Episode 10: Lens recommendations, backing up your photography

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In Episode 10 of the Improve Photography Podcast, Jim and Dustin answer listener questions about rain sleeves for your DSLR, working with multiple bodies, and their desert island lens recommendation.

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Guide to Episode 10

Dustin and Jim wish all of the listeners of the podcast a very merry Christmas and thank you all for supporting Improve Photography.

[0:56] What are some lenses that photographers should have for general photography?

Jim and Dustin already mentioned last week what lenses they recommend for all-around lenses, but this listener is asking what lenses she should have in her back for general photography use.  Also, this listener didn't ask for a budget, so Jim and Dustin recommend the best quality lenses for professional photographers.

Wide angle lens: 16-35mm lens for Canon or 16-35mm lens for Nikon

Standard lens: 24-70mm f/2.8 lens for Canon or 24-70mm f/2.8 lens for Nikon

Telephoto lens: 70-200mm f/2.8 lens for Canon or 70-200mm f/2.8 lens for Nikon

[4:24]  What online backup strategy should photographers employ?

Carbonite is a great option for photographers who have fast internet connections without data caps,and who don't produce a lot of photos each week.

Back Blaze is another popular option for large libraries.

Jim and Dustin produce enough photos and video each week that the Internet connection can't send it all online and keep up, so they use Netgear ReadyNAS units.

[13:10] How do you troubleshoot a focus issue where the focus simply doesn't end up where the photographer thought they put it?

Jim says this is a common issue with students in his online photography classes.

He says that the first thing you need to do is look around the photo to see if there is a place in the photo that IS sharp.  This will help you to know if you just didn't get the flash exactly on the subject's eye, or if you simply didn't capture a sharp photo.  The chances of the lens back focusing are much less likely than the likelihood of this being user error.

Jim and Dustin created the definitive guide to getting sharp photos in this post.

[16:00]  When should photographers use the Flashbender as opposed to straight on-camera flash?

The answer?  Always.  The purpose of using a Rogue Flashbender is to soften on-camera flash, so there really wouldn't be a time where you'd want to choose straight flash over the Flashbender or similar on-camera flash device.

[19:20] What camera bag do you recommend?

Jim and Dustin highly recommend the Clik Elite Pro bag as your first serious camera bag if you like the backpack style bags.  They cost about $150 and will easily fit several lenses including a 70-200mm fixed on the lens.

[22:00] Is it worth the money to buy a name brand flash, or should photographers choose the off-brand?

Generally, Jim and Dustin recommend going with the off brand flashes such as the YN-560 II, which costs about $75.  They have found this flash to be durable, powerful, and easy to use.  However, there are some features of the expensive flashes that might merit the expensive flashes if the features are important to you.

The main differences are that the inexpensive flashes generally don't have ETTL or high speed sync.  Jim says that he RARELY needs high speed sync and that many photographers are deceived by the importance of this feature until they understand flash sync speed.  High speed sync is really only useful if you're shooting action sports.

[27:05] How do you get the white paper background to come out looking white?

Shooting on a white paper background is easy, but there are a few things you need to know.  First, you need to get a lot of separation between the model and the background so that no shadows are cast onto the background.  Second, be sure to put a light behind and to the side of the model that is facing the background to light it separately.  Sometimes you'll want two flashes, one on each side of the model and off to the side of the frame pointing to the background.

Last, be sure not to over-light the background.  You really don't want to blast the flashes at full power on the background.  It just needs a little light.

[24:00] Why can't I get my flash to fire off-camera?

The flash should generally work by simply putting it on the camera and pressing the shutter button.  However, there are a few things to remember.  Some camera models won't fire the flash if you're in shutter priority mode or if you're in live view mode.  Also, be SURE you have fresh batteries in the flash.  Just because the flash turns on doesn't mean it has enough battery power to flash.

If you're doing off-camera flash, be sure that the lock on the trigger or receiver is seated snugly on the camera.  Also, make sure the trigger and receiver are using the same channel.

[38:15] Canon vs. Nikon vs. Sony?

