Friday Photo News

Well, it’s Friday and the weekend is finally here so I thought I’d bring you some of the latest and greatest happenings in the photo world.

  • Joe McNally has a new book coming out titled, “The Hot Shoe Diaries: Big Light From Small Flashes” and I am REALLY excited about it! Joe’s last book, “The Moment It Clicks” was a huge hit and I refer back to it often. You can read more about it and get a sneak peek of the new book on Joe’s blog.
  • Scott Kelby and Matt Kloskowski have done it again! If you’re a Nikon shooter, you’ll definitely want to check out Nikon DTOWN! Scott and Matt will be hosting a weekly video to showcase Nikon’s gear and provide tips and tricks as well. The show’s premier was on Wednesday and has gotten a great response! Check it out!
  • B&H Photo has the Canon 5D Mk II in stock now and is offering free shipping! If you’ve been looking for a 5D Mk II, I’m sure you’re aware that they have been hard to find! Strike while the iron is hot and order yours today!
  • For your weekly photography inspiration, be sure to check out the Lighting Essentials Flickr group for some excellent photography that is very well lit!

That’s it for today and it’s time to wrap things up for the week. I’ve got a couple of assignments next week to shoot, so I’ll be sure to post some shots for you to see. I hope you have a great weekend and keep your eye in the viewfinder!


It’s Macro Time!

One of my favorite things to do as a photographer is to shoot subjects that my kids like. I do this because I can get prints, frames, and hang them up in their rooms. Now they have something that none of their friends have, which they really dig.

Since my youngest son is a big fan of the movie Cars, I decided that I would shoot some of his toys to use for new prints. Enter Macro Photography.

Now, I don’t have a really expensive macro lens or even an extension tube. But do I really need one? For what I’m doing, not really. For the shot above I actually used a Nikon 50mm f1.8 prime lens. I could have also used my Nikon 70-300mm VR lens.

My lighting was pretty simple, yet very effective. I wanted a big, soft light source so I used a couple of speedlights with shoot through umbrellas and I brought the umbrellas in nice and close. I set them up on both sides of the subject for some nice cross-lighting. I had the speedlights in Manual and they were set to 1/4 power +1/3 exposure value. I also now exclusively use the Nikon Diffusion Domes on my flashes all the time, a tip I picked up from Joe McNally. I triggered the flashes with CyberSyncs from Paul C. Buff.

Here’s a quick setup shot:

So if you don’t have tons of extra cash laying around to throw at a macro lens, don’t sweat it. You can probably use what you already have. One of the key elements to remember is your lens’ minimum focusing distance. That will come into play big time. For really small things and if I were shooting macro for hire, I would get a macro lens. (Or an extension tube at minimum.)

That’s it for me today, I’ll see you back here tomorrow to wrap up the week and head into the weekend! Have a great day!

Do I Really Need An f2.8 Lens to “Cook” the Background In My Photos?

This is a really hot topic of discussion right now. It applies to me nearly all the time because I am a big fan of outdoor or location portraits. I’ve read really heated discussions on this and there are strong arguments for both sides, but I’m going to do a little “show and tell” about what I found out about my gear in my gear bag.

I recently had a friendly conversation with my friend Tom at Calumet Photo here in San Diego. I was talking to him about how a lot of folks are selling or trading glass to get Sigma or Tamron f2.8 zoom lenses. I explained that I have the Nikon 16-85mm VR and 70-300mm VR lenses for zooms and what he thought about those lenses compared to the Tamron and Sigma zooms. What he said may (or may not) shock you.

Tom told me that as a friend, he would tell me to keep the Nikon glass unless I really needed to shoot in low-light situations ALL THE TIME. Notice I emphasized those last three words. He said that for the work that I do that I would get no increase (and maybe even a slight decrease) in optical quality with a Tamron or Sigma lens.

Cooking The Background

This is a term or phrase used to describe dialing in a large aperture (small f-stop number) into your camera in order to keep your subject in focus and throw your background out of focus. This is directly related to Depth of Field. A shallow depth of field will allow you to “cook” the background (great for portraits), while a deep depth of field keeps everything in your image in focus (great for landscapes).

Small aperture setting (large f-stop number, like f22) = deep depth of field
Large aperture setting (small f-stop number, like f4) = shallow depth of field

There are a couple of other things that affect this as well, like focal length of your lens, subject to background distance, and focusing distance.

The image you see above I shot with my D90 and Nikon 70-300mm VR lens at f5.6. I had the lens racked all the way out to 300mm and I was about 6 feet away from the hummingbird feeder. My background was about another 10 feet away and I was able to really throw my background out of focus, which draws the viewers eye to the bird.

Many pro photographers say that the sweet aperture for shooting portraits and throwing the background out of focus is f4, which I can’t do at all with that lens, at any focal length. It’s maximum aperture is f4.5. However as you can see above, f5.6 looks pretty good and I probably won’t have any trouble cooking the background on an outdoor photo shoot.

So after saying all that, I hope you got my point. If not, my point is that you don’t necessarily need f2.8 glass to be able to cook the background in your images. Pay attention to your ratios that I mentioned above and you’ll be fine. I really don’t need f2.8 glass because I don’t shoot in low light situations very often and even if I did, I can get very useable images out of the D90 even at ISO 3200. If I really need some fast glass, I’ll probably just rent a really good Nikon lens like the 70-200 f2.8 or the like. Although, there are definitely some more Nikon prime lenses in my future!

