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Photofocus Episode 96

Special Guest: Kevin Kubota ()

Show notes by Bruce Clarke ()

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This week we kick things off with a question about reflectors:

Question One – Reflectors

Whats the difference between a gold, silver and white reflector? Peter Williams Toronto, Ontario CA

Kevin: It will be the color and intensity that it reflect. If you’re looking for that that warm California sun kissed look then the gold works really well. If you want that same crisp light without the gold cast then silver works really well. White is a bit softer and more neutral. Personally I tend to go with white reflectors.

Scott: There are times when you want specularity and that’s when you’ll use the silver reflector.

Question Two – dSLR or Dedicated Video Camera

I know you shoot a lot of video. Is it better to use a DSLR or a dedicated video camera? Herman Goldman New York

Kevin: Personally I use a dSLR because I like being able to use all the lenses I have.

Scott: dSLRs are a lot of fun but can be hard to focus with. I’ve moved to dedicated video cameras for big shoots because you don’t have to gear them up like you do with dSLRs. I like the Canon XF series but I do have the C300 on order. If you’re going to shoot with a dSLR, I recommend getting something like a Zacuto Z-Finder.

Question Three – Protecting Gear from Condensation

When people say to put your camera and lens in a Ziploc bag so the condensation forms on the bag not the lens do I need to put just the body and lens that is not in my camera bag in the Ziploc bag or all the lenses that I will be using on that shoot? Dean Blowers Stoke, England

Scott: If you’re carrying stuff into extreme environments, you may want to put everything into Ziploc bags. This will keep the condensation on the bag and not on the gear. If you’re buying any used gear and it has mold on it – steer clear.

Question Four – Using the Distance Scale

How does one use the distance scale on a lens for photography and video? I have the EF-S 15-85mm Canon lens. Soujanna Sarkar

Kevin: You’ll see lines on the lens that used to correspond to an f-stop and that would tell you the range of what would be in focus. As far as using it, most people don’t use them anymore because they rely upon their auto focus and through the lens.

Scott: For me, the distance scale has mostly been to determine the hyperfocal distance but with most of the modern lenses you can’t do that anymore. In the video world we use it for focus. These days though it’s really just an approximation.

Question Five – Things to Look For When Buying Used Gear

I’d love to know what you look out for when buying used gear and that sort of thing. I see great prices on eBay occasionally, but I’m a little leery of that, considering how little recourse you have. Jim Hoffman

Kevin: I have bought stuff on eBay before and haven’t run into any issues but I do know people who have. If you’re going to buy used, buy from a dealer who will give you a warranty. Some of the cameras will keep track of shutter actuations which you might be able to check out.

Scott: I think you’re always going to be safe if you buy from a well-known National store like KEH or Adorama. If you buy in eBay, look for their selling history and their reputation. Things to look for – excessive wear and tear, dust or mold inside the lens, worn out connectors, zooms that are loose, etc. Take some test pictures if you can.

Question Six – Exposure Problem Shooting Egrets

I love to take photos of the Great Egrets and Snowy Egrets we have in new England during the warm weather. They are so white that I have real problems getting any detail in the feathers. By the time i reduce the exposure enough to get detail in the feathers the rest of the photo is way too dark. What do you suggest? Marty Grassie

Kevin: Whenever you have extreme contrast in the scene and you want to hold important detail there are a couple of ways to handle it. One is to take an incident reading and not reflective reading. Try using a spot meter on the dress or the egret and then over expose by a stop. Then you can open up the shadows in post, especially if you’re shooting in RAW.

Scott: I know this problem well. They key is shooting RAW and holding the detail in the highlights.

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Question Seven – Focus Area on a Fisheye Lens

On a fisheye lens, is the depth of field parallel to the camera or parallel to the curvature of the front lens element? (i.e. is the focus “area” curved?) JC from Rockland, Ontario, Canada

Kevin: I’m going to take a wild guess that the plane of focus will still be parallel to film plane or sensor even though the lens element is curved. I find that they are designed to give you a flat plane of focus.

Scott: If you shoot a fisheye lens at wide open, then everything is still in focus so I wouldn’t worry about it too much. Even at f4 everything will be in focus.

Question Eight – Camera Level vs. Bubble Level

I had an occasion to shoot something that needed to be exactly level. I was using a Canon 7D on a Manfrotto tripod that had a bubble level. When I went into the camera’s level function I found that it didn’t agree with the bubble level. So, which one should you trust? ( I went with the bubble.) Kevin Grishkot

Scott: I think this is a trick question. The tripod might be level at the height that the tripod is sitting but the camera is going to be higher than the tripod. Just because the tripod is level, doesn’t necessarily mean the camera is level. Ultimately I would trust the cameras levels the least because they are electronic.

Kevin: Go with whichever bubble is closest to the film plane.

