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Photofocus Episode 62

Show notes by Bruce Clarke ()

This week we kick things off with a question about how to keep your subjects from blinking when using flash:

Question One – Tips for Keeping Subject’s Eyes Open

My son seems to have lightning fast reactions; when I try to make a portrait of him light by my SB900 flash from my D90 he always manages to blink his eyes. Please let me know why this happens, and advise settings I could try to use to get an “open eyed” shot? John Salter, London, England

Tamara: I assume he’s shooting at a fast shutter speed but if not then try shooting at a higher shutter speed. If you’re trying to shoot a couple of times in a row to try and catch his eyes open, there is some recycle time to consider so you might end up underexposing your shots if you shoot too quickly before the flash has fully recycled. Make sure you are clearly pre-focused and ready to go. Move my eye away from the view finder and make eye contact to make very sure and then try to click right after the last blink.

Scott: Many cameras and flash combinations offer a pre-flash that tricks the eye into blinking and that can sometimes be enought to get the blink off of the main shot.

Question Two – Focus Points vs. Exposure Points

I generally use the method of getting something in focus in the center, hitting the focus lock and then recomposing. How does this work with the different exposure modes on cameras. If I have center weighted exposure is it using the exposure from when I hit the focus lock or when I fire the shutter? Joey Vosters

Tamara: The exposure will be based on what you’re starting with.

Scott: On many cameras you can tie the exposure and the focusing point together so that wherever it’s being moved, the exposure is tied to it. That’s sometimes a good idea and sometimes it’s not a good idea. In 2011 I plan to start using my hand-held meter more to work on my exposures.

Question Three – Speedlites vs. Continous Lights – Pros & Cons

Trevor Rideout and Jordan DeMoss from Newfoundland Canada, ask: Speedlights or continuous lighting – pros and cons of both.

Tamara: I have a set of studio lighting and a set of continous lights. Depending on the situation I’ll go to one or the other. I used strobes the first 6 or 7 years I was shooting and then switched to continous light sources when I was able to get the look and feel I wanted. I like to use continous lighting when I’m shooting fast moving subjects like kids. With continous, what you see is what you get. You don’t have to worry about recycle time, etc. I use the Westcott Spiderlights.

Scott: Speedlites are better at freezing the action and you can power them up. They are also a bit more portable. The cons are that they are more expensive to get the same quality of light you can get with continous lighting. With continous lighting what you see is what you get and it’s very affordable. I find I’m shooting more and more with continous lighting and what got me started with it was when I was using LED lights for video work.

Question Four – Shooting RAW & JPEG at the Same Time

The Nikon D7000 has the ability to shoot raw to one sd and jpeg the the other sd. I’m confused to why that’s a benefit, in what situation would you want both raw and jpeg on two different cards? Isn’t that just more work in post processing? Michael Cook Tampa, Fl

Scott: It’s confusing to me too but I know that press photographers for example have to give a jpeg to their editors in real-time since often they need them quickly in order to go to press so they can’t afford the processing time. Then they have the RAW file for their fine art work or for doing larger images, posters, etc.

Tamara: I have actually been shooting more in RAW lately after spending some time with Julianne Kost while I was at Escalate Live and she walked me through some easier ways to work with RAW. As for why you’d want to shoot both RAW and JPEG, I can’t think of a reason why I would use it but I’m sure there is a need for it otherwise that feature wouldn’t exist.

Question Five – In-Camera Sharpening – Use It or Lose It?

Simon, Alain and Mary all asked about in camera sharpening. Should they use it or wait for post?

Tamara: I prefer to do some lower key sharpening in the camera and then boost it in post to avoid introducing artifacting.

Scott: If you’re shooting in JPEG, then in camera sharpening is important but minimally. If you’re shooting in RAW then I don’t think you need any in-camera sharpening.

Question Six – Size of Images for the Copyright Office

Steve Semen wants to know what is the size of image you should send to the US Copyright office?

Scott: The advice my lawyer gave me is that the size must be appropriate to see the detail in an image. If you need help in this area, check out Image Rights who can help register and collect on infringements.

Question Seven – Using AF Fine Tune Mode

I am now contemplating using the AF fine tune mode to correct the AF in my camera!! Is this something you would recommend ? I’ve never heard you mention this issue previously. I do recall you saying that the majority of focusing issues are the fault of the camera operator but I can assure you the camera is at fault Coventry Bob (UK)

Tamara: I haven’t actually used this feature. I’ve heard rumours that it can actually affect focusing at close distances but perhaps those are rumours? Quite often I see a lot photos that are oversharpened so you have to ask yourself how sharp you really need them sometimes.

Scott: I haven’t heard those rumours. My friend Arthur Morris recommends doing it if you want sharper photos and I don’t know of another photographer who makes sharper photos than Arthur Morris. 99/100 when I’ve diagnosed somebodys sharpeness issue I’ve identified the problem as operator error. If you really think that’s malfunctioning then I would try sending it in for repair first. There is the odd camera that has a problem.

Question Eight – Workshop Recommendations

I live in NYC. Who should get my money for an intermediate workshop? What should I expect to pay for a good, hands-on course? Is a one day workshop worth it or do I really need to sign up for something more academic or a few weeks long? Any recommendations are appreciated. Rosann from Brooklyn, NY

Tamara: I think you should do very good research about the person teaching the workshop and the workshop itself. Is a one-day workshop worth it – I think it definitely can be helpful but it can be tough to try and cram a lot of information into just one day.