If you have questions or comments, feel free to leave them below and I’ll answer them as quickly as I can. Have a great day and I’ll see you tomorrow for a little lesson in macro work.

Photoshop: Not Just For Editing Photos

Okay, if you’re an experienced Photoshop user you probably already know this… but I’m going to discuss it anyway. Photoshop is not only a program for photographers, it’s also a powerful graphic design tool. Before you flame spray me in the comments, remember that there are readers out there that are new to all of this too. Thanks!

Photoshop is a great tool for editing photos, creating panoramas, making photo collages, and certainly retouching images. But did you also know that you can use it for promoting yourself as a photographer too? Given it’s graphic design capabilities and you can do a whole heck of a lot with Photoshop to create things like business cards, flyers, web ads, and more. There are even a lot of trader printers that have links to Photoshop templates that you can download and use to create your art. Then you can save and upload those files for your order!

I’m not going to go into a huge graphic design lesson here as I’m quite the newbie when it comes to that myself, but I wanted to show you an example of a recent online promotion that I ran. I created it completely in Photoshop CS4… from scratch.

If you want to learn more about Photoshop for photography or graphic design, then I highly recommend that you check out the National Association of Photoshop Professionals, otherwise known as NAPP. I am going on my second year as a member and I have learned a TON about Photoshop by reading Photoshop User magazine (a subscription is included with membership), watching Photoshop User TV, and checking out all the great tutorials on the NAPP website. I highly encourage anyone wanting to know more about Photoshop to become a member.

That’s it for me today. I hope you guys have a great day and I’ll see you tomorrow! 🙂

Where everyone learns Photoshop - National Association of Photoshop Professionals

Lightroom News

There’s some new stuff happening in the Lightroom realm and I thought I would pass along some of it to you. Lightroom is a really great application for organizing and processing photos and if you aren’t using it already, I highly recommend it! Now on to the good stuff…

  • OnOne Software, makers of one of the greatest plug-in suites for Photoshop, has really jumped on board the Lightroom train. Last year they had one application that worked with Lightroom, and now four of their plug-ins work hand-in-hand with Lightroom 2. Focal Point, PhotoTools, Genuine Fractals, and Photo Frame all work with LR2. Here’s the link to check ’em out on their website.
  • Adobe Labs is currently beta testing the Lightroom 2.3 update. It’s been well tested in-house, but they are now asking users to test it out and provide feedback before releasing it as a regular update. Here’s the link to the LR 2.3 Release Candidate update from Adobe Labs, but remember that if you download and install it, it will be a separate installation from your regular Lightroom installation. This is because of the “Release Candidate” status.
  • I’m currently putting the Wonderland 3.0 presets through their paces. If you haven’t heard of them already, you should really head over to their website and check ’em out. $40.00 gets you a total of 176 presets for Lightroom which is an INCREDIBLE value! If you are looking for some cool presets to assist or speed up your workflow, Wonderland 3.0 has some killer ones! I used one of their presets in processing the photo you see above. Here’s the link to Wonderland’s website.
  • Matt Kloskowski over at Lightroom Killer Tips posted a cool video illustrating the difference between the Post-Crop and Lens Correction vignette tricks in Lightroom 2. Here’s the link to the post and if you haven’t compared the two already, you’ll be blown away at the difference!
  • Another Lightroom evangelist, Wade Heninger of Heninger Fotographik has a lot of great Lightroom resources on his blog. Mr. Heninger has linked to a post on my blog and has even left a couple of comments. Be sure to head over and check out his blog, you’ll be glad that you did. Here’s the link.

Well, that’s it for today. I hope that you guys have a great week and I’ll see you back here tomorrow!

Focus Your Photography

Hey everybody, I’m sorry for the late post today. I’ve had a lot going on this week with surgery and what not, so I’ve been slacking just a little.

Today I want to talk about something that has been resonating around the photography community lately. There are a lot of pros like Chase Jarvis and Zack Arias that are bring up points about getting back to your core, your roots, your beginnings, etc. It’s all about getting re-motivated, forgetting about the business side of things, forgetting about the new gear, and just shooting.

For myself, I really don’t have to worry about the business aspect because I’m not a full-time photographer. I shoot for friends, myself, and some new clients here and there. I talked about this before when I wrote about a piece that Jack Hollingsworth wrote in Shutterbug magazine. Amateurs have the spark, the drive, and the dedication and we shouldn’t lose sight of that.

What I’m bringing to the table is this: shoot what you want to shoot. It’s easy to lose sight of what brings in the money, what pays the bills, what attracts the clients. But if you aren’t enjoying any of it, you’ll end up burned out, demotivated, and depressed. There are a good many photogs out there that can attest to this.

So I’ll leave you with that thought to ponder as we head off into the weekend. I’ll see you guys back here on Monday and I’ll hope you’ll excuse me… it’s time to go shoot! 🙂

Vision Update

So I went to the doctor this afternoon for my follow-up appointment and I am seeing 20/16 in both eyes. Not too bad if you ask me. I still see some halos around bright lights or any other light source that is in great contrast to the ambient light. Those should subside in a few weeks though. Overall, the results have been excellent and I couldn’t be happier.

Well, that’s it for today. I’ll see you back here tomorrow for one more post to carry you into the weekend!