Seven Listener Questions

In Master Photography Roundtable by Jeff Harmon6 Comments

Listener Survey

Before we get into the episode, I wanted to do a really quick reminder here that we have a listener survey we would love everyone to help us with.  It is a single question survey about what post-processing software you primarily use to edit your photos. Several hundred of you have already answered the survey, so thank you, but it is still less than 1% of the listeners.  It takes less than 5 minutes to go to the show notes and click on the link.

Post-Processing Listener Survey 

Q1: Meet-Up / Create Photography Retreat

Chad Foster: Is there a chance you all will set up the photography”meet ups” again? Like when you were under the improve umbrella Jim would have a meet up like workshop every so often?

Chad Foster: Any new info on when the next creative photography retreat will be and where?

Answer: We miss Jim Harmer as well! Jim’s full time job was his website and the podcast which enabled him to arrange meetups with the listeners traveling all of the country and even internationally. We are so glad you have stuck with us as the podcast transitioned over to the Master Photography team but all of us have other full time jobs and we do the podcast because we love the community and sharing our thoughts with you.

We don’t really have time to go and do the meetups like Jim used to but most of us do plan to be at the annual Create Photography Retreat and we would love to have you join us there. The next Retreat is October 15-17th in Greenville South Carolina. You can register for the event over at

Q2: $500 Burning a Hole

Paul Pak: Hey Jeff! As you know I’ve been a long time fan of you and all the other hosts. Thanks again for all that you guys do!

I’ve taken your advice and only invested in training the past couple years, but have a $500 gift card to a local camera shop that I’m itching to use (in fear they might go out of business). 

I have a Canon 5D3, 2.8 24-70 II, 2.8 70-200 II, Lightroom, tripod, peak design bag and strap, color calibrator, flash and Magmod gear.

Any suggestions on how to use my gift card? I shoot portraits as an amateur so thought I might purchase a Canon 85mm 1.8 since it’s such a good lens for its value and I don’t have any other primes. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!!

Brent: That 85mm lens from Canon is an excellent choice and would fit in very well with your portrait photography work. You may want to just take a look at and consider the 100mm prime lens as well.

Jeff: I agree, the 85mm lens is not the same as using that 70-200 f/2.8 lens and setting it at 85mm. It is an excellent lens that is well worth having in your bag for portraits. I also think it is worth considering the 100mm prime because it can do macro and having just done some macro it is something I think every photography would enjoy.

Q3: Gear Acquisition Syndrome

Leo Paveglio: I suffer from GMS syndrome (Get More Stuff.) There was a time when I had one camera and one lens and I could have it with me all of the time and I did. I had a camera wherever I went. As my GMS has become more severe I find that I have so much stuff that I have to make two or three trips to get everything to the car because I would hate to be without (fill in the blank.) The result is the camera stays home too often. Would you discuss the kit you take with you when you head out the door to take the kids to soccer practice or on your trip to the dentist or grocery store? What photography equipment do you have with you all of the time?

Brent: These days I would head out for a shorter excursion with my Sony a6400 and the 18-135 lens. It is a nice, light, and beautiful camera. I have shot it a fair amount now and I am getting really nice shots from it that aren’t me settling. I have to admin though, if I am headed to the dentist or other appointments like that I am not taking this camera.

Jeff: I also don’t take a camera with me for those very normal kinds of appointments and activities. I live in the foothills of the mountains here in Utah and I literally have hiking trails in my backyard and as I go hiking with my wife I often leave my camera behind. I would love to have a Sony a6400 because I am sure I would take it with me a little more often. I would have to bring my backpack with my camera and a couple of lenses to go and hike and I often make the decision about doing that or just settling for taking photos with my phone.

If I am headed to an event for my kids, say something like soccer, then I am far more likely to bring my camera with me. I will take my camera body and a single lens and then go sit on the sideline and take photos. If I am leaving on a vacation I will take it all with me so that I am ready to shoot anything I have the chance to do. I want to be able to do astro and sunrise/sunset.

