Episode 5: How Jim Made Dustin’s Portrait, Gear needed for Pro Photography, and Action Photography

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In Episode 5 of the Improve Photography Podcast, Jim answers photography questions from people around the world, teaches about compositing, and reviews the Tripad.

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Guide to Episode 5

[0:48] Does buying a more expensive light modifier (softbox, umbrella, etc) give a better quality of light, or is it just more durable?

In general, go with the less expensive lighting modifier.  Usually, the more expensive lighting modifiers are just more expensive because they have a brand name attached to them.  However, you should be aware that a more high quality product will give off even light and not have some spots on the modifier brighter than others.

So Jim recommends buying the less expensive lighting modifiers unless you're buying a very large lighting modifier (like a 40 inch softbox, for example), as it can cause problems if not well built at that size.

[3:50]  Where can photographers find inexpensive but high quality frames?

Jim and Dustin both lament the fact that high quality frames are usually very expensive.  However, they have found the best results by going to “mom and pop” framing shops locally to find framers who do good work at a low price.  The reason that they recommend buying local is that shipping is often very expensive for a large frame.

However, if you're looking for nice frames but not necessarily museum quality, Dustin says that he has had good experience with CraigFrames.com.

[8:00] A listener asks how to get started in HDR photography

Jim and Dustin recommend reading Trey Ratcliff's HDR Tutorial to get started.

Jim admits that he has fallen out of love with HDR photography, because he feels that most photographers (including himself) use HDR as a crutch to try and make a bad photo look decent.  Jim said he realized that he needs to stop using HDR as a crutch, but instead use it only when it is the tool needed to make a great photo better.

[12:30]  A listener asks where to put the screen on a laptop for editing photos in Photoshop

Editing photos on a laptop is not ideal, because tilting the screen back or forward can make the screen look dramatically different.

The best way to solve this problem is to set your specific laptop next to a desktop and bend the screen forward and backward, showing the same photo on both screens, to make them about the same.  Also, be sure that your laptop does not have power saver settings that would make the screen brighter or darker depending on if the power cord is plugged in.

[15:40] A listener asks how to get sharp photos when doing action shots

Jim and Dustin said that their best guess as to the sharpness problem for this listener is probably caused by the listener not using AF-C or AI Servo to continuously focus.

Dustin mentions that it probably isn't a good idea for the listener to do these action shots on a tripod.

 [21:00] A listener asks the best way to take pictures of people at night

Jim said the toughest part of shooting a night portrait is that the flash is always WAY too bright.  If the flash is bright, then the exposure on the camera has to be darkened down so much that it will make the background seem black.  Jim says to put your flash on lowest power, use a softbox to soak up an extra stop of light, and possibly even scoot the light back even though it will make the light slightly harder.

[24:40] A listener asks what the most important gear is for getting started as a professional photographer

Jim and Dustin both make it clear that they don't think you need the expensive camera and lenses for all types of professional photography.  Jim says he would be fine with a pro photographer showing up for a kids portrait session with a Canon Rebel XS and a kit lens as long as the photographer is creative and got good pictures of his kid.  However, if Jim paid for an expensive $700 kids portrait session, he would be annoyed of the photographer did not have the gear to match that level of a shoot.

Jim and Dustin basically answer that ANY DSLR and lens can be capable of doing some professional photography, but it is important that your camera and gear matches the shoot.  An older DSLR and kit lens is fine for a less expensive shoot in good lighting.  However, if you're shooting a wedding or event where the light is dim, or if you're charging for top notch photography, then you should probably rent a lens or camera so that you can achieve proper photos for the shoot.

A rustic portrait of Dustin Olsen
A portrait of Dustin Olsen by Jim Harmer

[39:20] Shoot report on the portrait Jim took of Dustin

Jim took this photo (on the left) last week of Dustin.  He wanted Dustin to look rustic and manly, but at the same time, professional.  Jim used a large octabank on a C-stand directly above Dustin to give soft but deep shadows.  Then, he got another flash and a softbox at eye level right next to the camera so that it would give catch lights and fill in the shadows a little bit.

[42:50] Prizes for reviews

The winner of the prize this week was HKDONSKIING.  If that's you, email us at prize AT improvephotography.com to get your free online class!

You can enter to win a free online photography class from Jim and Dustin by going to the Improve Photography Podcast in iTunes and writing a one or two sentence review.  Jim says he really appreciates those who have been nice enough to write reviews as it helps spread the show to others.

[43:45] Doodad of the week

Jim recommends the Crucial M4 Solid State Drive.  Using this SSD for photo editing, he can now boot the computer, open Photoshop, and edit a RAW file in about 35 seconds.  With a spinning hard drive, that same task took him a minute and 40 seconds.

Dustin recommends Printstagram, to print your Instagram photos.



6 thoughts on “Episode 5: How Jim Made Dustin’s Portrait, Gear needed for Pro Photography, and Action Photography”

  1. Reynolds thanks for asking such a great question. I have a friend who has been having this exact issue.

  2. I actually work at Craig Frames Inc. here in Michigan…so I was thrilled to come across this podcast and see that you mentioned us! As someone relatively new to photography I have visited this site countless times for tips, product reviews and techniques. Keep up the great work…it is very much appreciated!

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