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3 Reasons Not to Ditch Your DSLR

As the Nimble Photographer, many know me as the champion of mirrorless cameras. And indeed I love them. You would have a hard time prying any of my OM-Ds from my camera bag.

leah-5dm2-srjc.jpg Leah assisting me on a commercial photo shoot. Canon 5D Mark II, 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom at f/2.8. Photo by Derrick Story

But there are plenty of reasons why I still use my DSLR kit. Here are three of them.

  • Lens selection - the Canon lens catalog provides just about every type of optic I would ever need. If I don't already have it, I can rent it. Plus clients still love seeing big glass.
  • Soft backgrounds made easy - The number 1 request from clients for portrait work is soft backgrounds. With the 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom (plus 1.4X converter if necessary), I can create a soft background just about anywhere.
  • Clean megapixels - The 21MP full frame sensor on my Canon 5D Mark II provides clean results through my working ISO range. I never have to worry about providing files that are big enough for clients or clean enough for me.

So even though I shoot with my mirrorless cameras about 70 percent of the time, I want my DSLRs for those situations that demand their strengths. So, if you're running a freelance business, or trying to start one, instead of selling your DSLR to buy mirrorless, go shoot a job with it to raise the cash.

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The Versatile White Backdrop

Suzanne portrait on white backdrop

Most portrait photographers, including Laya Gerlock (who'll I'll talk about in just a minute), really only need two backdrops in their studio: black and white.

Black is the "go-to" background for dramatic compositions or to make colors jump off the screen. White, however, can be used in many different ways. In the excellent article on DIY Photography titled, Create Four Different Background Styles Using Only 1 White Seamless Paper, photographer Laya Gerlock shows you how to manipulate white backdrops in a variety of ways... including how to make it pure white and not yucky gray.

A 12 yard roll of 53" wide seamless white paper costs only $25.95. You can construct a backdrop support frame out of PVC pipe or purchase an affordable kit. Either way, you can convert a standard home living room into a portrait studio in less than an hour.

savage-white-seamless.jpg

If you want to shoot more creative indoor portraits, take a look at Laya's article, and get your hands on a roll of white seamless paper.

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Aperture Portrait Tips and Techniques

To learn about portrait retouching in Aperture, including a trick to brighten white backdrops, take a look at Portrait Retouching with Aperture. You may want to check out my other Aperture titles, including Aperture 3.3 Essential Training (2012), Using iPhoto and Aperture Together, and the latest, Enhancing Product Photography with Aperture. Also, take a look at our Aperture 3 Learning Center. Tons of free content about how to get the most out of Aperture.

exporter-for-aperture-logo.jpg

Those considering migrating from Aperture to Lightroom will be happy to hear that Adrian Grah's Exporter for Aperture is now available in the Mac App Store for $14.99. You can also download it from his site, ApertureExporter.com.

I first wrote about the beta version a couple weeks ago. Since that time, Adrian has received lots of feedback and has refined the utility. Highlights include.

  • Export your Aperture library to a set of folders.
  • Retain meticulously crafted project hierarchies.
  • Keep all your metadata including ratings and comments.
  • Original/Master images saved with XMP sidecar files for ultimate compatibility.
  • Aperture adjusted images saved as TIFF or JPEG depending on image rating. Adjustments are baked-in the image.
  • Exports images contained in your albums and smart albums.
  • Converts Aperture flags and colour labels to keywords.
  • Your Aperture libraries are unaltered and unaffected.

It's never easy moving your stuff, especially picture libraries. But Adrian can help make that job better.

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No Flash? No Problem

Yes, having an extensive, dedicated flash set-up is very handy for indoor portrait shoots. But what happens when you're in "run-in-gun" mode and don't have that gear?

In the article, 6 Flash Alternatives Beginners Should Always Keep in Mind, photographer Jeff Meyer shows you six alternatives to strobe lighting.

window-light-portrait.jpg Portrait of Victoria using a north facing window as the main light. Photo by Derrick Story.

One of my favorite techniques is to use a window as the main light and find a reflective surface for the fill. In some settings, a white wall provides enough bounce to make this work.

Take a look at Jeff's article, and keep those tricks in your back pocket for the next time you discover your flashes are still at home.

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Join me on my Instagram site as I explore the world of mobile photography. And now Instagram features 15-second movies too.

This week on The Digital Story Photography Podcast: Make Mine 300mm (field testing), Rode Mic for iPhone 5 Series and iPad mini (this podcast was recorded with it!), Out of Focus Backdrops (very clever...) - All of this and more on today's show with Derrick Story.

