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Photography QnA: Exposure Settings

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Category: All About Photography : Photographic Field Techniques : Exposure Settings

Wondering about indoor photography exposure settings? Maybe you are more interested in outdoor settings. This Q & A and Exposure Control in Digital Photography article covers it all. For in-depth instruction, check out Bryan F. Peterson's Understanding Exposure online photography course.

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Photography Question 
Kayla W

member since: 12/21/2005
  21 .  ISO: Still Vs. Moving Subjects
I just got a Kodak p850 for Christmas and I need help on what to set the ISO to when taking pictures of a subject in motion and a subject that is still.

12/27/2005 11:08:19 AM

Bob Fately

member since: 4/11/2001
  Well, Kayla, the higher ISO number means that the chip will be more sensitive to light, which in turn means that you can use a faster shutter speed (to freeze action, say). The downside (there's always a downside) is that the faster ISO setting can mean that you will see "noise" in the image - sort of like grain in film.
So, for still stuff you will probably want to use the lowest number you can (if using a tripod, just use the lowest number since your hand movement won't cause any blurring when you're not holding the camera).
For in-motion subjects, though, there are other considerations. There's a lot more light shining on a BMX-er in an outdoor course than on a basketball player in a school gymnasium. For the former, you might be able to use a lower ISO number and still get a fast enough shutter speed to freeze action. For the latter, you'll probably have to use a higher ISO number to get any sort of image at all, and the highest might not be sensitive enough to allow for a fast shutter speed anyway.
I hope that helps.

12/27/2005 11:13:07 AM

Kayla W

member since: 12/21/2005
  Thanks for your help! After I read your advice, I went outside and shot photos of my neighbor's dog and some trees, and I worked with both the aperture and ISO number. The pictures turned out great! Thanks for your advice

12/27/2005 1:02:36 PM

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Photography Question 
Kristi Eckberg
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 10/22/2003
  22 .  Portrait Photography in the Snow
Can anyone give me some quick tips on how to take the best portraits in the snow? Should I use my grey card or take a reading from the subject's face? I have read that I need to overexpose a bit to get the snow to look white but will that overexpose the faces? Doing some photos later today!!

12/8/2005 9:38:15 AM

David Earls

member since: 4/15/2005
  If the sky is clear, metering off sky blue usually works pretty well. If you're shooting in Raw, you'll be able to adjust yur exposure outside the camera, within limits.

12/8/2005 1:11:03 PM

A C
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 12/6/2004
  I don't think that the faces would be overexposed. Overexposing doesn't just make the snow look white, it makes everything else look better as well. Your camera wants to average everything to about 18% gray. If there is a lot of white in your picture, the camera thinks it needs to make everything darker to get closer to that 18%. As a result, the people in your picture will be darker than usual.
I took a digital photography class this fall and one of our assignments was to take portraits using a black background. My teacher suggested we underexpose for the exact same reason as you would overexpose for the snow. It worked like a charm. It was easy to tell which students didn't follow the recommendation. Instead of a black background, they had a muddy gray background and the faces were washed out.
My best piece of advice is to bracket your shots in addition to shooting raw if you have the time and space on your memory card. Or, just bracket.

12/8/2005 10:02:28 PM

Piotr M. Organa
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 11/12/2004
  Right! Beware of 'noise' in underexposed faces. Overexpose 1 stop.

1/3/2006 8:43:34 PM

Will Turner

member since: 7/15/2005
  Incident meters work really well for this situation.

1/3/2006 8:53:14 PM

Andrew Laverghetta
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/13/2004
  Yes, I agree fully with the incident meter being the best choice. Also, just expose off the face and add or subtract maybe a half stop depending on how light or dark the skin is. If you're not sure, then yeah, you can use your gray card. Problem is with routinely overexposing, you'll be assuming that most of the stuff in the frame is snow. If you meter only the center portion where the subject is (of a fairly neutral color), metering should be pretty simple.

1/3/2006 9:15:09 PM

Alisha L. Ekstrom
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/30/2005
  I have a question about the whole metering thing. I shoot with a Nikon D70s & try to use my in camera meter... when shooting a subject in snow or shooting a subject indoors with a black backdrop where do I position my camera to read off of?..the face or the background? In other words to make my black really black or the snow really white?

Which metering mode is the best?

Color matrix metering
Center weighted metering
spot metering

Those are the 3 choices of metering on my camera. I'm just trying to figure out how to make my backdrops really black or white without adjusting them in photoshop.

Thanks for the help

Alisha

1/5/2006 9:32:43 PM

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Photography Question 
F C

member since: 5/9/2005
  23 .  Shutter Speed, Flash, Indoors, Etc.
I know that at 200mm focal length, the rule of thumb is I should use a 1/200 shutter speed. The question is: When I do this, do I always need flash to be on? I tried using high shutter speeds - 1/300-1/800 - and without flash, all of my photos were extremely dark or just black. I did this in a fairly well-lit room. Is this true? Do I need a flash all the time at such high shutter speeds?

11/11/2005 3:37:38 AM

Christopher A. Vedros
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/14/2005
  No, it's not necessarily true. But even when a room looks fairly well-lit to you, unless you have a lens with a large aperture, you will probably need to use a flash when shooting indoors. You need to read the section in your manual about how your camera's light meter works. Then you need to use it. If you increase your shutter speed without increasing your aperture, your picture will be too dark (underexposed).

