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I receive quite a few questions via email, so I thought it might make sense to offer an area for Questions & Answers. That way others can benefit from the great questions that are asked, and we can continue to grow the body of knowledge together. FYI, I’m still happy to respond to emails.

Below in an example to get us started. Don’t worry, no one will be thrown from the bridge!

What is your Quest?


  1. Bridge Keeper says:

    What is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?

  2. Hey Justin,

    I have to tell you again, great website! Light As Magic has become part of my mourning routine,…get to work, get some coffee, see what Light As Magic has this morning….thanks for helping me learn,…you have a great eye..

    Hope you can help me with a,..Maybe a simple question…

    I have been shooting some HDR images with a new Promote Control as my Canon T1i only shoots 3 images in the AEB mode. When I set up for my capture, I have the camera in manual mode, take a meter reading, set my aperture and shutter speed based on my meter reading and then start the Promote. I have been shooting 7 to 9 frames with 1 EVs. My question is, what do you set your Mid Exposure at, and do you routinely keep this at one setting from shoot to shoot? Do I need to be a mathematician?

    Thanks for your help in my learning process


    • Thanks for the kind words Sean!

      Here is the way I handle my Promote Control (PC). I have only been using it a short while, so if you have any tips I would love to hear them. I will break it down into a checklist so others that are new to the Promote Control might be able to learn something from it.

      1) Set my Camera to Manual Mode
      2) Then I make a mental decision about DOF (do I want to shoot a large or small aperture?)
      3) Set my aperture based on my decision.
      4) Use my camera’s meter to bring the shutter speed to the appropriate speed for the metered exposure (say 1/250).
      5) Attach the USB and shutter release cable between PC and my camera.
      6) Set my PC to HDR mode.
      7) Set the middle exposure on the PC to the metered exposure (in this case 1/250th)
      8) Set the EV stops I want (1/3,1/2,or 1)

      *****NOTE: If you want to shoot 1/3 EV stops, make sure your camera is set to increment in 1/3 EV stops. You will get an error if not. *****

      9) Set the desired number of exposures. This can be a bit tricky. Say you want to shoot 11 exposures @ 1 EV (anchor, 5 over, 5 under). You need to make sure you starting shutter speed is at least 5 stops below you max shutter speed. If you don’t you will get an error stating that it is ‘out of range’. In these instances, if I want to preserve DOF with a wide aperture, I will reduce the # of exposures. If I feel I can compromise a bit, I will choke my aperture a couple of stops so that the full range of images is within my camera’s capabilities. If I am unable to talk myself into a compromise, I will add a neutral density filter to the equation and re-meter and adjust the middle exposure on the PC.

      10) Once that is all said and done, I hit the start button and let it work its magic.

      A couple things to note:

      –The PC, once it has run through its sequence, will leave your SS/AP where it was last shot at, so you will need to re-meter and reset your shutter speed and aperture for the next image.

      –I am still trying to determine if more is actually more. Is there a benefit to shooting 21 images @ 1/3 EV over 9 images @ 1 EV (I think my math is off, but you get the idea)? If you have any thoughts I would love to hear them. 21 images is a quick way to burn up CF cards.

      –Double check that you are not in Mirror Up mode, if you don’t intend to be. You would get double the images if you are. 42 images is ever a quicker way to burn through a CF card.

  3. You mentioned that you’re a technologist by trade (not certain what that means or if it denotes a photo or similar background) and that photography is something that helps you stay balanced. I’m looking for a similar balance, but not certain where to start in terms of time, energy, etc. after a full time job. How did you gather skills, stay sane, and find time for all this. The website alone seems like a full time job (and is fantastic, by the way… I’d like to acheive something similar). Any advice for someone just starting out? Thanks!

    • Howdy! Thanks for the kind words. Wow, that is a tough one. I would like to give that one some thought before I answer just to make sure I can give it the attention it deserves. As for the technologist part, I am a software developer so the skills to implement a website were already there. In terms of photography, it has been something I have done for over 20 years. But don’t let that stop you! With digital cameras, the learning curve is much more accelerated. The website was a labor of love at first, it was pretty intensive, but I have good schedule worked out now and it is pretty efficient. When you are looking for something, are you looking for something within photography, or just a general good balancer. Let me know and I will try share some thoughts.

      • Appreciate the quick reply! I’m looking for something within the photography and design world. I’ve worked with camera’s to varying degrees over the last 12 years, with things coming into focus (so to speak) primarily when travelling. Started off with a film camera in Auto mode and progressed through mishap, theft, and apathy to a digital SLR and a committment to shoot manual. Lately, I’ve gotten more serious, taken a few classes and am looking to develop both photography and general design skills as both a balancer and potential side or even full time career. Ultimately, I suppose I’m looking to offset my job, which is a necessity, with my passion, which is creating images of one sort or another.

