Category: Mailbag

Gear for a Serious Portrait Photographer

In photography class this week, one of my students wanted to discuss what a solid upgrade for a serious portrait photographer might entail. Here’s what we came up with for a Nikon user:

* Nikon D810 DSLR Camera (Body Only): A serious DSLR with full frame sensor and excellent low-light performance. Order yours from B&H or Amazon.

* Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G ED: An excellent “walkabout lens” for everyday shooting and wider shots incorporating the subject’s environment. I use the Canon equivalent of this about 75% of the time on my DSLR. Order yours from B&H or Amazon.

* Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm F/2.8G ED VR ll: This rugged telephoto lens is for when you’re farther away from the subject or you want to shoot in much tighter and with the pleasing effect of lens compression. I use the Canon equivalent of this lens a lot as a second lens when covering events. Order yours from B&H or Amazon.

* Nikon AF-S Nikkor 85mm F/1.4G: It’s always useful to have a fast prime lens with a wide aperture to create beautiful portraits and background blur (bokeh). Order yours from B&H or Amazon.

* Nikon SB-910 AF Speedlight: Flashes are not merely for providing a fill light. The ability to add light to a scene means you can shape the light to create a mood that matches your own creative vision. Order yours from B&H or Amazon.

* Nikon SU-800 Wireless Speedlight Commander Unit: You’ll need this as branch out in flash photography and want to have more control over your lighting setups. Order yours from B&H or Amazon.

Gosh, what a fun shopping list! =] Additionally, if a photographer wanted to get into nice strobe kits at some point, this is the one I’ve been daydreaming about:

* Profoto D1 Air 500 w/s 2 monolight studio kit: This is a portable lighting solution with some serious power and solid construction. Order yours from B&H or Amazon.

Anyway, please let me know if you can think of anything else that a serious photographer might want to consider when upgrading their main portrait kit!

Finally, here are the Amazon Holiday Deals in Electronics and B&H Holiday Gifts & Deals pages to check daily for deals this season.

Don't forget to check out the Recommendations page for the latest products that I'm showing to friends and blog readers based on their requests. I love talking about this stuff, and every time you click on a referral link from this website to a featured retailer like Amazon.com and B&H Photo and Video, I get a small commission that helps keep this site running, at no additional cost to you. Thanks for your support, and please contact me if you need any recommendations!

The World of Blind Photographers

Someone recently joked about taking my photography classes even though he is completely blind. Even though it was initially meant as a joke, I wanted to let him know that this is not actually as impossible as it may sound! In recent years, there have been a number of photographers gaining recognition in the world for pursuing their art despite being blind. In some cases, the photographer has low-vision or is color blind; other individuals are legally-blind and have even been completely blind from birth, having never experienced the world in the same way as a seeing person. Nonetheless, the artistic spirit is strong with many such individuals and photography is their chosen medium. Below are a number of links I have found to various galleries and articles about blind photographers.

Sight Unseen: The California Museum of Photography at UC Riverside put on the first major museum exhibition of work by the most accomplished blind photographers in the world. Some of the biggest names in the industry exhibited at this 2009 event. TIME Magazine also ran a feature article about this exhibit.

Visions of a Blind Photographer: A New York Times article celebrating the work of Sonia Soberats.

Dark Light: The Art of Blind Photographers: An HBO documentary featuring several blind photographers who transcend their physical limitations.

Pete Eckert: One of the most well-known blind photographers. His website features his stunning photographic work and also describes his experience and process.

Completely Blind and Deaf Photographer Can Now ‘See’ His Own Work, Thanks to 3D Printing: Australian-based photographer Brendon Borellini experiences 3D representations of his photos. Check out the video at this link.

The Blind Photographers Flickr Pool: An open group for blind and otherwise visually-impaired photographers to share their work via the Flickr photo website.

Blind Photographers Documentary Crowdfunding Campaign: Fundraising effort for a new documentary on blind photographers across the globe.

Have another web resource about blind photographers? Please leave it in the comments and I will add them to the list as I can!

Don't forget to check out the Recommendations page for the latest products that I'm showing to friends and blog readers based on their requests. I love talking about this stuff, and every time you click on a referral link from this website to a featured retailer like Amazon.com and B&H Photo and Video, I get a small commission that helps keep this site running, at no additional cost to you. Thanks for your support, and please contact me if you need any recommendations!

Removing Camera Dust

We met at Lower Antelope Canyon last month and both got the photographer’s pass in the morning. What was the blower you were talking about for removing dust? Also, how do you clean your sensor?

I had a great time meeting a fellow photographer during my adventures last month in Page, Arizona, and while we were exploring Antelope Canyon, our camera gear naturally got covered with a fine layer of sand and dust. Not only did I hate that gritty feel of the particles in my lens when I turned the zoom ring, but it can do some serious damage to your gear if left in there. So one of the first tasks I attended to when I returned to my car was to perform a quick cleaning, followed by a more thorough cleaning once I got back to the hotel, since it was so incredibly dusty.

To remove typical amounts of dust and other foreign matter that lands on my camera and lenses, I usually use the Giottos rocket air blower, which is a simple but effective hand-powered blower that shoots puffs of air with a good amount of pressure. The rocket blower comes in different sizes, but I just use the large one. I will use the puffs of air very liberally across the outer surfaces of the camera and the lens to cast off dust. I’ll often do this for a lens before I put the lens cap back on.