11/11/2005 5:25:19 AM

Kerry L. Walker

member since: 12/21/2004
  Chirs is correct. If you increase your shutter speed, you will need to use a larger aperture. Unless the place you are shooting is lit up like it's sunlight, the chances are you won't be able to use such a fast shutter speed without flash. Now to add a couple of things:
1. If you use flash and shoot faster than your maximum shutter speed, part of the picture won't be lit since the shutter curtain will not be open throughout the exposure.
2. If you are shooting with flash, the rule of thumb goes out the window since the speed of your flash becomes your shutter speed (in effect). For most flashes, the slowest speed is 1/1000 sec. going up to 1/50,000 sec. (depending on the flash), which is determined by the amount of light you need (how far you are from the subject) so you can shoot at slower shutter speeds. In fact, you will probably want to do so to get some ambient light in the picture (or not, if you want everything but the subject to be in shadows).

11/11/2005 6:39:17 AM

Bob Fately

member since: 4/11/2001
  F, allow me to elaborate on the previous answers. First, the rule of thumb to which you refer relates to 35mm film shooting - and basically states that the slowest shutter speed you should use - hand-held, without external flash - is 1 over the focal length of the lens. So, in available light shooting with a 200mm lens and a film (or "full frame" digital) body, the slowest speed you should use is 1/200th of a second. With most DSLRs, though, the imaging chip is smaller than the 24x36mm rectangle of 35mm film, so they talk about the "cropping factor" - eg., 1.5 times the focal length. So that 200mm lens suddenly behaves like a 300mm lens - and you should raise the shutter speed accordingly. That said, unless you're in a well-lit room and have a very fast 200mm lens (like a f2.8 or f2), it's quite possible there won't be enough light to expose the shot properly. So flash comes into the picture (excuse the pun).

When you use flash, the rules may change a bit. This is because if the bulk of the light illuminating the subject is coming form an electronic flash, the shutter speed you use is less critical (on the slow end) because the duration of the flash burst itself is from 1/1000th second down to 1/50,000th of a second. So, any concerns about motion-related blur are probably unnecessary - the flash light itself will freeze the action.

On the other hand, using a flash with a camera that has a focal-plane type shutter brings up another issue. Focal-plane shutters work by the use of two 'curtains' - the first one exposes the film or chip when you press the shutter button, and the second one follows the first after the designated shutter speed time. So, if you set the shutter speed to 1/2 second (to be ridiculous) and click the shutter, what happens inside the body is curtain 1 zips open, and after 1/2 second, curtain 2 zips behind it to close and stop exposing. And if you have a flash attached, it will fire at the time that the shutter is fully open and the film or chip is completely exposed.

However, the mechanics and physics involved impose an upper limit on how fast the shutter speed can be before curtain #2 starts traveling closed even while curtain #1 is mid-way through its opening move. The effect of this is that, counter to intuition, at high shutter speeds the entire chip or film is not being exposed exactly at once, but instead is being exposed by a moving slit (between the curtains).

And the reason that means anything at all is because if you use too high a shutter speed with electronic flash, when the flash pops off it will properly expose the slit being exposed in that instant, but the surrounding areas will remain black or dark. This could be top/bottom or left/right, depending on the mechanical nature of the focal plane shutter mechanism.

So, the moral of the story is, if you're using electronic flash, do not go above the highest flash synchronization speed (it's one of the specs in the camera manual).

11/11/2005 9:13:51 AM

F C

member since: 5/9/2005
  hey
thanks a lot guyss. Its been very helpful indeed. Appreciate it loads. Understand a bit more about it now.

THe reason I ask this is because I enjoy wildlife photorgaphy, thats why I got it in the first place. But if I am using a high shutter speed and I am in a jungle full of trees, it will be too dark and if I were to use flash, it would probably scare the animal away.

So, I always wondered how those wildlife photographers manage to freeze motions of runnin cheetahs or flying humming birds but their exposure is still so excellent.

11/11/2005 3:23:36 PM

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Photography Question 
MEGAN L. BREESAWITZ

member since: 11/5/2005
  24 .  Photographing Large Groups of People
It seems that when I am photographing large groups of people. I am getting the ones in front in focus, and the ones just a little behind them are slightly out of focus. I know about the depth of field and everything, and on my camera, I am using my AV mode and setting my own aperture. However, the lighting outdoors is a slight problem. When I move it up to a smaller aperture - such as f/11 instead of f/5.6 - my shutter speed drops down to 20th or 30th sec., sometimes 40th. What else do I need to be doing?

11/5/2005 9:31:14 PM

  Use a tripod and take four or five shots. One of them is bound to have little or no discernable movement.
Walrath Photographic Imaging
http://home.comcast.net/~flash19901/wsb/html/view.cgi-home.html-.html

11/6/2005 6:42:23 AM

John Rhodes
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 2/24/2005
  Megan,
When shooting under less than perfect lighting conditions, compensate with your camera's controls. To get a faster shutter time with an aperture that allows sufficient DOF, you can increase the ISO setting until the shutter speed is fast enough if you must handhold the camera. The best solution, as Christopher said, is to use a tripod and a shutter release (electronic or cable).

