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Photofocus Episode 53

Show notes by Bruce Clarke ()

This week we kick things off with a question about keeping Lightroom synchronized while on the road:

Question One – Working with Lightroom Catalogs on Different Computers

I use LR2 (and beta LR3) on Mac. My work around for having my library and catalog stay current while I travel is that it all lives on an external drive, the photo library and the .lrcat file. My problem is when I am on my desktop everything is wonderful, however when I open the same .lrcat file on my macbook pro all of the photos are off line. While on my macbook pro if I find the missing folder and then open the .lrcat file, the desktop top looses connection to that folder. I also tried it with LR3 with the same experience. Any suggestions? Mark Mahan

Scott K: I think his life would be easier if he didn’t store the catalog files in different locations. I think the solution would be to have his main catalog at home. He can have a duplicate catalog with him on the road but if he does a shoot, he just needs to move over the one single folder that he created on the road and the catalog and then he’ll have mirror copies.

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 Two – Suggestions for Printing Labs

I live in Vail, Colorado and while we have spectacular landscape to photograph we have no local photo labs that can produce high-quality prints. There are a few professionals in the area that are willing to print out of their homes but it’s costly and inconvenient. Do you have any suggestions for printers under $1000 that you would recommend to ambitious amateurs, or would you recommend sending them to an on-line service instead? I’m not sure I will be able to get the quality I want at home affordably. Which printers or on-line services can you recommend? Jenny Eliuk

Scott K: Epson makes some great printers for under $1000. I have the 2880 and I think now they have the 2990 and they are both fantastic. If you’re going to be printing every week you should get your own printer. If you’re going to be printing once a month, then I wouldn’t recommend getting one because your ink heads are going to dry up and clog so you’ll have to clean the heads and align them so it will take time. I use Mpix to do most of my printing.

Scott: Mpix does a great job and I use White House Custom Color and they’ve always done a great job for me. There are many labs out there and the good news is that none of them suck.

Question Three – Light Meter Recommendations

Ray Rosher writes: I’m looking to kick my photograph up to the next level. Could you recommend a good Flash meter / Light meter that could let me get the correct levels I need to get a decent picture?

Scott: I use Sekonic meters and have been using them for a long time. I only use them in the studio when I’m using strobe but the meters in the cameras today are so good that meters aren’t needed as much as they used to be.

Scott K: I also have a Sekonic meter but I don’t really use a meter in studio at all and I don’t think they’ll help you make better pictures.

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Question Four – Spot Metering vs. Center Weighted Metering

Having said all that, here is the real question – do you have any handy guidelines or rules of thumb for knowing when to shoot with spot/center-weighted/matrix metering? Jim

Scott K I normally shoot in matrix metering but I will use spot metering when I want to meter a specific area. Once example I used in one of my books was when I was photographing a courtyard through a door. On matrix metering it wasn’t coming out as I was seeing it but when I switched to spot metering and metered on a chair in the courtyard, it cam out much closer to what my eye was seeing.

Scott: When you have something backlit, then go to centre or spot meter. Matrix metering is what you want to use when the scene is evenly lit.

Question Five – sRGB vs RGB 1998

Beth says she’s been taught to use the sRGB color space for JPGs and the Adobe RGB 1998 color space for everything else. Is that a good approach to take to color space?

Scott K: If you’re shooting in RAW, your camera ignores the color space. If you’re shooting TIF or JPEG, then Adobe RGB 1998 is a preferred color space for photographers because it contains a wider color space. You can always convert it down to sRGB and throw away the colors that aren’t needed but if you shoot in sRGB you can’t go the other way. Most print houses will want you to convert to sRGB before you send them the file.

Scott: I like to shoot in the widest color gamut possible and then convert later.

Question Six – Tips for Shooting in Harsh Light

Gary from Jerusalem, Israel wants to know if we have any tips for photographing outdoors in harsh light – such as on vacation.

Scott: Practice subtractive lighting. Find an object that’s tall to scrim or block the light and put your subject in the open shade.

Scott K: Lastolite has a scrim they call the Lastogrip which is a diffuser which you can use to diffuse the harsh light.

Question Seven – Shooting People in Front of Bright Backgrounds

I’m looking for some tips on shooting people with bright backgrounds. I was recently at a friend’s wedding that had huge stained glass that provided large amounts of light behind the bride and groom. Any advice or tips on getting good exposure? I was trying manual mode, setting different shutter speeds trying to get good exposure of the bride and groom, but it tends to blow out the background. Am I on the right track? Ryan Fremont, CA

Scott K: I would use spot metering or fill flash in this situation. Expose for the stained glass so it looks good and then fill in the subjects with your flash. If you’re using your pop-up flash, you can turn down the power of your pop-up flash. On the Nikon cameras, if you hold down the flash button, you have a + and – that you can use to turn down the power on your flash.

Scott: You can use I-TTL (Nikon) or E-TTL (Canon) and just do your basic automatic fill flash. This is referred to flash compensation and not exposure compensation.

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Question Eight – Sensor Descriptions

Amanda Davis writes: I’m always confused about how the sensors are described, is the D7000 a full frame sensor? I know the basic differences in a full frame sensor and the other sensors but can never tell which is which in the manufacturer’s descriptions. I want to be sure I’m buying the right camera and lens combinations.

Scott K: Nikon describes it as an FX body as in full-frame body. The non-full frame is a DX body but don’t actually have any designation on them.

