let that shutter speed fall to a 1/30 and it won’t hurt you. You can shoot in manual and work with the ISO.

Kerry: A lot of cameras today have auto ISO so you can experiment with that to try and keep your shutter speed at a reasonable level.

Question Three – Camera Advice

I am a 61 year old hobbyist, with no plans to turn pro. I’m shooting a D60 and moving up to the D90. I have 2 semipro friends telling me I need to get a low-end pro camera. Do I need to go that high? Dennis from Stockton, CA.

Kerry: How does being pro relate to what you want to accomplish? If you are happy with the specs of the D90 then go for it.

Scott: This question came in before the announcement of the D7000 which he might also want to look at. I think we’ve dispelled the myth that just buying a better camera will make you a better photographer.

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Question Four – Using a P&S for Professional Portraits

Hunter White (17-year old photographer) has been asked to shoot portraits of children wants to know if the FinePix S700 point and shoot is sufficient to make a pro portrait.

Scott: That camera is certainly capable of delivering an image that would be suitable for printing a 5×7 or an 8×10 but whether you can make that camera perform like a pro camera is the real question. Most of the P&S are capable of making a good portrait but if you do need a better camera for quality purposes, then you might want to look into renting one.

Kerry: I think the FinePix S700 is little better than a P&S and is more like a compact DSLR so I think it would be capable of making a good portrait.

Question Five – Camera Rig for a Day Hike

Erick P wants to know what type of camera gear would be an general ideal set up for a day hike, keeping in mind weight or unexpected situations I know the gear depends on the subject matter but let’s say you like to cover landscape to the occasional wildlife you might encounter.

Scott: The first thing you want to do is look for a zoom lens so you can carry a wide focal range without having to carry a lot of heavy stuff. A 24-70 and a 70-200 would be good to look at. Charge your batteries and bring a large card so you don’t have to bring extras and can save on weight. GPS might be another thing to think about having with you.

Kerry: Besides camera gear, you’ll want to think about other things such as comfortable shoes, making sure you have enough water, etc.

Question Six – Tips for Photographing Race Horses

Do you have any general tips on photographing horses while racing? Where is the best place I should position myself in the racetrack to capture the best peak action? Any tips on photographing while at the paddock? I will be using my Canon 7D and will use my 70-200 lens. Would it be worth renting bigger/longer glass? Pete from Long Island

Scott: Yes, it’s worth renting bigger or longer glass. Most of the stuff you’ll see in magazines like Sports Illustrated are taken with fast 400 and 500mm lenses. I like to shoot on a turn so I can see the straight and the horses coming at me. If you’re shooting in the paddock, try focusing on the details. If you’re shooting through a fence, just put the lens right up to the fence and you won’t even see it.

Kerry: I agree with your thoughts on lenses. You’ll need something fast and long so I would definitely consider renting if it’s not something you’re shooting all the time.

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 Seven – Copyrighting Photographs

Adam Silversmith from Las Vegas asks: What is the best way to copyright my photos and can you explain how the process works?

Kerry: The moment you take that picture, you own the copyright but enforcing it is another matter. For that, you need to send in your images along with the required paperwork to the copyright office and then you’ll be covered in the event you need to file a lawsuit against someone.

Scott: The registration of the copyright is what you’re thinking about. The government has mandated that everything be done online using the ECO system after this year. The site is Check out Kelby Training – Jack Reznicki and Ed Greenberg have some great videos on on that site on dealing with copyright.

Question Eight – Halloween Photography

We are hosting a Halloween party for kids ages 1-5. I have a small studio setup in the basement….3 lights and backdrops. Any advice for studio shots with a black background and how to get something a little extra haunted? Gary

Kerry: I’m known in the neighborhood as that creepy Halloween guy so I love doing this stuff. My favorite is to get a bowl with some dry ice and water and get some of that smoke effect going. You can string white thread behind them and it will show up like spider webs. You can also try lighting the background with an orange tinted light.

Scott: Just put the light underneath their chin for a scarier look. Have fun with it and create some backgrounds. If you want to get good separation from the subjects and the background, you’ll want some kind of a rim or separation light.

Question Nine – Macro Lenses vs. Regular Lenses

I have a question about macro lenses. What is the difference between a macro lens and a regular lens? It seems like the lens lengths are the same and lens speeds can be the same so why might someone need a 100mm macro and a 100mm regular? Terri Rylander

Scott: The 100mm macro will work as a regular lens. The difference is the close focusing distance of the macro lens will allow you get much closer to the subject than you can with a regular lens. If you can’t afford a macro lens, you can get extension tubes or close up filters.

