Image Stabilized Lenses

Image Count

The question of whether someone needs IS lenses or not is one I get a lot. So often, in fact, that I’ve put together an entire eBook on the topic. The answer to whether you need an IS lens always starts with “It depends”.  I’d done a lot of waffling on this subject, and eventually decided that I do not need one.  Do I want one? Well, that’s another question altogether.

At the end of the day, my decision was based on a number of factors, but the biggest factor was how I actually shoot. I pulled some statistics on my photographic habits out of Lightroom based on what shutter speeds I shoot at, and the results were telling:

Image Count

You can see from the above graph that I have shot periodically at very low shutter speeds according to the statistics from this catalog of nearly 40,000 images. Also notice though, that many of these longer shutter speed captures are one-offs. In other words, not very often. If I were to look at the instances where my numbers are the highest using the handy dandy ListView plugin, my shooting style turns out to be very different:
So, in looking at the image counts and percentages above, some interesting results start to bubble up. These numbers say a couple of things. My biggest takeaway is 3 specific details:

43% of the time, I am shooting at 1/100th of a second or faster (image stabilization is not needed)

55% of the time, I am shooting at 1 second or slower (at this slow a shutter speed, I am likely on a tripod, and IS is turned off)

3% of the time, I am shooting in that fuzzy area where IS would help my shots

What do all these numbers mean? Well, for me, it means that IS lenses are likely not a good investment because I don’t spend a lot of time in that area where I would benefit from image stabilization. Does this hold true for you? Ya gotta run the numbers!

Many have come to me asking this question, and I’ve always come back with my own analysis which surprises a lot of people.  At the end of the day the follow-up question I get is twofold:

First – how did I get those stats? And second, can I run the numbers for them? Want to know more? Sign up for the eBook where I go into much more detail about the pros and cons of image stabilized lenses!

Monopods can Make Music


So often, photos that inspire you are ones taken from new angles, or from angles that you can’t normally get to, or think to get to.  Monopods are great tools in this regard…you can extend a monopod up over your head for more of an aerial perspective, or even turn it upside down to get an angle that might be otherwise pretty awkward or uncomfortable to get into just to get a unique shot.  I love my monopod!

While the good money will always add features and functions that don’t exist on lower end models, I do think that even the most basic of monopods can be useful – to the degree that even going with a Wal-mart brand or generic named vendor can be a sound investment.  If you are talking about just getting to a place you can’t get to on your own (or even with a tripod), the difference between aluminum and carbon fiber on a monopod doesn’t have as much impact here in my opinion.

Now if you are going for the stability factor, yes, a sturdier monopod would likely yield better results, but how much better do you expect from a single-legged support mechanism?  Seriously – even with your own two feet, you can get pretty steady with your shots if you use a good holding technique, tucking your arms in, leaning on a wall or tree, and going between breaths (or shooting between heartbeats as my former Drill Sergeant said in the Army.)  How is one foot going to get you more stability than two feet?  On it’s own, not much, so I don’t sweat much over the vendor here…

Check out these aerial and low angle shots I got with just a Wal-mart tripod and some creative thinking:

Tail Lights

This shot was taken with my monopod and the camera braced against a streetlight.  EXIF Data:  ISO 800 22mm f/22 4 second exposure


I shot this waterfall with the camera upsidedown and me holding the foot of my monopod while the camera was as close as I felt comfortable putting it close to the base of the waterfall.  EXIF Data:  ISO 100 21mm f/11 2.5 second exposure

Boats at Sunset

This serene harbor was shot with the monopod, and the camera braced up against a tack shop.  EXIF data:  ISO 100 18mm f/11 5 second exposure

Downtown Denver

The Denver Art Museum, shot near midnight.  The camera again, was upside down (I rotated it in post), and I held the foot of the monopod to get this low view.  EXIF Data:  ISO 100 33mm f/8 8 second exposure (it’s a tad blurry when you zoom in…)

Denver Photo Walk

This was done when I was shooting with my good friend Tim Tonge as we scouted routes for a photo walk.  I liked this one so much it made it’s way into my eBook as a photo tip.  Again, camera against the ground, upside down, me holding the foot.  EXIF Data:  ISO 800 10mm f/8 1/125th Exposure (note the exposure time here – I could have hand held this, but not at as low an angle as this was..the monopod made the shot!)

The Reward

Here, the monopod was collapsed all the way down to one extension so the camera was just above my beer.  The monopod itself was braced against the table, and I nudged the beer and coaster in until I got this composition.  EXIF Data:  ISO 800 20mm f/2.8 1/30th of a second exposure time


Have you tried a monopod?  The results may surprise you!

3 Reasons to Shoot Photography Every Day

cabo boat

We all have reasons to get out of practicing, but it’s never a good idea to stop altogether.  Once you stop shooting regularly, even your basic skills can start to atrophy. And while shooting every day can sound like a daunting task, people have asked me why it’s important to do this as a photographer.  It’s important because it helps keep your fundamentals grounded. It also serves to keep your eyes active and always looking for new inspiration. There’s so many reasons to shoot every day, but rather than bore you with a laundry list of words, here are  3 reasons to shoot photography every day:

1. Practice Makes Perfect

The first reason to shoot photography every day is because shooting more often will simply make you better! Whether you are starting out in the world of photography or you are an established professional, or even an active hobbyist, there are always things you can learn about your craft, whether it’s improving your vision, your composition, or even refining the controls you have over your gear.  You really only can get there through lots and lots of practice.  Someone once said that it takes 10,000 hours of practice before you can really consider yourself an expert in anything.  Here I would say one caveat and that is to never think you are done learning – adopting that attitude will only blindside you downstream.

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