11/6/2005 9:43:22 AM

John Sandstedt
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 8/8/2001
  Don't focus on someone in the front row! And, remember to tell everyone that, if they can't see the camera's lens, it can see them!

Also, tell everyone you're shooting on the count of three and fire at two!

11/8/2005 6:57:24 AM

MEGAN L. BREESAWITZ

member since: 11/5/2005
  Thanks everyone for the great advice. I will try all of it.

11/8/2005 9:14:34 AM

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Photography Question 
Holly A. Hart

member since: 10/13/2005
  25 .  Judging a Print for Exposure
To judge a print for exposure, what do I look for?

10/13/2005 10:07:01 AM

Michael H. Cothran

member since: 10/21/2004
  "Proper" exposure is one which gives you adequate detail where YOU WANT it. In most cases, pay particular attention to the very bright areas and very dark areas. Judge these for the amount of detail you see. In most cases, with color film or digital cameras, and especially in very contrasty lighting situations, like outdoors in bright sunlight, your camera will only be able to hold detail in either the bright highlights or the deep shadows, but not both. It's your call here, but the general consensus among better photographers is to be sure you hold detail in the highlights, and let the shadows darken as they may.
With B&W film, it is very possible to get details in both, providing you expose for the shadows, and develop for the highlights. This does not work with color film or digital capture.
Furthermore, you can judge exposure based upon your creative intentions. Perhaps you are going for a dark, moody image, or something like that nature.
Michael H. Cothran
www.mhcphoto.net

10/13/2005 12:09:53 PM

Michael H. Cothran

member since: 10/21/2004
  Also, FYI -
Black & white film normally has 9 or 10 "zones" of gray between black and white, so its tonal range is very broad.
Color film, and digital capture have 5-6 "zones" of brightness between black and white. Thus their tonal range is more limited than b&w film.
This shortness of tonal range requires more diligence on the part of the photographer to carefully meter a scene in order to preserve detail where it is wanted or needed.
Michael H. Cothran

10/13/2005 12:20:28 PM

Justin G.
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 7/13/2004
  Michael, would you happen to know an approximate tonal range for digital cameras, or does that vary?

10/13/2005 2:29:24 PM

Michael H. Cothran

member since: 10/21/2004
  Justin,
Assuming you are somewhat familiar with Ansel Adams "Zone System" of exposure, your DSLR camera can expose from about Zone 1.5 up to about Zone 7.5. The distance from one zone to another (i.e., Zone 2-3-4-5-6-7) is ONE FULL STOP. Remember this.
Zone 5 is middle gray (RGB 128 in Photoshop). Going down is getting darker (underexposing), and going up is getting lighter (overexposing). This is your working range with just about all DSLR cameras. Here is a subjective definition for each zone in color/digital capture:

Zone 1.5 - Paper lack
Zone 2 - muddy black
zone 3 - very dark (limited detail)
zone 4 - dark (full detail)
zone 5 - middle tone (full detail)
zone 6 - light (full detail
zone 7 - very light (limited detail)
zone 7.5 - paper white

Also, since color/digital is so sensitive to light changes, it is advantageous to think in terms of 1/2 stop increments rather than the full stop increments associated with b&w film.
Hope this helps.
Michael H. Cothran
www.mhcphoto.net

10/13/2005 3:56:18 PM

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Photography Question 
Caroline Davidson

member since: 1/14/2004
  26 .  Bracketing - Image Quality?
Hi there,
Can someone tell me if bracketing results in a deterioration of photo quality? I have noticed a big difference in the quality of the photos taken with and without and wondered if it was just me who had noticed this. I am using a Canon Rebel DSLR. Thanks for your help.

9/26/2005 10:52:01 PM

Jon Close
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/18/2000
  The point in bracketing is to take a series of shots (usually 3) at different exposure (or white balance) settings, such that 1 has the correct or best exposure. By definition, the other shots in the series will suffer in comparison.
If you are using a flash, then you need to wait for the flash to recycle between each bracketed shot. Otherwise, only one will get a full-power flash and the others in the sequence will get underpowered or no flash.

9/27/2005 7:01:47 AM

Caroline Davidson

member since: 1/14/2004
  Thank you for your response. On the Canon DSLR, the camera is able to bracket automatically, which is what I had it set at. So with one picture, three are created at whatever parameters are set. However, it seems as if the quality of the photos suffer using this feature. Or maybe it is just me...

9/27/2005 8:06:42 AM

Jon Close
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/18/2000
  "So with one picture, three are created..." - this is the White Balance Auto Bracketing feature. One of those files should be no different than what the camera would record if the WB Bracketing were turned off. The other 2 images have different white balance. All other settings (JPEG resoultion, parameters for Contrast, Sharpness, etc.) are the same for the three images.

9/27/2005 8:24:43 AM

Roy Blinston
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/4/2005
  In what way are the pictures inferior when using "bracketing"? As a pure guess it just may be that you are "moving" once you hear the "first" shutter click (and not waiting for the extra 2 clicks to happen). It's a guess only. More info is needed to answer it.

9/28/2005 11:54:42 AM

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Photography Question 
Barbara Helgason
BetterPhoto Member
Contact Barbara
Barbara's Gallery

member since: 1/4/2004
  27 .  How to Meter a Backlit Sunset Portrait
 
I've been told to meter off the sky or to meter off of the subject's face. The two are so different it doesn't make any sense to me. I am thinking of metering off of the sky and then adding a fill flash. Last time I took sunset portrait I was terribly disappointed. Faces underexposed, sky overexposed!! I'll include an example. Please someone help and tell me what I did wrong!

