Question #44: 3 questions in 13 minutes and 13 seconds

Let's try something different this week! I did a live Q&A on my FB Page today and put the video on YouTube. I'll be doing more of them so please join me on FB if you can!

Elizabeth Gray: "Hi Valerie, I meant to ask you this in Vancouver but forgot. How often do you use the wide angle and tele converter for you X100T? Are they easy to swap in and out on the fly? Would you recommend them as an alternative to one of the interchangeable lens Fujis?"

Susan Goudge: "Hi Valerie! I want to work on getting some shots with motion blur with people on the street--can you advise what settings to use to get this effect? Thank you!"

Monty Montgomery: "I believe you have said you use single point focus mode. If the subject is off-center you will focus and recompose and take the shot. How does that work for you when you are shooting from the waist level? Do you change the focus mode to zone or are you skilled enough that you are able to focus and recompose using single point? Thanks."

Question #42: About My Camera Settings

Q: "Valerie, I love your photographs, there's a timelessness attached to them and very French if I may say so! These are in the tradition of the great French photographers of the fifties. One thing though, I'm dying to know what your settings are if you shoot Raw or Jpegs out of the camera. Hoping you will put me out of my misery. Best wishes." Alan Thomas.

A: "Thank you for the nice compliment Alan, made me blush! :)

As you probably know, I shoot almost exclusively with the Fuji x100s. I love its simplicity and user-friendly dials. I shoot RAW because I like the control it gives me. I don't spend much time in Lightroom but I like consistency and control in my B&W conversion. I don't use presets, I adjust each slider in seconds and the job is done. I have used the JPEG setting on many occasions and the fun filters. I have often set the format in square high contrast B&W with yellow filter and got great results that didn't differ much from the adjustments I make to my RAW files. Basically I shoot RAW out of habit more than anything else...

I shoot in Aperture Priority most of the time. A dial I use a lot is exposure compensation, which is very conveniently located on the x100s (not the case for every camera where you have to go into a menu to change it!) 

My two cents: It's not about shooting Raw or Jpeg, full manual or auto, it's really about learning to see and know how to use your camera to tell your story. I see a lot of bad imagery shot in full manual mode and quite a lot amazing photography shot with camera phones. Vision is still the most indispensable element to produce good photography :)

I hope this answers your question. Happy shooting!" Valerie

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Question #36: About Selling Used Camera Gear

Q: "I have an old Canon EOS Rebel Xs Film Camera with a 28-80mm 3.5-5.6 EF lens and a 75-300mm zoom II 4-5.6 lens. Is there still a market out there for this type of equipment? I'd like to sell it and buy a lens for my DSLR instead.
Thanks!" Nicki

A: "Hi Nicki! Thank you for your question. Used camera bodies sell but they don't sell for much. Especially entry level cameras that were inexpensive to start with. Unless you can get an accurate shutter actuation count to show that it still has a lot of life left, most people will not buy used camera bodies. Lenses, on the other end, do sell if they have been well taken care of. The only thing that would be a deal breaker is mold in the lens which is a fairly common problem that cannot be fixed. That all depends where you live, but it is a real concern is some parts of the world where lenses need special storing precautions to stay dry.

The lenses listed above are not expensive lenses to start with, so you won't get much for them. You may also consider donating them to a school or a non profit program like 100 Cameras.

No matter what you decide to do, get rid of your DSLR equipment while you can. With the increasing popularity of mirrorless systems, the market is starting to be inundated with used equipment and the value will go down pretty quickly. Good luck!" Valerie 

©Valerie Jardin

©Valerie Jardin

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Question #29: About Lens Choice For Low Light Situations

Q: "Hi Valerie! I really enjoy your blog. My dream would be to take one of your workshops in Paris one day. I need guidance on which lens to purchase next. I have a Nikon D80 camera. The ISO stops at 1600. Eventually I would like a full frame DSLR. I have an 18-200 lens. The largest aperture is 3.5 . I am trying to decide if I should get a 35mm 1.4 or should I consider the 24-70 2.8. Or something else. Photography is my hobby and now that my children are grown I am trying to make growing in my knowledge a priority. I love to photograph anything. Children, landscapes, candid moments. Street and food photography really interests me. I need something that handles well in low light. Thank you!" ~ Kathy

A: "Thank you for your kind words Kathy, I hope you join my Paris workshop some day!

I am quite familiar with the 35mm and the 24-70mm lenses. My Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 has been my bread and butter lens for years. I used to travel with it but it's heavy and bulky and I've been leaving it behind, along with the DSLR for months now. It's a great lens. I almost exclusively use prime lenses these days and 35mm is the perfect lens for me. It's ideal for street photography (my Fuji x100s has a fixed 23mm lens which is the equivalent to a 35mm). I also travelled for several weeks with that focal length only and loved every minute of it (see images on blog post). The 35mm lens will be a great choice in low light and a great exercise in creativity as it will make you work harder at your composition skills. Another lens to consider would be a 50mm f/1.8, it's a great little lens and a good way to get used to working with a fixed focal length rather inexpensively. 

