Photography and the Purple Cow [IP27]

In Episode 27 of the Improve Photography Podcast, Jim and Dustin answer listener questions about shutter actuations, metering, flash triggers, and more.

Guide to Episode 27

[0:30] Jim’s Random Thoughts

Insulation reflector board – check out this article Jim wrote called 9 Weird Photography Tricks that Actually Work to see a description of what this is and where you can use it. (Also check out the rest of the article for the other 8 weird but awesome photography tips!) Jim says he may not be using his 5-in-1 reflector much any more now that he has this! It’s super light, and it’s stiff so it won’t flop around when you hold it up. It’s also large enough to cover two people, or a full-body shot of one person.

The Purple Cow by Seth Godin – it’s a business book (nothing necessarily to do with photography) but Jim highly recommends it. Reading this book has made Jim think a lot about his photography and how it seems that so many photographers are doing exactly the same thing as every other photographer out there. Eventually, seeing something that was beautiful just becomes “normal” when that’s what you always see. Photos are getting pretty predictable now. Take some time to look for ideas, and use your creativity to start doing something different that will get noticed. Dustin points out that your idea doesn’t have to be completely unheard of or so original that nobody can believe it. Perhaps just try something that is more rare and less common and see what you can do with that.

[12:19]  How do I find out the shutter count of my camera?

Canon really hides this in most of their cameras, so if you can’t find it or if you would just like to know the shutter count of your camera, you can download a free utility called EOSInfo from astrojargon.net to find out how many shutter actuations your camera has (this utility is Windows only). This utility supports most of the Canon models. (Dustin says in the menu of the 6D you can find the shutter count, but most other Canons don’t offer this feature.)

Nikon cameras put this information right in the Exif data of any photo you take. For Nikon cameras, use any Exif reader to see the shutter actuations (and all the rest of the metadata).

Most consumer cameras are rated to 100,000 shutter actuations (though they can go longer than that, just like a car). Pro cameras are rated between 150,000 and 300,000 shutter actuations. If you’re buying a used camera, you will want to check to see how many actuations are left.

[15:11] Do you have tips for taking photos in a location where the lights are always changing (something like a dance club)?

Shoot in Manual mode. Usually indoors you will need a fast shutter speed (as fast as you can get), with the lowest f/stop you can support. Plan to use a higher ISO (at least 1600 or higher). If you are shooting in Manual mode, things will stay so much more consistent in every shot you take.

[16:53]  Is there an off-brand fisheye lens that is worth getting and costs less than $1000?

Rokinon 8mm f/3.5 lens (around $250). It gets fairly good reviews, especially considering that it is so inexpensive. Most people won’t be using the fisheye lens very often.

[17:48] What are your experiences, if any, with rechargable batteries and speedlights?

Choosing batteries for your flash can really be tough. If you’re not shooting 7-8 hours at a time (especially with more than one flash), rechargable batteries are a great option (and they’re better for the environment!). Jim recommends the Sanyo Eneloop rechargable batteries. These are great batteries – they have a quick recycle time and they last a long time. But if you’re just buying batteries from the store, probably just normal alkalines are your best bet.

[20:51] When I’m shooting in manual, what setting is best for metering?

Every photographer will have their own preference. In our Intermediate Photography class we discuss metering. Dustin uses spot metering, while Jim uses matrix metering for his landscape photos. However, both say that as they get more experienced in their photography and more comfortable with their camera, they find they use metering less and less.

[26:05] How do you deal with chain link fencing when taking photos of race cars?

The size of the glass on the end of the lens she is using is small, so it will be really hard to completely blur out the fence. Without getting different gear, the best option would be to try and get the lens to fit through the links in the fence.

A wider lens will make a big difference, because if your lens is really close to (touching) the fence, there’s no light shining on the fence to cause strange reflections, and you are using the widest aperture you’ve got, you can get some really great shots where you just don’t see the fence at all. Purchasing or renting a wider lens is a good option for solving this problem for shooting through any chain link fence (think zoo animal shots).

[30:04] Without being able to scout a location and having a specific time frame, what suggestions do you have for getting great shots? What are your thoughts on using a circular polarizer on a wide angle lens?

