How many lenses to carry

When you do photography for a longer time, you tend to accumulate gear and especially new lenses. But how many do you carry with you? All of them? Just one? Today I will share with you my thought on this and which lenses I carry with me when I go out to take photos.

Lenses

Depending on what kind of photography you do, you will tend to gravitate towards certain kind of lenses. As I do mostly landscape and cityscape photos, I mostly go with very wide angle lenses. But it’s different for everyone. Still, I have also zoom lenses and some fast lenses and similar.

What to take?

I never carry all of my lenses. Actually, 90% of the time, I would be fine with a single lens. One that has a nice range, that fits most of the situations. For me, it’s the 24-70mm 2.8 lens (but a 24-105 would be probably even better). Most of my photos are from this lens and it’s really great in almost any situation. It’s wide enough for landscapes, and you can do panoramas if you need to go wider. It zooms in enough for things like portraits or event photos,  and with a high megapixel camera, you can crop a lot, and get even closer.

I try not to carry more than three lenses. Mostly, fewer the better. You can then just focus on what you are doing, and not thinking about switching the lens and trying something different.

How many lenses to carry

The classic approach for a lot of photographers is to carry multiple lenses, that cover a big zoom range. So the classic would be a 16-35mm, 24-70mm and 70-200mm (or instead of the 16-35mm an 11-24mm or 14-24mm, depending on the brand). This gives a really big range you can work with, from ultra wide to a decent zoom. And it’s together only three lenses, which is not that many.

What do I take?

This three lenses, wide, medium, and zoom is a good tactic if you have no idea what kind of photos you will or want to do. You are ready for most things. I don’t go with it. I just know that I don’t like to zoom in that much, that even if I carry a lens like 70-200mm, I will not use it at all anyway. So while I still carry three I select them differently.

The three lenses I take with me are an all-purpose lens, a specialized lens, and a unique lens. In my case that would be the 24-70mm f2.8, the 17mm f4 TSE lens and the 12mm f2.8 one. Why these three?

As I mentioned, you should always have an all-purpose lens with you. The one that you use most of the time anyway. The 24-70mm or 24-105mm is a good range for it. I would not go with a bigger range. There are lenses that can cover a bigger range, but the quality and sharpness of the photos are worse, and they are not that fast.

The second lens, I choose a specialized lens. For me that the tilt-shift one. It’s just so great for vertoramas, architecture and city shots. Exactly what I specialize in. For you, this may be something different. If you always do portraits, this may be an 85mm f1.2 lens. If you do macro photography that a good macro lens and so on.

How many lenses to carry

The last lens, a unique one. With this I mean a lens, that will give me a view that most photographers won’t get. If you take photos in places that are popular, having a lens that gives you a less common view is a plus. That why for me this is the 12mm lens. Not many photographers use such a wide lens, so my view is more unique. You can even try a very fast lens or a fisheye or whatever you like to experiment with.

I don’t want to get the same photos and views other photographers got, so going a bit differently helps with that. Of course, when I’m going for an assignment, I take the lenses and cameras I know I will need based on the job. But when I take photos for myself, this is what I do.

Which lenses do you prefer to take and how many do you carry?

New 4K wallpapers

Looking at the page statistics, the 4K wallpapers seem to be quite popular and a lot of you downloaded them. So let’s do another batch of 4K wallpapers today, this time all from Prague.

Don’t forget to check out other available wallpapers:

Prague in 4K wallpapers

As I mentioned, today all the new wallpapers are from Prague, or better said, the Prague castle. As always, they are all in 3840x2160px and you can download them from the 4K wallpapers page here.

Prague in 4K wallpapers
Prague in 4K wallpapers
Prague in 4K wallpapers
Prague in 4K wallpapers

Topaz Labs

Topaz Labs, a well known maker of photography applications and plugins, has been releasing a lot of AI powered software recently. The have the Jpeg to RAW AI, Gigapixel AI, Sharpener AI and Denoise AI. I did take a look at all in the past, and actually been using Gigapixel AI and Denoise AI quite a lot.

Last month, they released their latest AI-powered application, Topaz Adjust AI. And while I had access to a pre-release version, it was right at a time I was very busy, so did not have time to have a look at it. So let’s do it now :)

Topaz Adjust AI

Every Topaz AI application does something different. It resizes, sharpens and similar. Adjust AI does a bit more. It tries to give a nicer, more vibrant or HDR-like look to your photos. So it does not affect only one thing.