Scott: Canon is just as bad at naming their cameras. For example the 30D and the D30. Most cameras are crop sensor cameras.

Scott K: Most cameras are crop frame sensor cameras so as far as lenses go, you don’t have to worry. When you buy a full-frame camera, if you don’t buy a full frame lens, then you’re not getting the advantage of a full frame camera.

Question Nine – Tips for Photographing Fall Leaves

I wanted to know if you could give some tips and cautions when trying to photograph fall leaves. I have read so much contradicting info about time of day, lenses\focal length for landscape shots,filters to use, and if you could offer some hidden jewels of specific locations to try to shoot, I would be eternally grateful. Eddie Brooks

Scott: My favorite place to shoot in the fall is in the green mountains of Vermont. You cannot miss if you shoot there. You should also get a polarizing filter to get those colors to pop.

Scott K: I love shooting fall leaves when they are wet. I love the look of the wet leaves.

Question Ten – Zoom Lenses and Lens Sharpness

My question has to do with lens sharpness at varying focal lengths. A friend suggested that I dial back the zoom on my sigma zoom so its not at the limit of its zoom range to improve sharpness. After giving that a try the images through the sigma were noticeably sharper. I have heard it mentioned on your podcast, and others, that lenses have a sharpness sweet spot thats not at the wide open apertures. Can this also hold true for zoom lenses and their focal lengths? Brian Michaud from Ruston, LA

Scott: Some of the question we left out but he was comparing to the Nikon lenses and I will say that the quality control on the Nikon’s will be somewhat better than the Sigmas but it’s the same issue whether you are talking about Nikon, Sigma, or Canon lenses. In general, zoom lenses at their maximum zoom range aren’t going to be as effective. The same applies for aperture.

Scott K: I don’t think most people with the naked eye will notice the difference whether you shoot at 140 or 200mm. The other thing is why would you buy an f1.4 lens if you never shot at.

Scott: I think what you’re saying is that the effective sharpness to the naked eye is neglible except to the pixel peepers who blow images up and obsess over them.

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Question Eleven – Clam Shell Lighting

Can you describe clam shell lighting and when it is most appropriate to use it? Ellen Henderson Toronto, Canada

Scott K: It involves two softboxes positioned above and below the subject at 45 degrees and then you shoot between them. It’s used most often for beauty lighting where you need a lot of light on the face without much shadows. Go to and click on my portfolio and look for my Oil of Olay shot which is shot with clam shell lighting.

Scott: Just don’t use it when shooting myself or Scott ;) It works best on young women with good skin.

Question Twelve – Muffling the Shutter Noise

I shoot a lot of live theatre in my community and sometimes people complain that they can hear my camera clicking away during the show. It’s distracting to them. Is there anything I can do to dull down the noise of my shutter so I won’t annoy the people in the audience? I have a Canon 5D mkII and a Canon 40D. Seth Walters Cedar Rapids, IA

Scott K: Nikon actually has a quiet mode that is designed to decrease the volume. For Canon shooters, I have a friend who uses a thing called a blimp which is basically a sound-proof box that he puts his camera in when he’s shooting on sound stages and when he’s shooting the filming of TV shows.

Scott: There is something I’ve used called the camera muzzle and it’s made of duck cloth. I’ve seen it used in places like court rooms. It doesn’t eliminate the sound but it does knock it down.

Question Thirteen – Aperture & Sensor Size

I have a compact camera which has a 1/1.7 inch sensor. I know that the smaller sensor provides an effective magnification compared to a 35 mm camera. The aperture settings provided on the camera are f/2.8 to f/8.0. Is the aperture effect also affected by the smaller sensor. e.g. if I want the same effect as a f/8 depth of field on a 35mm SLR, do I set the compact camera’s aperture setting to f/8 or f/2.8? Carl Chapman Australia

Scott K: f2.8 would give you a very shallow depth of field and f8 would give you a larger depth of field. F8 is the most blah of all f-stops. I think you want the opposite and want a shallow depth of field. The closest way to get to do that would be to use one of their automatic modes and switch to portrait mode which will get you wide open. To see shallow depth of field, you need to zoom your camera in on your subject and that should throw the background out of focus.

Scott: f8 will get you close but isn’t the most creative of f-stops.

Question Fourteen – Shooting at Higher F-Stops

I’m wondering why you and some other pro photographers take such offense when asked what camera you use? I understand that the photographer composes the picture and sets up the camera, but it is the camera that captures what the photographer sees. It seems that if the camera choice didn’t matter, everyone would just be using $99 point and shoots and the other cameras wouldn’t even exist. And by the way, you’re really going to try to compare Shakespeare’s pen to a camera with it’s polished lens, processors, etc???

Scott: It’s not so much that we take offense, but it’s usually that people are implying that the photograph came out well becuase of the camera itself and not because of the skill of the photographer. The way I can prove this is that I can take you out to Bosce Del Apache and set you up with all the gear I use and challenge you to get sharp bird photographs and I’ll bet you won’t get the same photographs that I do. What we are reacting to is the inference that anyone who stood behind the same gear could take the same shot and that’s just not the case.

Scott K: Certainly you need good gear to get a certain kind of look but often when I take a great shot people will comment that I must have a great camera.

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.

Scott Kelby is at or or

Show notes by Bruce Clarke