9/21/2005 11:11:43 AM

Jon Close
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/18/2000
  Meter the sky, and you'll get good sunset exposure, but your foreground subjects will be in the dark. Meter on them, and the sky will be overexposed. You've hit on the solution: Meter for the sky and use fill flash (or reflectors) to light up your foreground subjects. The only other alternative is to "cheat" by taking two pics - one exposed for the sky, the other for the people - and combine them digitally.

9/21/2005 12:34:07 PM

  Thanks John, I am going to give that a try, hopefully the results will be much better this time!

9/21/2005 1:07:34 PM

Roy Blinston
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/4/2005
  Firstly, put your camera on a tripod (ask the model to keep very still). Put your camera on "manual mode". Take a reading of the sunset and adjust settings accordingly... then pop up your flash and take the pic. Because pop up flash is only good for about 8 feet, you can use and adjust your distance to match (experiment).
You only have about 10 or 15 minutes of twilight time to get the perfect shot. Take lots of pics during this time.

9/28/2005 12:40:10 PM

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Photography Question 
Michelle B. Prince
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/16/2004
  28 .  People Photography: Light Metering
I have heard people say that when photographing people outside you should meter off someone's white or black shirt. I don't understand this. If anyone does I would love to have it make sense. I sometimes try the exposure lock on someone's face but don't know much about metering light at all. I have a Canon 20D.

8/17/2005 5:46:46 PM

Christopher A. Vedros
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/14/2005
  When people talk about metering off something specific in a scene or portrait, usually what you do is zoom in or move in closer so that one particular thing or color fills the frame, or at least fills most of the frame. Then you push the shutter button halfway to get an exposure, and use exposure lock, recompose and shoot.
By the way, if I were photographing someone who was wearing a white or black shirt, I would meter off their face, not the shirt. Large white and black surfaces in pictures are what confuse meters and throw off exposures.

8/17/2005 7:42:31 PM

Samuel Smith
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/21/2004
  thank you chris,sam that one finally sank in.

8/17/2005 8:37:02 PM

Pete H
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 8/9/2005
  Perhaps what you read was to White Balance off a white shirt. That would make more sense. Exposure metering off white would cause the subject's face to be well under-exposed.
Pete
"When in doubt; BRACKET!" :)

8/17/2005 9:09:13 PM

Maria Melnyk

member since: 5/2/2004
  The rule of thumb for metering off skin is to add one stop exposure to the reading for Caucasian skin.

Do you have a light meter? If so, use an incident light reading. This measures the light falling on a subject rather than the light reflected off of it. It's easier and more accurate, and it doesn't matter what color shirt the subject is wearing.

8/23/2005 9:38:37 AM

Michelle B. Prince
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/16/2004
  No, I don't have a light meter. Maybe I should get one. A photographer I met once said to go up close and focus on the person's face in the AV mode and see what the aperature and shutter were. Then to step back and manually set the camera for those settings and shoot. Isn't that the same as exposure locking on the face and then moving back?

8/23/2005 5:52:01 PM

Christopher A. Vedros
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/14/2005
  Yes it is.

8/23/2005 6:58:07 PM

Roy Blinston
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/4/2005
  In all the Photo Tips I have ever read it states "Expose for the Highlights and let the shadows take care of themselves". Weddings with harsh B&W contrasts is always difficult. I would meter off the faces (rather than the dress) as this is more important. If you compose your pic to show the "dress only", then meter for the dress.

8/23/2005 7:05:42 PM

Maria Melnyk

member since: 5/2/2004
  Hi, Michelle, yes, it's always good to have a light/flash meter, especially if you're doing portraits indoors with a manual lighting setup. By the way, your technique to focus close on the face in the AV mode is correct, except then you don't need to "see what the aperture was", because you're setting that yourself in AV mode. You just need to see your shutter speed.

Locking exposure on the face and moving back is the same thing, except that you have to do that each time. So it's easier to meter the face once, and then, unless your light or the person's position changes, you don't have to re-meter with each exposure.

Roy - exposing for the highlights and letting the shadows take take of themselves is the right thing to do for digital (like Michelle's 20D) or for slide film, but not for print film. For that you expose for the shadows, or in special situations you average the two (such as when you have a pattern across the bride's face, like, let's say, the sun shining through blinds and that pattern falls on her face; that's where you would average the two readings because both shadows and highlights are equally important here.)

8/23/2005 7:35:08 PM

Kerry L. Walker

member since: 12/21/2004
  As Chris said, meter off the face. White and black will throw off you meter as it will read the white (or black) as 18% gray and try to make it fit. Metering off the skin will get you a lot closer.

8/23/2005 7:50:23 PM

Roy Blinston
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/4/2005
  Hi Maria.... I fully agree. However she is using Digital, and a normal Wedding shot would not have any blinds or cross lighting (hopefully). As with any special circumstances one must modify the rules. I assumed Digital was the "thing" these days. I do not know many people using film any more (even pros).

8/23/2005 7:50:25 PM

Kerry L. Walker

member since: 12/21/2004
  I am beginning to feel like a lone voice crying in the wilderness (still using film).