Topaz Adjust AI

Compared to other applications from Topaz AI, it also offers much more settings. You have the basic selector, where you can turn the Adjust AI effect on to standard or HDR style. But additional to this, you get all the basic and few advanced photo editing tools. You get brightness sliders, color, contrast, detail, and grain sliders. And to top it off, there is split toning included. This is all here so you can tweak the AI results to your liking.

Additionally, you can use the supplied presets or create your own, and use them directly on your photos.

Using Topaz Adjust AI

Using Topaz Adjust AI is very straightforward. It supports a huge list of file formats, including RAW files. It even can save the results as a DNG file, which is just great.

Topaz Adjust AI

Once you open a file, you either choose a preset or choose one of the AI settings and choose how strong the effect is. Once this is calculated, you can use the additional slider to tweak the result. That’s it.

I tried multiple inputs and the results are a bit all over the place. Some I like, some I did not. This is not a surprise, as they are very dependent on the photo I used.

One strange thing I noticed though, is that when I used RAW files from my camera, the results were very blue. Every single time. If I converted the file first to JPG or TIFF, the problem did not appear.

Look at these three versions of the same photos. First one is RAW on standard Adjust AI style, the second is a TIFF on standard style and the last one TIFF on HDR style. You can easily see the blue tint I mentioned.

Sample results

Let’s look at some photos. There are all edited only in Topaz Adjust AI, all from a TIFF file. You can slide the middle point to compare to the original photo. The original is always on the left.

For the first photo, I used the HDR style, changed the temperature to a warmer one and toned down the small detail, as it looked too grainy.

This one is again the HDR style, but I brightened it a bit and added more contrast afterward.

Here I used the HDR style, added a bit of saturation and opened the shadows.

For the last one, I used the standard style, went down with the highlights, added saturation and reduced the small details.

Final thoughts

I like some results, but I don’t think this application is for me. I already have a certain style to my photos, and this will not create the exact look I want. Is this something you will use? If you like the results, you should give it a try. There is a trial version available on the Topaz Labs website here.

Overexpose RAW or use higher ISO

A few days ago I had a thought. What results in a cleaner photo? Should one overexpose a darker RAW file or use a higher ISO instead. Which one will have less noise? So I decided to try it out and see.

Let’s compare

Let’s look at this photo. This is a crop from 100% zoom. Both versions are the same except for the ISO settings. The first one is ISO 100 and overexposed by two stops, second on ISO 400.

It’s really hard to see any difference, except the High ISO one, is a tiny bit brighter. I noticed this on every single photo I tried. Two stops of exposure were never the same in Lightroom as in the camera. Let’s zoom in to 200% to see better how it looks.

Still, hard to see much difference, except the brightness. Maybe the overexposed has a tiny bit more noise, but hard to say for sure.

Let’s look at a different image. This one with more even areas, that will show the noise better. Again, both taken at the same settings except the ISO. First one at ISO 100 and overexposed by 2 stops, the second one at ISO400

Really hard to see any difference at 100%. It looks almost the same. Let’s zoom in to 200% to a single color area.

Here you already can see a bit of difference, the noise is a tiny bit stronger in the overexposed image.

How is it?

I tried more comparisons, and every time I got to the same result. The overexposed shot is a bit darker and has a bit more noise. But in most cases, I was not able to even see a difference. Even when going up by 3 exposures, it was the same. Not sure if this would be same on all the cameras, but it worked like this on the 5D Mark IV. So it looks like it does not really matter and both work fine.

The biggest difference was actually the overexposed areas. When you overexpose a shot, you get better exposure in those areas. But of course the underexposed will be darker, so you get less detail there.

I tried the same comparison where instead of changing the ISO I changed the exposure time, but in that case, the overexposed one was much noisier in every case. This is, of course, to be expected.

Photo problems

There are a few basic problems that you see over and over in many photos. Fixing them is really easy, so it’s sometimes strange to see so many photographers not doing so. Today I will go through a few of them and show you how to fix them. I will be sticking mostly to Photoshop here, but few can be easily fixed also in Lightroom.

Chromatic aberrations

I’m always surprised when I see chromatic aberrations in edited photos. There are just so simple to get rid off. You can even set up Lightroom to do it for you when you import photos.

In Lightroom, you just have to go into the Develop module, scroll down in the right panel and under Lens Corrections check the box by Remove Chromatic Aberrations. This works in almost all cases.