        • Howdy David,

          I have given it some thought, and I hopefully you can use some of what I present here. I will break it out into 2 parts: 1) Improving Photography 2) Applying it and possibly parlaying into a career.

          1) Improving your photography – Sounds like it will be pretty easy for you. You already have the passion and that is 3/4 of the battle. You might have read my ‘Six Steps’ to improving your photography. If not, check the out. I still apply them all the time. They are my guiding light. Basically it comes down to simply knowing your camera, knowing the software you process your images with, and learning this through practice and experimentation.

          It also sounds like you are already investing in yourself. Keep doing it. I take as many workshops as I can. They are great sources of information. Here are some links to online resources and books that I like on the subject.

          2) Scott Kelby – 7 Point System for Adobe Photoshop
          3) David Nightingale – Practical HDR
          4) Nikon School (look for in at
          5) All the plugin manufactures have great online tutorials (Nik’s are great)

          2) As far as a profession, I’m not sure? I believe it is a hard road. Anything of value is, so I’m not saying it isn’t worth it. Myself, I am less on the profession side and more on the ‘enrich/supplement’ side of things. Through I have met many interesting people and have had some cool opportunities present themselves. But nothing close to pay the bills, etc. To be honest, I would like to grow the site to a point where we could accommodate some travel by promoting hotels etc. But that is a ways away.

          I would be stating the obvious if I told you and onLine presence is required. That being said, a very popular platform for blogging/independent content management is WordPress. That is an entire topic in itself, but if you search around for all things wordpress you should be able to get a grasp on it pretty quickly. It is definitely not rocket science, and with your background, I’m sure you will pick it right up.

          I hope this is the type of information you are looking for. If not, feel free to ask any other questions I will try my best to get them answered.

          Talk to you soon, and the best of luck!


          • Thanks Justin!

            Definitely appreciate the thoughtfullness and the thoroughness of your response. Will be looking at any/all of those things (except perhaps the Nikon stuff… shooting Canon these days) as well as joining one or two Flikr project groups to keep myself focused, challenged, and above all shooting.

            We’ll see where I end up! Thanks again and take care!


  4. Chris DeAngelis says:

    Hey Justin!

    I stumbled across your site this weekend (linked from Brian Matiash) and really enjoyed your perspective and videorials!

    I am relatively new to photography and purchased a DSLR about 8 months ago to get ready for the birth of my son. Portrait photography is a blast, but HDR has really drawn me in and inspired me, especially blogs like Brian’s, your’s, and Trey Ratcliffs!

    I have a ton of questions, but I guess one of the biggies is do you do any sort of sharpending during your workflow? If so, is it through Nix or just photoshop? How about in your non-HDR images?

    Also, with there being so many great photography software tools out there these days, what drew you to Nik filters vs. Phototools?

    Thanks and look forward to more of your great work!


    • Howdy Chris!

      I’m glad you found! The internet is a big place and full of information, I hope what I provide can help you in your personal quest. Let me start by saying you are going to love photography and it will be something you enjoy the rest of your life. As for your questions, I will break them out here.

      1) Sharpening – I don’t have one set way, but I do have 1 rule. A little goes a long way. As for my techniques. I have 3 that I like to use. Normally, if I’m not being lazy, once my image is finished I will send the full sized file to a backup for Prints. That image remains un-sharpened until I want to print it. Sharpening is applied to images differently based on their size. If you sharpen and image for a 16×20 and then you print it at 8×10 or post it for the web, it can really start to look funky. So I try to only sharpen the image when I know its output. If I have it sized for web and its going to hit the blog, I first size it then I use Nik Sharpener selectively by brushing it on to the areas I want sharpened. If I am printing it, I will use Nik Sharpener as well, but I usually do it globally. The Nik tool lets you choose the size, the viewing distance, and medium. It is pretty slick and the results have always been outstanding. On occasion I will just use photoshop’s unsharp filter and apply it selectively via and mask.

      As for your little one, applying some sharpening to the eyes via a control point in Nik will really make them pop. It is all about the eyes and a round control point works perfectly in Nik Sharpener.

      2) Nik Filters – I originally decided on Nik because of cost. They had a promotion going and the price was much cheaper than onOne for the plugin suite. I never really thought about getting onOne because I thought they were the same thing. Let me tell you, they’re not! Nik is more of a tool-set that you can combine smaller moves to efficiently create your vision. PhotoTools 2.5 is more about applying pre-built effects to enhance your image. This is a pretty big generalization, so take it with a grain of salt. That being said, I love both plugins and use them all the time for different things. If you are in to portraits of your kid, definitely look at PhotoTools. The portrait enhancement effects are great and will have you a ton of time. I just used them for a wedding shoot, and the bride and groom were blown away.

      In short, if you can afford it, get both. You can use the coupon code LIGHTASMAGIC to get 15% off of Nik which will help out a bit. Brian is an onOne affiliate so you can save money with his code for those tools.

