147 Camera Calibration and Listener Questions

Have you ever seriously thought of calibrating your camera? You’ve heard me talk about calibrating your monitor and using ICC profiles for your printer for a fully calibrated workflow. I’ll also be answering listener questions today!

Main Topic 1: Camera Calibration

I actually have a completely different blog post on this topic. Please read it here.

Main Topic 2: Listener Questions

Aaron Martinez

How do you keep job burnout from affecting your personal work? (In the context of a professional photographer.)

WebMB says that burnout is a “form of exhaustion caused by constantly feeling swamped.”

I would add that burnout can also result in simply feeling like you don’t care anymore. Essentially, the work you’re doing doesn’t seem as important to you anymore. You’re lacking the ability to get motivated or even to stay motivated.

This can be especially tough when your job is to make photographs on a daily basis, and to be constantly creative.

I have a similar situation, somewhat, in that I teach others the creative process in various forms every day. The variety does help, but when I get home the last thing I “want” to do is go and make a new photograph. Sometimes I certainly do, but most of the time I need that time to unplug. To do something else.

I believe this is why my creative juices really start to flow when I’m out away from home. When I can focus totally on my work I’m able to feel rejuvenated and I can more easily get back into the groove.

As for Aaron, I would suggest thinking about an overall project that could be accomplished over time. This might be different enough from the daily grind to still provide motivation to get the work done. Maybe it’s creating works at a nature center, a park or some other location that is large enough to provide a variety of options but close enough to be accessible throughout the year. 

Also, don’t underestimate the value of total unplugging. In 2006 I went 8 months without shooting one frame. I needed the break very badly. And while it was a tough time in life, I needed that time to unplug. Certainly if your job is all about making photographs you can’t totally unplug, but go ahead and take a week off from thinking about any other project other than work. Maybe take a month off. Focus on family, friends, or maybe yourself. Once you’ve had some time to metaphorically lick your wounds you’ll be back at it again.

The one thing I really want to get across is that you should NOT force yourself to go out and shoot if you’re really feeling the stress. Stress and creativity, especially one’s personal projects, do not go well together. Go to a nature park WITHOUT your camera even. Go just to go. Enjoy it just for the enjoyment of being there. Soak up whatever you can while there and while not thinking about making a photograph. Even put duct tape over your cell phone camera lens (or something that’s easier to clean off) so you’re not tempted to shoot with the cell phone either. 

The point is to take joy in the Great Outdoors just for the benefit of being out there and you’ll find your energy once again before too long to make more images while out there.

Drake Dyck

What are the advantages of going to native glass when switching to mirrorless (i.e. for Canon RF vs EF) and how significant are they? Which of these lenses would be best to replace sooner than later?

In my experience there’s no real different between using the RF adapter with EF lenses and having the RF lenses natively connected to the camera.

Canon even makes multiple RF adapters with different capabilities. I just have the main adapter without any of the additional fancy features.

The one benefit I could see with the adapter that has the drop in filter would be for using a lens like the 11–24mm with a polarizer or ND filter. I’d never use that lens and polarizer while photographing the sky, but when doing a waterfall or an overcast day and the foreground is moist there would be some benefits.

I’ve not heard of anyone having trouble with the Canon branded  adapter. Other manufacturers do make adapters too, and those I’d research very well before buying.

My main point on this one is that since Canon is making the entire system I can’t imagine there’d be any issues with performance. It’s also been my experience that this isn’t the case.

However, what is annoying is that I have two EF lenses that I regularly use and only one RF adapter. If I only had one lens this whole process would be easier, but it amounts to another lens change effectively if I need to not only change lenses, but also grab the adapter off of one lens to put it on the other lens. I hope to upgrade one more lens this year so that my remaining EF lens that I use will still use the RF adapter but I won’t have to swap it out at all with another EF lens. That’d be nice 🙂

Manuel Lora

Are we photographers who travel, or travelers who happen to also be into photography.

I love this question! 🙂

I think it kind of depends. For me travel and photography have been so intertwined for so long I can’t hardly remember a time when they were ever done separately. I need both to really be on top of the world so to speak. 

But I would think it really comes down to motivations. What makes you tick and what is important to you?

There have been many times where I think I’d love to do more of a Paul Theroux type of journey. One that lasts possibly 6 months or more. He’s a writer and I love his non-fiction books. But he doesn’t shoot any pics. It would require that I slim down my system and while I think I will still do something like that it’s really hard to leave the “big” camera setup behind and go with a much smaller kit. The Fuji X system is great for such work in my opinion. You may recall a post I did a few years back where I decided the system wasn’t for me. But if serious long-term travel were more my thing Fuji would be the only system I’d consider.

Steve Blakely

Is autofocus calibration software such as FoCal by Reikan worth the investment.

