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Photofocus Episode 69

Show notes by Bruce Clarke ()

This week we kick things off with a listener looking for thoughts on selecting lenses based on crop factors:

Question One – Selecting Lenses Based on Crop Factors

Should photographers with a cropped sensor DSLRs follow the same “guidelines or pro recommendations” as full frames DSLR photographers when choosing a lens? Should we convert focal length using the crop factor then make our decision regarding what focal length suits our needs? Merci, Marc Archambault Montreal Canada

Matthew: Yes you should as it gives you somewhat of a guide. It will put you in the ballpark but it’s not exact. I will shoot based on what I feel.

Scott: The main thing is what are you trying to accomplish. These rules don’t really apply anymore. If I want to shoot with an 85 and I throw it on a crop sensor camera, I don’t worry about it too much.

Question Two – Shooting Landscapes with a Fisheye

I have just ordered a Fisheye lens and was wondering if you had any tips for good landscape or interesting shots. I understand the basic formula, that if you have the horizon in the centre of the frame, it will remain relatively straight. And shoot at F8 ish and almost everything will be in focus. David Wingate from Wimbledon Uk

Scott: Those are two great beginning tips. The wider angle the lens, the less depth of field matters. If you have a super wide angle lens you’d be surprised at what is in focus. Fisheye lenses are best if you can keep the plane of focus parallel with the subject. I like to work with really prominent foreground objects.

Matthew: I used to shoot with them but haven’t used one in awhile.

Question Three – Compression in TIFF Files

I was wondering if you could explain the different compression in regards to tiff files. Am using Aperture and not sure if I should use zip, lzw or none. I do allot of portrait retouching so I use 16 bit files and would like to keep the best quality file. George Vivanco form Long Beach, Ca

Scott: I’ll keep it short and simple. You should use no compression. A Tiff file is already a lossless file without compression.

Question Four – Insurance for Camera Equipment

I am interested in getting insurance for my camera equipment. What kind of things should I be looking for in an insurance policy, and do you have any companies you would recommend? Andrew King Bangor, Maine also Beau Gentry Griffin, GA

Matthew: I have insurance it has come in handy. I’ve gotten insurance from professional associations and from insurance companies. You should also get an insurance certificate.

Scott: Do you want replacement value or fair market value. I think you want a policy that will give you the replacement value. That means you’ll need an inland marine rider which will provide you with replacement coverage. Many of the photography associations like the Professional Photographers of America will offer insurance that you can buy. Be aware that your homeowners insurance will not cover your gear in most cases. Consult with a lawyer or a licensed insurance agent for more specific information about the local laws in your area.

Question Five – Setup for Photographing Works of Art

I am on a quest to find a cheap set up for shooting works of art like sculptures on a backdrop. The problem I’m falling into is that there’s tons of lights and backdrops. The cheap seem incomplete and expensive seem over kill. I’m looking for cheap but a setup that isn’t going to kill light bulbs or light can’t be manipulated easily. I’m looking for small scale as well. My sculptures that are about foot to a foot and half by a foot. If you can help me out or direct me to a good blog or something, that’d be great! Jonathan Evans

Scott: If you have a $10 head, buy a $10 helmet so you do get what you pay for. You’ll want to polarize the lights which will cut down on the reflection from the light. You could also put one on the lens. If you really want to go cheap, get some LED camping lights. Coleman make some inexpensive lights. You just have to white balance for them. Visit the Strobist website for some great homebrew solutions for lighting.

Matthew: In the beginning I shot with what I could get and sometimes I will still use those homemade lights. I really like the Chimera lights. You can even use things like aluminum foil to make reflectors, etc. You’ll also need some gaffer tape, a-clamps, etc to help get some light on the subject.

Question Six – TTL With RemoteSystems

How does TTL work in combination with a remote system. Dwayne Quan from Murrieta, CA

Scott: TTL stands for through the lens. The camera looks through the lens, meters the scene and decides how much light should fall on it. When you use something like a remote pocket wizard, the flash gets trigged by the PocketWizard and uses the same TTL information. The beam calculates the distance and decides how much light to output to balance the light.

Matthew: I usually work in manual so I don’t use TTL too much myself but TTL systems are getting much better.

Question Seven – Photographing Reflective Objects

I’m a contributor to a golf communinty and have had occasion to photograph pre-release versions of the latest clubs. I’m finding it very difficult to get proper exposure on the highly reflective surfaces, particularly on irons and wedges with several angles and chrome finish. Is there a non light-box solution for getting even light and exposure? Bonus point if it also keeps my reflection out of all the shots. CJ

Matthew: You need to change your light direction. I would try to have the light behind the golf clubs and fill it with a big light source to fill it. You can also use some black cards to help subtract light from the scene. Move the cards around visually and take those reflections away.

Scott: You can also use a product shooting tent which can help cut down on specularity. Try using the white side of the reflector as well.

Photofocus is brought to you by CLIQ World 2011

Mark your calendars and plan on attending Cliq World 2011 (formerly PMA). We’ll be doing a live Photofocus at Cliq World 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. Visit for more details.

