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Photofocus Episode 57

Show notes by Bruce Clarke ()

This week we kick things off with a question about how removing dust from the viewfinder:

Question One – Removing Dust from the Viewfinder

Father Paul from Minneapolis asks if it’s worth sending a camera in to remove dust from the viewfinder – not the sensor.

Scott: Dust on the viewfinder is usually caused by dust reflecting off the mirror on the prism. On some cameras you can get at this to clean it but on others you’ll need to send it in. Obviously you’ll be without your camera during this time and there will be a cost to getting is serviced so whether it’s worth it or not is up to you. It won’t affect image quality as it’s not in the picture. If you have dust on the sensor, that is something that will affect the image and should be cleaned. It is possible to do it yourself and the fine folks over at Kelby Training have a great video on how to clean your image sensor.

PMA 2011

Mark your calendar and plan to attend PMA 2011 September 6th – 11th in Las Vegas. 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 – Recommendation for a Fluid Head

Scott, are you aware of a decent fluid head for less than $300 I can use while videoing with my DSLR? I have a video head but it tends to chatter while panning. Ron Crapse

Scott: If you are going to shoot video of any kind you’ll want to have a fluid head. There aren’t many really good ones in the $300 range so unfortunately you’ll need to spend a bit more money in this area to get a really good head. Fluid heads in the $500 – $800 range are really good. Bogen and Manfrotto make very nice fluid heads.

Question Three – Monitor Angle

I have a calibrated monitor, but I’ve found that the angle of the monitor changes the brightness and contrast. Do you have any tips on what the “ideal” angle for a monitor would be? Dave Johnson from Mobile, AL

Scott: The angle doesn’t change the brightness or the contrast; that is set in the monitor. What the angle changes is how they appear to you. This is why laptops don’t make great editing screens because you are constantly adjusting the angle of a laptop. The preferred angle is generally right around eye-level.

Question Four – Wide Angle Lenses

I read that lenses wider than 24mm are not made for use with digital cameras and that you are better off using one of the new zoom wide angle lens. Do you agree with this and if so should I sell my Nikon 20mm 2.8 and purchase a Nikon 16-35mm zoom? Frank Russ

Scott: It is technically true that many lenses are not designed specifically with digital cameras in mind but I don’t believe that you’re better off using a zoom lens. A fixed focal length lens is almost always sharper than a zoom lens and has much less chromatic aberration. I personally use the fixed focal length super wide’s with no ill-effect.

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Question Five – Edge Sharpen vs. Regular Sharpen

In Aperture what is the difference between edge sharpen and regular sharpen? In what circumstances would you use each or would you use both together? Mark Tassinar

Scott: Aperture’s weakest link is it’s sharpening tool. Edge sharpening is the only tool I ever use if I use the Aperture tools. I find the regular sharpening a bit heavy handed and difficult to control. For serious sharpening I really like Nik Sharpener Pro.

Question Six – Tips for Photographing Ice Sculptures

How do I photograph ice sculptures? Doug Curtis

Scott: If you can control the environment, build yourself a light tent. Try lighting through some soft diffuse material and that will help to control specularity that you’ll face trying to photograph the ice. If you can use a flash and get it off camera, try putting it behind the sculpture and back light it.

Question Seven – Photographing Sunburst Effects

Michael Cheung asks: I know that it is popular to shoot sunrises/sets with the sunburst effects. How do you compose these shots through the viewfinder without damaging your eyes?

Scott: Trying to photograph the sun through the viewfinder can be dangerous. Take your thumb and cover the view finder and line it up with the sun so you know you have the right angle. Also try using a heavy ND filter (6 or 7 stops) to line the shot up and then remove it when you make the shot. You can also shoot wider than you need to and then just crop to where you want it.

Question Eight – sRGB & Adobe RGB with Camera RAW

Robert Williams writes: Recently you were talking about using srgb and adobe rgb. I was under the impression that shooting raw pretty much makes changing these settings in the camera pointless. Would you agree with this.

