Ask A Pro: Scott Kelby Answers Your Photography Questions


Got Questions About Photography? Professional Photographer and Photoshop Expert Scott Kelby Has Got Answers.

Q. With more places cracking down on photographers using tripods, do you think we should use a monopod instead?

A. Well, it’s no tripod, but it’s probably better than hand-holding. Monopods are normally used to support using large lenses that are too heavy to hold for long periods. While you might get past some security guards by using a monopod and claiming “this isn’t a tripod” when they ask you to stop, they’ve pretty much gotten wise to it. However, they seem to let you get away with things like GorillaPods (very small almost tabletop tripods you can wrap around a pole or railing) as long as you don’t use them on the floor. I see photographers using these on observation decks and other places where regular tripods are often forbidden and no one seems to mind. You can attach them to church pews to shoot a cathedral or on a railing and probably get away with it in most cases. Again, it just depends, but so far it seems these mini-tripods aren’t freaking security out, so I’d go with that instead of a monopod, which will certainly draw more attention.


Q. How come when I bring images over from Lightroom to Photoshop some of the filters are grayed out, but when I just open an image directly in Photoshop I have access to them all?

A. It’s because Lightroom is sending your images over to Photoshop as 16-bit images, and in 16-bit mode not all of Photoshop’s filters or features work on 16-bit images. If you need to run a filter that’s grayed out, you could always change the mode to 8-bit, by going under Photoshop’s Image menu. Under Mode choose 8-Bits/Channel. If you don’t like working in 16-bit mode in the first place, go to Lightroom’s Preferences; click on the External Editing tab and then choose 8-Bits/Component and click OK. Now your images will go from Lightroom to Photoshop as 8-bit images and all your filters and features will be available.


Q. Is there a way to use my photography business logo on a print I’m making in Lightroom?

A. There is. It’s a little clunky, but it works. In the Print module, go to the Page panel (in the right side panels) and turn on the checkbox for “Identity Plate.” Then, from the little down-facing triangle at the bottom of the Identity Plate preview area, choose “Edit.” When the Identity Plate Editor window appears, click on the “Use a graphical identity plate” button and then choose your logo file from your computer. Before you click OK, click on the “Custom” pop-up menu in the left corner of the image and choose Save As. You don’t have to go through this every time you want to use your logo—it will now appear in that down-facing triangle pop-up menu. Once that’s done, click OK and your logo will appear on your print. You can change the size and opacity over in the Page slider. You can also reposition your logo by just dragging it where you want it.


Q. I’m going on vacation to Hawaii and want to shoot some waterfalls and have the water look silky but I can’t afford an expensive ND filter. What can I do to get that silky look without spending a lot of money?

A. Well, there are three things you can do, knowing that the goal is to keep your shutter open for at least a few seconds to give the water a chance to flow while the shutter is open, which over a couple of seconds or more gives that silky look. But before I tell you these things, make sure to take your tripod to Hawaii with you or none of these will matter anyway. First, use the highest numbered f/stop your lens will allow, so f/22 or higher. The higher the number, the longer your shutter will stay open. Second, if you don’t have an ND filter, I’ll bet you have a polarizer. Use that instead. Even though you’re not trying to cut reflections, it will make the scene darker and thus keep your shutter open longer. And third, shoot as late in the day as you can. If you shoot at “high noon” your shutter speeds will be pretty fast. Shoot at 6:00 p.m. or 6:30 p.m. and the ambient light will be much darker, and your shutter will stay open longer to adjust. Save travels and mahalo.


Q. I’ve been looking to buy a studio light, but the price range is all over the place. Why would I need to spend more on a light—is there some advantage I don’t know about?

A. Once you’ve used a crappy light, you’ll realize it’s like using a crappy tripod or a crappy filter—whatever you saved up front on it, you’ll spend quickly in frustration. I’ve owned some cheap lights in the past, but they were more trouble than they were worth, so I literally went on eBay and sold them and bought some decent strobes. I use Elinchrom strobes which are an excellent value for the money. One of the things you’ll hear photographers complain about is strobes that aren’t consistent in their power, meaning the amount of flash changes a bit from flash to flash, so some shots look brighter, some are darker, and that is a pain in post for sure. So, that consistency is one big advantage of buying decent light. Durability is another big one. If your light breaks or goes down during the shoot, the shoot is over. Plus, better lights are usually easier to use. It’s like anything else: If you buy the cheapest stuff, that’s how it’ll perform—like cheap stuff.


Q. I’m going on vacation this summer. What one lens would you recommend for travel photography?

A. I go with just one lens when I’m on vacation: a 28-300mm. This way I always have the lens I need, from wide angle to portrait to telephoto, without having to carry a second lens or even a camera bag with me. One body. One lens. And I can actually enjoy the trip. Have fun.


Scott Kelby is a photographer, Photoshop Guy, award-winning author of more than 50 books, and CEO of KelbyOne, an online education community dedicated to helping photographers take the kinds of images they’ve always dreamed of. You can learn more about Scott at his daily blog (, or follow him on Twitter: @scottkelby.

(Editor’s Note: Ask a Pro is a Q&A column from professional photographer, writer, and educator Scott Kelby. Scott is here to answer all your photography-related questions, so if you have something you’d like to know, e-mail him at -- with “For Scott Kelby” as the subject line --and your query could be featured in the next edition of Ask a Pro.)