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Photofocus Episode 75

Show notes by Bruce Clarke ()

This week we kick things off with a question about shutter button technique

Question One – Shutter Button Technique

The picture Joe Farace used to illustrate his “Why you need a tripod” looks like the on board flash is to the right of the camera. This brings up the question of, when you shoot in portrait orientation, do you hold the camera with the shutter button up or down? Most pics I see show the shutter up, with the right arm raised and the hand on top of the camera (assuming you don’t have a pro camera or battery grip). I used to hold it this way until I broke my shoulder and couldn’t raise my arm. I started holding the camera with the button down (like it must have been in Joe’s shot) and it feels more comfortable. Is there a historical reason to do it one way or the other? As much as hash out everything else that has to do with photography, it seems odd this isn’t mentioned more. Just think. We can get another Canon/Nikon type thing going. Are you a “Button Up” or a “Button Down” shooter? Mike Spivey

Joe: My wife took that shot and she has no particular system. I will usually shoot with a grip and typically shoot with the button up because it feels natural. Go with what feels good.

Scott: I’ve never really thought about it but I just naturally shoot with the button up.

Question Two – Shooting with Older Lenses

Russell Masters from Hong Kong writes: I was at a workshop the other day (with the guys from, and I noticed that they were using an old Nikon 28 mm lens for filming some of the action during the class. This really got me thinking about older lenses and whether these may be a good buy (especially given the recent supply issues in Japan). Given the constant development of lenses and optical technology we often focus on what the next great lenses are, possibly at the expense of forgetting some of the cool older ones. I am betting that a lot of these older lenses will have characteristics which are not only aesthetically pleasing but also provide photographic challenges to help develop a photographers camera craft. I would love to hear you views on this, and any recommendations for older lenses which are worth considering. In particular I would like your thoughts on a good landscape lens as I am keen to develop my landscape portfolio and I think that a manual focus prime would be a great exercise in hyper focal length and composition. For info, I shoot with a D90.

Joe: I think this is a great question and it’s relevant to me as I’m testing the Pentax K5 which is fully compatible with so many manual Pentax lenses. If you’re filming, then you’ll be on manual anyway so I think those older lenses are great for video.

Scott: If they are shooting video, then having those old aperture rings will be great. I have no problems using the old primes but if you have to use an adaptor plate, then you increase the possibility of refraction, flare, etc. I am not a big fan of the old zoom lenses. Another important point is that there is going to be a shortage of the new lenses this summer as a result of the earthquake in Japan.

Question Three – Alternatives to Photoshop, Lightroom, & Aperture

Ellis Winston Detroit asks: Is there anything other than Photoshop, Lightroom or Aperture that I can use to edit my photos and perhaps save a little money?

Joe: There are two easy answers. iPhoto on a Mac is free. You can also get Photoshop Elements for just $99.

Scott: Photoshop Express is Adobe’s free web-based photo editor. Gimp is another free open-source program that you can use to edit photos. Search for Photoshop alternatives on Google and you’ll find others. You can also now rent Photoshop by the month and they will apply the rental rates towards ownership of the program.

Question Four – Regular Bulbs vs. Daylight Balanced Bulbs

Adam Silversmith from Las Vegas writes: What is the difference between using regular bulbs and day light balanced bulbs and just setting a proper white balance?

Joe: There is no difference these days. Personally I’d rather just set it in the camera. Even using AWB will produce some pretty amazing results.

Scott: The only argument for messing around with proper bulbs and gels is if you don’t want to shoot in RAW. Sometimes it’s easier to see it on the LCD if you use them but technically there really is no difference.

Question Five – SD Cards vs. CF Cards

Jeff Weiler asks: What is the difference between SD cards and CF cards? I gather that since CF cards tend to be used in the more pro-level cameras, they are more durable, stable, etc.

Scott: CF cards are more stable and sturdy compared to SD cards. SD cards are also smaller so they are easier to lose. I think the smaller form factor allowed the camera companies to save some weight but I prefer the CF card.

Joe: My greatest fear is that they are going to give up on CF cards because I also prefer them over the SD cards.

Question Six – Expressing What you See in Photograph

I’ve been a graphic designer/photographer for many years and know all about visualizing & framing a shot. However, there are times when I see a see a beautiful scene that I feel is a great photo opportunity, but for some bizarre reason can’t express what I see as a photo. Are there times that you just can not express what you see with your eyes as a photo? Does this kind of thing happen to you and how do you deal with it? Erick Puentes (Edgewater, NJ)

Joe: Yes, this happens to me and drives me crazy. The angle of view and the dynamic range of your eyeballs is greater than your camera so when it happens I just kick back and enjoy the scenery without worry about it too much.

Scott: It hasn’t happened to me for awhile and that’s because I am more experienced in seeing photography. When it did happen to me, it was because I had a stronger focus on the gear and the technology rather than on vision. The way you develop your vision is by looking at a lot of great photography.

