Photography FAQ #5

In this fifth issue of the Photography FAQ series, I will answer some of the interesting questions from our readers that I thought would be beneficial for others. Big thanks to our readers for continuously sending questions to us and participating in the comments section of our blog. We truly value your feedback and we do our best to respond to your queries as soon as we can.

  1. How can I get sharp images of moving people?
    Use a faster shutter speed! If you do not understand the relationship of motion blur to shutter speed, check out my “understanding shutter speed” article, where I explain what shutter speed does and how you can freeze motion.
  2. Is it worth buying UV/protection filters for Nikon 35mm f/1.8G and Nikon 50mm f/1.4G lenses? Isn’t using a lens hood good enough to protect the front lens?
    I would definitely recommend to buy UV filters for both lenses, for one simple reason – it is easier to clean these lenses with filters! If you look at the front part of both lenses, you will see that these lenses have “layers” or threads of black plastic around the front lens element:

    Nikon 35mm f/1.8G DX

    Nikon 35mm f/1.8G DX

    If you clean the front element with a piece of cloth or lens paper, you will surely leave a lot of stuff on those layers since they are quite edgy. If you have a filter, it would be much easier to clean the front of the lens, because you wouldn’t be touching those layers. Plus, having a filter will give you a peace of mind that your front lens element is protected against scratches and other potential problems.

  3. I don’t want to buy different size UV filters for my lenses and I was thinking about getting 77mm filters and step-up rings for lenses that have less than 77mm filter threads. Do you think it is a good idea?
    While I would certainly recommend to buy step-up rings for 77mm polarizing and ND filters due to their high cost, I would not suggest doing the same for UV/clear filters. Why? Because you would not be able to mount your lens hood anymore. Plus, smaller UV filters actually cost less than 77mm filters, so why bother?
  4. Should I take off my UV/clear filter when using other filters, or is stacking filters OK?
    Stacking filters is not a good idea for several reasons. If you are using a wide-angle lens, you might get some heavy vignetting. If you were shooting against the sun or taking pictures of street lights at night, you will most likely get extra ghosts and flares. Therefore, it is best to remove the UV/clear filter when using other filters on your lenses. There are a few exceptions to stacking filters. One such exception is when you want to get special effects. For example, combining an ND filter together with a polarizing filter to slow down the shutter speed and reduce reflections.
  5. What affordable sharp lens would you recommend other than the Nikon 70-300mm for birds and wildlife photography?
    I personally really love the Nikon 300mm f/4 AF-S lens (see my short Nikon 300mm f/4 review) for birding and wildlife. While it is not a cheap lens at approximately $1,350, it is an extremely fast, sharp lens and it works very well with the 1.4x Nikon TC-14E II teleconverter. Unfortunately, it does not work well with the 1.7x Nikon TC-17E II (unreliable autofocus) and it is basically unusable with the 2x Nikon TC-20E II or TC-20E III teleconverters. It has no VR, which is a bummer, so you have to make sure that your shutter speed stays above your total focal length (1.5x more on DX sensors). Other than the 300mm f/4 AF-S, there is really no cheap way to get this kind of reach. The Nikon 80-400mm VR is another alternative to get to 400mm, but its AF speed is much slower and I would certainly not recommend that lens for anything that moves fast.
  6. If I am shooting inside a church, would a fast prime f/1.4 lens be the answer?
