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Photofocus Episode 65

Show notes by Bruce Clarke ()

This week we kick things off with a question about Paul C Buff lights:

Question One – Thoughts on Paul C. Buff Lights

I have had and a set of Bowens mono lights for several years. I would like to upgrade to a set that includes a remote control unit for changing flash output. Elinchrom and Paul C. Buff both have systems that would do what I need. Are the Buff lights as good as the fans claim? They come off as a “poor man’s mono light” but get rave reviews from users, including The Strobist. Like any expensive purchase, I want to buy into a system that is high quality, upgradable, and has all the needed accessories. Greg West

Kevin: I started using the Paul Buff lights and the Alien Bees when I started out and found I’ve been using them ever since. I’ve found them to be quite durable and there are a lot of accessories available for them. They are also very affordable.

Scott: There is a lot of support for his stuff. Comparing them to Elinchrom is like comparing Volkswagen to Mercedes – they are the most expensive but like most things you do get what you pay for. The one knock I have heard is that they aren’t as sturdy which goes against Kevin’s experience with them.

Question Two – Room Color’s Influence When Color Correcting Photographs

I often work in artificial light, and the rooms are painted in pale colours. How much influence will this be on colour correcting my pictures? I can’t turn down the lights but I can turn them off. Is that a good idea? Kate Thomas

Scott: Most of the pros I’ve seen, turn off all the lights and put one child’s night light behind their monitor so that’s how I typically work when I’m doing color sensitive work.

Kevin: I agree and think that is a great way to setup your environment. I don’t get too crazy about this stuff anymore since I’m not doing a lot of color critical commercial work. Most of my work is portrait and wedding and I can’t control the lighting conditions where my clients will ultimately hang the photographs. I have a monitor hood which keeps stray light from entering the monitor and a white wall behind my monitor.

Question Three – White Cards vs. Grey Cards

Can you please explain the difference between the white and grey cards and when they are used. Dean from the UK.

Kevin: The grey card originally was designed to help with exposure before digital came along. When digital became mainstream, they started to be used for White Balance which is when I think white cards started to be used as a reference frame because they might be better but I think if you have a good grey card that isn’t tinted you’ll get approximately the same results.

Scott: Traditionally the grey card has been used to set exposure and the white card has been used to set white balance. If you use something like the Color Checker Passport, this will handle all of this stuff for you. You can go into any camera store and lay out a bunch of different grey cards and they will all look slightly different.

Question Four – Extension Tubes

I was wondering if there is value is using extension tubes with a macro lens (Canon 100mm) to get even closer shots or do extension tubes only really add value to non macro lenses? Raymond Soucy from Fergus, Ontario, Canada

Kevin: I would think that if your macro isn’t getting you close enough then using an extension tube would be fine.

Scott: I’m not a big fan of the 60-100mm Macro lenses. I prefer the longer macro lenses to begin with. I tend to use extension tubes to make the close focusing capability of my lenses better but not necessarily macro. One lens that I use a lot in my bird photography is an 800mm lens which has a close focusing distance of about 20 feet. For macro photography, they will work but they won’t give you the best optical quality.

Question Five – Music on Photography Websites

I am building a photo website and want to know do you think having music start when people hit the site is a good or bad idea? Ben Landers from Miami, FL

Kevin: I think it can depend upon your audience. I find sometimes when I visit a site with music that I like, I will keep the page open just to hear the music but that might not be the best thing if what you want is for them to be looking at your photographs. I’ve also visited sites with annoying music and closed them. I think sometimes on wedding sites, the music can move certain clients but if they don’t like the music you’ve used then it might have the opposite effect.

Scott: If you don’t want me to visit your site, then put music on it. I think the only time it makes sense to use music on a website is if you are musician. If you want them there for your photography then I would avoid it.

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Question Six – Cleaning up Scanned Negatives with Aperture

I just finished scanning a couple thousand old family negatives & slides, some as old as 30 years old. Is Aperture enough to clean up the slides or do I need Photoshop Elements to to it? I have a Mac and use Aperture for my digital photos. Dennis from Toronto, Canada

Kevin: I’m not as familiar with Aperture but I know in Lightroom there is a spot removal tool but I find that it’s not great for removing things like scratches out of the photograph. For that type of work I prefer to use Photoshop or Photoshop Elements and the new Content Aware Fill feature does a great job of handling those types of fixes.

Scott: You can definitely do some clean up in Aperture using the Spot Removal tool but if you have a lot of cleaning up to do, then Photoshop might be the better tool to use.

Question Seven – Issue with Image Order from a UDMA Card Reader

I have an issue with my UDMA card reader. I have noticed that when I upload photos from the card reader that some of the photos are out of order. Photos are recorded on low continuous. I use Bridge to upload the photos. Uploading directly from the camera using bridge works fine. any ideas? Lou Molvin

Kevin: I’ve never seen this but I would have to wonder where he is seeing them out of order? Perhaps the reader is putting a modification date on the file that is different from the capture date. Try bringing them into Bridge and sort by capture date to see if that is what the issue is. I also recommend copying your files to the hard drive first and then import from there rather than directly off the card.

Scott: I don’t normally use Bridge but most programs give you some level of control over what happens on import. It could be that some import setting is off for him. If there are any UDMA experts out there who have other suggestions on what might causing this, feel free to e-mail us at [email protected].

Question Eight – Printing from Photoshop vs. Lightroom

Gerry Hawkins from Toronto asks: I am planning to do more/some printing at home. I have an Epson 2200, iMac, D300s and both Lightroom3 and Photoshop CS5. I was recently told that I should do all my printing from Photoshop and never from Lightroom. Can you comment on this?

