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This week’s guest-host Scott Kelby.

Photofocus Episode 73

Show notes by Bruce Clarke ()

This week we kick things off with a question about press passes:

Question One – Press Passes

Do you carry a press pass? How important are they for a photographer who would like to move from amateur to freelance or more? The internet is a-wash with companies trying to sell them but I have no idea which is credible if any. Gemini, Newman, Ca.

Scott K: You don’t buy a press pass. You can only get a press pass from the event you are going to shoot. I joined a wire service and they make the arrangements for me to get a pass to cover an event.

Scott B: For a lot of things that aren’t professional level you generally don’t need one.

Question Two – High Speed Synch

Why wouldn’t one keep the high sync speed on the flash on all the time? Seems odd that we would settle on a shutter speed of 60-200! Angela from Montreal.

Scott B: The reason we don’t want to do that regularly is because you’ll generally burn out your flash faster and you’ll significantly reduce the power output of your flash when using High speed sync.

Scott K: I use high speed sync around 5% or less so I only activate it when I need it.

Question Three – Tips for Using a Tilt-Shift Lens

I have just purchased a Nikon PC-E 24mm and was wondering if you have any experience with the tilt/shift lens? I am searching for tips and/or web sites that will give me assistance. Thanks, Ken Toney, South Carolina

Scott B: If you want to study Tilt Shift lenses, then you want to study view cameras. Also look into the Schiempflug principle which has to do with tilts and movements. Using a TS lens you can really expand your depth of field and deal with issues like keystoning because you can shift the axis of the lens to be different than the film plane. Tilt shift lenses are often used in architectural photography for example.

Question Four – Sharper Images with Long Lenses

I am having a great deal of trouble using long lenses. My images are soft. When I use my telextender they are worse. Have you got any suggestions for sharper images with longer lenses? Tim Robertson from Los Angeles

Scott K: There really shouldn’t be a problem with long lenses unless you are using really old lenses which used to have a sweet spot at least 2 or 3 stops different. There is always a chance that there could be a problem with the lens but you could use something like Lens Align or send it back to the manufacturer for a check up.

Scott B: Some of the basics are to use a very sturdy tripod and watch your lens technique when handling the lens. On long lenses, any wobble or movement will be exaggerated.

Question Five – Preventing Fungus on Lenses

Im a landscape photographer living in Carolina, Puerto Rico. The other day I sent one of my lenses in for service and I was told that it had fungus damage. I keep most of my equipment in two camera bags, which by definition are dark inside. Fungus loves two things: darkness and humidity. Puerto Rico is a tropical Island, so I don’t have to tell you about the humidity. I figure that one solution would be keeping my lenses in plastic boxes with silica packets and just putting them in my camera bags when I go out to shoot. But that would be a pain in the neck. Do you have any other ideas to prevent fungus?

Scott K: I would say keep your lenses in a bright place that is cooler but I’ve never run into anyone who has had this problem.

Scott B: Those silica packs can help. Fungus issues tend to happen with older lenses that aren’t sealed as well.

Question Six – Recommendations for ND Filters

I am about to purchase a Cokin P-series filter system for my camera, and would like to get some graduated ND filters for shooting landscapes. I am trying to figure out what are a few good filters to start with (without spending a boatload of cash), and am finding all kinds of different suggestions online. What do you think? Should I start with 2 stops, 3 stops? What about hard or soft? Any recommendation you can make for a graduated ND filter newbie are much appreciated!! Thanks, Brad Patterson Grand Rapids, Michigan

Scott K: I use the Lee filter system but I don’t use the mount. I actually hold it with my hand which makes it easier to adjust the horizon. I have both hard and soft filters. The difference is that the hard one will have a well defined edge whereas the soft one will blend like a gradient so it depends on what you are shooting. As for 2 or 3 stops, there isn’t a rule but I would probably go with a 2 stop filter which is usually enough.

Scott B: ND filters are usually used by people who want to darken the sky when shooting things like landscapes and keep the foreground properly exposed. I use HDR more these days but I used to use a soft 2 stop filter for most of the work I was doing.

Question Seven – Recommendations for Studio Lighting

My name is Gary Rosen and I am from Toronto, Ontario. I have a question about studio lighting. I shoot with a digital Rebel XT and normally shoot landscape and nature shots. I want to break into pet and people portraits. What would be better, strobes or continuous lights? Continuous is cheaper I believe but if strobes are better I could start with one light to practice with. I will be working out of home for practicing so it won’t be a large area. Also softbox or umbrella?

Scott B: I like to think of umbrellas like light grenades which are tough to control but they are inexpensive. A softbox is more controllable and is more expensive.

Scott K: I like the Westcott TD6 as a continuous light source for things that don’t move a lot. If you’re shooting adults, brides, products, etc. then that is great. If you are shooting things that move like pets and children, then strobes will help you freeze the motion.

Question Eight – How to Clean Your Sensor

How do you clean your camera sensor? Everyone tells me it’s easy but I am really afraid I’ll screw it up. Ellen Wilkins from Chicago

Scott K: I let my assistant Brad clean my sensor :). Seriously though, we had Laurie Excell do a class on cleaning sensors which you can watch on There is also a kit you can buy.

