Managing Referenced Files in Aperture

QUESTION: If an external hard drive of referenced original Aperture files fails, can one reconnect images to the files backed up during import to a different external hard drive?

 Does it matter if one moves the backups done during import from one hard drive to a different hard drive?

I have them in several places and would like to centralize them in a single place.

I have my Aperture library on my Macbook Pro. My most recent projects are managed. The rest of my originals I have relocated to referenced on an external hard drive. I keep an updated clone of that hard drive in a separate location. I use vault to backup the library. Is this sufficient backup?

ANSWER: You have a lot of questions here, but they all boil down to managing your referenced files.

For those not familiar with the term, referenced files are the Masters (often RAWs) associated with the previews in the Aperture library. Referenced files almost always live on an external hard drive.

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You can reconnect an Aperture library to a backed up set of referenced files. If you've maintained the same file structure and naming convention for the folders and files, all you have to do is use File > Locate Referenced Files. If you reconnect one file, the rest in the folder will follow suit automatically. Here's an article I wrote about this process.

As a side note, when I use the automatic backup feature on import in Aperture, I select "Project Name" for the subfolder option. This keeps everything nice and tidy, and makes it easy to match up files in your Aperture Library with masters on external drives.

What Are Recommended User Settings For The Nikon D7100?

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QUESTION: "I've splurged for two Nikon D7100s so changing lenses isn't such an ongoing problem for my older arthritic hands.

On one camera I typically keep a 35mm prime lens and on the other a 70-200mm zoom. I am a hobbyist who likes to shoot whatever interesting makes an appearance, from a distant mountain range to a bird at the window.

Given this situation, what suggestions would you make as to how I might customize each of the two "user settings" dial positions I have available on the cameras?" – John

ANSWER: I have found that custom user settings can be helpful, but you really have to think through the various shooting situations you commonly find yourself in.

For example, when photographing birds, you might want to vary the AF-Area Mode to an option that allows you to track a moving subject better. You also might want to change your metering mode depending upon your subject. For street and travel photography, I tend to use aperture priority metering. You might prefer a different Picture Control depending upon your subject (e.g. Portrait, Landscape).

Rather than providing you with suggested settings, I will offer you a thought process to help you set up the two custom setting banks on each or your D7100s. First, determine what are the two or three most common shooting situations for each camera. Then think through what camera settings are best for those shooting situations. What settings do you constantly find yourself changing as you encounter different shooting situations?

You might find that two or more of your shooting situations yield similar camera settings, so you can kill two birds with one stone. The list of settings that can be adjusted on your D7100 is quite large, so a good reading of the user's manual is highly recommended. Once you've got your two banks of custom settings for each camera, it's a simple process of entering and saving those user settings to each of the banks (i.e. U1 or U2).

If you're interested in a "soup to nuts" guide to setting up your D7100 for various shooting situations, you could check out the Nikon D7100 Setup Guide pdf file over at the Visa Adventures website. While you may not agree with every suggested setting, it might serve as a starting point for you.

Why Are the Reds Over-Exposed On My Canon Camera?

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Question: I use a Canon 70D and Aperture. While shooting red flowers, I have a great deal of difficulty getting good detail. I end up having to overexpose and get some blown out highlights. 

Is that normal with red flowers? Is there anything I can do to correct this? -Lee

ANSWER: The dreaded Canon red issue... This is an issue that has been going on in Canon cameras for some time. A quick search of the internet turns up dozens of comments on forums about overexposed reds from Canon cameras, even to current models like the EOS 5d Mark III. I've seen it crop up with my Canon G9 and 7d cameras.

From what I've seen about the issue, it's almost as if the "dynamic range" of the sensors from green to magenta is being exceeded; where the camera is trying to bring the greens into proper exposure and is over-exposing the magenta end of the spectrum. In my own pictures, I've noticed it where I've got a lot of greens in the background and a red/magenta subject which, unfortunately describes a lot of flower images. This is where the power of shooting RAW really comes in handy. Even if your red channel is "blown out," there is often a way to recover image detail using the other channels in your raw processing software.

In Aperture, if you switch your Channel from RGB to Red in the Curves adjustment pane and then change the Range from Normal to Extended, you may be able to pull back some of the red highlights.

From a shooting perspective, I would try to add light by using fill flash or a reflector to balance the exposure out and avoid having to over expose your image to begin with.

In the picture above, I've adjusted the white balance and pulled back the reds to recover a great deal of detail that wasn't visible in the original raw image.

What Projector Should I Use for Best Showing Off My Pictures?


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QUESTION: Hello, I am working on setting up a home studio and I would like to use a projector to show some of the pictures. Can you recommend a projector that is suited for pictures and has accurate colors? My desktop screen has IPS function but I don't know if something like this exists in projectors. -Evgeniy

ANSWER: Evgeniy, this question goes right along with our discussion about color space for sharing pictures.

