BetterPhoto Q&A
Category: New Questions

Photography Question 
Mike Stephens


First, THANK YOU for taking the time to read this. I appreciate it.
I am NEW to photgraphy. I haven't touched a camera aside from the disposable jobs, in 20+ years. I recently purchased a nice camera (Minolta Maxxum-5 & AF 28-100) and the pics in my gallery are all from the past 35 days. I know I don't rank up with the big-boys, but I am eager for any and all advice, comments, feedback, etc. both good and bad, so I may learn more. I LOVE photography and this site is wonderful!
I'm 43 and the proud Dad of two boys, ages 9 and 6.
Much thanks again.

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6/27/2005 10:07:12 PM

Irene Troy
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/27/2004
  Hi Mike and welcome to BP! You are going to love it here – and you are going to learn a great deal by participating in discussions and asking for feedback on your images. The people here are, for the most part, extremely helpful and many have considerable experience that they are willing to share with us novices. Now, on to your gallery: for the most part I think that you have some good ideas, but like all new photographers you need to work on composition and exposure.

Natures Peep Show: I think I know what you were trying to do here, but the image ended up being somewhat busy and without a true central focus. I know that you are trying to drag the eye toward the sunset in the distance, but I find the bright green leaves that surround your frame a little distracting. The fact that you used a flash makes the leaves pop out and confuses the eye. Am I supposed to be looking at the leaves or the sunset? The frame should not overwhelm the main focal point of the image and in this image the frame almost hides the focal point.

BEE-autiful: The bee and the flower are your focal points, but you need to move in much closer to isolate them from the surrounding flowers, leaves and other items in the image. Also I would have tried to shoot this image from above the flower so as to concentrate attention to the bee. One other suggestion – that may not have been possible – would be to try to make such images when the light was less harsh. I like to shoot flowers in the very early morning light; however, bees don’t start moving around until it gets warmer. A compromise would have been to use a warming filter or even a polarizer to soften the light a tad and to concentrate the color of the flower. Final suggestion – this image seems a little soft – did you use a tripod? If not, you really need to consider a tripod when making such images.

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6/28/2005 4:43:05 AM

Irene Troy
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/27/2004
  Mirror Lake: A very nice composition – I like how you framed the lake with the tree branches. The only thing wrong with this image is that you shot it at the wrong time of day! You might want to consider trying to make your images either in early morning or late afternoon/early evening. When the light is high in the sky – mid-day – it washes out all color and makes most subjects appear bland and uninteresting. There are, of-course, exceptions to this and there are times that even when the light is not good we are forced to make images anyway. On such occasions a circular polarizer and/or warming filter has sometimes saved the day for me.

Patience: Lovely image! My only suggestion for this one would be to crop out most of what is behind your son (?). The ground behind the boy is not necessary to the photo and distracts from the image. By cropping this out you will also move the boy from center frame – something that will also help the image. Of-course, it would have been nice if the light had been less harsh, but sometimes you have to make the shot when you can. I rarely shoot people, so I will leave it for someone else to offer suggestions on how you could soften the light around the boy.

Schofield Covered Bridge: You did a nice job on placing the focus in this image at the right angle. Unfortunately, the light is so harsh that it washes out the colors. You could try beefing up the colors in image editing software, but the best thing would have been to make the image in better light or at least on a day when the sky has more color. Once again, a polarizer would help.

Nature’s Daily Farewell:
Serenity Captured:
4 Miles north of Philly: CROP, CROP, CROP! One of the hardest things I have had to learn when making my images is what to include and what to leave out. One trick that works for me is to, after I have set up my shot, take one last look around what I am shooting and to ask myself what is not needed to “tell the story” I want the image to tell. In all 3 of these images you include way too much stuff. I would crop the trees/whatever on the right hand side of the images by 2/3rds. I would also eliminate the top branches in 4 miles. They add nothing to the image. My other suggestion would be to use a graduated neutral density filter so that the sky does not appear as washed out.

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6/28/2005 5:00:04 AM

Irene Troy
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/27/2004
  Silhouette Sunset: I just finished a class in which we were asked to make images of silhouettes. What I learned was that when shooting such images you need to find strong foreground subjects for good silhouettes. When the object being silhouetted lacks strength the entire image lacks power. I like the fuzzy grass (seed pods?) in the center, but you need more of them and you need to get rid of the straight line grass that goes up and out of the frame. And again, you need to crop about 2/3rds of the bottom black ground from the image.

Sunset at Tyler Park: After telling you to crop just about every photo I am now going to say that you cropped too much in this image! Can’t win can you? The setting sun is, at the very least, an essential element to this image, but it sits so far down in the frame that it is almost lost. The sky seems really nice, but you need to move your camera up and include more of the sun while still leaving out as much of the ground as possible.

General advice: (1) If you do not already own one – get yourself a good tripod and use it as much as possible. Tripods not only help stabilize your equipment (an important point!) they force you to slow down and think about the image you are trying to make. I know that I used to complain about dragging a tripod around with me everywhere and I found excuses not to use one. Then when I started using my tripod, my images “magically” improved! (2) when you find yourself with some extra cash (yea, right! With 2 young kids you have lots of this around don’t you?) consider investing in a good quality circular polarizer; a series of warming filters and a series of neutral density filters. If I had to select just one filter it would be a polarizer.