    This really depends on the amount of ambient light that is present inside the church, but generally, no, a fast lens is not the answer. In my experience, the amount of ambient light is typically extremely low in most churches, so even a fast f/1.4 lens might not be the solution, especially if your subjects move (which would cause motion blur due to slow shutter speeds). In addition, even if there is enough ambient light, it mostly comes from the top, creating nasty shadows on people’s faces. In most cases, a flash is almost required to help illuminate the subjects and get rid of some of the shadows. But you have to be careful with using flash inside churches, because flash is not easy to work with when there are no ceilings or walls to bounce the light from. Setting up umbrellas and other light diffusers for off-camera flash does not always work and in some cases, is even prohibited. So many photographers resort to using on-camera flash with diffusers. One thing you need to keep in mind, is that if you shoot too much flash, you will get flat images with very dark backgrounds. The solution is to significantly increase your camera ISO (depending on the sensor type, might want to shoot between ISO 800 and ISO 3200) and drop your shutter speed to a smaller number to get some of the ambient light in, as shown in my “indoors portraits with a Christmas tree in the background” article. In terms of flash power, TTL should work in most cases, although you will probably have to adjust the flash power using flash compensation every once in a while. Obviously, I would shoot in Manual Mode and keep my aperture between f/1.4 and f/2.8 to get some background blur if I’m using a 50mm or 85mm f/1.4 lens. In terms of lens choice, I personally prefer to use the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G lens for these kinds of shots though, so that I could stand further away from my subjects and shoot at 200mm wide open @ f/2.8.
  7. What camera and lenses do you recommend to start up a wedding photography business?
    This question pops-up in our comments sections under articles fairly often and I get many emails from our readers as well. If you are serious about wedding photography, you should invest in a good full-frame, low-noise DSLR camera body and pro-level lenses. Why full-frame and low-noise camera? Because you will be working in low-light situations fairly often and a full-frame sensor that can handle high ISO levels without much noise will certainly help you get better shots than a DX camera. Obviously, having a good lens is extremely important in capturing beautiful images. A portrait taken with a cheap DX lens like 18-55mm VR cannot be compared to a portrait taken by a 50mm f/1.4 lens. I have already posted an article on lenses for weddings called “best Nikon lenses for wedding photography“, where I go through lenses that Lola and I love and use for weddings. If I were to start up a brand new wedding photography business, I would purchase the following: Nikon D700, Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G, Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8G VR II, Nikon 50mm f/1.4G and Nikon SB-900. If budget were an issue, I would skip the 70-200mm and 24-70mm lenses and get the Nikon 24-120mm f/4 VR and replace the 50mm with the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 or Nikon 85mm f/1.8D for portraits. What about the Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8D for weddings? I really love the 80-200mm f/2.8D – but it has no VR, which makes it difficult to work with it in low-light situations when shooting at long focal lengths. If your hand-holding technique is very good and you know how to control the shutter speed for blur-free images, the 80-200mm is a good alternative to the 70-200mm.