      I hope that helps. Feel free to reply if you need any additional information. Or feel free to fire off a new question altogether.

      Enjoy your art!


      • Justin,

        I appreciate the great response. I had no idea there was so much to consider when sharpening. I have played around a bit with the PhotoTools Free and have had some good luck with images of the baby. I have also done some High Pass sharpening that I learned on a tutorial (The Windy Pixel), but it can get heavy-handed pretty quick.

        Start up costs for this hobby can be pretty steep, but I hope to invest in multiple programs in the future. A new lens to replace the kit lens may be in order first for Christmas this year!

        Thanks again!

        • No sweat. Sharpening can be both photo enhancement as well as a creative tool. If you are just using photoshop, I suggest you start by simply:

          1) duplicating the layer
          2) Apply an unsharp mask filter to the entire layer
          3) Add a Hide All layer mask to the sharpened layer
          4) Grad a brush and sets it opacity to 30% and color to white
          5) then just paint away the mask where you want the sharpening.

          That is a very easy way to start with sharpening. Also, don’t forget about improving image clarity in Camera Raw before you even get into photoshop.

  5. Hi Justin,
    What do you think of the Owle Bubo and Encinema adapter? I like the Owle for the stability it adds to take shots with the iphone, although I do have to make some corrections to get around the barrel distortion. I also added the Encinema adapter with a Nikon lens. Even with a few adjustments, it still takes, at best, a vignetted shot. Would love to hear you thoughts on these iphone 4 add-ons.


  6. Dinene Wolf says:

    Just wondering where you are located? I am interested in some of your workshop. Great portfolio. Love your work and sense of humor.

    • Thanks Dinene!

      My regularly scheduled workshops are in the Denver, CO area…however, I do offer workshops to Camera Clubs as well as private lessons if you are out of state. Feel free to contact me if you are interested.

  7. Jessie Trotter says:

    Do you have any tutorials on iPhone videography??? I’ve seen one you did, but I’m looking for a “how to” and which programs are best for editing.


  8. Hi Justin,
    I just found your site and I must say that love it! Thanks so much for sharing all this great info. I found you by searching for iPhone photography classes here in Denver and I’m wondering if you’ll be offering any workshops any time soon. Thanks again!

  9. Mike Raboy says:

    Hi Justin,
    I just spent some time reading your book and I have some questions.
    1. Why do you say that Snapseed control points are unique, when in an app like Filtersorm Neue or Leonardo you can use masks to select areas to alter the photo.
    2. I have compared photos that are Tiffs and Jpegs. The tiffs are lossless and look better. In the day, when I used photoshop( now iphoneography) it was always better to use raw files,doesn’t the same hold true with the iphone. There are cameras like 645pro and apps like Filtersorm that allow you to take tiff photos and save as tiff.
    3. We all use Snapseed, but you are limited in that only brightness,contrast and saturation can be selectively adjusted. Many more editing tools are available in FS that you can use for selective adjustments and you can’t save as tiff.
    In conclusion, there are those that take great pictures like you and Emil Paklarkis that don’t care about FS and tiffs, but wouldn’t those tools make your pictures even better.


    • Howdy Mike! Couple things….

      1) The math behind the selective control points is better than most any masking tools and much easier to leverage.
      2) Yep, .tiffs are usually better than .jpgs.
      3) IF I need more than Snapseed has to offer, I am usually working on my Desktop in Lightroom and Photoshop.

      Hope that helps. Have a great one!


  10. Hi Justin

    First off, props on the website!

    I stumbled across Hossedia as I was searching for reviews of the Fujifilm x100s, a camera a mate of mine suggested I get. I like that it’s a fixed lens as I don’t think I’m quite ready for an interchangeable lens camera (and don’t really want to camera such a heavy thing around) and as I will be travelling, I don’t think I’ll really zooming in on shots too much. Also, from your photos, the quality looks amazing which is just what I am after in a camera.

    I’m basically a newbie when it comes to DSLRs and all the different settings but thought it was about time I moved on up from the standard digital camera. I am willing to learn all about aperture, lighting etc. and I was wondering whether you would suggest the Fujifilm x100s for a beginner?


    • Thanks!

      It might be the perfect beginner camera because it is simple to control aperture and shutter speed. I think it if the perfect tool to learn photography with.

  11. william hickman says:

    I am retried have canon eos rebel t3 having hard time learning all the things on it.

  12. Hi Justin,

    Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge with me.
    I am looking for a wide angle distortion correction tool in
    snapseed, but I can not find it. Does it exist in Snapseed or
    do have to request an enhancement from the developers?
    And if so, how can I contact them?

    Thanks for your answer,
    Walt van der Pol

    • Howdy Walt!

      You bet, I try my best to spread the inspiration around. They don’t offer it and now that Google has bought NIK and pretty much replaced the entire US team, I’m not sure who to reach out to now. That would be really cool if they offered something like that!


Leave a comment, I would love to hear from you