8/23/2005 7:52:49 PM

anonymous 
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 2/7/2005
  Who ever said meter for the black or white shirt needs to go back and learn the basics! LOL

Why would you add one stop for caucasian skin? that doesn't make sense, if you meter the skin, then shouldn't what the camera or the light meter telling you be right, especially considerig caucasian skins is very close to 18% grey?

you don't really need a light meter. Just work out what f stop you want, (ie set it in AV mode) go up to the person, do a reading and work out what shutter speed it needs). Then put those details in M mode, you then don't need to change the details unless the conditions change, ie, new poss, sun comes out, clouds cover sun etc. Like Michelle said

Maria you don't really need to do any averaging for something like this,

"or in special situations you average the two (such as when you have a pattern across the bride's face, like, let's say, the sun shining through blinds and that pattern falls on her face; that's where you would average the two readings because both shadows and highlights are equally important here.)"

As the pattern on the face is uniform the light meter in the camera will pick it up and expose correctly for it. It really is only an issue if you have half a face is deep shadow and half a face in highlights, that is when you may need to average it a bit.

Same thing with photographing a Zebra, you don't need to over or underexpose for anything, the lines and stripes are so close that the camera see roughly 18% grey and gets a good reading. Now if you had just a white or black horse, then that is a different thing obviously.

I think we need to give the inbuilt meters in our cameras a little more credit. Unless it is extreme circumstances, I haven't been let down yet. Even with a Bride and groom senario, as there is more tones in the photo then just the black and white, there is all that lovely skin (18% grey) there is also all the background etc too.

8/23/2005 8:17:45 PM

Pete H
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 8/9/2005
  I pretty much agree with Natalie, however; to quote her "Same thing with photographing a Zebra, you don't need to over or underexpose for anything...,"

I must take some opposition to this.
If you are to err, err on the side of underexposure. Blown out high-lites, esp in a white bridal gown, can NOT be recovered, be it digital or film; save restoration. Underexposure will still have data..information...pixels etc, that CAN be recovered.
One of the wonderful traits of shooting digital is the ability to layer two identical images..One image perhaps +1/2 and the other -1/2 stop.
When I shoot a bridal portrait, this is precisely what I do, only I go a step further and shoot a third frame in obeyance to what the Matrix meter is dictating. I'm fairly sure your 20D will shoot at 3 FPS, so even hand holding the shot is easily accomplished.
If you are not familiar with the "sandwich" technique, I'd be happy to email you further instructions.

All the best and happy shooting.

Pete

8/23/2005 8:48:31 PM

Roy Blinston
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/4/2005
  I agree. The sandwhich technique is called LAYERS (in Photoshop) where you can place 3 different pics on top of each other (and edit accordingly... holding the exposure on some and swapping for other tones). This is an invaluable feature when handling these problem photos. The bracketing 3fps is the only way to capture the originals before editing. I once did a similar thing using hand-held at 1/4 sec exp (taking two pics and layering for foreground a beautiful sunset glowing skyline to match).

8/23/2005 8:59:08 PM

Maria Melnyk

member since: 5/2/2004
  Wow! Everybody wrote stuff here all at once. (And good stuff it is at that.)

Natalie, I had to laugh when I read the part about the zebra. (It was a good laugh.) Perhaps metering is unnecessary, but I meter both the shadows and highlights and go in between with the exposure. That way I get exactly what I intended. For available light I usually use a light meter, although I do skip it often when pressed for time (late brides, etc.) And how often do I do a planned cross-lighting shot? Perhaps once every 10 weddings.

Yes, Roy, many pro photographers still use film. I work for 5 different studios, and all use film. (Two of them are both film and digital.) Even the top studio here in Chicago who does about 400-500 weddings a year is all film and only film. I just bought a new film camera, and now that Fuji came out with its terrific new Portrait film that is outstanding in quality, and Nikon's got a great new Pro Film Camera, the F6, I'm even more wired up about it. So, Kerry, you're not alone. I'm with you all the way!

Back to Natalie - I add one stop for Caucasian skin because it's a little brighter than 18% grey. I learned that a long time ago in photo seminars, and it appears to be true with my tests. Unless the person has a suntan.

But - Pete - I can't agree to err on the side of underexposure (with film, that is). Films can handle 5 stops of overexposure - just try that with digital! I once severely overexposed a picture of a cake I took. (It wasn't at a wedding; it was a cake my mother baked at home.) The negative was practically clear. But my lab made a beautifully perfect print from it (after some trial and error), and it showed ALL the details! Even slight underexposure would have looked muddy and grainy.

There are pro photographers who don't even own light meters, and their techniques (similar to the above techniques) are correct. However, I've lost count on the number of photographers who spotted my meter and approached me saying, "Can you check the exposure for me?" Both in ambient light and with manual flash.

8/23/2005 9:38:38 PM

Roy Blinston
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/4/2005
  I too have a light meter.... and it gets very little use these days. I say Digital is becoming more prominent these days for lots of applications. Unless one is Photographing a "celebrity wedding" where quality, reproduction and enlargement is the utmost, digital is by far taking over for common wedding photography. Some die-hards will use both formats (old habits, peace of mind etc). The proof is in the pudding.... have a chat to the Photographer at your next wedding reception and see what he is using. Any bets?