Story #1 - The Weekly Update: Lastolite 'Out of Focus' backgrounds bring beautiful bokeh to your home studio. Two reversible models, a seascape / autumn foliage and summer foliage / city lights. Measuring 1.5 x 1.2m (4' x 5') the backgrounds are big enough for almost full-length portraits of most adults, and weigh in at 3kg (6.6lb) each - $205 each. (source: DP Review).

In other news, Hoya EVO Antistatic Filter Series - Acting like a force field around the filter to repel dust, the hardened, antistatic layer is water-repellent, stain- and scratch-resistant, and cleans easily when smudges or fingerprints are introduced to the surface. (Source: Photography Blog).

And finally, Sigma dp2 Quattro: We post our first batch of real-world gallery images (including RAW conversions). (Source: Imaging-Resource)

Butterfly with Passion Flower - Captured with the Olympus 75-300mm on an OM-D E-M10

Story #2 - Make Mine 300mm - The lens I've always wanted for my Canon DSLRs was the Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM. But alas, it runs $1,600 and is a bit bulky. So I've rented it when I needed a super tele. But then I discovered the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 75-300mm f/4.8-6.7 II for $499, as first discussed last week, and I finally have a 300mm at home. Here's the wrap-up on this lens after a week of testing.

Nimble Recording Setup Rode iXY Mic on an iPhone 5S sitting on an Insanely Great FrameShift Mini-5 aircraft aluminum stand.

Story #3 - The Nimbleosity Report - The Rode iXY Stereo Microphone (Lightning Connector) for iPhone 5, 5S, 5C, and the iPad mini. I've been recording podcasts with the Dock Connector version of this mic for some time. But Rode has really upped their game with this latest version. In fact, this podcast was recorded with the new Rode iXY on my iPad mini. What do you think of the sound? Combined with the Rode Grip ($39), you have a versatile, high quality recording system always at your fingertips. The new Rode iXY Lightning deserves a top nimbleosity rating.

Story #4 - From the Screening Room - Basics of Using the Nik Collection with Tim Grey. This 10-minute movie is terrific for Lightroom users because Tim walks you through the steps for setting up the Nik plug-ins in the app. I'm pretty sure you'll learn something you previously did not know.

You can watch Tim in action by visiting the TDS Screening Room at lynda.com/thedigitalstory. While you're there, you can start your 7 day free trial to watch other design, photography, and computing titles, plus every other topic in the library (including my brand new "Photographing High School Senior Portraits."

Story #5 - A Free Photo Workshop, Week 2. I'm working on the 2015 TDS Photography Workshop Schedule. As many of you know, I like to introduce at least one new topic a season. And I'd like to hear from you, "What Theme Would You Love for Me to Teach in 2015?" Send your idea to derrick@thedigitalstory.com with the subject line: My Favorite Workshop Topic. My goal is to incorporate one of these suggestions into the 2015 season. If I do, that person gets free tuition to that workshop. I give an update on the suggestions that have come in.

Virtual Camera Club News

From SizzlPix: Now, for The Digital Story listeners and readers, this month only, SizzlPix will knock off 20% of the price for your SizzlPix, any quantity, any size up to 6 feet! Just put the initials TDS or "The Digital Story" in the comments space of their new, simplified online order form. SizzlPix.com.

Save on Ground Shipping for Red River Paper: Use coupon code ground50c to receive a 50 percent discount on UPS ground shipping for Red River Paper. No minimum purchase required.

Photo Assignment for July 2014 is "Smokin' Hot".

If you haven't done so already, please post a review for The Digital Story Podcast in iTunes.

BTW: If you're ordering through B&H or Amazon, please click on the respective ad tile under the Products header in the box half way down the 2nd column on thedigitalstory.com. That helps support the site.

Download the Show

In addition to subscribing in iTunes, you can also download the podcast file here (34 minutes). You can support this podcast by purchasing the TDS iPhone App for only $2.99 from the Apple App Store.

More Ways to Participate

Want to share photos and talk with other members in our virtual camera club? Check out our Flickr Public Group. And from those images, I choose the TDS Member Photo of the Day.

Podcast Sponsors

lynda.com - Learn lighting, portraiture, Photoshop skills, and more from expert-taught videos at lynda.com/thedigitalstory.

Red River Paper -- Keep up with the world of inkjet printing, and win free paper, by liking Red River Paper on Facebook.

