In Episode 21 of the Improve Photography Podcast, Jim Harmer, Dustin Olsen, Juan Pons (from http://dpexperience.com/), and Derrick Story (from http://www.thedigitalstory.com/) talk about mistakes to avoid and answer listener questions about lenses and time-lapse photography.
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Guide to Episode 21
[1:00] Business Mistakes to Avoid
The guys talk about some business mistakes they have made and hope you can learn from.
Jim: Pricing. He wasn’t very confident starting out, so he would charge WAY too little. He was just happy to get the work – anything at all to build his portfolio. His advice? Start by asking people their budget. You might find that they have a budget much higher than you were expecting to charge.
Juan: Marketing. He doesn’t enjoy it, and feels he is not particularly good at promoting/marketing himself. His advice? Be bolder with the way that you talk about your own work. Toot your own horn more than you normally do!
Derrick: Being too narrow in your view of what it is to be a photographer for a living. If you categorize yourself as “only an event photographer” this closes you off to other opportunities. His advice? Broaden your view early on. Listen to what people want so you can maneuver your career to get to where you want. Keep an open mind about what being a photographer is, and let it come to you.
Dustin: Not identifying the needs of your clients. Often you will do a shoot and then find out (or not find out!) later that the client wanted something specific that you didn’t give. His advice? Find out what kind of photos they are looking for, and identify the things that matter to them so that you can tailor your photography and pricing to what the client needs.
[12:11] General Photography Mistakes to Avoid
The guys talk about some general photography mistakes they have made, specifically things that held them back as they were learning.
Dustin: Not learning how shutter speed, aperture, and ISO work together early on. Once you learn how the technology works, you can really improve your skills, confidence, and ability. His advice? Learn the basic concepts right away. A few hours dedicated to learning the fundamentals can save you a lot of frustration and grief in your photography.
Juan: Looking at other people’s work and finding fault with it, or comparing it to your own. When you realize that you can learn from *anyone* you are more able to expand your skills. His advice? Remember that everyone has something to give, even the most inexperienced photographer. Your attitude makes a huge impact.
Derrick: Not learning to look at the world the way the camera is looking at the world. We have a fantastic dynamic range but our cameras have a much more limited dynamic range. When you as a person become overwhelmed by a scene, that’s very dangerous for you as a photographer. You are no longer a technician – instead you are emotional. His advice? You have to learn to see the world the way that the camera sees the world. Sometimes the second day at a location is better than the first because you are now less emotionally overwhelmed by the beauty of the scene.
Jim: Not being as calculated when shooting a portrait as you are when you are shooting a landscape or a night scene. It is sometimes easy to get caught up in taking a ton of pictures, instead of worrying about making sure the photos you are taking are good quality. His advice? Slow down, and take the time between the photos to make sure you are setting everything up correctly. Don’t just churn out photos – take a picture, fix the problems, and then go forward. But you do have to be careful that you’re not going too slow during a portrait shoot, and remember to talk during your photo session to keep the people you are shooting comfortable.
Tips for Portrait or wildlife photography:
Derrick: Once you get a shot that you like from the shoot, show it to the model and it will give them some confidence which will improve the shoot for everyone.
Juan: Work at a speed that is comfortable for your subject. Read body language and cues to help you know what tempo you should be shooting at.
[30:52] Workflow or Post Processing Mistakes to Avoid
Jim: Waiting too long to learn masking. His advice? You can save yourself a lot of headache if you just take the time to learn how to use masking properly.
Dustin: Doing too much to the photos. His advice? Avoid overprocessing your photo; you don’t want it to look like it’s been dipped in radiation.
Juan: Not taking a break during post-processing. Once you look at it for too long, your eyes become adjusted and you will begin to miss a lot of the details, especially with regards to color. His advice? Get up, walk away, look at a blank sheet of white paper, and let your eyes adjust. Then go back and work on your images again.
Derrick: Working on your bad images. Nobody has time to be editing all their poor or average shots. His advice? Rate your images first, so you are only spending your image editing time on good shots. You can always come back to the lower quality images later if you want or need to.
[41:45] I have a Canon 3Ti, and I already have 70-200 f/2.8 lens. I’m looking for more zoom, and considering the 100-400 push-pull zoom, the 300mm f/4 prime, and the 400 mm f/5.6 prime. I’m doing this on a budget, and would like to be able to shoot landscapes as well as birds. Which lens should I get?
The most flexible of the three lenses is the 100-400. This lens has a nice range, and is compact for its reach. However, it is a push-pull design so it has to be cleaned quite often. Its maximum aperture is 5.6-6.3 and it doesn’t work well with a teleconverter. But, because of the zoom, it is very versatile. Juan’s favorite of the three is the 300mm f/4 because it is very lightweight, incredibly sharp, and can take a teleconverter very well. The 400mm f/5.6 is a great lens, but again doesn’t accept a teleconverter well. The 300 f/4 lens is Juan’s recommendation in this situation. Derrick also recommends the Canon 70-300 f/4 – 5.6.
[52:40] Time-lapse photography: What suggestions do you have for a first timer?
Jim says you need to figure out how you’re going to keep the flicker out of the time-lapse. If you grab a little piece of paper and roll it up tight, and take your lens off, you can see the ring that controlls the aperture – it flips back on a spring. Put a toothpick-sized piece of paper in there and it will force the aperture to stay there. This will make the aperture stay the same throughout all your photos and you won’t get the flicker. Just beware that you won’t see any aperture information in your photo’s metadata.
Juan suggests doing post-processing on your time-lapse photos as well. Shoot them in mRAW to save a little space. LRTimelapse is a great option to use with Lightroom to save a lot of time and create some really incredible time-lapses.
[58:13] Doodads of the Week
Jim’s doodad of the week is for people who are getting started in lighting. Lighting supplies can really be very expensive, but a very inexpensive trigger is the Yongnuo RF-603 radio trigger.
Dustin’s pick of the week is pixlr.com – this is amost like an online version of Photoshop Elements, and could be a great option for some people.
Juan’s pick of the week is the MTX from Really Right Stuff. This is a really handy tool to keep with you on the field for fixing just about anything on your camera.
Derrick’s pick of the week is the Frio Hot Shoe Mount. You can put any type of hot shoe device in there and connect it to a tripod or a light stand. It has a lock on the back to keep whatever you’ve put in it from sliding out.