In short, my opinion is no. It’s not worth it with todays mirrorless systems. If you have and regularly use DSLRs then yes, it’s very much worth it if your camera supports Auto Focus Micro Adjustment.

However, on this page, they show that no Canon RF mount cameras are supported. You do get to run the MultiTest, Stabilization Test, Focus Consistency, Aperture Sharpness and Dust Analysis. So if those things are important to you then by all means my opinion changes. But as there’s no AFMA available, I would personally pass.

On the same page they do show Nikon support and for every camera it’s stated as “user assisted” for Autofocus Calibration. Even for the mirrorless system bodies. However, for the Z mount cameras, they do not support the Calibration Check so it’s going to be a completely manual process.

Doug Gabbard

Advice for ND filters or system

I have used and am a fan of both Breakthrough Photography and PolarPro filters.

One thing I do like about Breakthrough filters is their glass. It’s Schott brand made in Germany. It’s hard to find a better glass, in fact, probably impossible.

That said, I do use the PolarPro more often. Their glass is made in China. This is at least what it was when I acquired my set. Full disclosure, PolarPro did send me a set for review and I put it up against the Breakthrough filters and with my testing anyway I couldn’t find any appreciable difference. I did have hopes of working with the physics professors here at the university to do some diffraction tests with some lasers, but alas, that hasn’t happened and probably won’t. To many other things to think about…

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Quinn Kirkland

What do you know about a device called Arsenal. Is it worth the money and will it make your photos better?

They call it, “The Intelligent Camera Assistant.” and apparently with version 2 it “just got smarter.”

When I click on the “features” page to find out about this product I find this quote on the top of the page, “[The] smart assistant AI suggests settings based on your subject and environment. It uses an advanced neural network to pick the optimal settings for any scene…”

So basically, they break it down to three steps.

  1. It examines the scene and looks for what subject you’re shooting and will make a determination on shutter speed and other settings based on the subject you’re shooting.
  2. Compares the scene with “thousands of professional photos” using “a convolutional deep neural network.”
    I had to look up what this “CNN” was all about and found this link.
    After watching it, I pretty much have a headache. It’s so heavily math based and I’m lost. This type of stuff takes ALL the fun out of photography.
  3. Settings are then optimized on 22 different factors such as hyperfocal distance and the sensor’s dynamic range.

Certainly the point of this device is to take much of the mystery out of photography. It tackles the complex stuff which presumably allows you to focus on your composition. At least, so far at least, it seems like the device will not make compositional recommendations for you. I hope it stays that way.

Other features:

  1. Deep Color (processing the image using their neural network).
  2. Full wireless control (via smartphone app).
  3. Nighttime assist that will automatically focus on the stars for you.
  4. Panorama preview.
  5. Focus stacking made easy.
  6. Magically remove people from shots (or other moving objects).
  7. Merge photos whether it’s very high dynamic range or long exposures (rather easy to do in PS if you know PS anyway).
  8. Timelapse features.
  9. Micro SD card in the unit for all the JPGs and raw images it can save (it does a lot of work for you).

At the time of research, they have 480 units left of their initial 11,000 units and it’s 20% off the regular price.

My analysis

In short, I was initially skeptical in the beginning of looking at this piece of kit. However, the more advanced things it can do for you are rather intriguing, such as timelapses and the nighttime helper. For me, I’d usually rather do the other items in Photoshop, such as long exposures and exposure blending. There’s just too much going on, especially with an exposure blend, that I would want to do to control the output. Also, I’m not sure if it creates the DNG file for these items (and the Deep Color too) or if it’s only doing it via JPG. 

It also looks like that it will transfer photos with the smartphone app rather easily. While that’s kinda nice, I’m not one to put too many pics on my smartphone. It clogs it up and I hate transferring pics off it, so I generally don’t do any serious photo work on my smartphone. I like the iPhone but their way of handling photos is completely outside of my workflow so I have chosen not to do it.

So the question is, “Is it worth the money and will it make your photos better?”

If wrapping your mind around the technical aspect of photography is continually a challenge then it’s possible that this device will be a big help. But do remember it’s another piece of technology that you’ll have to learn how to use effectively. If you’re looking for ways to streamline your image-making process, then this just might fit the bill for you. At $219 until they sell out of the remaining units, and at $275 from then on… It’s not a terrible price that’s for sure. It seems quite reasonable, actually. 

At this time, I won’ the buying one for a few reasons. I don’t see the need for something like this since I see it as a rather niche piece of kit. It looks like it does some things VERY well. But I also favor the purity of the experience as best as possible. If I’m fiddling with another piece of technology I know that will change the experience for me (again, this is for my “regular” type photography. Nighttime and timelapse, for me, would really be served well by this). Also, I’d just have one more thing to learn and I’m already overloaded. It’s way better than version 1, that’s for sure. 

Ej Linser

Using adapted lenses from old cameras to digital use.