Keep in mind too that 1.4 will let a lot more light than 2.8 (four times more light if i'm not mistaken) and will be your best choice to shoot hand held in low light situations. 

Before you invest in expensive glass, make sure you want to stay with a DSLR system. Mirrorless cameras are definitely the way to go for most photographers today, amateurs and pros alike. You may enjoy a smaller and lighter system without compromising on the quality of images. Food for thoughts...

I hope this helps! Thanks for submitting a question for the blog!"

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Question #28: About Feeling Uncomfortable To Shoot Street Photography

Q: "I recently discovered your work and what you capture is simply amazing. I have ventured the streets of Chicago a time or two with my D700 and find myself uncomfortable in a way. I feel like I am doing something wrong, is that a normal feeling? I usually do portraits and music photography but I see so much on the streets, I feel the moments need to be captured. What advice would you give to feel comfortable shooting on the streets? I often see moments when walking around but for somereason, I let them go by. Thank you for taking the time to answer." Jr Wyatt

A: " Thank you for your kind words Jr! This is a very normal feeling and most street photographers feel more or less uneasy at first. It's a matter of getting to the point when the desire to document life in the streets becomes stronger than the fear of doing it. 

There are several things you may want to consider:

  • First, as long as you are respectful of others and you are in a public place, you're not doing anything wrong! I make a point to never photograph people in an embarrassing or vulnerable situation or in a moment of crisis.
  • Hit the streets with a friend until you gain enough confidence to go out on your own. Even if your friend is not a photographer, having another person with you will embolden you. 
  • Practice in a busy place, a fair or a market. It's easier to blend in.
  • You may want to consider going out with a smaller camera or use your camera phone. You will attract less attention to yourself than shooting with a dslr.  
  • Join one of my street photography workshops, shameless plug :) I'll be in Chicago in May! Many workshop students shoot their first street photography during the workshop, it's amazing how much confidence they gain in just two days!
  • Here are some articles I recently wrote for dPS that may give you some useful tips on getting over the fear of photographing strangers.

How to Approach Street Photography in 12 easy steps

How to Make a Portrait of a Stranger in 8 Easy Steps

Get out there an have fun, don't hide behind a big lens, get close and enjoy the experience. Good luck!

©Valérie Jardin

©Valérie Jardin

Please leave a comment below and share your experience with the community. If you have a question, feel free to send it to Valerie for an upcoming Q&A blog post. This blog cannot exist without your questions! 

Question#27: About Photographic Skills

Q: "Hi Valerie, I have always wanted to learn photography. Though I'm far from being even a novice in photography but have a very strong urge to learn it. My question is whether photography is for those born with a seed for it or can a person develop it as a skill from 0 (like me) ?

In addition to it, what must be my approach to learn photography because at present all I have is a point-and-shoot camera. Do I need to start with a workshop or any other way?  Thanks." U. Kartikey

A: "That's a great question and a topic that many probably wonder about but never ask! There's never been a better time to learn photography. Everything that you need to learn about the technical aspect of the craft is available online and mostly for free. This is a huge advantage what didn't exist 15 years ago even! For some, a classroom setting is better than learning online and there are photography classes offered everywhere through community colleges, etc.

You are also raising a very good point about 'natural talent' and the part it plays in the outcome. Learning the technical aspects of photography is the easy part that is accessible to all. Everyone can take a technically great picture but not everyone can make a compelling image. The rest of the ingredients you need is a combination of passion, determination and LOTS of practice. I do believe in natural talent but that comes in various forms. We are all talented at something. Some will see a perfect composition right away without ever having to think about composition rules. Others will have the ability to see a story in a frame and, with the technical skills they acquired with experience, will be able capture that moment flawlessly. Some new photographers have such great people skills, they can position themselves as portrait photographers because they have a natural talent at interacting with their subject, etc.

If you are just starting out, try a lot of different things until you find one genre (or several) that you are truly passionate about. If you focus on what you love, you're half way there! With passion, determination and experience you will grow and develop a style. 

About gear: Your point and shoot probably has some manual settings that you can experiment with. Start with what you own. Remember that the camera doesn't make the photograph and you can take killer shots with any point and shoot or camera phone. As your skills improve and you start to feel limited by your gear, then consider upgrading. Go to a camera store, rent or experiment with a friend's camera to determine what feels right for you. It may not be a DSLR system, there are hundreds of choices out there. There are no bad cameras. Take your time to figure out what you really want to spend your money on.