    If you are a Canon shooter, the Canon 5D Mark II is currently the most popular full-frame Canon DSLR for weddings. As for lenses, Canon has very similar lenses as Nikon such as Canon 24-70mm f/2.8L USM, Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM and Canon 50mm f/1.4 USM. The nice thing about Canon, is that it has some lenses like Canon 50mm f/1.2L USM and Canon 85mm f/1.2L II USM. Nikon does not have any f/1.2 lenses at the moment that have autofocus.

  8. After I edit my RAW files and export them into JPEG files, where should I store those JPEGs? Same folder? External drive? I don’t want to eat up so much space on my hard drive and I would hate to see duplicates in Lightroom.
    The best way is to export images out of Lightroom to a different folder on your computer (I typically use a dedicated export folder on my desktop). Once you are done uploading them to an external site or burning to a CD/DVD, just delete them afterwards. You don’t need to keep copies of exported JPEG files, since you already have the original RAW files and you can extract more JPEG images later. And definitely don’t re-import them back into Lightroom!
  9. Should I keep RAW files in my hard drive, or should I delete them after I export them out of Lightroom? RAW files take up so much space.
    I recommend keeping your original RAW files, even if they take a lot of space. Once you convert an image to a JPEG file, there is no going back. I used to delete my JPEG images in the beginning (after I was done with my post-processing). Now my post-processing skills are much better than before, but I have very limited options now to go back and edit those images, because they are all flat 8-bit JPEGs… Plus, Lightroom and Photoshop are now giving us so many new ways to work with RAW images and many more options will be available in the future. Wouldn’t it be cool to go back and work on some of the older RAW files and get new looks and possibly better images? Think of JPEG as a printed photo back in the film days. Would you preserve film or only keep a printed photo?
  10. Is Nikon SU-800 worth looking into as a flash commander? What are the differences between SU-800 and Nikon flashes that can work as masters?
    The SU-800 was specifically designed for i-TTL use for cameras with or without built-in flashes. The nice thing about the SU-800, is that it does not fire flash, so there is no light spill coming from the camera. I believe the SU-800 also has a slightly better range when triggering other flash units, but it is not anything significant. However, given the cost of the unit, I would personally get another SB-700/SB-800/SB-900 instead, which all can work great as commanders and slaves. Plus, you could buy remote triggers (like PocketWizard) in the future and use more flashes. With SU-800, you are left with only an infrared transmitter…
  11. I struggle with getting good AF Accuracy in very low-light situations, even when using a tripod. How can I get good focus in such situations?
    All cameras struggle with autofocus in dim environments, especially if you have a slow lens. What I recommend, is switching to AF-S (Single Servo) Mode on your camera instead of AF-C (Continuous Servo), which will let you use the AF assist light on your camera (if you have one) in such situations. If your camera is not equipped with AF assist light, another way is to use a flash unit that has AF assist light. In some cases your lens hood might block the AF assist light (if it is too large), so I recommend removing the lens hood before doing this.

Please let me know if you have any questions!

Comments

  1. 1
    ) Peter
    January 7, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    On the interior church photo question, I’ve see people use HDR and it seems to work very well.

    • January 10, 2011 at 11:26 am

      Oh no, that’s the last thing you want to do when photographing people in churches! If you use a tripod and photograph just the interior, HDR often looks pretty good for churches (depending on how well HDR is done).

  2. 2
    ) sain
    January 7, 2011 at 6:12 pm

    Great Read Nasim ! I’m new to DSLR and bought a D3100 two weeks back . . . Great Camera. Your website was so helpful in the process of selecting the camera. . Thanks a lot. Keep up your good work

  3. January 7, 2011 at 6:28 pm

    Yay, my question made your list! Thank you; nice post.

    About keeping JPGs – I keep my modified JPGs as well as the RAW files. I like the ability to have both the original (for when my skill gets better and I want to try postprocessing again) and the finished product (for reprinting, reposting, showing friends, etc.). Hard disk space these days is (relatively) cheap, especially in comparison to the amount of money already going into our kits. When an extra 2TB hard disk costs $120, it’s easy to keep the images from the $1,200 lens and $2,000 camera.

    Though I use Aperture rather than Lightroom, I like the way it stacks modified images (and I think lightroom 3 does the same thing), allowing you to collapse multiple versions of the same file and only see the polished result while browsing or expand the stack to see the original and any other modified versions. It makes keeping all stages of work easy and well organized.

    Thanks again,

    -ben

    p.s. Don’t forget your backups! :D

    • January 10, 2011 at 11:29 am

      Ben, I agree, storage is cheap nowadays. My only problem with keeping JPEGs is keeping them organized like the RAW files in my Lightroom library…I just don’t want to spend time creating similar folder structures elsewhere. Exporting from Lightroom is fast and easy, so I personally prefer to just export as needed. Yes, Lightroom does allow you to stack images like in Aperture, but only the ones that you have worked with in Photoshop. It won’t stack JPEG images that are exported out of Lightroom (and that’s a good thing).

      • January 10, 2011 at 11:41 am

        I see what you mean. Yes, that makes a lot of sense. I was confusing the difference between a JPG that is the result of editing a photo and the JPG that you export in order to burn to a CD or upload to the web etc. I agree that the latter are disposable and that after exporting a JPG from it makes sense to delete it when the immediate use is complete.