I do want to encourage photographers to resist the constant marketing they are facing as photographers. Manufacturers have marketing jobs with massive budgets and a job to convince you to upgrade your equipment because the equipment you have isn’t good enough any longer. I see so many photographers pushing the easy button believing that if they spend the money on gear it will improve their photography. Reality for many is that because they don’t actually know how to fully leverage the capabilities of the gear they have they won’t actually get any better spending more money on gear. Much better value investing in yourself in the form of training and workshops.

If you aren’t getting better, you are getting worse and your competition is passing you.

Q4: App for Planning Astro Shoots

Chris Truhe: What astrophotography locator apps do you recommend. Not sure what to call them. I’m referring to something like Photo Pills. I have found them difficult to break into.

Jeff: No question the best app I have used is Photo Pills for planning photography around astrological events. Moonrise, sunrise, Milky Way. All of those things can be planned really well using Photo Pills. I have tried a lot of apps now and Photo Pills is by far the best one for this.

It isn’t “easy” to use. I agree with Chris that it takes some getting used to, but it is well worth investing the time it takes to learn the app. This isn’t the kind of app you will download just before you leave for a shoot and then go out in the field and learn how use it. You will want to spend some time with the app without the pressure of a shoot or the astrological event about to take place.

To help you with it I did do a couple of Photo Taco podcast episodes on the topic (Take Your Photo Pills and Photo Pills Tour). I have thought about doing more episodes on how to use the app and even a video training course but my sense is that there aren’t many listeners interested in that. If you do have an interest in that I would love to hear from you. Let me know in the Facebook group, comments on the show notes here, or email me

The second place app, just to mention it quickly, would be Photographer’s Ephemeris. It works well enough but I found it to be even harder to use than Photo Pills and has less functionality.

Q5: How-To Self Portrait

Hans-Henrik Andersen: How to take the best self-portrait?

Jeff: I take portraits of myself very frequently. Not because I like photos of myself, but because I am the model I test my lighting with as I am setting things up. Here is what I do:

  1. I setup my background and lights.
  2. I put my camera on a tripod
  3. I tape an X on the ground where I am going to stand
  4. I put a lightstand on the X and then I go to the camera and set the focus
  5. I set the camera drive mode to the 10 second timer and press the shutter button
  6. I move the lightstand and stand on the X knowing that the focus should be pretty close to what I need.

Brent: That is a pretty good process. I wonder if it would work with something like the eye focus system on the Sony cameras to use the timer and have the camera just follow focus on your eye. That is something I should test out and see if it works.

Q6: Computer Hardware for Lr and Ps

Bill Giaimo: I’m in the market for new desktop for PS and LR. Whats the latest advice on which components are most important and worth going the extra $$ for?

Jeff: I have tons of articles over at on the topic. Buying guides for photographers for MacBook Pro, Mac Mini, iMac, PC, and budget computers.

To over simplify it: CPU is the most important thing to spend money on, max this out. The number of cores in the CPU is not as important as the clock speed (that the GHz). You want as much memory (RAM) as you can get, 16GB is about the minimum and the more the better. 256GB SSD is OK but a little tight and you should look for 512GB or more (though more than 1TB is way too expensive with Macs). Don’t spend money on the GPU (graphics card) because it just doesn’t make much of a difference today.

Q7: Backup Camera

Liam Maroney: Does it make sense to have a backup camera as an amateur landscape photographer? Should a second body be aps-c if you already shoot full-frame?

Brent: It all depends on how important the images are to you. If these are images you can’t afford to lose, you should have a backup camera. If you might be a little sad but won’t lose a client or massive amounts of money then you don’t need a backup camera. I shoot a single camera the majority of the time and I even shoot using a single memory card most of the time.

Jeff: I agree. It is all about your tolerance for risk. If this is going to be the photography trip of a lifetime and you will never get the chance to do that again then it is worth having a backup body for sure. Even if you need to rent it. If it is a shoot in your local area that you can will have plenty of chances to get the shot, it may not be a huge deal to have a backup body.


Jeff: Inexpensive macro equipment.  Check out the November 2019 Photo Taco episode How To Do Water Droplet Photography With Don Komarechka and the equipment that can help you with that.  Specifically, extension tubes.

Brent: Wide Angle Photography book by Chris Marquardt



  1. Jeff,
    You’re awesome! Thanks for answering yet another burning question. I will now dive into Photo Pills since you & Brent respect the app. And do offer us training on Photo Pills.

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