8/23/2005 9:50:57 PM

Michelle B. Prince
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/16/2004
  Wow. Thank you all so much. This is all such wonderful information. I LOVE THIS WEBSITE.

8/24/2005 3:57:20 AM

Kerry L. Walker

member since: 12/21/2004
  "Now if you had just a white or black horse, then that is a different thing obviously."

That is a horse of a different color. (Sorry for the cliche but I couldn't pass it up.)

Unless one is Photographing a "celebrity wedding" where quality, reproduction and enlargement is the utmost, digital is by far taking over for common wedding photography."

Sorry, but I consider all my wedding to be celebrity weddings. On that day, the bride IS a celebrity and is beautiful, regardless of how she looks on any other day.
"

8/24/2005 6:38:10 AM

Roy Blinston
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/4/2005
  Sorry, I think you have misunderstood me. I was not being derogatory to any Bride. I am involved in the Bridal industry professionally (not photographically). All brides are special on this day... but its horses for courses. My term "celebrity" was aimed at special weddings with very large budgets, often with 5 or 6 photographers covering the day, and often when orders for super large prints are made or the photos may be used in commercial/national magazine publications. This is a far cry from your average wedding of Fred & Jill at number 52 Side Street. Besides, these days, people "expect" to get digital prints or proofs etc etc (whether this be good or bad, right or wrong in their thinking). It is a clients expectation of "today". I know for a fact Bride & Groom would be disappointed if their intended photographer told them they only use "film" not digital (no matter how much lauding of qualtiy and purity by the photographer). If so, me thinks you may lose the Contract.

8/24/2005 8:21:36 AM

Kerry L. Walker

member since: 12/21/2004
  Yes, Roy, I understood you and did not take offense at your post. I understand what you are saying. It's just that to me, quality is always of utmost importance. I am sure I do lose a few contracts because I don't use digital but I also get some for the same reason.

8/24/2005 9:58:47 AM

Maria Melnyk

member since: 5/2/2004
  I've gotten jobs from clients who have specifically asked for film. I actually had one who broke off her contract with a digital photographer and lost the deposit, because she decided she wanted film.

And for those clients who want digital, I simply convert my film to digital and give them digital proofs. But I get outstanding reprints because they get printed optically off the negative.

Kerry, your response on "celebrity brides" was so beautiful it made me cry. I agree with you. I am now spending $40-$50 more per wedding because of Fuji's new Portrait film. (Prices have been raised for future contracts, at least until the imported version of the film becomes available.) I could still get the old stuff for much less, but I decided that all my brides, regardless of "celebrity" status, deserve the best there is.

8/24/2005 10:27:48 AM

Roy Blinston
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/4/2005
  I'm going to stick my neck out here... I predict "film" will be 95% replaced by "digital" within the next 5 years. I say this based on advances in technology (across the board) which are and will continue to happen in leaps and bounds. I believe film will be relegated to the "novelty status" by the year 2010 where only the "purists" will be endeavouring to sell its merits. Another drawback with film is that to transfer it to "digital" requires much expense. Desktop scanners (no matter how good) simply cannot compare to "drum scanners" and each drum scan can cost upwards of $30 to $80 per pic. Unless the wedding is for Bill Gates I can see very few people wishing to spend $5,000 or more just on "film to digital transfer"... plus all the other photographic costs. Hence my previous emails and prediction. I have purposely failed to mention the "editing capabilities" with digital (but this is another story). Overall I can see "purists" trying to hang on to what is soon to become an outdated technology. History has proven this happens in every field of new technology, sadly. Forget the romanticism of it all, get into digital now and grow with it.

8/24/2005 7:58:51 PM

Kerry L. Walker

member since: 12/21/2004
  When I was a kid, people predicted that by 1975 we would all be driving "flying cars", moving through cities on moving sidewalks, etc. That was 30 years ago and it hasn't happened yet, even though the technology for a lot of those predictions is now available. Who knows? Maybe those advances by leaps and bounds will create an inexpensive drum scanner.
As I have stated before, painters predicted photography would put them out of business. It hasn't.
For certain applications, digital has all but replaced film. For others, it has not.
My continuing use of film has nothing to do with romanticism. It has to do with quality. Perhaps some day digital will completely replace film, but I don't think it will happen in 5 years. The advances in digital technology will, like the advances in computers, continue but, I believe, at a slower pace.

8/24/2005 8:18:12 PM

Roy Blinston
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/4/2005
  Even the slowest computer today would rings round the fastest computer from 20 years ago. Some predictions are "fanciful" (like flying cars etc), but even these have some truth. Costs are holding those things back (not the technology). The predictions I am talking about are based on technology fact. One only has to look at how far digital has come in the past 3 years (it's almost frightening). Much of this technology is due to processor speeds advanced production techniques and the like. This is almost limitess in its future. Every 12 months the latest desktop computer is almost twice as fast as its predecessor (or software ehancements make it run so). 6mp and 12mp cameras are now so commonplace, they are talking about 20 and 30mp with "super sensors" and heaven knows what after that. "Drum scanners" because of their "mechanics" (not technolgy) will never be cheap and will always be out of the range of common people (even the el cheapo versions). Because "digital" is technology based (not mechanical in the true sense of the word) it has limitless possibilities. And remember... they once laughed at people flying at all (never mind in cars). It's a natural tendancy to hold onto what one has... and disregard or mock at the "new". All I say is "embrace it" for it is the future.