To answer my new friend’s second question, I’ve never had the occasion to actually clean my sensor, other than to let the camera go through its automatic sensor cleaning routine when I turn the camera on and off. For the most part, I’m guessing I would do more harm than good when trying to clean my sensor manually. Instead, I try to practice the art of keeping dust out of the sensor chamber in the first place, which involves being careful to point the face of the camera downward when changing lenses, so that loose dust and particles will not just drift into the sensor chamber. If I truly suspected something was wrong with the sensor surface (such as noticing the same blemishes or dead pixels on every photo I take, even after cleaning or switching lenses, I’d probably send it in to Canon for a cleaning. Here’s a link to Canon Professional Services, which offers several levels of membership: http://www.cps.usa.canon.com/repairs/repairs.shtml

Finally, check out the photos I took at Lower Antelope Canyon. Dust or no dust, the trip was well worth it!

Don't forget to check out the Recommendations page for the latest products that I'm showing to friends and blog readers based on their requests. I love talking about this stuff, and every time you click on a referral link from this website to a featured retailer like Amazon.com and B&H Photo and Video, I get a small commission that helps keep this site running, at no additional cost to you. Thanks for your support, and please contact me if you need any recommendations!

WordPress Nav Menu Text vs. Page Titles

How do I make the title of a WordPress page different from the text of a menu button that links to that page?

When you create a new Page in WordPress and want to add it to one of your menus, the default behavior is for the title of the page to become the text of the menu button that links to it. Many people are happy with this behavior, but occasionally you may want to customize the button text, especially if you have a very long Page title and want a shorter phrase to show up in your navigation menu. Here is a way to work at it without any plugins:

Give your page whatever title you want and give it whatever custom URL that you want. Publish your page and copy down the URL for it.

Wordpress Page with Custom URL

In the WordPress Dashboard, under Appearance > Menus, now add a Link to your navigation menu, which will require a URL as well as custom link text to display in the menu. After you fill that in, click the Add to Menu button, then click Save Menu in the Menu Structure section to commit the changes.

Wordpres Add Link to Menu

If the page was already added to the menu structure for your site, you may now have one extra button with the page title in it instead of the custom link text. If you don’t see this issue, you’re done! Otherwise, find that menu item in the Menu Structure section and click the Remove function. Remember to click Save Menu again when you’re ready.

Wordpress Menu Structure panel

Here is what the final product looked like in my test, where the “Short Title” menu button linked to the page with the long title:

Wordpress page with long title but short link text

 

Don't forget to check out the Recommendations page for the latest products that I'm showing to friends and blog readers based on their requests. I love talking about this stuff, and every time you click on a referral link from this website to a featured retailer like Amazon.com and B&H Photo and Video, I get a small commission that helps keep this site running, at no additional cost to you. Thanks for your support, and please contact me if you need any recommendations!

Basic TTL Flash Strobes: Super Quick Review

Should I buy an external flash? What’s a flash with good features and price?

If you’re in a big hurry to get an external flash, go ahead and just get the YongNuo YN-468 II for Canon or the YongNuo YN-468 II for Nikon cameras. Otherwise, keep reading to better understand why you should even care about getting this accessory.

There are lots of reasons to have at least one external flash in your camera bag. The primary reason to get something better than the built-in flash on most cameras is that built-in flashes produce in-your-face lighting that is considered unflattering, uncreative, and sometimes downright ugly. Direct flash is responsible for most cases of red eye, hard shadows on the wall behind your subject, and distracting reflections from shiny surfaces in your scene, among other problems that diminish the quality of a photo. Using an external flash gives the photographer added versatility by allowing the light to be “bounce” into the scene from a nearby wall or ceiling instead of directly from the camera’s point of view. This can result in more pleasant, softer lighting and natural-looking portraits.

With that in mind, most budding photographers probably should get an external flash that supports TTL metering, which is a kind of “auto” mode for flashes. When the external flash with TTL is mounted on the camera’s hotshoe, the camera’s computer helps calculate how much light to output through the flash at the moment that you take the photo. In TTL mode, the main control a photographer has over the flash power is to increase or decrease the flash compensation level, usually with the + or – buttons on the flash unit. For example, if you took a photo of a kid at a birthday party and the background of your photo looks good but your subject in the front is lit too brightly by the flash, you can press the – button to decrease the flash power for the scene before shooting again.

The external flash I have tried that has the best price-to-features ratio is the YongNuo YN-468 II TTL Speedlite. There is a YongNuo YN-468 II for Canon as well as a YongNuo YN-468 II for Nikon cameras. It sports a basic TTL mode as well as a Manual mode for when you want exacting control over the flash power. If I knew nothing else except that you wanted to try an external flash for your Canon or Nikon DSLR, this would be my recommendation.

If you want to save some money and you are comfortable using the Manual mode of your camera, then you may also want to investigate the YongNuo YN-468 II, which works for both Canon and Nikon. Keep in mind that it truly does not offer any “auto” mode, so you must dial in the exact flash power that you want. That’s the level of control that I want, so I appreciate the simplicity and price of this unit. I often use up to four YongNuo YN-468 II units in my professional work, but it took years of training, experimentation, and practice to consistently achieve the results that I want in my flash photography.

For a further discussion about flash photography gear, please see the “Gear for a New Strobist” article.

Don't forget to check out the Recommendations page for the latest products that I'm showing to friends and blog readers based on their requests. I love talking about this stuff, and every time you click on a referral link from this website to a featured retailer like Amazon.com and B&H Photo and Video, I get a small commission that helps keep this site running, at no additional cost to you. Thanks for your support, and please contact me if you need any recommendations!