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Q&A Monday (Answering a few of your technical photography questions)

A few of you may have already seen these answers as they went up on Formspring a while ago so I’m sorry if this is old news for you but for those of you who did not I thought you might enjoy seeing the Q’s and the A’s as well. These questions all have a bit of a technical / photo detail feel to them so I thought they went nicely together! 

When editing in PS, do you normally save your images as a PSD and a JPG, or do you just save your images only as JPG.

I save images only as JPG in a color and black and white option. If I change my mind about the edit then I go back to the original SOOC and would start again. I already fill several external hard-drives, I can’t even imagine if I was saving both what kind of space I would take up!

I also only shoot in JPG format, not raw. I did this to force myself to learn to get it right in camera and to keep my workflow as easy as possible. The SD Cards gets unloaded, 20 to 30 images are selected for retouching (typically I’ve shot between 60 and 100). Those images are sent to my own retouch artist who I trained and it takes her about 2.5 hours per session to edit.


Do you have any tips on taking family portraits? How do you keep everyone in focus and what are you focusing on? Help I have such a hard time keeping everyone in focus.

It’s going to be easiest to have them all in focus if they are all on the same line. So imagine a chalk line, if everyones eyes are lined up to that chalk perfect then they will all be in focus but as soon as one person steps back and one steps forward then only the people who are still on that line (as long as that’s what you lock your focus on) will be tack sharp.

Since that’s probably not the only way you want to pose, you’ll want to just bump up your aperture. A great rule is to have your aperture set no lower then the number of people you are shooting (especially if they are not all on that chalk line). So if I’m photographing a family of 4 I would want to keep my aperture at 4.0 or higher, 7 people… 7.1 or higher. Of course the higher the aperture the more light you will need. I frequently shoot at 60 SS and bump my ISO up to 1600 (I’m on a Mark II that’s not something I could have done on say my old 40D) and even at 1600 (if I have to) I still get great printing results.

I noticed on your blog you talk about how you taught yourself photoshop. I was wondering if you could recommend any youtube channels or sites you used that you felt like were most helpful. I’m finding that it is difficult to wade through the “junk”.

It’s been years so I really don’t have anywhere to send you. But what I would do is often search out a specific technique or tool. For example, ‘how to use curves’ ‘how to crop’ (yes I did have to google that one!) ‘how to use clipping mask’. Each time I ran into a challenge that I didn’t know how to use I would go into You Tube and search until I did. I have to admit it was a very slow and time consuming process. Maybe I could create a little class or make a couple videos and show you guys how I edit. It’s nothing fancy, I’m very basic. I like to have my session completely edited from start to finish in under 3 hours.

Do you do a lot of trespassing while on shoots or do you always get permission to go on other peoples property. If you do get permission do you do it before a session or the day of?

This is a really great question! I do not do a lot of trespassing. I always want to look very professional and it’s just not going to be professional if we are running for our lives cause we are on some guys property and we missed the sign that said ‘trespassers will be shot’ 😀

I have my certain locations that I love to go to and I call in advance and build relationships with those places so that I can use them whenever I want to.

I  also reciprocate the love when people are kind enough to let me use their property! For example there is a local Christmas tree farmer who lets me use his land frequently. I give shout outs and links to his website on mine plus I send a little thank you and gift for him and his wife at the end of the season just so they know how much I appreciate them!

A few technical questions, I don’t know if you answer that kind. If not, thanks for all the information you DO share! What method do you use for getting correct white balance? Do you sharpen your photos? Which metering setting do you use?

Color Temperature in Kelvin - Induction Lighting is very energy efficient

Most of the time I’m shooting in AWB (Auto White Balance) but if it’s particularly cloudy or a very yellowish indoor situation I will set the white balance setting to the appropriate setting. Sometime if it’s really bad and I can’t get the right coloring then I will use Kelvin Color Temp and set it myself.

When I shoot in studio with my lights I just throw up a white sheet of paper and color balance myself. I learned from a good friend of mine, Leroy Hamilton that is doesn’t have to be as fancy as “they” make you think it does. Leroy will just grab someone wearing a white shirt, snap a picture filling as much of the frame with white as possible and custom white balance to that.

As far as sharpening… Yes! I do mildly sharpen almost every image but I’m careful about it. I use to way over sharpen and it made the images loose resolution quality. Trying to sharpen a soft image doesn’t work, I know… I’ve tried. Now I look for light, sharpness and expression for my final selections that the client will see. In PS I use my favorite action, ‘Powder Room’ by Coffee Shop (it’s free) but at a very low opacity and then at the very end I use a high pass filter and erase the effect off of all the skin. You can read a great post about this same technique by Amy Wenzel HERE.

Kelvin Image Source:




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