Scott B: I actually use a lens pen to clean my sensor after beating all the graphite out of it.

Question Nine – ND Filters and Sharpness

Brett & Marti Wallace write: I’ve read that ND filters can reduce sharpness in the picture. Have you had this happen to you with this filters, or any other negative affects?

Scott K: I have not had that problem but I have heard people talk about it. I’m not a big pixel peeper but I haven’t noticed any image degradation. I think there are a group of people out there who worry more about the process than the final output. There is a ton of advice on the web and my advice is to follow the link to the person’s portfolio and see what the quality their work looks like.

Scott B: I haven’t noticed it being a problem either. I think the biggest point here is that they’ve read it on the forums somewhere and you know what that can mean.

Question Ten – Manual vs. TTL & Battery Life

I have a different question. I attended Joe McNally’s Flash Bus tour in NYC city last week. David Hobby shoots in complete manual mode and Joe shoots in ttl. I understand the differences between the two approaches but my question is about battery life. If in manual mode and you are controlling the power verses in ttl you are controlling ratios, does ttl use more battery power? Lance Burns

Scott B: I have no clue but I don’t think it matters. I think there are a lot of other things to worry about before dealing with battery issues.

Scott K: I would worry more about the results and which method works for you rather than battery life.

Question Eleven – CF Cards

What brand of CF cards do you think are best? Do you use large cards or use smaller sizes and change cards more often? Katie Sutherland Nashville, TN

Scott K: I use Lexar cards which are fast and reliable. You can be safer with smaller cards because if one goes, you’ll lose less images but you’ll give up some of the benefits of not having to switch out cards as often.

Scott B: Lexar cards tended to work better in Nikon cameras but I personally use a hodge podge but only name brand cards. I’ve used Hoodman, Lexar, San Disk, and had great results with all of them but you’ll always be able to find someone somewhere who has had an issue with a particular band. There is no one perfect system but you’ll stand the best chance if you stick with one of the well-known brands.As for large vs. small cards, small is less risking but Inserting and removing the card will cause some wear and tear on the card and the camera so you have to weigh that risk with the odds of a card failing. I try to use cards that are 2 sizes lower than the current largest size on the market.

Question Twelve – Flattening Layers in Photoshop

Mr. Bourne, I read your book ’88 Secrets to Photoshop for Photographers’ – I noted you suggested flattening layers after corrections made. Why? Alexandra Hansen, London

Scott B: As a caveat, I wrote this book back before there were adjustment layers. If I do a retouch like removing a zit from a bride, I don’t see a need to undo that change so I’ll flatten.

Scott K: I am a big proponent of flattening and here is why. For most of us, once we do a retouch and flatten, if we have to go back then you’re only looking at about 3-4 minutes to redo the step. We are pre-programmed to be non-destructive but it really only applies to people who are working with art directors, etc. For most people, it’s easier to flatten and move on as it will speed up your workflow and take up much less space.

Question Thirteen – Advantages of Using Bridge & Lightroom

Is there any advantage to using Bridge and Lightroom? Why would you need Bridge if you have Lightroom? Steve Brewer, New York.

Scott K: I’m not a big fan of the Bridge. 99% of the time I use Lightroom but there is one reason to use Bridge. Every once and awhile, you need to pop in a card and look through the photos and pick one very quickly and that is where Bridge comes in handy for that specific purpose.

Scott B: I’ve started to use Bridge to look at what is going to be imported into After Effects when dealing with video.

Question Fourteen – Tips for Sport’s Photography

I am going to photograph my son’s first college baseball game next week. I’ve rarely photographed sports. Got any tips for a first time baseball photographer? Duane Ford, St Louis. MO

Scott B: When there is a guy on 1st base, don’t train your lens on him. Train your lens on 2nd base to get those great sweeping tag shots when he tries to steal 2nd base. Try shooting from different angles and perspectives if you can. Think about trying to tell a story of the day.

Scott K: If it were my son’s first college game, I would use someone like LensPro To Go or Borrowlenses to rent a really great lens. For baseball I would recommend the 400mm f2.8 and shoot the entire game at f2.8. That will put your son in focus and everything else blurry. I would also rent a monopod. You could use a 200mm with a tele-extender but you’ll be much happier with the 400mm. Most of the action will be at home plate or 2nd base.

Question Fifteen – Advantages of RAW Files

I have always heard RAW offers the best image quality & editing options. I have never shot a RAW image & wouldn’t know where to begin. Am I missing out? David Klein Santo Domingo

Scott K: When you shoot in JPEG, your camera does magical things to make that image look good. When you move from JPEG to RAW, you will turn off all of that magic to give you the RAW untouched image straight out of camera so you can process it the way you want to. Because of that you’ll get a 16 bit image. If you have to make big changes to the file, you’ll do less damage to the image with a RAW file so if you’re shooting in a tricky lighting situation, then I would definitely shoot in RAW. However, if you’re shooting in nice lighting conditions, I think you’ll get better images in JPEG. When I shoot sports I shoot in JPEG.

Scott B: For folks who are competent in their camera skills and don’t have a lot of time for workflow (e.g. wedding photographers), then JPEG can be better. If you’re making contemplative art then RAW provides you with everything you need.

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.

Scott Kelby is at

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