Scott: If you chimp a lot, the shot you see on the LCD screen is a JPEG representation of your RAW file so if it’s in the right color space to begin with you’ll be seeing a more accurate representation of the final image that you’ll see. Also, if you have to change it later then it’s more work. I tend to shoot in Adobe RGB 1998 so that I’m starting with the widest color gamut that you can start with.

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Question Nine – Pros and Cons of Zoom vs. Fixed Focal Length Lenses

Sinisa asks: What are the pros and cons of Zoom and Fixed Focal Length Lenses and when to use which?

Scott: Pros of a zoom lens is that they are very flexible and will cover a wider range of focal lengths for less money than buying all the fixed focal length lenses you would have to buy to cover the same distance. The cons are that these zooms tend not to be as fast as a fixed focal length lens. They aren’t as sharp or contrasty. Does it matter to most photographers – not really. You will almost always get better results with a fixed focal length lens but then you have to change lenses more frequently so you might get dust in the sensor. I shoot almost exclusively fixed focal length lenses with a few exceptions.

Question Ten – Uses for Pop-Up Flashes

Are the pop-up flashes of any use? And if so, how can one use this flash? Doug from Los Angeles, CA

Scott: They are of use depending upon the kind of photography you do and the type of camera you have. The new Nikon P7000 has a great fill flash that can be controlled and worked well as fill-flash. Another thing that you can do with a pop-up flash is use it to trigger strobes or other flashes if you have either the I-TTL or E-TTL systems from Canon and Nikon. It can also be used as a kiss of light when making a close up portrait. They aren’t good for distance.

Question Eleven – Shutter Priority vs. Aperture Priority

Kataryn Jones asks: Sorry to ask such a newbie question but when should I use Aperture priority v. shutter priority.

Scott: Let’s start with waterfall pictures where you see the water all nice and cotton candy like. That is achieved with a slow shutter speed so in that situation you’ll work with shutter priority. If you want to freeze those droplets then you’ll still use Tv and go with a fast shutter speed. You use aperture priority when want to control depth of field. So if you want those creamy backgrounds, you’ll shoot with wide open. If you are shooting something like a landscape and want everything to be in focus you’ll shoot at a smaller aperture like f16 or f22. Av mode is also the preferred method to shoot in when you’re working with TTL flash and need to create a balanced lighting situation.

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Be sure to check out our the Xrite Color Checker which is a great device for color correcting in your workflow. It works great with all of the Adobe products including Photoshop and Lightroom.

Question Twelve – Brands of Flashes

Anne Gifford from New York asks: When purchasing a flash for my camera do I have to use the camera brand flash or can I choose something else?

Scott: You can choose something else but you might not want to. If you want to take advantage of the ETTL or ITTL functions of these systems you need to stick with the camera manufacturers brand of flash unit. You’ll loose functionality by going with another brand but it will be cheaper. If you never want to shoot on automatic then it doesn’t matter.

Question Thirteen – Book Publishing Services

I enjoy making photobooks and have used a couple of services in the past (like Apple’s iPhoto and MyPublisher). However, I was wondering if you have any other recommendations for services that we could use to make our wedding album. Obviously, we want the book to be of the highest quality. -Markus

Scott: I like WHCC‘s books. Blurb is also good and so is Asuka book.

Question Fourteen – Resolution for Scanning Photos

Keith wants to know if there is a perfect resolution to scan photos at?

Scott: You want to scan at the resolution you are going to output at. You can scan big and interpolate down but you’ll lose some quality.

Question Fifteen – Techniques for Shooting With Long Lenses

I’ve recently purchased a 500mm lens and I was wondering if you could give me some quick long lens technique tips. Dan from Montreal, Canada

Scott: I shoot with long lenses all the time. Start with a very sturdy tripod. Then get a gimbal head which swivels around like a machine gun turret and makes it very easy to move around the lens. Induro and Wimberly make great heads. You’ll also want to address the lens in a certain way. I spread my legs at shoulder width apart and press my eye up against the viewfinder for stability and then drape my arm over the lens or support it from underneath for added stability.

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.

Show notes by Bruce Clarke