8/24/2005 8:36:57 PM

Maria Melnyk

member since: 5/2/2004
  Kerry, you took ALL the words right out of my mouth! I just love what I get with film. I love the different looks I get with different kinds of film for different applications. I've tried digital, and I don't like it as much. I've shot jobs both with film and digital, and my clients have asked "What's wrong with these pictures" relating to the digital ones.

So maybe, Roy, your prediction is true, and even if it is, why should I use something I don't like when I can still use something I do like?

8/24/2005 9:35:03 PM

Roy Blinston
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/4/2005
  Use whatever you like, or prefer. No problems... just keep your eye on digital developments. Eventually it will take over almost completely. I was a bit puzzled when you said some of your clients have said: "what's wrong with these pictures". The average man in the street couldn't tell the difference. I would love to have a look at some of your problem "digital pics".

8/24/2005 9:45:33 PM

Pete H
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 8/9/2005
  Ansel Adams would be rolling in his B&W grave! (Grin)
The evidence already supports the fact that film is falling to the wayside.
35mm film sales are way off in the past 2 yrs. Digital camera sales have surpassed film camera sales as well.
Companies like Kodak and Fuji have extensive digital labs for the amateur and pro..The photo finishing labs who have not embraced digital have been left in the dust and most are out of business.
I am not commenting on the merits of film Vs Digital here, but the reasoning is sound and is justified.
Photography clients; in our fast paced world are thrilled to see their images NOW! Large commercial accounts (i.e) Ford Motor Co, IBM..etc, who require product photography are pushy people who demand to see the changes NOW!

They want to see how "it" looks if I change the background etc..., NOW! A laptop and Adobe to the rescue. This can not be done with film, period; unless you want to schlep a scanner with you and wait for that 20MP image to scan..then down load, then manipulate etc....What a hassle.
"Well Mr. gonna' spend 3 million on this ad campaign, I can have these results for you in a few days" "Well Mr. Photographer, your competitor showed me exactly how it will look while they were here"
So much of the commercial industry is now digital, it's staggering. Now these people are not shooting 6 or 8 MP's..More like 20-30 MP's!..and guess what, I challenge anyone to look at the results and tell me if it was shot with film or digital. In that rarefied air of 20+ MP's, we can't.
I shot film for years..I shoot none now for many reasons. Does my D-70 stack up with medium format? Of course not..does a 20Mp? You bet it does.
It's just a matter of time and cost.
Perhaps I will list my top ten reasons why I no longer shoot film..Maybe others will do their top ten why they shoot film?

Happy shooting.

Pete

8/24/2005 10:09:58 PM

Maria Melnyk

member since: 5/2/2004
  Hello again, Roy. Yes, I neglected to mention that I am keeping myself informed of digital developments, because I myself predict that I'll be needing to switch to or at least add digital within a couple of years. (The reason I just bought a film camera is because one of mine was vandalized over the weekend.)

The "what's wrong with these pictures" happened twice - for engagement photos and for First Holy Communion photos I did this year. The digital ones really did lack the "pop" and beautiful color and tones that the film photos had. These were both done for a studio, who lent me their digital camera (a Canon 20D). I forgot the exact reason they wanted me to shoot digital as well as film for the engagement photos, but for the First Communion we did it because there were almost 100 children, and I was able to shoot them receiving Communion continuously without having to stop and re-load film. But we did everything else on film. When the clients saw their proofs, that's when we got this response. I don't have these prints on me because they belong to the studio I shot them for.

But I agree with you that the average man on the street couldn't tell the difference, but some clients are able to notice, perhaps though, only when they have the film ones right there to compare.

8/24/2005 10:16:07 PM

Maria Melnyk

member since: 5/2/2004
  Pete - I definitely agree that for strictly commercial photography one does need to use digital. I would do that myself if that were the case. I'm a wedding photographer. To me that's a "Horse of a Different Color."

Here's another example that almost made me go digital, and then I changed my mind. I've been photographing a certain building for a book every 2nd or 3rd day for about 2 weeks now. The committee wanted the clouds to look a certain way, the sun shining brightly, the flags to be waving in the wind; all those things that you usually can't get all at once. I shot 4 separate rolls of film over four days. Each time I had to run to my lab with it, get it processed and scanned, go back home and check them out on the computer, and then show them to the committee. What a hassle! A lot of wasted time.

So I tried digital. I shot with a digital camera for three days, and never had to run to the lab. Until the committee said, "How come these don't look as nice as the other ones?" So I explained the new equipment, and they want me to go back to film. So the digital camera has been returned to it's rightful owner where it belongs, and my film camera is happily loaded, awaiting another day of good shooting.

Sorry that I keep running into such situations -- and that last example is even a commercial one -- but this is just one of my reasons for staying with film.

