In Episode 32 of the Improve Photography Podcast, Jim and Dustin answer listener questions about going from a crop sensor to a full-frame camera, using an external flash, errors when the camera and lens aren’t communicating, and much more.
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Guide to Episode 32
[0:45] For a model shoot, do I have to have a flash or will it be ok to just use a reflector?
A reflector is a vital piece of photography gear, and you really do need to have one. But is it enough to just use a reflector for a model shoot? As long as you have enough sunlight and an assistant to hold the reflector, you might be able to get away without using a flash. But if there isn’t much light (if it’s cloudy, etc) then a reflector isn’t going to do you much good.
The other thing you need to remember is that with a reflector, you can’t always control the direction of the light bouncing off your reflector (assuming you are using the sunlight for your light) – you don’t want to have the light reflecting up onto the person. If you have a flash, then you can control the direction the light will bounce because you can bounce the light off the reflector no matter where you are holding it. So if your light source is the sun, there is only a very small portion of the day when the sun’s angle is appropriate to cast a downward light on the model.
Conclusion: It is preferable to have a flash for model shoots, but if you have no other option, plan carefully and make sure to go on a day with enough sun and at a time when the sun’s angle will allow you to reflect the light down on the subject.
[2:19] I just went from a crop sensor to a full-frame camera. What tips, tricks, and advice can you give me?
In the photography world, there seems to be something mystical about shooting with a full-frame camera. But in reality, there’s not too much difference between shooting with a crop sensor and a full-frame camera. One thing you can be sure of now is that every lens you buy will be expensive, so you have that to look forward to. On the flip side of that, however, is that you will see quite an improvement in your photos simply because those more expensive lenses are also better quality than the cheaper ones.
There are a few things to get used to, especially when shooting landscapes: Full-frame cameras have a hard time getting the background in focus if you have a foreground element in the landscape. You will need to get used to taking multiple pictures (one of the foreground and one of the background) and stitching them together, or else using a tilt-shift lens. A full-frame camera is a significant difference in terms of the depth of field, which is awesome for portraits, but can be a difficulty when shooting landscapes. Additionally, when using a wide angle lens, you will start to see vignetting become more of a problem.
[7:05] How can I use my external flash off camera?
You can check out our gear page here to see our recommendations for flash gear. We’ve done a lot of the leg work for you already, so be sure to check it out.
There are a few options for getting your external flash to fire. One way is to use a remote trigger to fire the flash (check out the gear page above for our recommendations). You put a trigger on the camera and one on the flash, and then you’re ready to go. Some flashes support what is known as “slave mode” which is when the flash will fire because it sees another flash fire. This feature varies by model, so check your manual for instructions.
[11:06] As a vendor, I attend a lot of beer festivals. Even though they are at different locations and on different days, often all the pictures I take look the same. How do I create unique pictures?
What you’re searching for here is how to capture the story. If you take the same picture at every event (your group against the backdrop of your booth, for example), then all you are capturing is the same thing, over and over. Focus on what is different in the locations and work with that. If you want to have unique pictures, you need to find something that is individual about each location and capitalize on that. Often when taking photos in a large gathering the problem is that you are zoomed too far out and all you manage to capture is a lot of people grouped together. Sometimes zooming in and focusing on some of the action can really help with this.
However, remember that it is important not to zoom in so far that you cut out the story. If you do that, you lose the magic of what drew you to the photo in the first place. Try to think about what it is that made you want to take this picture, and use that to help you compose your shot.
[16:46] I’m having a problem with my camera communicating with my lens. What’s going on?
Getting an error when your camera and lens can’t communicate can be pretty frustrating, especially if you get the error during a shoot. There are a couple things you can check. First, the lens may simply be broken. If this is the case, you will need to contact the lens manufacturer to get your lens serviced. Another possible problem is that the copper contacts between the lens and the camera could be dirty. If those contacts get dirty, the camera and lens won’t be able to communicate. One way to fix this is to just take an eraser (a pencil eraser) and just erase right on the contacts, brushing the eraser dust off after you’re finished. One other problem could be that the lens isn’t quite seated. This can happen either because the lens wasn’t twisted on all the way until it locked, or because you are resting the end of the lens on another surface that isn’t allowing it to seat properly.
[20:06] What is the circle of confusion?
The circle of confusion refers to the way that the lens focuses the image onto the imaging sensor. It is something internal to the camera, and not something you need to understand or know about to be able to take good photographs. This is simply an internal way of measuring how in focus or out of focus things are in your pictures.
[22:58] What can I do to bring out the best in the models when taking their photographs?
There are a few different ways to address this problem. First, how do we minimize small flaws in appearance? The first thing you can do is spend the first 20 (at least) minutes of the shoot trying different expressions and different poses to see what looks good. Taking this time to figure out what flatters this particular person is a very important part of the equation. Additionally, software and post processing can help with these little flaws. Photoshop can help smooth skin, cover up blemishes, and other small flaws. One of the very first things you can ask your model is if there is anything they would like changed in Photoshop. If they give you permission, then you are cleared to go ahead and make these changes. If they don’t, then you know ahead of time and you won’t do something in post processing that they didn’t want done.
As for less minor flaws, sometimes it is just going to be difficult to get the photos to turn out the way you want them to. Use all the same tricks you would to fix minor flaws, and then work with the model’s personality to help them feel important and comfortable in front of the camera. Have fun with the model and this will help you bring out their personality in the photograph. Sometimes the story can make up for what might be lacking in physical appearance.
[32:17] Prizes for reviews!
The winner is denonvillier. If that’s your username on iTunes, email Jim at firstname.lastname@example.org 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).
[32:50] Photoclasses.com has a facelift!
Come check it out – we’ve done a lot of work on the site, and we’re planning to do a lot of work on the classes and videos over the rest of the year. If you’ve purchased a class from us in the past, make sure and check back to see any changes and updates that have been made to your class.
[33:48] Doodads of the Week
Dustin’s pick of the week is Portrait Professional software. You load in a portrait photo and it will detect the basic features and structure of the person’s face, then make slight changes to help the person look their best. It’s like the liquify tool, but with a brain. However, there are some flaws with the software – it won’t do two people, and it doesn’t work very well when the face is turned. For head shots, this is one of the best doodads we’ve seen all year.
Jim’s doodad of the week is the Panasonic GX7. It is a micro four thirds camera that was just announced. It costs about $1000, and Jim is dying to get his hands on one.