Kevin: I have printed from Lightroom and had great results. You do have more options when you print from Photoshop in terms of color management. I think as long as you have the correct profiles for your printer then you should get great results from Lightroom.

Scott: It’s my understanding is that it’s almost the same print engine in Lightroom.

Question Nine – ISO Settings

I am wondering about how judicious I should be with my setting of ISO. Since I live in the Northwest USA, I spend a lot of time in cloudy and moderately low lit situations, even outdoors. To give myself more latitude in choosing aperture and shutter speed settings to get the affect I a want, I often take my ISO setting up to 600 – 800 as a first step. Is this giving away too much to start with and should I reserve any move from low ISO as a last resort? My camera is a Nikon 300S and lenses are around 4.5 in terms of speed. Monte Sula from Sequim, Washington USA

Scott: The Nikon 300S is a few steps below a D3s but I don’t see any reason why it would be a problem. On my D3s, 800 is the new 200 and I find myself shooting at higher ISOs all the time now because of the increased noise performance on the newer cameras that are available today.

Kevin: I have a 300s and I would have no problems shooting at 800 or even 1200. I think it comes down a lot to the look we are looking for. We used to buy film and try to push and pull the image to get great grain in the photograph but there seems to be this movement today to get photographs without any noise at all.

Question Ten – Advice for Photographing Star Trails

My wife and I will be visiting Egypt next month, where we will be spending one night camping at the White Desert. Can you provide some advice on photographing stars. We heard that the Milky Way could be visible even to the naked eyes. What is the trade off between a shorter shutter speed with high ISO and a longer exposure with lower ISO? Which method will yield lower noise? How long does the exposure have to be to capture the star trails? Conversely how short does it need to be kept under to prevent star trails from appearing? Victor Lan Toronto

Scott: Star trails are usually an overnight thing where you set the camera up and leave it on overnight but I haven’t shot a lot of that kind of photography either. Generally if I’m doing any long exposure type photography, I will use the long exposure noise reduction feature in the camera. When you’re doing this type of photography, usually the sensor heats up and that introduces another kind of noise that is created by the sensor heating up. I will normally shoot at around f5.6 for around 20 minutes or so but it all depends on the situation.

Question Eleven – Recommendation for Noise Reduction Software

I know that noise banding is unavoidable at high ISOs in low light. Would you recommend NIK Dfine, Topaz DeNoise or something else to get rid of it? Webb Lee from Pensacola, Florida

Kevin: I like the Nik Dfine product and many people use it. I think you can get demos of most of these products so I would give them all a try and see which one works best for you.

Scott: I prefer the way Nik Dfine does it but I’m sure the other ones do a great job.

Question Twelve – Suggestions for Set Photography

Kevin Falk from San Diego writes: I really want to get into Set Photography for films and even TV. Any suggestions? What about for a sound deadening case or cover? There’s got to be something better then a pelican case with a hole for your lens. Is there a proper name for those cases?

Scott: Yes, those are called Blimps. If you are thinking of getting into this type of photography, you need to be invisible when you are on the set. You have to have a talent for knowing where you can and can’t be. If you get into the sight line of actors when they are delivering their lines, most will get very upset. You may recall the incident with Christian Bale a few years ago where he went ballistic on the Director of Photography while filming the Terminator when the DP walked into his line of sight. The new 4/3 camera that don’t have a mirror would be perfect for this type of work as well since they won’t have the noise that is produced by the mirror slap.

Kevin: I haven’t done any set photography but I was thinking of this in terms of wedding photography where the photographer needs to be invisible during certain parts of the ceremony. There are camera muzzles and the Yellow Moon camera blimps which can help insulate the camera and cut down the noise. Most cameras also have settings that you can change that will help the the camera make less noise.

Question Thirteen – Underexpose in Camera or in Post?

I’ve long heard the adage to under-expose by a half or third of a stop to add some extra saturation and drama. My thoughts were why not do this in post? More work do do it in post yes, and you’re not getting it “right” in the camera, but since you can *remove* light far more easily than *adding* light, to me it makes sense to expose properly, and if you choose to add the drama underexpose a bit in post. Or am I just falling into the “fix it in post” trap? Alan in Vancouver

Kevin: I think it’s important to expose properly in camera so that you have the best image to work with. I don’t purposely underexpose unless the scene calls for it. I find it harder to get detail back from the shadows than it is to recover the hi lites so if anything I might typically overexpose by a 1/2 stop or so depending upon the situation. Many programs like Aperture and Lightroom have preset that you can apply on import so if you want your images to have a little extra pop, you can always set that as a preset when you’re importing the images so that those adjustments are applied at time of import.

Scott: If you’re shooting RAW then it’s easier to fix but if you’re shooting JPEG then you definitely want to get your exposure right in camera. I think this idea of underexposing by a 1/2 stop goes back to the days when we were shooting slide in order to saturate the colors. Now that we’re not shooting slide film, I think it’s best to expose properly and then do your adjustments in post.

Question Fourteen – Fixing Chromatic Aberration

Other than spending money on prime lenses how can I avoid, fix or combat chromatic aberration. I shoot with a Canon 7D, and mainly see this happen with my 70~200 f/2.8 L IS (with or without a 1.4x extender). Is there anything I can do in workflow or in camera settings to help avoid this? Brett Socia from Sterling Heights Michigan.

Scott: In the camera, you tend to see these aberrations at the extreme ends of the focal length. For example, if you are shooting with a 70-200, when you can, shoot at 80 or 190 or shoot at f4 instead of f2.8 and you’ll reduce chromatic aberration. 1.4 tele-extenders will make this problem worse.

Kevin: You can check out a plug-in called PT Lens which can help with that. It tends to come up more in backlit images so watch for that as well.

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.

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