(3) Keep shooting and keep posting your images here so that we can all see your progress and you can get feedback from others. I know that it might be prohibitive in both cost and time right now, but if you can, consider taking some courses here. When I started to get serious about my photography I found this site and have taken some classes that have really helped improve my photography.

I hope that this helps you. I am far from being an expert, so don’t think that I think I have all the answers! Wish that I did. (lol)

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6/28/2005 5:20:43 AM

David Earls   Mike,

In addition to all of Irene's excellent comments, I would add one. Every one of your images has the focal point almost dead center. Try experimenting with the rule of thirds, i.e., moving the main subject off-center. If you have your camera on a tripod it's a snap to meter on the center, set your exposure, and then re-compose off-center.

Remember, as Irene said, we're all learning here. Look at the contest entries every day - there's a lot there to learn from -

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6/28/2005 6:20:00 AM

Kerry L. Walker   I won't comment on as many as Irene did (good job, Irene) but I will comment on a couple. My comments will be less on the technical merits and more on the artistic merits of the photos.

Nature's Peep Show - OK, my perspective on this one is a little different from other people - as is my perspective on a lot of things. It is obvious that you used flash but I like that. You have reversed the norm here and taken the eye away from the normal shot of using the frame to highlight the background and put the emphasis on the frame. It is so different that I like the difference. (I said I was different.)

Sunset at Tyler Park - I know what you were trying to do here. You were trying to make the sun look like it was setting out of the picture, and it worked.

Patience - This is my favorite. I remember seeing this one before you cropped the background and it really helped. Yes, it would be better if you cropped a little off the left side and placed your son far to the left of the picture. I should have caught that the first time but I didn't. I agree the light is harsh but this is one of those instances where I don't care. This was not a set-up shot. You take what you can get. If you have noticed in some of my other comments or in the photos in my gallery, I really like pictures that set a mood. To me, technical perfection is of less importance than the mood itself and this picture really conveys a mood of patience and concentration. If you do crop some of the left side off, it will draw your attention even more to Shane and will set the mood even better.

I will agree that the use of a polarizer and/or a ND filter will help in the landscape shots. Also, shooting early in the AM or later in the PM will help brighten the colors. It will also help set the mood that I seek so much.

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6/28/2005 7:56:29 AM

Kerry L. Walker   Old Mill Inn - Normally, people will tell you to keep horizontal lines (like the horizon) straight. In this picture, the front rail on the building looks like it is going downhill. However, the lines from the right side look like they are leaning in toward the middle too. I don't know if the building really looked like this or it was because of the perspective from which you wer shooting but I like the look. It makes it look like the building is sagging - again, leading to a mood - one of age. The fact that you shot this one late in the day adds to that feeling. The one thing I notice is that one of the signs is out of focus - not enough DOF. Good shot though.

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6/28/2005 8:03:01 AM

Samuel Smith
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/21/2004
  you're getting better mike,but yeah the light.aren't these people great for helping out.

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6/28/2005 4:14:46 PM

Mike Stephens   Irene, David, Kerry, and Samuel--You guys are GREAT =) THANK YOU ALL! You guys are right; I do not use a tripod. I will!! Kerry, you were correct about my goal for the Sunset at Tyler shot. I wanted the sun setting into the bottom of the shot! And Old Mill Inn is over 100 years old so it lives up to its name! The building is rickety and NOT level. I see signs on it that are current, but the doors are always bolted! I downloaded Adobe Photo and it seems confusing! I also JUST received a Tamron Tele-Macro 100-300mm lens off eBay for $80. But I think I went into this purchase blindly b/c I was hoping for a lens to take close-ups of flowers, etc. What sort of lens should I have purchased and is the lens I just got a good quality (it's VERY clean) and/or a good price? Basically, what can I do with this type of lens? I know I should have asked these questions prior to bidding, but the auction was within minutes of closing!
I keep hearing about Neutral Density filters so that will be my next purchase along w/ a tripod. Any suggestions for best prices on the filters or where to look?
Again, I REALLY want to thank each of you for taking time to reply and help. You guys are the best =)

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7/1/2005 5:16:26 PM

Samuel Smith
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/21/2004
  hey mike,
i think you did ok on your lens purchase,i have a tamron 70-300 and use it for an all around lens.with my 1.4 convertor I can reach out to 420mm. covers a lot of ground your feet don't have to.
i've used this lense for,landscapes,b-day parties,r/c fly-ins,truck pulls,football games,wildlife,and a lot more.with practice you can handhold with good results.i think all the pics in my gallery were taken with that lense.
as far as filters,i think your first one should be a circular polarizer.cuts down on glare,and makes the skies more blue.if you have a local camera store get to know someone who works there,and you can trust.and it helps if they are into photography,not there just to sell stuff.a big help.i went in a month ago to purchase a close-up filter set,they went over the brands and prices and I made my purchase.about 40 bucks.
if you want to do macro this might be the way you want to go.they just screw into the lense you already have, like your 28-100.the front of your lense should have the filter size on it.
good,true macro lenses are quite expensive.your choice.but do get a tripod!a remote release,can't remember if the 5 has the option,will also add to sharper pictures.that way once you focus you don't physically touch the camera.just pushing the shutter release can move the camera.
well hope this helps,let us know.

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7/2/2005 1:16:37 PM

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