SizzlPix! - High resolution output for your photography. You've never seen your imagery look so good. SizzlPix.com. SizzlPix! now is qualified for PayPal "Bill Me Later," No payments, No interest for up to 6 months, which means, have your SizzlPix! now, and pay nothing until January!

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You can share your thoughts at the TDS Facebook page, where I'll post this story for discussion.

the-lenses-tested.jpg

The Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 75-300mm f/4.8-6.7 II zoom has been on quite a journey. It began with an ugly design and a $900 price tag. Then in 2013, Olympus redesigned the zoom and lowered the cost. Now, Micro Four Thirds shooters can snag this telephoto for $499. So how does it stack up against a couple of its peers?

I decided to do a "Saturday Afternoon 100mm Test" comparing it to the Olympus 40-150mm f/4.0-5.6 ($149) and the classic Four Thirds tele, the Olympus 70-300mm f/4-5.6 Zuiko ED zoom lens. The 40-150mm is very affordable, but lacks a metal lens mount, and the 70-300mm requires the Four-Thirds to Micro-Four-Thirds adapter.

the-test-scene.jpg I attached the lenses to an OM-D E-M5 that was tripod mounted and focused on the left corner of the Rode iXY box. ISO 800, Aperture Priority at f/5.6, Auto White Balance, 2-second self timer, RAW format.

Below are the comparisons. I used the Loupe in Aperture at 200 percent. No adjustments of any type on the images. They are the straight RAW files decoded by Aperture's E-M5 profile.

text-comparison.jpg Text comparison at the point of focus. From left to right: 40-150mm, 75-300mm (sharpest), and the 70-300mm. Click on image for enlarged view.

face-comparison-test.jpg Face comparison slightly behind the point of focus. From left to right: 40-150mm, 75-300mm (sharpest), and the 70-300mm. Click on image for enlarged view.

Bottom Line

At the 100mm focal length, my most common setting for telephotos, the $499 75-300mm Micro Four Thirds zoom did get the job done. I now have the confidence I need, knowing that I can use it for portrait shoots.

All three zooms displayed light chromatic aberration along the text lines, but none should present drawbacks for everyday shooting. I was surprised that the inexpensive and much-maligned 40-150mm tele performed as well as it did. And the size-impractical 70-300mm Four Thirds zoom will continue to stay at home.

Do you perform your own informal lens tests when you buy new glass? If so, share an experience on our TDS Facebook page. My next "Saturday Afternoon Lens Test" will focus on the 200mm and 300mm focal lengths.


twitter.jpg Follow me on Twitter


erase-or-format.jpg

Some photographers are leery of the "Format" command and stick with simply erasing their memory cards. But formatting is actually better for maintaing the health of your SD or CF Flash memory. The key is a fresh directory and the elimination of cruft data bits.

The pictures themselves are just as recoverable (in an emergency) when you format as when you erase. So there really isn't a compelling reason to use "Erase All" instead.

In this short video for lynda.com, I explain the virtues of a freshly formatted card.


Recover Photos from Memory Cards

What should you do (and more importantly not do) if something goes wrong with your camera's memory card? Help is on the way! Check out my lynda.com title, Recovering Photos from Memory Cards, and save those valuable pictures.

It happens all the time. Sure, most photographers would rather shoot in the morning or late afternoon. But for paid assignments that involve busy schedules, you'd be surprised at how often you have to contend with midday lighting.

emerson-chen-francesca.jpg This portrait by Emerson Chen was captured in midday lighting at the TDS Sonoma Coast Workshop. Looks good to me!

You survive these situations by taking control of the light. Typically, this involves working with shade, adding fill flash, trying a diffuser, or bouncing light with a reflector. There's an excellent article on The Phoblographer titled, How to Shoot Better Photos at High Noon. There, the author Amanda Chatham explains the most popular techniques for taming harsh light.

Bottom line: you can capture a great portrait any time of day. Brush up on these simple, but effective lighting techniques to make sure you're prepared for your next high noon showdown.


Join me on my Instagram site as I explore the world of mobile photography. And now Instagram features 15-second movies too.

Want to Comment on this Post?

You can share your thoughts at the TDS Facebook page, where I'll post this story for discussion.

sony-a7s-on-video.jpg

Here's a camera that has piqued much curiosity. The Sony Alpha A7s mirrorless digital camera (currently available for preorder at $2,498) is a full-frame 12.2MP powerhouse with expansive dynamic range, low noise, and extended sensitivity to ISO 409,600. And if that isn't crazy enough for you, it also supports 4:2:2 UHD 4K video output via HDMI.