        Thanks for your reply!

        • January 10, 2011 at 12:37 pm

          You are most welcome! When you work on a photo inside Lightroom or Aperture, it should save the file in TIFF format instead of JPEG, since JPEG is an 8-bit compressed image. TIFF files are not compressed and can be 16-bit, similar to RAW files. The only problem is their size – TIFFs are much larger than RAWs (around 70mb each for my 12 MP camera)!

      • April 15, 2011 at 5:38 pm

        Nasim, I just wanted to point out that you can stack exported jpeg files in Lightroom.

        Just open up the export dialog, and there’s an “Add to stack” option, which lets you stack the exported image below or above the original.

        I get why you don’t like to do it, but it’s nice to know you have the choice if you need it :)

  4. 4
    ) Bruno
    January 8, 2011 at 7:43 am

    I’m still having some troubles to understand AF-S, AF-A and AF-C. Which one do you use? I mean, in which situation? :(

    • 5
      ) Mark
      January 8, 2011 at 11:34 am

      If it’s any help: AF-S single servo (or Stationary) for fixed subjects that are not moving. Camera focusses and locks on (with a beep – on my camera anyway) It will not refocus unless you take your finger off the half press – useful for focus and recompose situations.
      AF-C = Continuos – focussing is continuous, you don’t get the beep. Depending on which focus area mode you select, your camera may well try to track the subject across focus points side to side as well as front to back. In other words the focus tries to stay with the subject, this doesn’t happen in AF-S
      AF-A Auto – camera tries to decide which of the two above is most appropriate. This works quite well on my D90 but to be sure, if I know whether my subjects are going to be stationary or moving, I select S or C usually.
      I assume the absolute most reliable, and fastest, is AF-S (I may be wrong) but no good for moving subjects.

      • 6
        ) Mark
        January 8, 2011 at 11:39 am

        Also, in AF-S & AF-A shutter only released when in focus. AF-C, shutter can be released even if not in focus.

        • 7
          ) Bruno
          January 8, 2011 at 6:31 pm

          Thank you very very much, that helped me a lot. But there is one thing that I forgot to ask to: What is the 3D mode found in AF-C? (I’m pretty sure it’s in AF-C). But anyway, thank you for your help it was very helpful!

          • 8
            ) Mark
            January 9, 2011 at 2:51 am

            Yes, AF-S, AF-C etc is how the camera focuses. The area modes are what the camera focusses on.
            3D tracking will work in AF-C and AF-A (Not AF-S). Focus on a subject, if the subject moves the camera will ‘follow’ it by using different focus points. You can try it on stationary targets and move the camera instead. Single point area mode is just that, focus is based on that one focus point only (you can still select which using the thumb dial). Dynamic area: SImilar to single point, the focus point doesn’t change but if the subject moves that focus point sort of asks the other focus points ‘where do you think it is’ (AF-A and AF-C only). And then Auto area, where the camera decides which focus point is used and can detect humans.

            I use 3d all the time, that way it’s set up how I like it for moving subjects (sports etc ) in AF-C (or AF-A) and automatically drops back to single point if I select AF-S for stuff that’s not moving.

            • 9
              ) Bruno
              January 9, 2011 at 9:02 am

              That was extremely helpful! Thank you very much to take your time to answer my question! As I didn’t know exactly how the other AF’s work, I was just using AF-S mode. But now I can understand the differences between them. Thank you very much again!

        • January 10, 2011 at 11:37 am

          Mark, this behavior can be changed :)

      • January 10, 2011 at 11:36 am

        Thank you for the info Mark! I will be posting an article on Autofocus modes later this week.

    • January 10, 2011 at 11:34 am

      Bruno, I will be posting an article on Autofocus modes later this week.

      • 24
        ) Bruno
        January 10, 2011 at 6:30 pm

        Thank you very much, Nasim! Keep up the good work! .. By the way, I just discovered Tilt-Shift lenses. Do you have any article about it? I found it very interesting.

