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.
- 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.
- 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:
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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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?
- 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…
- 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!