I am a wedding photographer. I have a Canon 350D with 18-55mm kit lens, but plan to start my own business of shooting model portfolios.
1. Is my camera and lens good enough for the purpose?
2. How many and which lights should I have at first?
3. What should be the studio measurements? My room measures 10 x10ft.
4. Which and how many backdrops will I need?
5. What will be the starting cost (approx. investment)?
6. How should I get the contacts and clients? Can any photographer or agency or organization help me?
Rajib Mukherjee, Kolkata
1. Initially, yes.
2. Depends on your skills. Portraits can be lit with just one light, or with one light and a reflector, or with as many lights you may like. Budget permitting, I suggest you try to get at least 3 studio lights. Even if you manage with just one, prospective clients coming into your studio should not feel that you lack equipment. This is sometimes referred to as ‘showmanship’ and it has something to do with human psyche. Also, in case one light conks out, you’ll have a stand-by. Do get a couple of good reflectors.
Since I have not used every make of studio light available in the market, it is difficult to say which you should go in for. At a personal level, I use Prolinchrome and I am more than satisfied with them.
3. If you plan to do close portraits or head-and-shoulders, 10 x 10 feet may just suffice.
Ideally, a portrait studio should be at least 12 x 18 feet.
4. To start with, I suggest you get 3 backdrops: White, Gray and Black. At the risk of confusing you, note that a white backdrop can be made to appear gray or even black, but that would not be possible in a small size studio.
5. I don’t have the latest prices, but I suppose 3 studio lights with stands, reflectors, white umbrellas and miscellaneous items may cost around Rs.30,000 to 40,000. You could always buy second hand but such a decision could possibly prove unwise.
6. Marketing a product – any product – is the most difficult part. I doubt if anyone can help you in this regard. It will take time to gather a good clientele (will depend on your photographic skills as well as your marketing skills). Make sure that you have reserve funds to help you keep going during the lean period. Good luck.
Should I replace my lens?
When I take pictures with my 70-300mm zoom lens at 70mm, my pictures are very sharp. But when I shoot at 300mm, my pictures are mostly blurry. Can you suggest me a lens that is sharp at both ends?
P. S. Jain, Amritsar
This is a problem faced by most beginners. It is not the lens, but your technique that needs to be updated. I assume that you are using a APS-C size sensor camera. If that is so, then at the 300mm end, the equivalent focal length is 450 or 480mm (450mm if you are a Nikon user; 480mm if a Canon user). This means that for hand-held photography, your minimum shutter speed should be at least 1/450 or 1/480 sec respectively (I am ignoring image stabilization). I am sure that if you follow this advice, you will not have a need to replace your lens.
Note: I admit that some telephoto zooms are not very sharp at their longest end (as compared to their mid-range performance), but chances are, its more a problem of the inadequate shutter speeds rather than lens resolution.
Why not TIFF?
I notice that you never recommend shooting in TIFF. Being a lossless format, does it not provide the most detail in all the shots?
Ramesh Walia, Porbunder, Gujarat
I believe that shooting in TIFF is a waste of time, money and energy. It’s true that TIFF is lossless, but it provides the largest file size (compared to JPEG or RAW) which fills up the buffer / memory card faster than you could imagine. Secondly, it takes a hell of a time to write to the card. You’ll also need a very large hard drive to store all those super-heavy files. It takes a long time for each file to open in Photoshop (and also takes longer when closing the file). No wonder then, latest D-SLRs don’t allow you to store your images in TIFF.
And would you be able to look at a print and then say whether it was shot in TIFF, or JPEG, or RAW?
What points should I keep in mind when buying a macro lens?
Prem Sarkar, Kolkata
Assuming that purchasing power (finance) is not a problem, here are my suggestions in the order of importance:
Buy the macro lens with the longest focal length. (A true macro lens provides a magnification ratio of 1:1, i.e. life-size). The longer the focal length, the further away the front of the lens will be from the subject (this is also known as the ‘working distance’) for the same magnification. This in turn provides some degree of safety when photographing dangerous subjects like scorpions or snakes. The greater working distance also means that your shadow is less likely to fall on the subject. So, if you have say, 3 macro lenses having focal lengths of 60mm, 100mm, and 200mm, then go in for the 200mm. (If the main use of your macro lens is for copying using a copying stand, you may be better off using a macro lens with a shorter focal length).