I’ve not done a whole lot of this. However, I want to point you back to episode 116. I spoke with Lori Rowland about this during our shoot at a place here in Eastern Oregon called Growiser. It was a very good conversation.

Steve Connery

I would love to hear a whole episode on post processing fog. I never seem to be able to create the image i know is there.

Thanks, Steve, for this suggestion. I’ll make it happen before too long. I think I’ll also look back at my fog images and see if I can export some presets for y’all to play around with. Please only view them as starting points of your images. But they can help you understand very quickly how to consider your image processing.

Eli Temchin

General overview of masking in Lightroom. What are they, when and how to use them, etc. I understand that this might be a broad overview for a deeper dive later.

Thanks, Eli. This one certainly requires a deep dive. However, I do have a YouTube video that shows some odd behavior that I think they’ve fixed already. In fact, they’ve had some significant improvements to masking in the last few weeks. I’ll do an entire episode on this function as well, or maybe It’ll be a deep-dive YouTube video all its own. Stay tuned. If you want to be the first to know when it comes out be sure you fill out the form at the bottom of the show notes page and join my email notifications list. I’m looking forward to making this one for sure!

Rich Huges

What is your culling strategy?

I’m a bit of a nut when it comes to culling my photos. I keep only about 25% or less of what I shoot. If an image doesn’t add value in any of these categories I get rid of it:

  1. Significant historical value
  2. Significant personal interest or value, such as family or other reasons.
  3. Commercial value
  4. Artistic or creative intent and purpose

Certainly the problem with some of these items, probably all of these items, lies in the idea that sometimes our vision changes. Our purpose may shift one way or the other and if I delete an image today I may wish I hadn’t done so tomorrow. And I’m OK with that. After 20+ years of shooting my entire library is still under 40K images. I only keep the best and most meaningful. The rest is just clutter that weighs me down.

Fernando Alvarado

What is the number 1 thing that you worry about while hiking alone? How do you prepare for it or them?

We’ll actually talk about this a tiny bit in our next episode where I talk with a photographer who has through-hiked the Appalachian Trail.

But in general, over the last couple of years I’ve suffered increasingly from migraine headaches. That was my #1 concern. When I went to Alaska December of 2019 I suffered one and I was so glad to have someone there with me in case it got any worse. Thankfully I’ve found out what triggers them and I’ve been migraine-free for quite some time now. Even with high levels of stress both physically and mentally I can make it through. My trigger, believe it or not, is dairy products. Any milk products will take me out for two days and I can’t do anything until I recover. So when I’m out and about I’m extremely cautious about what I eat because milk is is so many things.

After that, it’s general safety in all regards. Safety on the trail, in a foreign country, wherever I’m at, I’m very aware of my surroundings and sometimes I’m rather naive about it too. One time in 2007 I think it was, I was in Ecuador, maybe it was 2009, but anyway, I was in Guayaquil and looking around. I was heading up a road going up hill and a guy called me over. I figured he was just wanting to sell me something as he operated a little store out of the front of his house. 

But he was jabbering at me and I didn’t understand a thing. I motioned that I wanted to go up and take a picture. Finally he said something that I did understand. He said, “Seré tu seguridad.” which means, I’ll be your security. 

I was like, Oh, that’s what you’re talking about. And he was willing to go with me and ensure that I was safe. I went up the road a bit with him and saw the characters that he was concerned about and casually turned around after looking over the first switchback in the road. So rather than continue up the road and put myself and him in further potential danger I just went back down and all was fine. When you have thousands of dollars of gear with you, you’re a big target in some of these areas, no matter the country you’re in.

As for hiking in the wilderness. I’m concerned about getting into trouble and not having anyone to help me. I still do hike alone, but I’ll often times look at the trail and consider its popularity. If it’s extremely remote I’ll reconsider my plans. I’m also a huge believer in hiking where there’s streams and rivers and that usually means there’s people there. I don’t like carrying a lot of water so I suppose there’s that.

And finally, I will eventually get myself a Garmin InReach Mini II. It connects to your smartphone and it can also send an SOS signal. It uses the Iridium satellite network which covers the entire globe. I hope the starlink system that Elon Musk is putting together will be used for devices like this as well, but for now we’ll go with the Garmin.

Also, depending on the nature of the location I go to I’ll look into life flight insurance. I’m a member of a regional service that covers the entire Pacific NW. If I need medical evacuation, it won’t cost me a dime. Insurance will still pay their amount, but because I paid something like $65 a year, I won’t be charged any extra should the need arise. Additionally, I looked into it for my trip to Alaska. It’s only $49 and it’s good for a year. Since I already have excellent medical coverage through my employer this additional $49 fee is nothing for the peace of mind it offers. LifeMed Alaska is the company I looked into. 

Today's Dose of Inspiration

But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants.

—John 3:21, ESV

What makes photography a strange invention is that its primary raw materials are time and light.

—John Berger

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