Question Nine – Street Photography and Model Releases

I would like to grab some shots of people begging on the street. Occasionally, I do drop some money in their buckets and I would like to take their photo for A) my blog and B) to insert in one of the print articles I write for publication. I’m hesitant to ask them because I feel anything verbal would be useless…or would it? I realize you’re not a lawyer (thank God!) but the other day you talked about shooting people on a public street and if one didn’t use it in an advertisement, it would be okay. Certainly, personal use would be okay, but what if I’d like to post on my blog or use in a print article in a commercial publication (NOT sold to an agency as an ad)? Is this okay without any written or even verbal permission because it’s on a “public street?” Larry Gauper Fargo, North Dakota

Scott: I would take the picture and if it’s supposed to be photojournalistic I wouldn’t ask. I would throw a dollar in the bucket and then wouldn’t use that photo for anything other than art or editorial use. No agency will buy it without a release.

Kevin: A verbal release is useless, no matter how much they say it will be okay.

Question Ten – Memory Card Went Through the Wash

I inadvertently left my 32GB Sandisk CF card in my pants when they went through the wash. I have heard 3 different views on this: 1. The card should be fine, people say they reuse them with no problem. 2. The card should be fine, but if you’re doing paid work, you might think twice about using it. 3. The card is toast, and should be thrown out. After over a week of sitting on my kitchen table to dry, I put it in my 5D Mark II today, and the card formatted fine, and I took about 15 or so test shots, and all was ok. Being it was a fairly expensive card, should I trust it, or take a few minutes and cry about the loss and throw it away? Ken Jancef

Kevin: From my experience, I haven’t had any problems after running a card through the wash. If you’re shooting paid work, then you might want to play it safe and use it for less critical jobs. It’s also a good idea to label your cards with the date or some other way of indicating that it got wet so you’ll remember which card it was if you do have issues.

Scott: I’ve done it too and used the cards for years with no problems. Most Pro dSLRs now come with two cards slots and you can configure them shoot to both cards simultaneously so I like to configure them that way on big jobs where I can’t afford to lose anything.

Question Eleven – Getting Started in Wedding Photography

Id like to break into wedding photography as a business. Do you have any tips on how to go about 1. Getting experience 2. Getting gigs. William Johnson Los Angeles, CA

Kevin: I started by offering my services to other photographers and friends as a sideline shooter. Then start by offering services to friends or family who otherwise weren’t going to hire a photographer so you can get some images for your portfolio.

Scott: Getting gigs is all about networking. Try to connect with all the other wedding vendors. Make sure you do some second shooting before you try to do a wedding on your own.

Question Twelve – Holding Detail in the Shadows or the Highlights

If you have to choose between holding detail in the highlights or the shadows, how do you decide? Mary Ellis Philly, PA

Kevin: I would hold the hi lite detail in most cases but that is presuming that is the most important part of your subject.

Scott: Decide what the most important thing is in the photograph. If it’s bright, hold the hi lites. If it’s dark, hold the shadows.

Question Thirteen – Workflow for Image Backup and Archiving

Can you briefly describe your image backup/archive workflow? I want to make sure I don’t lose any valuable images to a blown hard drive. Mark Thomas Vancouver, BC

Scott: I don’t think an image is real until it’s in at least three places. I shoot dual format cameras with two cards taking the same picture. When I get back to the office, I immediately off load them to Aperture which is stored on a large RAID array. After I do that, I have a separate copy of the Aperture vault that I copy to a drive that put in a plastic static free box that I take home. That way I have a copy away from my office. Then at night we have an automated system that backs it up into the cloud in another location. Then I will erase the CF cards.

Kevin: I have a similar workflow. I will shoot two cards in the camera. I then throw them onto a RAID drive and back up to a 2nd RAID drive. We used to burn a DVD for weddings of the original files and we store that off site at my home. Once I’ve verified that it’s in at least 2 places, then we clear the cards.

Question Fourteen – Cropping Images

Is it okay to crop an image to something other than a standard size? All the frames I see in stores are 5×7 or 8×10 but sometimes I like to shoot odd dimensions? Sally Sorlee Paris, France

Scott: I shoot whatever I want and let them build a frame for it. I will also buy a standard frame and then get a custom mat cut for it. That will be much cheaper than a custom frame.

Kevin: I love to play with all kinds of different crops. You don’t have to buy the frames from the stores. Many of the labs will do custom canvas wraps in just about any size you need. If you see it in a certain way then I say show it that way. You can also get custom frames done.

Question Fifteen – Sorting and Selecting Images

How do you sort out your keepers when you come back from a photo shoot? Are there images you just discard out of hand or do you rate each image and then continually cull them until you find the ones you like? Luke Hanson London, UK

Kevin: I do a combination of both. I go through and use star ratings to tag everything I like. I will then hide the other ones and start rating images up and compare similar images to pick the best. I have a system that tells me what each star means.

Scott: I use Aperture and I hit the 9 key for anything I know I’m not going to want. Then I hit 3, 4 or 5 stars to narrow down my choices and then I’ll go back and 9 the 3s and 4s until all I’m left with are 5 star images. I don’t normally delete images unless they are a pure black or white frame or completely out of focus and not usable because you never know what they might be worth later on.

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.

Kevin Kubota is at

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