        • January 13, 2011 at 8:33 pm

          Bruno, not yet, but hopefully later this year :)

  5. 10
    ) Sekhar
    January 10, 2011 at 2:09 am

    Hi Nasim, Nice faq.

    In low light (indoors with lights and without flash), several times d90 focus locks up nicely, but the ultimate image is not as sharp (50mm f/1.4) as the same image taken during day time. Last week, I attended a birthday party and tried to use f/1.4 (I do like taking snaps without flash), but as I discovered, most of the images were not sharp (possibly because of hand-shake and dof issues ?). f/1.4 was isolating people (blurring others), so group photographs were not possible at this aperture. I had to use f/5.6 etc., and also flash to manage, but then the nice colors of the decorative lighting etc., were lost.. you can see my problem.

    Sekhar

    • 11
      ) Peter
      January 10, 2011 at 6:25 am

      Did you use a high ISO setting when shooting in low light without flash? I’ve used up to ISO 6400 at a color film slide show presentation with the only light being what came off the screen from the slide. The results were fine for 5×7 prints. Used define 2 to eliminate most noise.

      • January 10, 2011 at 12:17 pm

        Peter, I would not hesitate using ISO 6400 on my D3s, but not on the D90 – the image quality would suffer badly.

    • January 10, 2011 at 12:01 pm

      Sekhar, most likely, your D90 could not focus well in low light. I recommend using AF-S with AF-assist light on to get more accurate focus. Once focus snaps, don’t move, especially when shooting at very large apertures. Another thing to note, I would stop down the 50mm to f/2.0-2.8 to get better sharpness and more DoF.

      • 22
        ) Sekhar
        January 10, 2011 at 12:55 pm

        Thanks. I actually never tried AF-S yet (AF-A has been pretty good so far). I will try your suggestions next time. The ISO is also capped at 800 on my d90.

  6. 23
    ) Edi
    January 10, 2011 at 5:58 pm

    great tips as always. thanks

  7. 25
    ) Noreen
    January 11, 2011 at 9:20 am

    i am learning so much again even while reading through the comments thread. Thank you for the great information. When i convert my images to jpeg, i usually put them in medium photoshop quality (about a 6). My question is, which one is to be considered a high resolution? is it about the number of pixels per inch or about the size of the file? I am about to print some of my images (8×10) and i just want to make sure which one is to be considered high res. Thanks in advance.

    • February 18, 2011 at 2:25 pm

      Noreen, I apologize for a late response. A high resolution image is the one that has a big number of pixels. Just make sure that you are extracting the image in full size without resizing and you will be good to go.

  8. 29
    ) Nikos
    June 1, 2011 at 2:07 am

    Hello Mr Nasim,
    Those are great FAQ! I am new to photography and I would like to ask you a question.
    I plan on buying the D7000 with the 18-105 kit lens. In addition I ll buy the 35mm f/1.8G lens. I want to take water long exposure photos, street photos as well as landscapes! Could you please advise me on what filters to put on those lenses?? I guess a polarising one on the 35mm and a UV on the 18-105 would be a good choice?? Is it true that I can use the polariser as an ND filter?
    Thank you very much in advance!!!

  9. 30
    ) deepa
    December 10, 2011 at 8:57 am

    I just came back from trip and downloaded my nikon 7000 pic and tried to open it in photoshop some of pist dont open and message says it might be truncated ,i can open them on nikonsoftware what is this all about help..

  10. January 31, 2012 at 2:03 pm

    Hi, I am just embarking on starting my photography passion.
    Read a lot on your site, and got some great invaluable tips – so a huge thanks for that!
    Just one query – should I or should I not use a lens hood? And if yes, when and how? Specific places/ time of the day, I should avoid? Please do try to reply at the earliest as I will be going on a trip shortly with my new DSLR in tow!

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