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Product Advice

Product Advice

Student question and review of Nikon D850

My daughter just graduated college and she has purchased a Nikon D850 SLR and a 18-140 lens. She would like to purchase a Nikon 70-300. Do you have any recommendations for her on that lens or a different one that may be a better choice for her?

Which Gear is Right for You?

Donald Peters lists the essential and nice-to-have gear for photographers.

Shooting Video on HD DSLR Still Cameras, Workflow, Stabilization Rigs and Brackets

I get a number of inquiries from students who are moving into DSLR Video shooting (shooting HD Video on a DSLR camera). Obviously for quick, down and dirty video you only need a video capable camera. But once you dive in, you should learn a few tricks and you will covet a few gadgets.

Buying a Laptop VS Desktop; Laptops in the Field; Image Back-Up

Photo by Frank Siteman, DPA instructor Boston Photo by Frank Siteman, DPA instructor Boston Photo by Frank Siteman, DPA instructor Boston The three photos of corrugated cardboard shot by Boston DPA photographer Frank Siteman are wonderful examples of how with controlled and careful lighting and some specific post processing with Photoshop and NIK software you can make anything look good. Think about it ... Frank made a cardboard box look sexy. Computers: I’m a long time Mac user to the point where Imp hesitant to comment of PC computers. With the exception of a few oddballs, every photographer, graphic designer and art director I know uses Mac computers ... There must be something to this. However, the Panasonic Toughbook line is used in the field by NGOs, security personnel, police forces and the military. Obviously these computers are built to withstand punishment and knock-em-about use so if you’re looking for something to take on safari, or for an extended foray into the Amazon jungle you might check them out. With any Laptop the considerations are size, weight, speed, memory and cost. A smaller screen and slower processor with less RAM will significantly reduce the cost but then it’s difficult to use as a primary computer. A small computer screen is really only useful as a carry around reference on location type of computer. Unfortunately one computer, much like any one camera, does not do everything. You need to weigh cost and size against portability etc. The best case scenario and the system used by many pros, including myself is a 15 inch laptop with lots of power and memory and an even larger more powerful desktop computer. I just recently bought a MacBook Pro, 4GB RAM, 500GB Hard Drive with a 2.66 GHz processor and its great, love it, although Ill probably boost the 4MB RAM up to 8 soon. As a recent alternative I’ve met a few photographers who carry an iPad in the field to preview images and show photos to clients at the shoot. The main issue here is upload speed as the interface to load images to the iPad is not nearly as fast as loading to a laptop. However if you’re not loading a large number of files it works pretty well. This two-computer system can be pricey for a number of people. When investing in photo gear often there must be a compromise. If you’re at a point where you can only invest in one computer I would suggest a 15-inch with as much power and speed as you can afford. The 15 inch screen being large enough to edit and process on in a pinch and you always have the option of running a larger auxiliary screen with it, effectively increasing your desktop surface significantly. Alternatively Apple iMacs are a good deal for a large screen if you don’t need the portability of a laptop. You can currently buy a loaded 27-inch iMac for about the same price as a 15-inch laptop. Laptops due to the miniaturization required during manufacturing are more expensive than many desktop computers; they also must make allowance for the portability and shock effects of being portable. A desktop just sits on the desk; it doesn’t need to be (as) rugged and shockproof. There is something most people overlook when buying a computer and that is the Scratch Disk size. Computer imaging programs like Photoshop and NIK use the empty hard drive space on your computer when processing images. With modern computer programs taking up a lot of hard drive space, simply to load the programs, but also to operate them, its very easy once you store a few thousand photos, to fill up a computer hard drive to the point where it cant run the programs quickly, or at all. The more free space on your hard drive the faster your images will process and the less danger of crashing or freezing during processing large files. Photo by John Bentham, DPA instructor New York The image above shot on location in Morocco for an AUDI campaign is a simple shot. The lighting was good which helped but what makes the photo interesting is the post processing applied using NIK Software. John added a film grain, boosted contrast and saturation, and increased the structure of the photo bringing out the detail. A simple shot which then works better, much better. MacBook VS MacBook Pro: I often get this question from students wishing to move to a Mac but trying to save a little coin. The basic difference between a MacBook and a small MacBook Pro is construction, the Pro made out of aluminum, the basic MacBook made out of plastic. That said they have very similar guts is you buy the same configuration. I would recommend an upgrade to at least 4GB RAM (or even better 8MB), if you are running Photoshop and NIK Software. Either model gets more expensive of course when you add the Apple Care extended warranty, although I highly recommend this option. Current Mac Laptop prices (Nov 2010) MacBook 13 inch, 2.4 GHz, 4GB Ram, w 250 GB HD = $1100 MacBook Pro 13 inch, 2.4 GHz, 4GB Ram, w 250 GB HD = $1199 A similar size Toughbook is $2400 but I did notice a 50 percent off promotional deal while researching this tip so there are bargains to be found even on the good stuff. If you want a screen larger than 13 inch you go must go for the Pro model, MacBook Pro 15 inch, 2.4 GHz, 4GB RAM, 500GB Drive = $1999. Mac as every manufacture does changes the specs and configurations every year or more often thus these specs and prices are just for example. A number of people reading this may be thinking - I can get a 13-inch PC for $500 or a 15 inch for $600. My personal experience is that bargain priced PC laptop computers are not worth the trouble, my wife having burned through two of them within the same period I had my previous Mac laptop. The aforementioned Panasonic Toughbooks are more expensive than bargain PCs but significantly better quality. Back-Up your Images: I cannot stress enough the importance of backing up your images, ... multiple times. A best-case scenario is 2–3 copies plus an Off-Site back up, either online or an alternate location. I can think of three students that had not only their computers stolen but also their back-up drives. The thieves’ just swept everything into a box and hit the road ... leaving the student photographers with only the low res copies they may (or may not) have uploaded to Facebook. Also see the samples below of corrupt files, thankfully I had a back-up copies but when I opened these image files they were obviously unusable. Back-Up, back-up, back-up ... and back-up elsewhere!!! Corrupt File Photos by John Bentham, DPA instructor New York