Question Seven – Photographing Car Racing

Hi this is Jan from Czech Republic. A question about photographing vintage car racing: I was able to get right next to the track. Following the racing vehicles, at 1/160 sec, I was able to get motion blur on wheels and in the background. Unfortunately, with my only lens, 50mm f1,4 I had depth of field issues when cars were very close to me filling the frame. I was able to get either the driver in focus or the beautiful chrome grille, but not both at the same time. My aperture was about f8. When the cars were further away, I could get the whole car in focus. Was it too shallow depth of field, or maybe the cars were be going too fast?

Joe: Both things could be true. If he was filling the frame with a 50mm then he was too close. You can also try panning which is the classic way to photograph motor sports.

Scott: Just pan with the subject and that will solve a lot of problems. There are always compromises in photography so this is likely one of those times. If you had stopped down to f16 or f22 you might have gotten the depth of field you needed. Don’t be afraid to bump up that ISO so you can increase your DOF.

Question Eight – Being Remembered for a Photograph

If you (and your guest) were to pick one picture (you took) that you would be remembered for, what would it be? And why? Patrick Edgett from Riverside, CA

Joe: There is a photograph I took in the 1970s inside an antique streetcar that I would like to be remembered for. You can see it on my blog.

Scott: I chased it for almost a decade and finally got it and the photograph I’m referring to is Cranes in the Fire Mist.

Question Nine – Laptop for Running Lightroom & Elements

Enjoying your blog and work, thanks! Given a limited budget, would you recommend the 13″ MacBook Pro to run Lightroom and Elements 9? I need to replace my Dell, and have not had good experiences with Windows 7. Wayne

Scott: I think with a lot of memory that would be a great choice. Without a lot of memory it might not be the best unit for Aperture since it is very GPU intensive.

Joe: I have a 15″ MacBook Pro and run CS5 on it and it’s fine.

Question Ten – Exposure Compensation

Aaron J Schaub asks: I get the need for exposure compensation & understand how it works. So here’s my question: Why not cut to the chase and make those changes manually, i.e. shutter speed, aperture, or even ISO? Maybe it’s more important in Aperture & Shutter priority than Manual mode? It’s been a head scratcher for me.

Scott: If you like to work in a particular mode (e.g. Aperture priority), then it’s sometimes easier to use the exposure compensation rather than shifting into manual and trying to set everything. For me it’s just a very natural way to work.

Joe: I find it’s also easier to use the Exposure compensation rather than trying to work in manual but it depends on the situation. It’s faster so that’s the big advantage.

Question Eleven – ISO and Dynamic Range

As you turn up the camera’s ISO from 200 and go up, does the dynamic range of the exposure get smaller? How much would this vary from camera to camera? (Yes I have Nikon as evidenced by my ISO 200 reference.) Larry Borreson – Baltimore, MD

Joe: Yes, it does change because the contrast changes. Somewhere in the middle is an ISO sweet spot. Try doing some testing at different ISOs and see what happens to things like noise and contrast.

Scott: It will reduce it and it will vary from camera to camera. The lowest ISO isn’t always the cleanest ISO.

Question Twelve – Getting the Flash Off the Camera

Can you tell me why you always say to get the D&^#&M flash off the camera? Tom Bolton, St Louis.

Scott: It will give you better results. One thing it will eliminate is red-eye. On-camera flash is also harsh, flat and boring so if you take it off, then you bring in some dynamics and graduations from light to shadow in the photograph.

Joe: The closer the flash is to the centre of the lens, the worse the red-eye. Once you try it you’ll be amazed at how much you like it.

Question Thirteen – iPhoto for Serious Photo Editing

Mary George from Washington DC asks: I would like to know if iPhoto is a serious enough program to do real photo editing?

Joe: Yes, you can use it to do photo editing. I like it to work on photos that are on a CD file. I wish iMovie was as good as iPhoto.

Scott: It’s a very powerful program and keeps getting better with every version. The ability to do stuff in iPhoto has benefited because of Aperture. I still use iPhoto to make cards and calendars.

Question Fourteen – Shooting Motor Sports in JPEG

Abe Green from New York writes: I heard you say that you usually shoot RAW but when shooting motor sports you shoot in JPEG. Can you explain why?

Scott: At 10-12 fps then that will be a whole lot of post processing for me to do. The majority of the time the people I’m shooting for will need the photos right away or sometimes during the race so I just don’t have the time to process the RAW images. The other thing is that when you shoot RAW, you fill the buffer faster. When shooting JPEGS, you can hold the button down for a lot longer and capture more shots.

Question Fifteen – TTL and Desired Exposures

I guess that an explanation of how TTL, shutter speed and aperture work together in order to have the desired exposure. For example, if I only want a “kiss” of light, like you had mentioned in episode #74, and reduce the flash force, will TTL or my camera compensate for this and wind up not getting what I want? Michael Fortin from Montral, Canada

Scott: I-TTL or E-TTL allows you to expose for the ambient in the scene, and use the flash to balance the scene. The shutter will open and the flash only goes on long enough to light the subject. You can use flash compensation to change the output of the flash.

Joe: I like to use the Stofen diffuser to soften the light 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.

Joe Farace is at

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