Episode 17: Light Meters, How to Price a Wedding, Canon 60D Image Sensor, and more!

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In Episode 17 of the Improve Photography Podcast, Jim and Dustin answer listener questions about Highlight Tone Priority, pricing a wedding, light meters, going from a crop sensor to a full-frame camera, and more.

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Guide to Episode 17

[0:54] Jim – what was the case you posted a picture of on Facebook before you went out of town last weekend?

We use the Pelican 1510 case whenever we travel. We have soft-sided bags, but when we’re travelling we always put our gear in a Pelican case – it’s waterproof, dust-proof, drop-proof, Jim even claims it is tank-proof! (Ok – probably not, but really, it’s amazing.) If you have to check your gear on a flight, this is a great option. The dividers are a little strange, but the bag is great and it does hold quite a bit of gear. It is worth the investment because your photography gear is expensive and you want to take good care of it.

Additionally, Jim found a picture he’d taken a long time ago and marked at a two-star rating, and was glad he didn’t delete it because when he saw it he loved it! So be cautious about deleting your pictures – maybe give it a low star rating, but maybe you don’t want to delete it unless it really is trash because you may come back to it and decide you really do like it after all. Go back and look at your old photos occasionally – you might be surprised.

[3:53]  If I‘m shooting in RAW, will Active D-Lighting (Highlight Tone Priority) have any impact or will it only have an affect when I’m shooting in JPEG?

Active D-Lighting is technology in cameras when your camera takes the highest highlights in the scene and pulls them back a little bit so that it doesn’t overexpose those highlights.

This is a tough question because the answer isn’t obvious. It will absolutely have an effect when shooting in JPEG, but when it comes to RAW it gets a little tricky. Conventional wisdom says the exposure triangle (shutter speed, aperture, and ISO) are the only things that affect your picture when you are shooting in RAW. But technically, the camera does do some things to the photo between the image sensor and producing the RAW file. The photo comes off the image sensor and then goes through a  process where the tones in the image are amplified, and then a tone curve is applied to it. So when you have Highlight Tone Priority turned on, less amplification is given to the photo (which would normally just make your photo dark), but then they apply a different tone curve than they normally would which makes it look more “normal”.

Short answer: it doesn’t affect your RAW file very much – you will possibly notice a small change but this isn’t something revolutionary for your photography. If you’re shooting in JPEG, you might want to turn this mode on so you don’t over-expose the background but if you’re shooting in raw, it’s probably not worth worrying about.

[7:42] I recently purchased a Canon 60D and I’m frustrated, because you had mentioned recently that this camera isn’t as sharp as others.

See this article where we talk about the image sensor on the 60D. Yes, it is the same image sensor as the T2i, T3i, T4i, and 7D.

While that is perhaps a little frustrating and disheartening to hear, it’s still very possible to take sharp photos with the 60D. A lot of really great photographers use the 60D and take great pictures. The things that you do as the photographer are what will make your photo sharp. Now, if you do everything perfectly correct and if all settings and situations are equal shooting a 60D vs a different camera, maybe there will be a little reduction in the sharpness. But generally speaking, the 60D is a great camera and we don’t mean to make it sound like it is seriously flawed – perhaps we were a bit overzealous in our comments and made it sound like this is a bigger deal than it really is.

[10:11]  I’m looking to go to full-frame from crop sensor. What are your thoughts comparing the Canon 6D or Nikon D600 and an older model of a higher line of full-frame camera?

Let’s generalize this a bit: do you get the older model of a higher line or do you get the current model of a lower line?

Dustin says he loves new technology, and so he wouldn’t recommend getting an older camera simply because it will be phased out soon. Jim says “Nothing quite matches the smell of a new Canon.”

There are a few things to consider: if you haven’t updated your photo editing software lately then this might be a reason to go with an older camera. If you buy a camera that was announced after the version of photo editing software you are using, then you would need to update this software so it will be compatible with your new camera (and you’ll have to factor the price of the software update into the cost of upgrading your camera). However, DSLR cameras are in very high demand right now. Several years ago, Jim bought a Canon Rebel camera, used it for 2.5 years, and then sold it for $50 less than he bought it for. A lot of photographers do this. Jim says it is a good idea to stay with the newer cameras, because you really don’t lose too much money by doing that. If you always buy the newer stuff, and keep upgrading as the newer cameras come up, then you can pretty much stay on top of the new stuff by selling your old equipment before the new model comes out.

[16:50] Is the Nikon D800 a good camera for landscape photography? I currently use a Canon but I’m thinking of switching over.

Jim says the D800 is the best landscape camera out there right now. Having the 36 megapixels allows you to really do a lot of post processing without affecting the quality of the image.