Because of the way a polarizer works, it could make one area of the sky look more polarized than another area of the sky that is farther away. One way to avoid this is to always shoot 90 degrees away from the sun. This is where you will get the most even polarization. If you were to shoot with a polarizer straight at the sun, then you won’t see much of any effect. Most of the time when people are asking these questions, they’re talking about the sky. If you’re only using a polarizer to make the blue of the sky bluer and the white of the coulds whiter, don’t use the polarizer. Instead, do this easily in Photoshop by going to the HSL, go into the saturation of the blues, and make it more blue. Then add contrast and that will make the whites pop as well. A polarizer is really only necessary if you are using it to cut glare on water or vegetation.

Jim and Dustin went to Oregon last year. Before they went, they spent a lot of time online looking for photos of the locations they were going to. But unfortunately, those photos don’t give you an accurate representation of what the location will look like when you get there; instead, you see the best that location can look. If you have extra time while you’re there, go back and shoot it again. It’s so much easier to get a great landscape when you can go back more than once. If you can get someone to show you around or tell you what good locations are, that can help too. Go on flickr and search for iPhone pictures of the area, because these photos will be snapshots and can give you a good idea of what it might look like when you get there.

[36:31] What flash trigger/receiver do you recommend?

Gear recommendations are something we try to stay on top of for our students and followers. Dustin is currently working on a fancy new update to the gear page that he will be rolling out in the near future. But in the meantime, the trigger we are recommending now is the Yongnuo radio transceiver.

[38:58] Doodads of the Week

Jim’s doodad of the week is a video that we just produced in a new series we are starting, called “Keep or Sweep”. Jim and Dustin do a review of a piece of gear and decide if they want to keep it or sweep it. If they both vote to sweep it, they will destroy it on camera for you to see. If one of them votes to keep it and the other votes to sweep it, they will give it away to someone who comments on the video! So keep your eyes open for those review, and subscribe to our YouTube channel so you don’t miss any of this awesome series.

Dustin’s pick of the week is Lightroom 5, just announced by Adobe. It includes a much improved content aware spot healing brush! It also has a really cool mapping feature. Dustin also loves the Creative Cloud, where you will have access to this new version of Lightroom as soon as they roll it out. Creative Cloud makes it so you don’t have to keep purchasing new software every time Adobe releases something new – you’ve always got access to the latest and greatest products they offer!

[41:47] Prizes for reviews!

The winner is ramielzen.com.  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).

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Comments from the I.P. Community

  1. says

    Re: shooting motorsport through a fence – One trick I’ve seen work fairly well is to spray (or use a marker pen) a small section black; it won’t make the fence disappear but you won’t get the glare/reflection so it’s easier to ignore.

  2. says

    Thanks for answering my questions, Jim & Dustin. Can’t wait to start experimenting more next week. Appreciate you time – and now I can tell my husband that you all said that I need new glass! … Or a new camera set up, all together?!? Yes, I’m SURE that’s what you said (jk) … Good idea, Paul – however, I’m not sure the track owners would appreciate my painting/marking their brand new fence. I guess that means I probably can’t cut it, either, LoL! The good news is, that since I have a pit pass, I can shoot from areas where I can be right up against the fence. By the on ramp, there are two sets of chain link fencing to shoot through, and in the stands for the fans, there is a wire 10 feet or so from the fence, and that is as close as people are allowed to get. But on the pits side, we can “lean on, but not hang from” the fencing. Thanks again, guys!

  3. LaGaspa McDougle says

    Karla, would I be correct in presuming that you’re shooting in “Green Mode” or have your auto focus set for AF-A (Auto Focus Automatic) for your focus points? If so, that would be a factor to your dilemma. May I suggest one of the many other choices that give you more control over what the point of focus is. AF-A would wander around and lock on to the fence. Check your owners manual because you have a lot to choose from on your camera with 3D taking and such.

  4. Brian Chambers says

    Hi guys, I wanted to get some clarification on the wireless triggers discussed in this episode. As listed on your recommended gear page for flash photography, you state the Cowboy Studio NPT-04 are infrared triggers, which you restated in this podcast again. I ordered a set of these last week and unless I’m crazy, these are not infrared trigger/receivers, but rather use FM radio like the Yongnuo set you are new recommending. Click the link on your (still not updated) gear page and here’s what Amazon’s listing says:
    One (1) User Manual
    One (1) Sync Cable
    One (1) FM Radio Receiver
    One (1) FM Radio Transmitter
    One (1) On/Off Switch and LED Trigger Indicator Light

    So…what am I missing here?

    Thanks a ton! I really enjoy listening to the podcast.

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