Needless to say, such a beast would capture the attention of gearhead Doug Kaye. And the result is a comprehensive video review on All About the Gear, hosted by Frederick Van Johnson.

If this camera is on your radar, you should sit back and enjoy this presentation.

Want to Comment on this Post?

You can share your thoughts at the TDS Facebook page, where I'll post this story for discussion.

This week on The Digital Story Photography Podcast: Dusting Off the DSLR, Free Photo Workshop, Macro Photography, Lens Deal - All of this and more on today's show with Derrick Story.

Story #1 - The Weekly Update: Ricoh announces Pentax XG-1 superzoom. This bridge camera sports a whopping 52X zoom (24-1248 mm) and will go on sale in August for $396. (source: DP Review).

In other news, Hasselblad Releases CFV-50c CMOS Back for V-System Cameras. "Designed with simple operation in mind, the back requires zero cables for connection, a first of its kind. As for the technical details, the CFV-50c is capable of up to ISO 6400, 1.5fps, 16-bit color, features a 3" 24-bit color display and uses a CF card for storage, when not tethered to a computer." Estimated price: $15,000. (Source: PetaPixel).

And finally, Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 75-300mm f/4.8-6.7 II Lens on Sale for $499 (with free Expedited Shipping). (Source: B&H Photo)

dust-off-dslr.jpg

Story #2 - Dusting Off the DSLR - I have a big corporate project coming up that involves more than a half dozen shoots over a 3 month period. Because these images will be used a variety of ways, including billboards, and because the client wants very soft background for the portraits, I'll be using my DSLR kit. I haven't shot with it a while because of all my travel. Here's a bit about coming up to speed again.

Story #3 - 1:1:1 - Here's a basic technical reminder that 1 f-stop equals 1 full shutter speed equals 1 full ISO setting. I review how this works and why it's important in the third segment of today's show.

Story #4 - From the Screening Room - Photography 101: Shooting Macros and Close-Ups with Joseph Linaschke. I know Joseph well and he's a terrific instructor. In this brand new title, he shows you a variety of techniques for close-up photography.

You can watch Joseph in action by visiting the TDS Screening Room at lynda.com/thedigitalstory. While you're there, you can start your 7 day free trial to watch other design, photography, and computing titles, plus every other topic in the library (including my brand new "Photographing High School Senior Portraits."

Story #5 - A Free Photo Workshop. I'm working on the 2015 TDS Photography Workshop Schedule. As many of you know, I like to introduce at least one new topic a season. And I'd like to hear from you, "What Theme Would You Love for Me to Teach in 2015?" Send your idea to derrick@thedigitalstory.com with the subject line: My Favorite Workshop Topic. My goal is to incorporate one of these suggestions into the 2015 season. If I do, that person gets free tuition to that workshop.

Virtual Camera Club News

From SizzlPix: Now, for The Digital Story listeners and readers, this month only, SizzlPix will knock off 20% of the price for your SizzlPix, any quantity, any size up to 6 feet! Just put the initials TDS or "The Digital Story" in the comments space of their new, simplified online order form. SizzlPix.com.

Save on Ground Shipping for Red River Paper: Use coupon code ground50c to receive a 50 percent discount on UPS ground shipping for Red River Paper. No minimum purchase required.

Photo Assignment for July 2014 is "Smokin' Hot".

If you haven't done so already, please post a review for The Digital Story Podcast in iTunes.

BTW: If you're ordering through B&H or Amazon, please click on the respective ad tile under the Products header in the box half way down the 2nd column on thedigitalstory.com. That helps support the site.

Download the Show

In addition to subscribing in iTunes, you can also download the podcast file here (32 minutes). You can support this podcast by purchasing the TDS iPhone App for only $2.99 from the Apple App Store.

More Ways to Participate

Want to share photos and talk with other members in our virtual camera club? Check out our Flickr Public Group. And from those images, I choose the TDS Member Photo of the Day.

Podcast Sponsors

lynda.com - Learn lighting, portraiture, Photoshop skills, and more from expert-taught videos at lynda.com/thedigitalstory.

Red River Paper -- Keep up with the world of inkjet printing, and win free paper, by liking Red River Paper on Facebook.

SizzlPix! - High resolution output for your photography. You've never seen your imagery look so good. SizzlPix.com. SizzlPix! now is qualified for PayPal "Bill Me Later," No payments, No interest for up to 6 months, which means, have your SizzlPix! now, and pay nothing until February!

Want to Comment on this Post?

You can share your thoughts at the TDS Facebook page, where I'll post this story for discussion.