Scott: I think it depends upon the topic. A one-day wedding workshop might not work as well. A one-day workshop on RAW conversion might work.If I lived in New York, I wouldn’t spend any money on workshops until you visit Adorama and check out their workshops. There are lots of free or very low cost workshops. As far as intermeditate long term workshops it really depends on what subject your interested in as that would have a big impact on where I would send you.

Question Nine – Question re: Anatomy of a Two Minute Location Portrait

I recently read your blog post, “Anatomy of a Two Minute Location Portrait“, and you casually threw out without explanation that you chose to underexpose by one stop. What are the primary things you’re thinking about when you grab that exposure compensation dial? What was driving your decision on the Two Minute Location Portrait? Since it’s a studio lighting situation I was surprised that any compensation was necessary. Frank Kurzawa

Scott: It wasn’t a studio lighting situation. It was a hotel room where I brought a hot light. The second thing is because it was a hot light, the light was constant and I just ran in to do a two minute portrait. I had my camera on Aperture priority and took a look at what it was suggesting and determined that it was a little hot so I dialed in -1 for the exposure compensation and then I got an exposure closer to what I was looking for. I would not use exposure compensation if I was on manual but because I only had a couple of minutes I was shooting on Aperture and used it to overide the camera.

Question Ten – Using Lens Hoods Indoors

Jordan from Pearl Harbor, HI. I have a bit of a technical question regarding lens hoods. Is there a use case for them while you are indoors. I know its good to use them outside to prevent sun glare and the like, but do you find it’s good to do the same thing indoors as well? Some examples that come to mind are when doing something like family photos, or trying to do a portrait in an area where you can’t remove unwanted additional light sources?

Tamara: I advocate for them and I think you should use them as they offer great protection.

Scott: I’m of the same mindset. You use it indoors to protect your lens. There are very little light refraction to worry about indoors. The only time I take them off is when I’m shooting through glass.

Question Eleven – Nik Silver Efex Pro vs. Grayscale Conversion

You’ve mentioned that you use Nik Silver Efex Pro on the show for converting your photos. What is the value of using third party software like this over just changing the image mode to grayscale in Photoshop? Justin Gaudet

Scott: Just changing the image mode to grayscale won’t give you a great black and white. You loose 2/3 of your data when you do that. I like the 3rd party stuff because they often give you more control over things like grain, contrast, which hues are which shade of black and great so you just get more control. The reason I like Nik Silver Efext Pro is that they seem to do it better than anyone else.

Tamara: My B&W are RGBs with color toning. I drop the color out and bring back more of the tones depending on what type of feel I’m going for. Nothing gets converted to grayscale as they become very flat.

Question Twelve – Breaking Ethical Rules to Get a Better Shot

While speaking to some other photographers recently I was surprised to find out how often they felt not following the ethical rules, leaving the marked trail, feeding the animals, etc… was justified in order to get a better shot. What’s your take on this? Is this black and white, or shades of grey? Dan from Montreal

Tamara: I like to shoot in botanical gardens and I absolutely adhere to the rules and regulations. That being said do I sometimes get lost in the moment and not realize where my feet are going -yes but I don’t do it intentionally. As to feeding the animals, I bribe children with candy all the time.

Scott: As a wildlife photographer, I can tell you that this is a really hot issue. I don’t think it’s ever a good idea to go off trail. I don’t think it’s a good idea to break the rules but I will say that when it comes to feeding animals, unless it’s prohibited or unless it’s going to do harm to them, I have a little less concern over that. For example, if you’re photographing birds down by the pier and are feeding them fish, you’re giving them the same thing they are picking off the fishermen so I don’t see any harm in that. There is no distinct black and white when it comes to some of this stuff. There are shades of gray. It’s not my job to go out there and tell people what to do. I think some people get over concerned with this but I do think it’s wise to follow the rules as best you can.

Question Thirteen – Monitor Considerations

I am planning on buying a large 23″ to 27″ monitor for my PC. Could you tell me what specifications on monitors are most important when I am deciding. Peter Intindoli from Syosset, NY

Tamara: I think high resolution, strong contrast range, sharpness, and brightness of screen would be applicable whether it’s PC or Mac.

Scott: I like the LED screens. Something that’s easy to calibrate is good. I like Apple’s LED moitors and they’ll work with Macs or PCs. You can also head over to and they have exhuastive product reviews

PMA 2011

Mark your calendars and plan on attending PMA 2011. We’ll be doing a live Photofocus at PMA which runs from September 6th – 11th in Las Vegas. It’s the first time it’s open to the public and it promises to be the largest photographic tradeshow in North America.

Question Fourteen – Exposure Bracketing on Canon Cameras

I’m wondering if you can tell me why you think Canon only has three exposure bracketing in their cameras (with the exception of the $5,000+ 1D line which allows up to 7). With all the hype over HDR in the last few years, I don’t understand why they the bracketing on 95% of their cameras doesn’t allow for more than 3 exposures. It’s not that simple to make manual adjustments when the wind in blowing, the clouds are moving, etc. It seems like it would be a simple firmware update. I’d love to hear your opinion. Frustrated in CA, Mike Ingold Santa Clarita, CA

Scott: They want you to buy the $5000 camera. If they put it on the $300 then there is no reason to buy the $5000 camera. HDR is very popular and built-in bracketing is very helpful so I can’t think of another reason why it wouldn’t be built-in.

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

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