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Photofocus Episode 77

Show notes by Bruce Clarke ()

This week we kick things off with a question about neutral density filters and different lens sizes:

Question One – ND Filters

Daniel Cinque from the UK writes: At the weekend I went down to the beach and wanted to capture some glossy water shots by the pier / crashing against the rocks which in turn meant I needed a slow shutter speed. As it was broad daylight this was impossible to achieve without blowing out the exposure even at 1 second shutter speed. Therefore I got thinking about ND filters. As a keen amature photographer I have 3/4 lenses that I use regularly but don’t wish to purchase a filter for each lens as this would be too expensive for the use I would get out of it.. Can you recommend any kits that you know of for manually placing over lenses no matter which size the lens is? How do these hold the filter in place and where can I get one from?

Scott: Adorama sells step up rings. Get the largest ND filter you need for your largest lens and then buy a step up ring for your other lenses. There are some filters from companies such as Lee, Singh Ray, etc that have drop-box type filters that you can screw on to the front.

Question Two – Dealing with Reflections When Photographing Cars

John Compton, Los Angeles writes: I noticed you like cars. I am trying to photograph cars but am having a hard time fighting reflections. Any advice?

Scott: Polarizers do help fight reflections. Hope that you’re going to be in a situation with high overcast. If you can control the time of day, try to shoot early in the morning or late in the evening when the sun is low in the sky. If you have access to one, shooting in a car studio you can control reflections. I think you do want to have reflections in your car so knowing where to put them is sometimes more important than eliminating them.

Question Three – Times to Put the Camera Down

Matt Lokot from Melbourne, Australia writes: I know this is antithetical and even a bit heretical, but I was wondering if there is ever a time to say “enough” and to put the camera down? This question comes from a recent impromptu trip to the snow with some friends. While I got some great photos that everyone loved, I was holding the camera the whole time, and I never hurled a single snow ball. I can’t help but think I missed out a little. Has this ever happened to you?

Scott: Of course it’s happened to me and sometimes it was by design. I think if you have a young family in particular, you often don’t see the photographer in the images. Never forget to enjoy yourself but if you’re working as a professional remember that you are being paid to photograph the event and not to relax and enjoy it.

Question Four – Sharpness Issues on a Canon 7D

Scot Thomas from Silverdale, WA writes: I am having trouble getting sharp images from my Canon 7D – I sent it to Canon and they say it checks out. Is there anything I can do or place that I can send the camera for an independent review?

Scott: 99% of the time, a sharp image problem is a photographer problem. You could have to slow of a shutter speed, too much mirror bounce, short depth of field, etc. You can go to an independent camera shop in Seattle where they do camera repairs and they might be able to take a look at it for you. Another option is to look at the Lens Align calibration system.

Question Five – Geotagging

Dave Hodges from Cleveland, Ohio writes: I never hear you talk about geotagging. Is it something you’re just not interested in or is it something that is not important to the majority of photographers?

Scott: I think there was a lot of buzz around it when it first came out but I think it has cooled. For me, I don’t have a lot of interest in it. Often I will want to keep the locations I’m shooting in private either for my clients or to protect them from being visited by too many other photographers.

Question Six – Lifespan Effects from Topping Up Batteries

Steve Schuenke writes: When I travel or have an important shoot, I tend to “top-off” my batteries even though they are not fully discharged. I’ve read that this can actually hurt the overall life of a battery. Do you have any thoughts or comments based on your experience?

Scott: Depending upon the type of battery, topping them up can harm them. My advice is to regularly recycle the batteries by charging them all the way up and then draining them all the way down.

Question Seven – Cropping Body Parts

John Parisi from Hartford, CT writes: I am struggling with the age old question of where to crop a body. One place says not at a limb etc. but it if you look in magazines, these rules are always broken. However, if I dare post a photo on Flickr and cut somewhere else, I get attacked. Is there no specific rule or should I just use my judgement?