©Valérie Jardin

©Valérie Jardin

About education: As I mentioned above, most of what you need to learn on how to use your camera is available for free, you can also learn a lot about techniques and composition online. Join a local photo community or photo walk group. Start a photo project such as a 365 day challenge. Anything that will make you want to go out and shoot everyday! Photo workshops are also a great way to learn in the field with like-minded people. There are many options available that range from a few hours to a few weeks.

Most importantly, shoot for yourself. Do not worry about pleasing others with your pictures (or we'd all be photographing kittens and puppies to post on Facebook...) Follow your heart and your vision. As long as you are not shooting for clients, make yourself happy first! As you grow, get some honest and reliable critique of your work in order to improve on it.

Remember the number one rule: Have fun with your camera! I hope this helps and I wish you the best." Valérie

Please leave a comment below and share your experience with the community. If you have a question, feel free to send it to Valerie for an upcoming Q&A blog post. This blog cannot exist without your questions! 

Question #26: About The Cold And Your Camera

Question #26: About The Cold And Your Camera

I received two questions today related to cold weather and how to protect your camera. Since it's very cold over here in the Midwest, I thought I would write a quick post to answer them right away.

Q: "How to protect the camera from the cold and condensation when bringing it back indoors" Maria Cecilia


Q: "Equipement protection and care in very cold conditions and back into the warmth." Bruno C

A: "Living in Minnesota, where the hottest temperature ever recorded was 114°F (46°C) and the coldest temperature on record was a chilly -60°F (-51°C), I think I am semi qualified to answer those questions...

Cameras don't like extreme temperatures, photographers usually don't like them much either... This post is about the cold so here is my advice:

Your main worry is a mirror lock up when the lubricant that helps activate the moving parts freezes. Cameras can usually handle cold temperatures. For example, the Canon 5D Mark II has a cold rating of 32°/104°F (0°/40°C). I've had mine out for extended periods of time at much colder temperatures and never had a problem. Check your manual to find out the cold rating data for your camera model.

Another thing to worry about when the temperature dips: The battery will wear out much faster so make sure you carry a spare or two that you keep in a pocket as close to your body heat as possible. Smaller cameras don't have as many moving parts, and no mirror freeze up to worry about, but their batteries will drain even faster so be prepared for that. 

When out in the cold, your camera doesn't need any special protection as long as it is dry. In case of a heavy snowstorm, any camera rain sleeve will do. The key is to keep moisture and condensation from building up on your camera and lens. Excessive moisture on your lenses can cause mold to form inside the lens, which will ruin it. To prevent damage from condensation, here is what you need to do: Before you go back inside your house or car, make sure you seal your camera in an air-tight plastic bag. This will allow the camera to reach room temperature while the condensation builds on the outside of the bag, not on your precious gear. One more thing: Avoid changing lenses in adverse weather!!

If' you're on a 'photo drive' and make frequent stops. Don't even bother turning the heat on in your car in between photo stops. You're already dressed for the cold weather, so keep the gear as close to the same temperature as the outside temp as possible to keep the lens from fogging up, then put it in a plastic bag when you're ready to pack up and head home.

You also need to take care of yourself. Frostbites hurt! Dressing in layers is key. Keep extra feet and hand warmers pouches in your camera bag. They don't always stay warm for as long as it says on the package... If you've never heard of feet or hand warmers, they are small pouches of iron powder, charcoal and saw dust that, when combined and exposed to air, react and create an oxidation that produces heat (there may be another ingredient or two, I'm not a chemist!) They stay warm for about 6 hours. Those little pouches are a life saver when you spend time outdoors during the Minnesota Winter. 

Photographers also need be able to have full use of their fingers to adjust camera settings but, in extreme cold conditions, you just cannot take your gloves off safely. I wear touch screen gloves under my super-warm mittens. They are well fitted to let me adjust camera settings and to answer my iPhone with the special touch screen finger tip technology. 

Skin freezes very quickly, leave as little of it exposed as possible. Wearing a balaclava and good sunglasses will protect you. I wear boots that are rated for extremely cold temperatures but my feet will still get cold if I don't keep moving. Warm socks and feet warmers really help keep you comfortable. This doesn't sound very fashionable you may say... Well, you're on a photography mission, not a fashion show. And frankly, when it's that cold, I doubt you run into too many other people ;)

I hope this helps my photographer friends who are currently living cold places. Please share your experience and/or tips in the comment section. Stay warm and happy shooting!"  Valérie

©Valérie Jardin

©Valérie Jardin

©Valérie Jardin

©Valérie Jardin

Winter driving... No worries, I was shooting from the passenger seat! ©Valérie Jardin

Winter driving... No worries, I was shooting from the passenger seat! ©Valérie Jardin

If you have a question, feel free to send it to Valerie for an upcoming Q&A blog post. This blog cannot exist without your questions!