There are good reasons to choose Canon and good reasons to choose Nikon. Nikons are not necessarily better for landscape photography, but they do allow for a lot of post processing. If you like punishing pixels, then Nikons are winning the megapixel race. Canon cameras have a more intuitive menu system. Remember that going from Canon to Nikon will incur a lot of expenses in buying new lenses, flash equipment, etc. Additionally, when you are used to one brand, remember that it will be a little bit of a challenge to switch over to a different brand – you will have a learning curve and it may take you twice as long to do something with your new camera than it did with your old one. It’s not necessarily that one is better than another; rather that it will take time to get used to it.

[23:50] There are different types of light meters out there. Which one do you recommend for portraits?

The kind this listener is asking about is a hand-held meter. Our short answer to this question is NONE. Read here to find out why.

[30:33] I’m shooting my first wedding as a professional photographer, and I need to know how to price it. What advice do you have?

Important: It is illegal for us to set or suggest an industry price. Prices change between different markets.

If you don’t know what you should charge, go look at full-time professional photographers in your area. You know that this price is what the going rate is, and that these photographers can feed their families by charging what they do. Once you know the going rate, you need to decide how your business is going to differ: if you want to have a wedding every single weekend, then you may need to have a little lower price than most of the photographers in your area. Jim does say that $1000 should be the very bottom of whatever you charge no matter what the market – you are going to be doing so much work for this that you need to charge appropriately. A general range in most markets is $1000-$4000, but some can go as high as $8000.

Additionally, as a new photographer, you can offer an “introductory rate”. This will help lower client expectations a little and will help make you more comfortable until you’re feeling more confident in your abilities as a photographer. Then once your skills have improved and your confidence is high, you can phase out your “introductory rate”. Be sure that your “introductory rate” isn’t so low that it will be a huge shock to your clients once you begin to charge market prices – you don’t want to build up a clientele only to scare them off with your jumping prices.

One last thing: Be VERY careful to take a wedding as a new professional photographer – it’s a very important day for people and you want to make sure you do it right. You don’t want to put yourself in a position of liability should your memory card have problems, or your camera go on the fritz. If you’re a new professional photographer, double up with someone else who has wedding experience so you will have a backup in case something goes wrong.

[36:43] Prizes for reviews!

The winner is Laterdays710.  If that’s your username on iTunes, email Jim at prize@improvephotography.com to get your free online photography class.

To be entered to win the online photography class each week, simply go to this podcast on iTunes and write a one or two sentence review.  While they appreciate a a 5-star review, any review will get you entered to win a class for free (a $98 value).

[37:15] Doodads of the Week

Dustin’s pick of the week is a new Monoprice 27 inch display. The supplier is the same one as Apple (Apple Cinema Display costs $1000) but this Monoprice comes in at $400!!! It is going to be released in a few weeks.

Jim’s doodad of the week is the DJI Phantom: a $690 remote control helicopter that is great for aerial photography. It is made to go with the GoPro Hero 3 camera. We bought a DJI Phantom for the office and we’re super excited for it to arrive!!!

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Comments from the I.P. Community

  1. Melody J. says

    I don’t see any links to your “video” podcast. I only see the audio podcast player on your website.
    Where is it? It would be fun to see.

    Thanks!

  2. Lisa says

    Hey guys! Thanks so much for answering my question about wedding pricing on this podcast. I don’t think I was very clear about my question. I wasn’t really asking how much to charge (I did research other photographers in the area before contacting you.) I really wanted to know how you break the pricing down. I did make another contact with a wedding photographer and she helped me understand the breakdown. So, I’m good there! I just wanted to let you know that I giggled at your offer to come help me. :) Trust me, I am as aware of the importance of the day. I’ve been a bridesmaid enough times to have seen ALL kinds of brides. I have another photographer with lots of experience who has already agreed to help me out. (She’s the one that is “timid” on pricing…meaning she loves what she does, she’s very good at it, but she doesn’t feel comfortable asking for money.) I was upfront with the client when they asked me to shoot their wedding and told them it would be my first one. Thanks so much again for taking the time to answer my question. Hope I didn’t freak you guys out too much! :)

  3. says

    Hi guys!
    I’m trying to leave a rating for the podcast in iTunes but I can’t seem to find the option how to do it. WHen I’m logged into iTunes (in teh iTUnes store) I can just see one single comment dated in January , 2013. Help!

  4. says

    @Agnieska TN – iTunes breaks out the comments so you ONLY see the comments in your own country, so if you live in a smaller country, you won’t see many reviews.

    We use special software to grab the reviews from all the countries so that everyone has an equal chance to win.

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