The Canon and Nikon brand cameras are so competitive between each other that there is really little difference between them.  For example, it used to be that Nikon cameras had a huge advantage over Canon in terms of flash photography features, but in the last year, Canon has really caught up.

Canon has recently increased its pricing, which has given Nikon an advantage in terms of pricing.  Jim says that he prefers Nikon's entry-level DSLR cameras, but thinks Canon has a little advantage in the pro DSLR market.

Sony has some very enticing offerings, and they are a serious competitor in the market now.  Jim likes the frame rates on the Sony DSLR cameras as well as the auto focus in video mode; however, he says that his major beef with the Sony system is that the lens lineup still can't compare with Canon and Nikon–despite the fact that third party lens makers such as Zuiko and Rokinon are helping the Sony lens lineup.

[32:00] Prizes for reviews!

Dustin and Jim forgot to mention the winner for the reviews last week, so they announce two winners this week.  The two winners are Jill Greeve and Selmel.  If that's your username on iTunes, email Jim at [email protected] 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).

[48:30] Doodads of the Week

Dustin's pick of the week is a sensor test done by DxOMark, where they compared the Canon 6D to the Nikon D600.  Both cameras are priced at about $2,000 and are game-changing inexpensive full-frame cameras.  In the test, the Nikon D600 kicked Canon's butt.

Jim's pick of the week is Artisan HD.  Jim visited an art gallery of Peter Lik in Vegas a while ago and fell in love with the print quality.  He found a blog post from Artisan HD, where they walk through how to make a Peter Lik-style print.  They are the only print lab that Jim could find that does this style of print.  He is anxious to order a print like this.

12 thoughts on “Episode 10: Lens recommendations, backing up your photography”

  1. What a pleasant new years surprise! Finished the other 9 Podcasts this week. Can’t wait to hear this one…

  2. Bill D'Innocenzo

    I just discovered your site in the past couple of weeks. Have listened to all your podcasts and a YouTube video. Love what you guys are doing and can’t wait to learn more.

    Best wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!!!

  3. Just a quick note since you mentioned the inability to use flash and live view. You can use both on the Canon T4i.

  4. @Tim – That is correct that you can do it just fine on some camera models. Other camera models prevent it, though. Weird.

  5. Stacey Mitchell

    I’m an old 35mm film shooter and have a lot of catching up to do. Dslrs left me in the dust until I got the Canon G12. Your podcast has inspired me to go back to shooting totally in manual (like I used to). I have sampled other podcasts and you Gentlemen have the best one going. Birthday in June, leaves me with lots of time to form opinions on gear – with your help. The 5d Mark3 is on my list. Keep challenging US!

  6. ana lucia PEREZ

    I just dicovered your podcast on past december. I am a photographer but also a mom with not too much time to spend sharing with other photographers and catching up with everything related to photo. In every podcast I just have learn so many things and confirm so many others I thought only happened to me. I just love your podcast!!!!!!!!!!!! Thaks for sharing all your know how.


  7. Hi, I’ve been listening to all of your podcasts, I’m doing an “IMPROVE PHOTOGRAPHY PODCAST MARATHON”, I love them! I have also taken the “Portrait” class, which was great! I wanted to share my own experience with my “flash not working”. When I first got my flash, I immediately popped it on my camera and on my soft box stand. Couldn’t get it to fire after an hour of messing with all of the settings, exchanging batteries, etc. Then, after studying the booklet picture VERY closely, I realized that I had simply put them on backwards on BOTH the camera and the light stand! DUH! Truly a LOL moment! The flash worked perfect after I correct my mistake:D Thanks for sharing all of the q&a’s, it is so helpful, and sometimes funny!

    1. Glad you’re enjoying the show, Tricia! But watch out…. listening to Dustin for too long can cause a variety of diseases. MACosis is a common one…

  8. Where id you guys go? No podcast in a month. I really enjoy what you do. I appreciate the effort you put into having as few repeat questions as is practical.

    PLEASE….post more podcasts !

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