Scott: You should use your judgement but there are some guidelines. First off, don’t worry too much about Flickr attacks unless they are from folks like Scott Kelby, Joe McNally, or Art Wolfe. In the portrait world, we have some simple guidelines we follow. You don’t want to crop anyplace where there is a joint. For example, if cropping the hand, it’s better to crop above the wrist than to chop off the fingers. The question is always whether you intended to crop at that point.

Question Eight – Securing Photography Equipment in Checked Baggage

Bob Panick from Gibraltar, Michigan writes: When you have to bring cases of gear in checked baggage how do you secure it since the TSA locks are a joke? I plan to carry most of my stuff on, but there are a few things that will have to get checked like my tripod.

Scott: A checked bag is a lost bag and yes, the TSA locks are a joke. It can be lost, stolen or damaged at the gate, while it’s being checked, or at the luggage pick-up area. My advice is to ship stuff ahead by UPS rather than trusting it to the airlines. Something like a tripod is generally safe but sometimes TSA might take it apart to check it and they often don’t put it back together properly.

Question Nine – Online Critique Forums

Norm Tallant writes: I personally think I’ve taken a few pretty decent photos, but I reckon that in order to learn what I’m doing wrong (and right!) that I should try to find an online resource that could give me critiques and could nudge me along the path of becoming a better photographer. Could you suggest any websites or forums that might be helpful for me?

Scott: Unfortunately I can’t. I don’t believe any online critiques are valuable where the audience is allowed to be anonymous. I think the credibility of the people doing the critique is important. I would suggest offline critiques at some of the bigger shows. However, if our audience knows of any good online sites, feel free to send them in and we’ll add them to these show notes.

Question Ten – Skin Tones During Magic Hour

John Fortune writes: Taking your advice, I recently took some close up shots of my kids during a nice sunset aka the golden hour. The lighting was very nice, but when reviewing the photos at home, my kids’ faces look reddish from the light of the setting sun. How do you best use the golden hour to make portraits look nice? Do you need to adjust the white balance to take out the red tones, or is that what you are looking for?

Scott: Everybody is different but generally that is what I’m looking for in portraits. If you don’t like it, just put some blue filter in and everything will be fine. It’s the same story when photographing rock shows – go with the light that’s there.

Question Eleven – Sample Model Releases

Ravinder Takrar Cary, NC writes: Where can I find a sample model release.

Scott: Visit for an article on this very subject which includes a link to download a sample model release.

Question Twelve – Controlling Specularity

David Brown from Canberra Down Under writes: Do you have any suggestions on how to control the specularity of shiny objects like jewelry?

Scott: Shoot through a light tent. You can generally get them for around $100 at places like Adorama. Put your lights outside the tent and shoot into the tent.

Question Thirteen – Setting Hyperfocal Distances on Modern Lenses

Mike Forsberg from Australia writes: Just wondering if you have any tips for setting the hyperfocal distance on modern lenses that do not have aperture rings?

Scott: I really miss the old aperture rings. You can use some iPhone or Android applications – there are tons out there. Set your depth of field using the DOF button to figure out where your near and far distances are. Then focus about 1/3 of the way into that and you’ll achieve hyper-focal distance.

Question Fourteen – Adding Motion Blur in Photoshop

Hamilton Edwards from the UK writes: Is it okay to add motion blur in Photoshop or is it cheating? Should I only do it when I am in camera?

Scott: Who’s going to tell you that it’s cheating? I don’t think it’s cheating. You have to decide. As long as you’re not doing it in a photojournalistic sense and saying something was there when it wasn’t then it’s fine. I do it often in car photography.

Question Fifteen – The Value of Opinions

Sloan Henderson from San Diego, CA writes: How much weight should I put in other people’s opinions when it comes to my photography?

Scott: If you know who these people are and if their opinions are important to you then I would say it’s important – particularly if they are very good at photography. You don’t have to let it run your life but you should consider it. If you hear the same thing from several people in that situation then you should start to pay attention.

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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