I think you'll find that the color gamut of the projector is directly related to its cost; the more expensive the projector, the wider color gamut you'll get. Unfortunately, unlike a lot of monitors, the exact color space a projector can show is not widely documented, so you may have to experiment with different settings on your files.

What I can find talks about the color gamut of projectors in comparison to cinema displays rather than photographic terms. The lowest common denominator seems to be sRGB currently.

One thing I definitely recommend with any projector (or monitor) is calibrating it. Some monitor calibrators like the ColorMunki Photo or the ColorMunki Display from X-Rite, can be used to calibrate projectors as well. Calibrating will ensure you get the best color reproduction, no matter which projector you choose.

Do I Need Both Raws and Jpegs?

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QUESTION: With Aperture, I have my import function set to Import "Both (use JPEG as original)."

I have lots of available hard disk space, but is it necessary or at least optimal to always import both RAW and JPEG versions, and should I be selecting JPEG as original? Don't want to needlessly fill my hard drive with superfluous data files that will live there ad infinitum. What is your advice? -Joe

ANSWER: Hi Joe, I shoot RAW+Jpeg often myself. But I don't recommend importing the Jpegs into Aperture (or Lightroom for that matter). Here's why.

RAW files have embedded Jpegs. Aperture uses those embedded files to present you with the initial previews. Then, in the background, it generates its own high quality Jpeg previews, based on the settings you've established in Preferences.

Aperture is going to generate those Jpegs no matter what. So there's absolutely no need for you to import those from your camera. All you're doing is adding more files for the database to keep track of, and using some additional disk space too.

Since I don't import those Jpegs, you may be wondering why I shoot RAW+Jpeg. It's for my mobile workflow. The Jpegs travel via WiFi to my iPad or iPhone for quick posting. Then the RAWs go to Aperture to serve as my masters.

Hope this helps!

What Do You Know About Magic Lantern For Canon Cameras?

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QUESTION: "What do you know about Magic Lantern increasing dynamic range on Canon cameras? Is it safe to use?" – Bob

ANSWER: According to DxOMark, the Canon 5D Mark III delivers a dynamic range of 11.7 EVs versus 14.4 EVs for the Nikon D800.

The folks over at Magic Lantern  have developed software that enables you to increase the dynamic range on certain Canon cameras. It's pretty technical, but basically their trick is what they call "Dual ISO." What this means is that they are able to read one line from the sensor at 100 ISO and the next at 1600 ISO. This enables them to bring out more detail in the shadows and highlights.

But as my econ prof used to say, there's no such thing as a free lunch. The price you pay is giving up half the vertical resolution in the shadows and highlights. You may also have more issues with aliasing and moire. These factors may or may not be important to you. You will have to be the judge of that.

Your last question is an interesting one. I encourage you to read Magic Lantern's FAQ page on their support site where they answer that exact question. To sum it up, they cannot guarantee that their software won't brick your camera. Magic Lantern provides their software for free and depends on donations to help fund their efforts. So the operative phrase here is caveat emptor.

Better Indoor Sports Photos with an iPhone

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QUESTION: When shooting a basketball game indoors with my iPhone, I notice the picture is dark and unusable, but when I video the game, it is perfect quality. Why can my phone take a good video, but not a good picture? -Tom

ANSWER: The hardware is the same, whether you're shooting stills or video. But the nice thing about iPhone photography is that you can select software that best suits your needs.

In your case, I would try a different app for shooting stills. My favorites are:

  • ProCamera
  • Camera+
  • Camera Awesome

These apps allow you to separate the targets for exposure and focusing when capturing stills. In other words, you can set the exposure for one area of the composition, and the focus on another place. This helps immensely when shooting indoor sports that often have challenging lighting.

You might also be interested to know that olloclip makes a telephoto lens attachment for the iPhone. This allows you to capture tighter compositions.

Good luck!

Studio Strobes Or Speedlights... Where Should I Start?

QUESTION: "I have been doing a lot of outdoor portraits and was wondering if it would be better to use Nikon flashes or strobe lights?" – Ryan

ANSWER: When you write "strobe lights" I'm assuming that you mean studio strobes. I happen to use both systems: Nikon Speedlights and DynaLite studio strobes. While I can't say definitively which is best for your needs, I do have thoughts on which is the best starting place if this is your first foray into off-camera lighting.

The beauty of the Nikon Speedlights is that they are highly portable, or nimble as Derrick would say, and they are incredibly flexible. They pack quite a punch for their size. The integration with Nikon DSLRs is a huge positive, especially when it comes to shooting wirelessly. The Nikon Creative Lighting System (CLS) is outstanding. 

Studio strobes have a big advantage when it comes to power. They put out a tremendous amount of light. My DynaLite studio strobes are rock solid and will fire at an amazingly fast refresh rate. If you want to use larger soft boxes, studio strobes really shine. I've seen the videos where photographers gang up bunches of Speedlights and fire them through a large light modifier, but once you start doing that the cost and complexity goes way up. I'd rather just pump one DynaLite strobe through my Chimera soft box.