The longer the focal length, the less of the background will be covered. This can be a great advantage in nature photography when the background is disturbing.
Accuracy of manual focusing:
Macro lenses are often used with manual focusing to avoid autofocusing motor noise (which could disturb some subjects). Also, in the event of a low-contrast subject, AF may not latch on quickly and cause the lens to ‘hunt’ for focus. If the lens has a manual override for AF, it is easier (and quicker) to fine-tune the focus manually.
Lenses that go from minimum to infinity focus with a short twist of the focusing ring may not provide the same degree of accuracy of focus.
If the lens causes flare, contrast will go down and the images will not appear crisp. Hence the lens must have good control over flare.
Shake reduction system:
Optical shake reduction (like Canon’s IS or Nikon’s VR) in any lens is an important feature. But since I always recommend macro shooting using a tripod (I know it is not always convenient or possible), this feature is not as important to me as the earlier mentioned features.
All lenses exhibit some amount of corner darkening at wide open aperture (at the widest zoom setting with zooms). Obviously, the lesser the darkening,
Build quality and handling:
It goes without saying that the build quality should be good for better longevity. Handling should be easy and convenient too.
I own a NIKON COOLPIX L-110. I have a problem in controlling the shutter speed. If I anyhow try to control it by varying the aperture, the picture quality deteriorates.
Dhananjay Ingle, Nagpur.
The Coolpix L-110 does not offer Aperture / Shutter Priority modes. Neither does it offer a Manual exposure mode. So the only way you may be able to increase the shutter speed (in a given lighting situation), is to increase the ISO sensitivity. I take it that when you say “… the picture quality deteriorates”, the picture is very ‘noisy’. Well, that is the penalty you pay for using a camera with a very small sensor. The only solution, whenever possible, is to use the lowest ISO. In low light, try using a tripod, but again, at the lowest ISO setting.
New to photography
1) I’m a newcomer to photography, using a Canon EOS 5D. Now I’m going to buy a 5D Mark II. I’ve read about EOS-1 Ds Mark III. Most of the features are similar. Mark II is also an advanced camera, so why is there a major price variation between them and which is the better one for me?
2) Is EF 100mm f/2.8 a better macro lens for portrait photography?
Shreenath Solanki, via E-mail
1. In my opinion, both, the 5D Mark II and the 1Ds Mark III are superb cameras. The Mark III has a better build quality and is better on the specs. Mark III has 45 focus points, 63-zone exposure metering, 5 fps maximum firing rate, and +/- 3EV exposure compensation. Mark II has 9 focus points, 35-area focusing, 3.9 fps maximum firing rate, and +/- 2EV exposure compensation. On the other hand, the Mark II has an LCD with 920,000 dots, whilst it is 230,000 dot LCD for the Mark III.
2. The EF 100mm f/2.8 macro can certainly be used for portraits. Canon also has a 85mm f/1.2L II USM which is considered to be the ‘gold standard’ for portrait work.
1) How can I calculate magnification?
2) Does magnification vary as we change focal length of a zoom lens?
3) Do we get reciprocal magnification after reversing the lens?
4) Do we get control over DOF after reversing the lens?
Sandeep V. Khambait, Nashik
1. Size of the subject divided by the size of the image. If the subject is 1-inch long and is recorded as 1-inch on the film/sensor, the magnification is 1x. If the image size is 1/2 inch, the magnification is 0.5x. If the image is twice the size of the subject, the magnification is 2x.
2. If you don’t change the camera position, yes, the magnification will change as we change the focal length.
4. As you narrow down the aperture, DOF will increase (theoretically) but at such magnifications, at a practical level, the control is hardly worth talking about.