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Photofocus Episode 60

Show notes by Bruce Clarke ()

This week we kick things off with a question about macro photography of the human eye:

Question One – Macro Photography of the Human Eye

Ryan Gerritsen from Toronto, Ontario, Canada asks: I was wondering how to take clear Macro shots of the human eye. And any Canon lenses you would recommend to make the photo?

Tony: There is actually an association of Ophthalmology photographers – the OPS and all they do is photograph eyes. I went to one of their conferences once and I what I learned is that they are using very specialized lenses and lighting. A 60mm macro lens is great for that kind of thing along with the 105mm macro. For a glamour shot, remember that the catch light is part of the design element so try to keep it at 10:00 or 2:00. A ring light is another option for this type of photography.

Scott: I’m not a big fan of the 60mm macro myself as I find that it’s too close. I prefer the longer 100mm macro which also makes a great lens for portrait work.

Question Two – Removing Reflections on Glasses

Jeff wants to know how to remove reflections from flash in eyeglasses in post.

Scott: The easiest way is to do it before you get to post by cheating the glasses down on the nose a little and changing the angle. When I was doing a lot of portraits, we had a woman working for us who used to work at an eyeglass store and she would take the lenses out of the frames and then put them back in after the shoot was done.

Tony: In post, as long as the hi-lites are clear and clean you can do it. The challenge is if the head is turned to the side and there is refraction where the image through the glass has been moved over. Before dealing with it in post, try raising your light source higher to reduce the angle of incidence. In post, don’t forget to use the clone tool and try to clone the other eye if it doesn’t have the reflection.

Question Three – Black & White Photography

Elliot Allison from Dallas asks: Is the black and white printing we do digitally as good as it was back in the wet darkroom days?

Scott: If you’re using Silver Effex Pro from Nik Software then the answer is yes in my opinion. That combined with an Epson 3800 printer and Epson exhibition fibre paper and you’ll get amazing B&W prints.

Tony: I lost interest in B&W photography when digital came along and it wasn’t until a couple of years ago when programs like Silver Effex Pro came along that I fell back in love with B&W photography.

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Question Four – Advice on Sharpening

Scott Gardiner in Australia writes I don’t want to become a pixel peeper, but I am concerned about making sure my images are sharp enough? I have heard the method to zoom to 100% crop, is this a good way of telling? I am interested in making large prints say 20×30 size prints?

Scott: You want to sharpen based on output and that’s why I really like Nik Sharpener Pro as it just asks you for the information such as output size, viewing distance, and material to determine the appropriate amount of sharpening.

Tony: We all know that these images need to be sharpened but the problem we run into is trying to sharpen for output based on what you see on your screen which results in a lot of guesswork so tools like Nik Sharpener Pro help.

Question Five – Photography the Moon

John Parisi writes: I want to take landscapes at night with a full moon and am having difficulty finding info on the howto. When I did try, the moon was burned out if the foreground was OK but if the moon was not burned out, the foreground was too dark.

Tony: The problem is that the moon is lit by the sun so you’re looking at at least 12 stops difference so this is one of those situations where you can’t expose for both. You’ll either need a graduated ND filter or you’ll need to do this in two separate exposures.

Scott: There are times when you have to understand photography is about compromise and this is one of those times. One cool thing you can do is use a cool object to sit in front of the moon to use for scale and create a shillouete.

Question Six – Close Up Filters

Not long ago I came across close-up filters and was asking myself if they would be an affordable alternative to a macro-lens. I am in the middle of planning a trip and try to limit the amount of lenses I want to bring. Packing close-up filters would take out the macro-lens out of the equation. Rene from Melbourne, Australia

Tony: There are two issues to consider. Anytime you put another element in front of your lens, you’re introducing two new surfaces that the light has to go through. Any type of magnifier or tele-extender will result in magnifying any imperfections. If you try to go cheap then you could get yourself in trouble so try to get the one you can most afford.

Scott: If money is an issue then go with the close-up filters but if you can afford to buy the real macro lens then I would buy the macro lens. You could also consider renting the lens if you’re not shooting that much.

Question Seven – Table Top Lighting Kit

Rabih is looking for a small table top lighting kit to shoot books and gift shop pieces.

Tony: There are several options. You can buy small portable tables and lights for this type of photography. A friend of mine does a lot of this photography with three lights and portable setup. You could also get a little softbox for your speedlites and use them on your set.

Scott: If you’re on a budget, you can make your own softbox using some sheer material and a frame and then buy two LED lanterns from the hardware store. There are lots of little product tents available from most of the major camera stores. If you’re photographing jewelry or other items, the thing to watch for are the specular hilites. Keep the light higher and behind the product and light it back to front.

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Question Eight – Cropping vs. Shooting Vertical

One wedding photographer I met solely shoots pictures horizontally. It gives him the option of cropping vertically if he ever needs to. I love the idea but notice a loss in picture quality, even with a Canon 5d mark ii. Wondering if you ever do the same? Angela from Montreal

Tony: I have a friend who also does this because it’s one less thing that he has to think about when he is shooting weddings and events. You are going to get lower quality from that file but if you’re doing a smaller print then it doesn’t matter.

