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Photofocus Episode 68

Show notes by Bruce Clarke ()

This week we kick things off with a listener looking for tips on how to photograph people to make them appear slimmer:

Question One – Tips for Slimming People in Photographs

Can you talk about some of the techniques you use when photographing larger people to make them look slimmer? Is this something you do in camera or in post? Nicole Gibson from New York, New York

Jerry: I try to do as much as I can in camera. I actually don’t use Photoshop much myself so I try to work things out in camera. For plus sized people, your veil will best your best friend. Shoulders have to go back and you have to separate the arm from pressing up against the body. Also shooting from a taller angle and shooting down helps. If you use a wide angle lens and shoot down, you create an illusion where the body seems to disappear.

Question Two – Model Releases and Street Photography

A friend told me she assisted a photographer who’s technique with photo releases sounds suspicious to me. He’d take candid shots of people without their knowledge, then approach and ask to take their picture – without mentioning the candids he took. They’d sign the release, he’d snap a single photo as a formality, and he’d use all the photos he took of them. If they refused to sign, he’d just delete the candid shots and move on. Is this illegal, immoral, or just kinda smart? Mike McPhaden Pronounced from Toronto, Ontario

Scott: I’m pretty sure it’s not illegal but it does sound a bit immoral. In all my years I’ve never had anyone refuse to sign a release for me.

Jerry: I’m not a big fan of deceiving people so I wouldn’t encourage this type of behaviour. I would just suggest being honest with the subjects.

Question Three – Shallow Depth of Field

What does the term “shallow depth of field” mean? Susan Aldrich from Chicago, IL

Jerry: Less things are in focus. The larger the depth of field, the more things in focus. For a shallow depth of field you would shoot at a wide aperture like f1.2, f1.4, etc.

Scott: Don’t confuse focus with front to back sharpness. You can have something out of focus even if you have a large depth of field. You can still get something out of focus at f22 if you point the camera in the wrong place.

Question Four – Sharpness Issues Using Extension Tubes

I’m struggling to get tack sharp close-ups of spring flowers with my Nikon D90 using a Nikkor 50mm f1.4 lens and no-name extension tubes. I’m happy with the DoF at f8 or f5.6, but the images always look soft. Have you any tips for this set-up, or do I need to invest in the 105mm Micro? John Salter, London, England.

Scott: The no name extension tubes are probably the first place to look. Those no name extension tubes make tack sharp almost impossible. I love the 105 Macro lens and it works great for portraits.

Jerry: When you’re shooting at 1.4 and then recompose, chances are the thing you are trying to focus on will move and be out of focus. I agree with Scott in that the no-name brand extension tubes aren’t very good.

Question Five – Tips for Shooting in a Dimly Lit Environment

I have been asked to shoot an event at a local restaurant. It is very dimly lit with a black ceiling and brick walls. I will be shooting a Canon T1i with either my nifty fifty and/or my 24-105 f4 L lens. I have an external flash 430EXII with a small soft box, 3X5 in. Can you give me any tips on making sure the photos are exposed well. Should I point the flash with the soft box at the subject or try to bounce the light which I think will be hard with a black ceiling. Would a slightly larger soft box be a benefit? And should I shoot in ETTL? Beau Gentry Griffin, GA

Scott: There are some things that are very tough to do. I don’t have much luck bouncing flash off of black ceilings.

Jerry: You could try bouncing the flash off the brick wall which will give a nice warm glow. Often I will shoot without any modifiers on my flash and rather than bouncing off the ceiling, I will turn my flash 90 degrees to the left and I bounce it off the wall. You need to illuminate the side of the face that is furthest away from the camera.

Question Six – sRAW vs. JPEG

Steve Stearns writes: If you’re in a situation where you need to reduce the size of the images you are shooting are you better off using JPEG or one of the smaller RAW formats? My Canon offers three sizes of RAW files and while I usually use the largest size, I have had a situation come up where I needed to conserve space and opted to use SRAW. But I wonder, in hindsight, if I’d have been better off using JPEG?

Jerry: I shoot JPEG and if you expose properly then I’ve found them to be great. There is no question that RAW will give you better quality and more lattitude but the problem is they require more work. If you’re just starting out, I would recommend shooting in RAW and small JPEG. I think storage is very important so I would get yourself some more CF cards so you don’t feel like you’ll run out.

Scott: I would reject both options. I would suggest buying a larger card and shooting in RAW. If you expose correctly then JPEG will give you a good quality file.

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Question Seven – Lens Suggestion for Car Show Photography

If you could only use one lens for car show photography what would in be? Dan Wong Los Angeles

Jerry: For me, the one lens you need to use is the right lens for you. For Canon, I would maybe go with the 24-105 which is a good all around lens.

Scott: I photograph a lot of car shows and I find that super wide is more important than anything as I like to shoot a lot of interiors. I use my Canon 14mm f2.8 rectilinear converted lens all the time. If you like to shoot details, then you could go with a longer telephoto lens.