Softboxes and Umbrellas

Studio lighting can range from simple to elaborate. What you purchase depends on the needs of your clients, the size of your studio, the size of your bank account, and the effects you want to create. Very pleasing results can be achieved with a basic set up of one diffused light and a reflector. Diffusion can be created via the use of a soft box, a flash bounced into an umbrella, or a flash bounced off a white ceiling or wall. Additional lights broaden the potential to illuminate a backdrop, to create separation from the background by rim lighting the subject from behind, or as an accent light. This light can come from a different angle other than the main light or snooted to funnel the light to a given location to highlight a specific detail.   © 2008 Russ Burden UMBRELLAS: Incorporating the use of an umbrella is the means by which most photographers begin their endeavor into studio lighting as they are inexpensive and easy to use. They create a nice wrap around effect producing evenly lit subjects. Placing the umbrella forty five degrees to the subject, it’s used as the main light. In that the side closest to the umbrella receives more light than the shadow side, a reflector can be placed close to the darker side to fill in the shadows and soften the light even more from what the soft light of the umbrella creates. © 2008 Russ Burden SOFTBOXES: The light created from a softbox has similarities to that of an umbrella but it’s much more efficient. When you bounce a light into an umbrella, some of it gets lost as it’s a bounced source and some of the output of the strobe goes out the other side of the umbrella. The constant is the soft quality of light. Think of what the light from a bright overcast sky looks like. It’s ideal for photographing people. The light is even, it doesn’t make people squint, dark shadows under the nose and chin are softened and the eyes of people with deep eye sockets don’t get lost in a black void.   © 2008 Russ Burden The hardness and / or color of the light in a softbox can be modified depending on the  material inside. White creates the softest, silver creates more of an “edge” to the light and gold produces a lot of warmth. They come in many shapes and sizes and allow you to  shoot everything from macros to full size automobiles. A makeshift softbox can be rigged using PVC and diffusion material draped over it. Although a bit crude, it can be used to produce professional looking images.   © 2008 Russ Burden FLASH VS CONTINUOUS: In the world of studio photography, a topic that often comes up is whether to use a continuous light source in the form of photo floods or flash. Both have advantages. Listed here are the pros and cons. Based on your current and future needs, a choice can be made. a) Photo floods are cheaper but need to be replaced more often than flash heads. b) The light you see when you turn them on is the light you get in the photo. In that you can’t preview the end result with flash, there’s some guess work as to how the photo will look. Digital photography has solved this problem to a large degree as the image can be reviewed on the LCD of the camera. c) Photo floods run HOT. Unless you’re in a well ventilated or air conditioned room, your models will get warm very quickly. Food for thought - what if your “model” happens to be a bowl of ice cream or other perishable product that will be negatively impacted by heat?  d) Some photo floods run at a low kelvin temperature necessitating the use of filters to correct for the shift. Once again, digital photography comes to the rescue as you can set the proper color temperature. e) Photo floods can be used with umbrellas, but placing them in a softbox gets tricky. The heat they put off coupled with the fact the box doesn’t breath creates a lot of warmth in a confined space. To learn more about this topic, join me on one of my Photographic Nature Tours. Visit and click on the NATURE TOURS button for more information. Also, pick up a copy of my new book, Amphoto’s Complete Book of Photography. You can purchase a signed copy directly from me or visit your local book store or Amazon. Contact me at to order your signed copy.

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