In Photoshop, the simplest way is to use Camera RAW to do so. You should do it on the RAW file, as then it’s just one click. If it’s not a RAW file, it’s a bit more work. When you open a RAW file in Photoshop, the Camera RAW will open automatically. Just go to the Lens Correction tab and check to remove chromatic aberrations. All done. In the case you don’t have the RAW file, you open your file, and then go to Filter/Camera RAW filter. Again you go into the Lens Correction tab, but it will look a bit different. You will have only manual options to do so. Just move the Purple and Green sliders to get rid off the aberration.

5 problems you can quickly fix in you photos

Perspective distortion

Another problem that is very easy to fix is Perspective distortion. If you are not familiar with it, it happens when your camera is not perfectly leveled when you take your photos. As a result, the objects in your photo may look like they are falling inward or outward.

This can be fixed in Lightroom, but I do prefer to use Photoshop. In Lightroom, you first have to rotate the image, so the horizon is perfectly leveled. If you don’t do this, you can’t remove perspective distortion properly. Once this is done, in the right panel scroll down to Transform and move around the Vertical transformation until the edge of the image aligns with all the vertical lines in the photo.

In Photoshop my preferred way to do this is to go into Free transform (Edit/Free Transform or Ctl+T), then right click on the image and choose perspective. Now drag the bottom corners out or in, until you get the lines perfectly vertically. If the distortion is very strong, you will also have to scale the image up. Just right click again, choose scale, hold down Shift and drag the middle top point up or down. You may need to go back into perspective edit afterward, as scaling can change the distortion.

5 problems you can quickly fix in you photos

I prefer Photoshop to Lightroom, as Lightroom automatically crops the image down to the original size and you are losing big areas of the photo due to the correction. In Photoshop you can just easily expand the canvas of the photo, so have a bigger photo in the end.

You can find a more detailed description of this here.

Color Banding

Color banding is created when you lower the number of colors in a color transition. Mostly it’s created when you save a photo into lower quality. If you have a lot of skies in your photos, you definitively have seen it.

The solution here is very simple, just add noise. Noise will add variation to the affected area, so the transitions will become more natural. You can even first remove noise, to get rid of strong noise and color noise, and then add back some softer noise, to prevent color banding.

To do so, just choose in Photoshop, Filter/Noise/Add Noise with the amount of 1%, Gaussian, and Monochromatic. Once done, check the image, if the color banding is still visible add it again with the same settings. You can repeat this until the problem is gone.

5 problems you can quickly fix in you photos

Don’t forget that you don’t have to use it on the whole image, only where it’s needed. Also if you are using layers in Photoshop, merge them into a new one to see how your photo really looks. The previews are not always accurate.

You can find a more detailed article on this topic here.

Lens Flares

I hate lens flares. I even hate them more in computer games. Who thinks that human eyes and brains make lens flares? Such a stupid idea. But you can quickly get rid of them in photos. The best way to get rid of them to not get them at all, but that’s not always possible.

There are two ways, the good way, and the other way. The good way is to take multiple photos where you shade the light source with your hand and then put them together. You can see a detailed description of that here.

The other way is to use Photoshop tools to do so. The results will be not perfect but with a bit of practice, you can do it. There are many things you can do. You can use content aware to fix smaller spots. Use the clone stamp tool for things that repeat or are random in structure. Copy over other parts forms the same image if things repeat.

5 problems you can quickly fix in you photos

I find the best thing to do, is to do all the fixes on a new layer in Photoshop, and once done, hide it, and using a layer mask just paint in the areas you really need. Like this, the fixes will look the most natural.

Dust Spots

Clean your lens often, really often. But if you don’t and shoot at smaller apertures often, clean your photos. A big ugly dust spot will make your photo looks so much worse. Just a short time ago, I saw a photo used as a background in Google Hangouts. It was a nice photo, but there was a huge dust spot right in the middle. It was so ugly.

You can either remove them in Photoshop or also in Lightroom. Both offer tools to identify where they are. In Lightroom, if you select Spot Removal, you will find a Visualize Spots checkbox under the image. Check it and move the slider next to it, until you see the spots in your photo. You can find the same setting in Camera RAW that you can open from filters in Photoshop.

While this works, this is not my favorite way to identify dust spots. I prefer to do create a new layer in Photoshop with an extreme curve. This will create a big contrast between the dust spots and the surrounding area, so showing you exactly where they are. Then I can just use content aware or the clone stamp tool on the layer under it to fix them.

5 problems you can quickly fix in you photos

Here is a more detailed article on how to remove dust spots, and here is one how to identify photo problems using the curve technique.

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