Question Eight – Cleaning the Front Lens Element

I have heard that the front element lens coating can be worn thru by cleaning it over time, and this is one reason to use a uv filter (which I do not). What say ye? Thanks, Papa Jim

Jerry: I was always taught to protect your lenses. I know a lot of pros who don’t suggest using any filters as they say it degrades the quality of your image but to be honest I can’t tell the difference between an image shot with a filter or not so I like to use them to protect my lenses.

Scott: I am not of the UV filter clan because most people buy the cheap filters. I do think it is possible to remove the lens coating by over cleaning it but I just breathe on my lenses to clean them and I’ve never had a problem.

Question Nine – Choosing the Right Paper

I’m a keen amateur photographer. Friends of mine have flattered me by asking for prints which they want to frame and put on the wall. With so many different types of photo paper; gloss, semi-gloss, semi-matt, matt, archival, satin, white cotton, 280gsm, 170gsm… *pause of breath*, how do you decide which to use? Are different types of finish best for different types of exposure? Does thicker paper make a better looking print? Gordon Burns (London, England)

Jerry: For wall art I will use archival Ink Jet paper. I would recommend investing in a good ink jet printer and then experiment with some of the great papers out there like those from Hahnemuhle. A lot of them have sample packs so you can try printing the same photograph on a few different papers to see what you like. A lot will depend upon the style and the look you’re going for. Make sure you start your business the way you want to finish so don’t give away your work.

Scott: I recently saw papers from Illford at WPPI and they look great. Epson is also making some great papers.

Question Ten – Tips for Shooting Birds in Flight

Aside from setting your camera to AI Servo and turning off IS after 1/1000 sec, do you have any other tips for acquiring Birds in Flight shots? (BIF) What is your keeper rate? Jackie Schuknecht from Toronto, Canada

Scott: AI Servo is the right way to do and you do want to turn off IS after 1/1000 of a sec. I don’t keep track of my keeper rate as I tend to be pretty deliberate these days. I try to lead the bird and to do that you have to study the bird and know their flight patterns. They are kind of predictable. Often the direction of the wind will determine which way they will fly. I also like to keep my bursts down to a second or two to keep the buffer clear in case you can catch something mid flight. Keep the light behind you so you have the best chance of getting good light on the bird.

Question Eleven – Photographing Civil War Landscapes

In April I’m planning a trip with my brother out East to visit several popular Civil War battlegrounds taking lots of pictures. Unfortunately, our scheduled visit won’t include watching reenactments…instead, it’s just a self-guided tour observing the landscape, monuments, buildings, etc. Any thoughts or advice on taking this unique sort of landscape photography so when I come back home I have pictures truly capturing a sense of history? Just as a side note – 2011 marks the 150th anniversary (sesquicentennial) of the start of the American Civil War. Jim Braaten from Kenyon, Minnesota

Jerry: I would do some homework on when is the best time to go when other people won’t be there. What do you want to offer the viewer of your images about this place that you’re shooting? If you think of it as quite errie and dark, then you might shoot earlier in the day or try setting your WB to tungsten. Post-processing might bring some additional mood to the images.

Scott: I would use some post-processing to make the images mimic what old fashioned photographic film looked like. Take advantage of your subject knowledge.

Question Twelve – 64 vs. 32 Bit Systems & Post Processing

What are the advantages of running post processing software in 64 v. 32 bit? David from Minnesota

Scott: 64 bit is simply faster than 32 bit. You have more concurrent processes happening at the same time.

Question Thirteen – HDR Software Advice

I would like to get into HDR and wanted to know if the $99 version of Photomatix or is the $39 version ok to get started ? Will the light version of Photomatix do the same job HDR as the 99 dollar version? What’s the difference. I use Llightroom 3.0 and a Cannon 50D Scott from Pittsburgh, Pa

Scott: The quick answer is no. There is always a reason for there being a $99 and the $39 version. I use Photomatix Pro and I think it’s much better than the $39 version. I would also encourage you to look at the Nik Software HDR program.

Question Fourteen – Advantages & Disadvantages of Medium Format Photography

What are the advantages and disadvantages of medium format digital photography? Adele Brown from Phoenix AZ

Jerry: I shoot with a Phase One with a digital back. The detail we get out of those files is ridiculous. I work with a lot of high-end clients who appreciate that I shoot with a medium format camera. Shooting with medium format brings back some of the theatre to photography. It offers great dynamic range.

Scott: I’ve recently started shooting medium format again and it’s definitely one way to seperate yourself from the Uncle Bobs out there. It does slow you down when you shoot with Medium format but the detail on it is amazing.

Question Fifteen – Thoughts on Flash for Photographer’s Websites

I would like to know your position on the inclusion of Adobe Flash on a photographer’s website. It seems to be a controversial topic. Damon White London

Jerry: I like Flash on my sites even though I know it’s not great for SEO. I only want 25 weddings per year so I don’t worry as much about the hits. I think you have to think about who your target audience is and what they’ll respond to.

Scott: I think the most important thing is your target audience. If you’re audience is primarliy reaching you on mobile devices then Flash isn’t likely the best choice. If you target audience is young girls who get caught up in the emotion of love, then Flash and some music might not be that offensive. There are SEO problems with Flash but that might be fixed with things like HTML5.

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.

Jerry Ghionis is at . You can also check out and use the coupon code ‘ICESALE’ to get $100 off.

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