Assuming this will be your first experience with off-camera lighting, my suggestion is to start with Nikon Speedlights. For a light modifier, you could get yourself a decent umbrella, preferably one that is convertible to shoot-through. I would then work to understand the ins and outs of the shooting wirelessly with Speedlights.

Once you've gotten more comfortable with your Speedlight gear, you'll be in a better position to judge whether you need to move up to studio strobes. If you're serious about moving to studio strobes, I highly suggest taking a workshop first. I took the Portrait Lighting on Location class from Alan Thornton at the Santa Fe Workshops before I invested in my DynaLite gear. I don't think I would have known what to buy or where to start if I hadn't taken that class. I see Alan is teaching another lighting class this March at the Workshops.

In my experience, I'd say I use my Speedlights about three times as much as I do my DynaLite gear. However, if I am shooting fine-art portraits and I don't need to be highly portable, I'll always reach for the DynaLites. The quality and quantity of light they put out when pumped through my Chimera soft boxes just can't be beat.

What Do I Do When My Camera Gives Me Error Messages?

 

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QUESTION: Last weekend I was on a landscape shoot with my Canon DSLR that uses SDHC memory cards. Part way into my shoot, and out of the blue, I received an ominous error on the back of my camera indicating that the camera could no longer communicate with the card, and that I should format the media. I tried everything in the field I could think of to include turning the camera off and back on, removing and re-inserting the card, and moving the write slider back and forth. Nothing worked. In short, my SDHC card was kaput.

I replaced the media with a different SDHC card and was able to complete my shoot. When I got home I placed the media in my computer’s card reader. While the computer could tell there was media in the reader, it was unable to read its contents. Finally, in what I will call a stroke of utter dumb luck, I decided to place the card in a different card reader in a different computer. Voila! The card instantly came back to life and I was able to retrieve my data. The day was saved. 

Needless to say, once I had retrieved the data the offending SDHC card went straight into the trash. Even though it was a name brand card, I want nothing to do with it ever again.

I wonder if you have any idea what caused this to occur, and what I could have done to prevent such drama in the first place. -Ken

ANSWER: Ken, these are tricky issues and I don't know if you could do anything to prevent this in the future. I found this article on Canon's website gave some helpful tips on the meaning of error messages and some steps to correct the problem. The only thing they add to what you did is removing the battery from the camera for a few seconds to try "re-booting" the camera.

I would recommend as you did to immediately switch cards and keep the problem card in a safe spot. As you found, you can often recover your images even if the card appears dead in the field. If you re-format the problem card and try shooting on it again, you run the risk of over-writing whatever data has been captured up until that point.

Unfortunately, as our cameras become ever more sophisticated, they also become more susceptible to errors. In your case, there could be a problem with the card, with the camera card interface or just a momentary glitch in software. I found one of my SD cards was  causing errors in my camera. I was about to toss the card when I noticed one of the plastic tabs that divides the contact points on the SD card had bent over, partially blocking one of the contact points. I removed the small piece of plastic and have continued to use the card without problem for a couple of years.

What Is A Good, Cost Conscious Sports Zoom For An APS-C Camera?

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QUESTION: "I have a Nikon D5100. I am an experienced amateur at best. I would love to be able to take better photos inside at my son's tennis and basketball games. I have a lot trouble getting action shots because of the poor lighting.

What most sites seem to point me to is a better lens like the Nikon 70-200 f/2.8, but that lens is $2,400. I noticed that Tamron has a similar lens for $800. I usually shoot auto or P. Can I use a non-Nikon lens, and will it autofocus and work as well?" – Tom

ANSWER: It's true that when you're shooting sports in bad light, there is no substitute for fast glass. It's also true that Nikon's f/2.8 zoom lenses run on the expensive side. Third party lenses can be perfectly good solutions, especially when budget is an issue. Any of the major third-party lenses (e.g. Tamron, Sigma) should work just fine on your D5100 as long as they've got the Nikon F mount. The key thing for me is to read the reviews. Personally, I like photozone for lens reviews.

I'm sorry to say that I can't recommend the Tamron lens you mentioned because of the lack of image stabilization (IS). While IS might not be that important for sports photography, it could be for many other types of shooting you might want to do with this lens. This is especially true for event photography, such as a child's band concert.

A great, lower-cost option that is available to you is the Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM APO lens. This is a DX-body lens that is selling for $949 at B&H, with a $150 instant rebate. The folks over at photozone gave this lens a "highly recommended" rating, which they don't do very often. On your D5100, the Sigma 50-150mm lens would have an effective focal length of 75-225mm, which is a great range for sports. So for a little bit more than the $800 you were contemplating, you could have a perfect sports and event photography lens for your D5100.