Episode 11: How to Get the Most Out of the Camera You Already Own

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In Episode 11 of the Improve Photography Podcast, Jim and Dustin answer listener questions about choosing an online photo printing lab, getting started with portrait lighting, choosing a lens, and how not to feel stuck with your current gear.

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Guide to Episode 11

[0:43] What is the best online photo printing lab?

Jim and Dustin published an article this week where you'll find the answer to this question.

[8:00]  Should photographers just use flash, or are constant lights better to learn on?

The problems with constant lights are (1) they usually aren’t battery powered, so you aren’t very portable and need a wall outlet, (2) many of them don’t put out enough light for still photography, (3) they are always on, so it makes the model squint and blink when looking into them, (4) most of them get VERY hot although LED and CFL bulbs don’t suffer from this as much, and (5) since they don’t pop light, they don’t freeze action which can result in blurry motion photos in the studio.

HOWEVER, constant lights also have some really nice advantages for some photographers.  For example, (1) no need to recharge batteries, (2) it is easier to set up the lighting because you can see how the light impacts the model as you work, which is great for learning lighting, (3) they are less likely to scare babies and small kids who are startled by the pop of light.

If you shoot baby photography or product photography where nothing is moving around…. constant lights have some nice advantages.

[13:00] Do photographers still need fast aperture lenses, since our cameras are capable of capturing a lot of light with new high ISO cameras?

Jim says that the ISO is very helpeful in gathering light, but it really doesn't replace a fast aperture lens because one of the main reasons for fast aperture lenses is to achieve shallow depth of field.

[15:00]  How can photographers make the most out of the camera they already have without feeling like we are limited by not having higher-end equipment?

Dustin says to make sure you've really learned all the features in your current camera.  He recommends this article on finding the hidden features in your DSLR camera.

Jim says to quit focusing on the one photo you can't take with your current gear, but to focus instead on the millions of photos you can't take.  For example, if you only have a kit lens, don't try and shoot small birds in Yellowstone since you don't have enough zoom for something that small and far away.  Instead, go take landscapes or night photography, because an 18-55 lens will be great for that.

One reason photographers feel limited by gear is that they frankly aren't happy with the creativity of the photos coming out of the camera.  If you feel like you haven't taken a great picture in a while, it is easy to say it's because you don't have the right equipment to improve.

[22:00] What neutral density filter do you recommend?

You can find our filter recommendations here.

[23:05] What photo editing and organizing program do you recommend?

Jim says lightroom is the best program for this situation.

Doesn't can't even focus on the question because the listener used the word “iphoto.”  He goes on a rant on how much he hates it.

[28:40] What is the difference between all of the different picture styles and controls?

They change the jpeg preview of the photo to add more or less color, contrast, and sharpness.  Dustin recommends taking a picture with each of the styles to see how they affect your photos.  He said there is a lesson in the intermediate online class about picture styles and how to set your own custom picture styles

[32:15] Any tips on how to get started in stock photography?

Jim says that you can expect to earn about $1 per image per month by doing stock photography.  So if you get a few hundred up, it's a nice paycheck each month.

The problem with stock photography is finding locations, props, and models for unique places where you can take photos.  So, think about your friends and family to find unique props and locations where you could shoot stock photography.

Also, you'll have to choose whether you want to get a slightly higher percentage by being an exclusive photographer at istockphoto.com, or if you want to take the time to upload each of your photos to all of the different microstock websites like Fotolia, Shutterstock, Canstock, etc.

Dustin also recommends getting a solid workflow so you can work quickly.

[38:00] How can photographers save money on used lenses?

Jim recommends buying from reputable companies such as Lensrentals or Borrowlenses.com.  You can also buy gray market lenses from companies like Adorama or B&H.  Otherwise, he recommends buying local so that you don't get surprised with a poor quality used lens.

[32:00] Prizes for reviews!

The winner is CrazyabtDisney.  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

Jim's doodad of the week is Pixoto.com

Dustin's pick of the week is our Instagram contest.  Upload any photo with the theme “city life” and use the hashtag #improvecitylife

7 thoughts on “Episode 11: How to Get the Most Out of the Camera You Already Own”

  1. Hi, I just wanted to let ya know two things:

    One, your podcasts are my main source of info, and they are soooo helpful!

    Two, You typed a wrong word at 23:05 second paragraph first word you meant to say Dustin, but you said Doesn’t instead.

    Just to help ya,
    Jordan Hiemstra

  2. I am a rabid Mac fan myself and want to let you know that you can set the default photo editor in iPhoto. Go to Preferences, General, Edit. Choose ‘In Application’ and choose Photoshop or PS Elements. When you are done with editing, use Save As to rename your photo into a different folder outside of iPhoto, and reimport into iPhoto if you choose to. If you save as the same name, it will replace the original file in iPhoto. To edit the photo in its original RAW format, you must set that preference separately from your edit preference. Choose iPhoto > Preferences and click Advanced. Select the “Use RAW when using external editor” checkbox. Caveat: I still use iPhoto ’09 so do not know if these is true of later versions. I love the podcast, and cannot wait for the beginning course to start!

  3. I can’t thank you guys enough for the wealth of valuable information you include in these podcasts! You guys are amazing and the information is always explained in a way that everyone can understand!! Thanks a million!!

  4. “Jim says to quit focusing on the one photo you can’t take with your current gear, but to focus instead on the millions of photos you can take”

    This is a great piece of advice and a nice way of putting it. So many opportunities to take advantage of. Just requires some patience and thought.

  5. This information is very helpful, thank you!!! I just bought my first nikon dslr (D5100). I skipped the kit lens and I’m trying to figure out which one lens I should start off with. I bought a Tamron 18-270 F/3.5-6.3 lens but now I’m thinking I might be better off starting with a prime lens. I would buy a bunch, but I want to spread that out since they are pricey.

    I’m pregnant so soon I will want to take lots of baby pictures and eventually child pictures, but I don’t want to limit myself too much.

    I would love your opinion: If you could only have one lens, which would you chose?

    Thank you!!!

  6. Jim, while I usually love your recommendations I can’t get behind your recommendation of Pixoto. The concept is great, I love the dueling aspect of it however I don’t like that you need to give a credit card for the 3-day trial and you can’t view any details without doing the trial. Great concept, poorly executed by what seems like people that are in it for the money and not for the love of photography.

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