Question Eight – Staying Creative

As the saying goes, when all you have is a hammer, all problems look like nails. How do you stay creative with your photography so you aren’t approaching every project/client exactly the same way? Do you find changing lens and subjects is enough or do you find yourself changing formats (video, pinhole, actual film) every now and then? Kathy Ann Bugajsky

Matthew: Being creative has nothing to do with the lens, etc. Creativity comes from inspiration. Find out what inspires you first and once you find that, everything changes.

Scott: Creativity can be found in a number of ways including finding it in artistic disciplines that don’t have anything to do with my own. I might go look at sculputre or listen to an opera to see if there is something inspires me.

Question Nine – Shooting in Overcast Conditions

I live in Portland Oregon where the sun comes out a few months a year. What advice do you have to shooting in overcast weather? What can I do in post production to improve shots? Greg Netland

Scott: Overcast skies are not always bad. Know where the sun is, even if it’s behind the clouds. It will still have a direction so you need to shoot with a virtual sun by putting it where it should be if the clouds weren’t there.

Matthew: Once you learn now to work with overcast skies, you can take advantage of the fact that it’s like a giant softbox. Just keep in mind that sun is always moving so you want to meter all the time.

Question Ten – Tips for Photographying Homes

I received an offer by a Real Estate agent to take photos of the homes they have for sale. I have a Nikon D7000 and I’ll rent the lenses I need. This will be for print and the web. Any pointers on shooting homes inside and out? Lighting, lenses, etc… Fitz from Dallas

Scott: You want to work with the widest lens you have available. Having a tripod is also important. You can also use HDR to photograph interiors and still capture the exterior. Capture the exterior at dusk with the lights.

Matthew: I agree. 35mm and wider. Use natural light and work with a tripod. HDR has come a long way and it’s becomming a standard.

Question Eleven – Photographing Jewellery

I’m having trouble photographing jewellery – getting true colors I have over come this by using the white balance tool in LightRoom 3.3, but it always seems my photo’s are never as bright as other photo’s I see online, if I crank things up to get the brightness it always seems to “wash” out the photo losing textures… I have been playing with different powers on the flash, changing my f-stop and shutter speed. I got ok results with taking a 6 second exposure with no lights except the overhead light in the room, but still pretty dim looking photos.

Scott: You can go back to the light tent. Any kind of difussion is good. You’re probably relying on the Auto White Balance. Pick a manual white balance that looks good to you and stick with it.

Matthew: Also make sure he has a color calibrated monitor to make sure that is a neutral point. Use more black cards to cut down light and shape it.

Question Twelve – Meanings of Flash Settings

Can you please explain flash settings, and what they mean? Specifically, what are flash sync speed and flash shutter speed, and how do they relate to each other, and how do they relate to the camera shutter speed at all??? Also, when someone talks about making a flash brighter or conversely “dialing it down”, how do you do that? Brian Clark – Lowell, AR

Scott: Flash sync speed is the maximum shutter speed you can use that will allow the flash to sync up with the image. To make flash brighter or darker, it depends on the flash but you generally have a button on these flashes that let you change the output of the light.

Matthew: Most cameras are 1/250 or lower. If you go above that you’ll start to see those black lines going through your image.

Question Thirteen – Photo Opportunities in Fort Myers Beach

I am heading to Fort Myers Beach FL at the end of March. I know that you spent last winter there. Do you have any suggestions or hot spots for nature photos? Thank You, Craig from Baltimore Maryland

Scott: Fort Meyers Beach by the Holiday Inn there is an estuary that is filled with birds. The bridge from Fort Myers to Fort Meyers beach is a little known space as well. North of Fort Meyers is a place called Venice. You are also close to Orlando and Miami where there are tons of wildlife opportunities. If you’re looking for landscapes you’ll have to settle for seascapes. One last place is Cape Coral which is home to lots of burrowing owls. Start at the Cape Coral library.

Question Fourteen – Best Way to Highlight Aferican American Skin

What’s the best way to highlight African America skin? Clint Adams from Brooklyn, NY

Matthew: For lighting African American skin, there are many different hues so you need to be aware of the skin tone. Learn your light. I will take the meter reading and then adjust the meter according to the subject. Also warm light looks great on African Amercian skin. Tungsten or gold light works great. I will also use a gel over a strobe such as a 1/4 CTO. Sometimes I’ll give a bit more light too because the darker skin will absorb some of the light.

Question Fifteen – Question About Technique of Using Fabric on Models

I saw on a recent Photofocus post that you wrapped a model in fabric. Can you talk more about why you would do something like that?

Scott: It’s another thing in the photograph to play with. They work great for all kinds of photography. If you’re going to use fabric, make sure you have lots of clamps to hold the fabric.

Matthew: Why not. There are no rules in photography. You learn them but then you break them. I did a shoot where I wrapped an actor in film. Don’t close yourself off to not doing something because you think it’s taboo. Push the limits as artists. Shoot through it. Use it as

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.

Matthew Jordan Smith is at

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