Resident know-it-all Andrew James tackles your queries and rates your shots
Q In Lightroom, should I change the Profile of an image once I have imported it? Sue Westland
AProfiles can give you an excellent starting point for your image, and even potentially save you needing to do any additional processing at all. By moving the Profile option from the Calibration panel to the Basic panel with the last Lightroom CC update, Adobe has clearly realised it needed to make them more available within the workflow. You also have a greater choice than ever before, with various different sets of Profiles that can be applied with one click – whether these are Profiles that match your in-camera options or creative looks.
I particularly like the various Black & White Profile options: by choosing one for a specific image, I can give myself a good head start on achieving a look I want. By using the Amount slider, I can also tweak the effect, making it weaker or stronger. Once the Profile has been applied, you can still do any other processing you want with any of the universal sliders or by using Brushes and Graduated Filters for more localised effects.
One of the little touches I like is that you can create your own set of favourite Profiles simply by clicking on the star in the corner of any Profile while you are viewing it. Once clicked, the Profile will instantly appear in Favourites. If you change your mind later on, just click on the star again and it is removed.
Q I take a lot of photographs in the city, and never know whether to include people or try to avoid them. What do you think I should do? Devon Brewster
A I think you should do both! There is no doubt that sometimes the amount of people milling around an interesting urban scene can get in the way. To avoid them you often have to get up really early, stay out late or just be incredibly patient. However, people are very much a part of city life and including them in your image can help to give it context, a sense of scale and so on. The real key is to be incredibly selective with how people are used and again, this will require patience, luck and pre-planning.
I was shooting in Bilbao recently, and was doing a photo of the giant steel spider statue in front of the famous Guggenheim Museum. Generally the space beneath the statue was filled with lots of people and this looked really messy, so I waited and managed a few frames without anyone in it – but this lost any sense of the statue’s scale. In the end, I stood and waited for a long time for a few solo people to walk past, but even then I still was not happy with the composition. It was only when the cyclist came past that I felt all the compositional elements had come together. I had already decided I needed the human element to the left of the spider so it was just a question of shooting a couple of quick frames as the cyclist sped past. He is only tiny in the frame but is important to the overall composition. Experiment with this next time you’re shooting in the city.
Macro helpers I’ve become keen on macro photography. What accessories would you suggest? Dave Howell
A There are numerous items you can get to help your macro photography. I am assuming you already have a tripod (if not, definitely add this to the list), and I think a micro position plate could be useful for very fine adjustments, especially if you intend to focus-stack.
However, the three things I use most often when using a macro lens are a beanbag, a small reflector and a flashgun. The beanbag is invaluable when you work flat on the ground to shoot insects or plants, such as fungi. Get a double-sized one if you can: it’s heavier to carry, but it makes positioning the camera and lens safely and firmly that much easier.
A reflector is essential for bouncing natural and flash illumination to fill in shadows and makes your subject stand out well. The flashgun itself is used when there isn’t enough natural light to bring out the textures or colours of your subject. I always prefer to have it off-camera so I can play with the direction of light; this means having a flash trigger and receiver too.
The snail image above was taken using an off-camera flashgun, angled to bring out the texture on the snail’s body and the colours of the shell. Using a low power with the flashgun has meant it is balanced with the ambient light, so it looks more natural.
Q What is a camera’s burst rate? Tina Heath
A It’s the number of frames you can fire one after the other if you hold the shutter button down when the camera is in its continuous drive mode, without the camera stopping or slowing down as it processes the data. This can vary significantly between models. The amount of continuous files that a camera can cope with also depends on whether you are shooting JPEG or raw, with raw files being harder to process and therefore more likely to slow the camera down. A high burst rate is useful if you shoot sport or wildlife.
Focus fail Q My lens doesn’t lock focus. I bought it second-hand and it has always been like this. Do you think something is damaged? Cooper Holden
A There are several different reasons that a lens fails to find focus, but even a budget lens should be able to lock focus easily in bright conditions when there is a lot of contrast within the scene. Therefore the first thing I would suggest is that you test its ability in good conditions before anything else. If it still struggles, you need to eliminate other potential causes. Make sure the front element is clean and that your camera sensor is also dust-free.
Also double-check that you are not trying to focus closer than its minimum focusing distance. Do any testing using the central AF point, as this should be the fastest to lock focus on your subject.
If you have exhausted these possibilities and it is still hunting for focus, then
unfortunately it does sound like an internal fault. Depending on how much you paid for it, you can get a lens repair specialist to take a look at it. Over the years, I have had several lenses develop focusing issues due to wear and tear – and on each occasion, I have had the lens fixed for a lot less than it would cost to replace it with a new or second-hand optic.
Blur amount Q When I try to capture slow movement in a landscape as a blur, how do I know what shutter speed to use? Rich Granger
A There is no exact rule here, Rich; it all depends on how much natural movement there is, and how blurry you want it. With time you get a feel for it, but if you are still learning, nothing beats experimentation and learning from the results.
The simple thing to remember is: the longer the exposure, the more any moving objects will blur. If you only want a small amount of blur, shutter speeds of 1/15 or 1/30 sec can sometimes be enough to give that hint of movement, especially for water. The temptation can often be to use very long exposures, but shorter exposures that retain more detail can also be interesting and successful.
When you import a shot into Lightroom CC, the revamped Profiles system gives you plenty of choices for how to process the shot. Before After Once you’ve selected a Profile, it’s easy to modify it or do further editing.
Andrew James Andrew is a highlyexperienced writer and photographer – if you have a problem, he is here to help.
Including the figure helps the composition and suggests scale.
A few simple accessories can really enhance your macro photography.
Look for a camera with a high burst rate for a better chance of capturing action.