Scott: The way I solve that problem is that I take a vertical right after I take the horizontal and then I have the best of both worlds. Once it becomes automatic then you don’t have to think about it as much.

Question Nine – Recommendation for Studio Strobes

Kevin Falk writes: Can you guys recommend a brand of studio strobes that’s dependable and affordable? One with a easily replaceable bulb. There probably all easy I’m just not sure. Maybe with a soft box combo? I already have the avenger stand.

Tony: In photography, all of the equipment we have access to is priced according to quality so it all depends on what you can afford. The lower priced stuff like the White Lighting works fine if your not traveling with it. I like the Profoto lights because they are durable and provide consistent color temperature. In the mid-range I also like the Dynalight stuff.

Scott: I like Dynalight’s as well and the good news is that most of the lights you’ll get, with the exception of the white label stuff from China, is great. One thing you want to be aware of is that if you travel with your lights a lot, the cheaper lights won’t stand up as well so that’s where you’ll want to spend the extra money for brands like Profoto, Elinchrom, Dynalight, etc.

Question Ten – Tips for Tracking Birds in the Viewfinder

I find it very difficult to find small birds like swallows and even larger birds like geese(flying) in the viewfinder, and once found, to keep them in focus and in frame. My experience is that they are very easy to lose as they move and change direction quickly. Do you have any tips or advice particularly with respect to AF mode and panning techniques to get consistent good shots? Mike Blackburn Johannesburg, South Africa.

Tony: I found that if I zoom all the way back and then start zooming in as I focus in on the bird. If you start with a longer length and try to find them it’s much harder.

Scott: I use the same technique. I shoot with a Sigma 300-800mm lens on a Wimberly head. I zoom to 300 to acquire the bird and come into 800 to take the picture. AI servo on the Canon helps to acquire the object and stick with it as it moves. Another tip is that birds like to light on a perch over and over. They’ll find cover and water and then they’ll see a perch where there is food and move between those three places. If you see a bird on that perch and he’ll normally come back there so focus in on the perch and wait for them to come back.

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 Eleven – Security Precautions When Traveling with Pro Gear

What security precautions would you suggest when traveling with large, clearly identifiable pro gear such as 500mm lenses and big pro bodies? Paul Bilodeau St. Johnsbury, VT

Tony: If they are in cases, put them in cases that are beat up and don’t look like camera cases. I had a friend who configured an old Igloo cooler to carry his gear. Be equipment aware when you’re handling your gear. If you have a shoulder strap on your bag for example, wrap it around your leg before you put it down as an example.

Scott: Awareness is probably the number one tool. If you’re traveling with someone else, I’ve found that the best defense is to take turns watching gear while the other person shoots and then switch.

Question Twelve – Recommendations for a Calibration Device

I have become more interested in monitor calibration recently. I have heard you discuss it on the show a couple of times. I almost pulled the trigger and purchased a Spyder 3 Express from Amazon, but fortunately, I read the reviews (as I usually do) first. I have dual monitors, one reviewer said that the device will only calibrate ONE monitor, but not both. Is this true? Is there a product that will calibrate both? I like the price point of the Spyder 3 Express and really don’t want to spend a whole lot more money than that $90). Clayton

Scott: The problem is that for $90 you won’t get a device that will do that. The Color Munki will calibrate multiple monitors and your printer.

Tony: The one’s I recommend are in around the $250 price point and up. I also really like the Color Munki. If you can’t afford one of the better ones, see if you can go in on one with a few friends and share it as you don’t need to have it every day.

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Question Thirteen – Advantages of Medium Format

What are the advantages of medium format digital cameras over traditional 35mm style DSLRs? Howard Tompson Indianapolis

Tony: There are three main differences. Quality, quality, and quality.

Scott: The big advantage is the size of the sensors in medium format cameras. Ignore the megapixels – the larger the sensor, the larger the photocells and the more detail that can be captured.

Question Fourteen – What Is Fast Glass

Helen Adams Boston writes What is fast glass and why does everyone say I need it?

Tony: It’s called fast glass because they feature larger apertures like 2.8 or 1.4 which allows more light to come in which means you can shoot with a faster shutter speed.

Scott: You want fast glass because it allows you to work in low light and it allows you to get to the sweet spot faster. Most lenses are sharper at their midpoint so on an f2.8 lens that is typically somewhere around f.56 – 8.0. They also tend to be made with their best materials.

Question Fifteen – Recommendations for a Photo Background

Michael Wilson from Philly PA writes I am about to buy a photo background for my new studio in my garage. Any advice on color or size?

Scott: For color I recommend going with white if you can only pick one. White you can make black, grey, or white. Then you can use color gels to change it up. Westcott makes some great pop up portable backgrounds. Stay neutral to start and then you can always go crazy with other colors when you start adding more backgrounds to your collection.

Tony: I would buy grey as you can make it black easier but white is not a bad choice. The main thing is to get something neutral. As far as size, most of the standard backgrounds are around 9ft. Depending upon what you’re shooting, you may need to go wider if you’re shooting larger groups, etc.

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.

Tony Corbell is at or

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