Episode 20: Battery grips, photography safety, computers for photo editing, and more!

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In Episode 20 of the Improve Photography Podcast, Jim and Dustin answer listener questions about battery grips, safety on photography shoots, what computer to get for editing photos in Photoshop, and advice for spontaneous photography.

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Guide to Episode 20

[0:50] What kind of computer do you need for photo editing?

Photoshop and Lightroom aren't that resource-intensive – it's nothing compared to gamers or video editing. Often you can even run Photoshop on a laptop. Most computers will handle Photoshop and Lightroom just fine. If you notice it taking a long time to open Photoshop, you might consider installing an SSD hard drive – this cut our Photoshop opening time from about 1 minute to 25 seconds. Don't be afraid to install this drive yourself – it's really not very hard at all. But before you switch, make sure you back up your hard drive first!! You can get a small SSD for about $200.

Some things about Photoshop that slow the computer down: Photoshop allocates 2 GB of RAM just to run; having multiple images open and trying to edit them; if you've changed the number of history states significantly higher than the 20 it comes with by default; your photos from the camera are huge.

Some PC specific suggestions: i7 (Intel) processor if at all possible; i5 is also good; but don't go for the i3. If you could move to an SSD, that's even better, but an i7 will be good. Jim says it's nice to have your photos on a separate drive. Photoshop is really processor-intensive. RAM will help you a lot with your reliability (things like programs crashing all the time). Don't go for less than 8 GB of RAM. A lot of people get frustrated with Lightroom because it can be so slow. If you can go to Thunderbolt (Mac) or use usb-3, that will help with speed issues for Lightroom.

Some Mac specific suggestions: i7 processor; laptops are very mobile, but Dustin wouldn't do anything lower than an i7 in a laptop and get the biggest solid state drive. MacBook Air is awesome, but it needed more hard drive space and more RAM to keep up. You are going to need something else to keep your photos on because you'll fill a laptop drive in a single photo shoot. Alternatively, for the same amount of money you can get an iMac and blow the laptop out of the water. Fusion drive combines spinning drive and solid state – these are fantastic. Dustin suggests the 27″ iMac with the i7 processor (this costs about 3k – you could get a laptop i7 for around 2.5k depending on the size).

We recently got an iMac here at the office. We decided on that instead of building a PC because you always have issues with hardware compatability when you build your own machine.

[16:00]  Can you give me some suggestions for using a Neutral Density Filter?

Neutral density filter just darkens the photo. It is a dark piece of glass you screw on the end of your lens. This allows you to use a longer shutter speed (this can be great for making water look silky during the day when the sun is bright).

A graduated neutral density filter is dark on the top and clear on the bottom. This allows you to darken the bright sunset but still let in enough light to keep the ground properly exposed.

[18:30] Digital Photo Professional (Canon software) – what do you think of it?

Jim and Dustin prefer to pass everything straight through to Photoshop. Little programs like DPP are nice because they are made by the manufacturer, but they aren't a replacement for Photoshop or Lightroom. If it's working for you, don't change anything, but do go give the 30-day trial of Photoshop and Lightroom a try and see if that changes your mind. Additionally, it's really nice to use all the Adobe products because they are compatable with each other so you don't have to worry about saving your photos as different file types to make sure you can open it in the next program you're planning to use.

[21:30]  Do you have any advice or suggestions for unplanned photography with less-than-ideal conditions? (Farmers vs. Hunters)

The “farmer” photographer is the planner – really takes time to plan the shoot, plan the place, time of day, etc. The “hunter” photographer is more spontaneous and just takes pictures on a whim. Dustin feels he is a mixture of farmer and hunter, while Jim is definitely a farmer.

Jim's advice to the hunter photographers: have your camera with you ALL THE TIME. You never know when you might see something you'd just LOVE to have a picture of. Also, make sure there's something there before you click the shutter button. Three things to think about before you click the shutter button: 1. Is this subject interesting? 2. Is the lighting interesting or is it just ok? (If you think the lighting is  just ok it's probably bad lighting.) 3. Is this an interesting composition?

Dustin's advice to the hunter photographers: know well enough where you're going to be so that you can be prepared. Make sure your photo is going to stand out, or else your photos will just look like a tourist shot that anyone could take. You should consider coming back to a location if you find something great but the lighting isn't fabulous, because lighting really makes a huge difference. Don't take the shot if you know the lighting is going to be bad. Look for great shots to take, but wait for it to be the right time.

Jim has an app called “Footprints” – he will use his phone to take a picture so it will add the GPS info in the app, and then he knows the place and can go back when he has time to do the photo right.

[34:00] How do you feel safe or what precautions do you take when taking your gear out in public alone? What do you do when you're asked to shoot an event in a not-so-great area?

It's not a good idea to go out on your own with all your expensive gear, especially at night. Jim carries a canister of bear spray (pepper spray) in his bag for safety. A nice heavy tripod works as a great weapon too. Always try to find a friend – go on meetup.com and make a few photo buddies. It will be a lot more fun and it's always safer to travel in numbers. If you see a great place but you're alone, come back with a friend.

[38:05] I have a 3rd party battery grip with a connection cable. Is that normal or do the name brand ones have some kind of internal connector?

A battery grip goes underneath the camera and screws on to the bottom. This gives you an extra battery for the camera and it also gives you an extra shutter button on the side for easy shooting when you've turned the camera. There are a lot of off-brands that make inexpensive battery grips, and we absolutely recommend 3rd party battery grips. You really won't notice much difference between that and the name brand battery grips expect in the shutter button. But no – you shouldn't have to use a cable to connect it! That's a *really* cheap battery grip.

[42:00] Doodads of the Week

Jim's doodad of the week is the Rode VideoMic Pro. It's a shotgun microphone, and works well in place of the internal microphone on your camera, especially for outdoor shooting (when you would hear all the noise of the wind).

Dustin's pick of the week is the Canon ELPH, a point-n-shoot camera. Sometimes when you need your camera with you all the time, it's nice to have a point-n-shoot. They have really improved over the last few years, and you can really get something pretty decent for not too much money. Additionally, a good quality point-n-shoot is great for travelling.

[46:00] Prizes for reviews!

The winner is dam70.  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).

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