Kerry: It’s just a matter of the focusing distance. I use a macro lens to take ring shots. If I’m using my 24-70 I have to pull back quite far. If I put a 100mm macro on there, I can get right on top of these within a couple of inches and the rings will look massive on an image.

Question Ten – White Balance for Concert Photography

I have heard your recent podcast where you talked about the advantages of setting your white balance manually, but I wondered if you had the same opinion for shooting concert photography (specifically rock shows where lights are harsh and change constantly). I have always used AWB for all of my shooting but have now switched to manual, but I couldn’t find a setting which would work well for concert photography. Thanks so much for you time. Brad Siefert in Chicago, IL

Scott: If you listen back, you’ll hear us say to pick a white balance other than AWB when the light conditions don’t change. When lighting is changing, then you may want to work with auto white balance.

Kerry: Generally, there is some form of ambient lighting or overall lighting during a concert so that’s what I would set my white balance to and then if I get hit with a weird lighting effect I’ll have to fix that later.

Question Eleven – When to Sharpen

Steven wants to know if the old advice of sharpening last in Photoshop still holds true?

Kerry: I do everything in RAW using Lightroom or camera RAW so I do sharpening at that stage. If I bring something into Photoshop and it’s going through a series of changes, I will typically sharpen last as sharpening can produce some weird results if you sharpen first.

Scott: There are two sharpenings. One that you can do in RAW which corrects the digital to analog conversion and then there is sharpening after you’ve made your adjustments. I will normally sharpen last as the output size of the final image will determine how much sharpening I do. I like to use Nik Sharpener Pro.

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Question Twelve – Backdrops for Product Photography

Would like to hear ideas you might have on backdrops to use for product photography. My specific application right now is for surplus police and military accessories (rather boring accessories at that). I looked in the closet at the blankets, and was not inspired. Jody Harris

Kerry: Why are you looking for backdrops when most product photography is just shot on a plain white background so it can blend in with the page. If you’re trying to be more environmental, then I would go to something like an army surplus store and pick up some ammo boxes or netting and build a theme that the items can fit into.

Scott: You might also want to try to add some textures like codura or other fabrics and then light them from the side.

Question Thirteen – Permits for Tripods

Edward from Toronto wants to know if photographers generally need permits to use a tripod in public?

Scott: It depends upon where you are at. In big cities like Paris, Washington, New York, etc you do. In small places you do not. In some cities, you can go to the film office to get a permit and even hire an off-duty police officer to stand with you while you do your shoot.

Kerry: In some places you might not even be able to get a permit or use it in a public area due to safety issues.

Question Fourteen – Shooting at Higher F-Stops

I am always in trouble to decide what aperture to choose when the in-the-depth field does not matter. Example are Landscape photography, or when the objects are at the same distance to each other. When I shoot landscapes, what shall I choose? The mentioned f6.8? Or hit the sweet spot of the lens f11? I know that the lens gets less sharp at f22. What are other disadvantages when shooting higher towards f22? –> if I shoot against the sun, I’ve noticed that with f22 the sun appears much nicer than with a lower f-stop. –> so… why do I actually need f-stop higher than f11? What are the situations where you go higher and what are the things I have to pay attention to? Greetings from Zurich, Fredi

Kerry: I very rarely go into f22. Usually I’ll shoot landscapes around f11 or f16. I think you really need to learn the manual controls on your camera so that you can set your camera at the sweet spot of your lens and work the other controls around it to give you the proper exposure. Look into hyperfocal distance and try to get a good understanding of that.

Scott: If depth of field really doesn’t matter (and I question that comment), there is an old saying called f8 and be there. That may not give you the depth of field you want. It is also related to the focal point. For landscapes, you normally want to focus about 1/3 of the way into the image. At f22, he was likely playing with lens flare but most lenses are not at the sharpest when they are stopped all the way down.

Question Fifteen – Focusing in Low Light

Any tips or tricks from Photofocus to get my photos focused in low light where the AF doesn’t seem to work as well? Jackson, MS

Kerry: Get an inexpensive video light like a Sunpack. Put it on the subject to get a good focus and then take your shot.

Scott: Try to look for the area of the most contrast in the scene. For example, if you were shooting a wedding you could try to use the tux with the black on white as a point of high contrast.

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.

Kerry Garrison is at

Show notes by Bruce Clarke