8/24/2005 10:37:15 PM

Roy Blinston
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/4/2005
  (To Maria): All I can say is in my neck of the woods I see very few Photographers using film only. It's only a matter of time before they are totally digital. The end results look beautiful and rich, and any slight special effects or tweaking truly make the Bride & Groom very happy indeed.
(To: Pete) You did explain my overall concept in much harsher words than I have used. You were more to the point. I was trying to be much softer and more discreet. Your idea of a Top 10 sounds interesting but (me thinks) it would not deter the "film lovers" from pushing their preferences.
If the Photographer themself believe film is better, they can subliminally affect the client's reponse, without realising it. I have seen and experienced this situation many times with graphic design (which is my true profession). If the creator is it not happy, their infer this in a subtle discreet way to the client... hence "what's wrong with these pictures?".
Finally, if commercial high paying clients can't see the difference, and are willing to pay heaps for the enhanced services on offer with digital, why would anybody consider film as a option or preference with its limited applications. Surely, in some ways, this is a step backwards to the old days.... something a client does not want to hear (or see).
At the moment film has its place, but that place is getting smaller every day.

8/25/2005 1:38:27 AM

Roy Blinston
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/4/2005
  Sorry Maria.... I couldn't help myself commenting on your problem with the building and flags waving with clouds. In my digital world I would say to the client... "how many clouds do you want, what colour.... and which way do you want the flags waving".... and I would give it to him tomorrow afternoon.

8/25/2005 1:45:50 AM

Maria Melnyk

member since: 5/2/2004
  Roy, you're terrific! Heck; you're all terrific! What else can I say? Sorry that I tend to be old-fashioned. It sometimes works for me and sometimes against me. I guess it's just easier for me to sit and wait for a puff of wind than to sit in front of a computer creating it.

To add to my problems for my morning shoot, I just found out that the janitor of that building took those flags down! Now what!?! I know, Roy, instead of hunting him down, I should just transfer the flags from one of my other photos.

But back to a little seriousness, I don't own a photo editing program, and don't have the desire to use one if I did; I always have to pay someone else to do any digital manipulation. That's probably my main reason for doing things the way I do.

And you're right about the "subliminal" stuff. Right now I've got my whole building committee convinced that film is the only way to go.

Everyone out there have a nice day, and thanks for all your input. Maybe someday you'll find me a changed person. Till then, happy shooting!

8/25/2005 2:34:56 AM

Roy Blinston
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/4/2005
  (Maria) Don't be afraid of the image editing software. It's much friendlier than you think. The possibilities it creates will astound you. It will open doors you never knew existed and re-invigorate your whole approach to photography.
You are obviously a perfectionist, and that attitude will work with you as you begin to travel down the road of digital editing.
Think of it like this.... you have learned the "hard part" (true photography)... now make the software work for you.... make it attain what "you want". It's all available at your fingertips. The longer you practice the better you will become (as in anything)... and, more importantly, you will never look back.

8/25/2005 2:52:07 AM

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Photography Question 
Kathy L. Pollick
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 7/14/2005
  29 .  Autofocus vs. Manual Shooting
My camera is an autofocus and/or manual. This might sound like a real amature question, but if I use my manual settings, do I want to keep the camera on AF or do I want to use the Manual focus mode? Also, if the camera is smart enough to know what the best settings are for the pix I am taking, WHY would I want to use the manual settings at all? Oh, how I wish you guys lived closer to me, so I could get some hands-on training ... I feel so dumb. Thanks much.

8/11/2005 6:15:33 AM

Jon Close
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/18/2000
  Focus is a separate issue from exposure. If you want, you can autofocus while setting exposure manually, or vice-versa.
The camera's meter does not always give the best exposure, or necessarily the exposure the photographer wants. It is calibrated to a midtone 18-percent gray and so tends to underexpose light/white subjects and overexpose dark/black subjects. But it's close enough for general use, especially with print film which is very forgiving of exposure errors.

8/11/2005 6:27:54 AM

Kerry L. Walker

member since: 12/21/2004
  Jon is correct, as usual. For the vast majority of the photos taken, the meter will operate properly and give you an excellent exposure. However, in some instances, like a snow scene, it will read the whites as gray so you need to switch to manual. Also, for a backlit scene, you will need to switch to manual and meter off the subject, set your exposure, recompose and shoot. The use of manual focus or autofocus is optional. Manual focus works best when you are shooting scenics where you want to use hyperfocal distance focusing. Again, for most shots, AF works fine.

8/11/2005 6:39:56 AM

Kathy L. Pollick
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 7/14/2005
  OMG Kerry, I have no clue what you just said!!! AAGH!!

"meter off the subject, set your exposure, recompose and shoot.".... you're talking to a real amature here. I don't know what any of that means except the work SHOOT.

"want to use hyperfocal distance focusing.".... again, what does that mean?

I was playing with the camera last night, trying to learn how to use the manual settings & discovered by accident that I could use the Manual focus or NOT... when I pushed the button down half way to focus & realized it didn't stop at half way, it took a very blurry pix.... I guess that's how I learn!!!

8/11/2005 6:47:36 AM

doug Nelson
DougNelsonPhoto.com

member since: 6/14/2001
  As you learn more about exposure, it will be helpful to know what part of your viewfinder screen is being read by the meter. Center-weighted means the whole scene is being read, with emphasis on the center. See your camera's manual for what they mean by "center". If you set the meter on "Partial", my preference, you know exactly what part of the scene is being measured.
Light meters give us an accurate reading nearly all the time, because all the shades in the area being measured average out to the middle gray Jon tells us about. Center-weighted usually works.
It may not work in the black-cat-on-a pile-of-coal, or bridal gown against a white wall situations. At times like these, we have to outthink the camera and keep the light meter from deceiving us. Estimate how many stops the subject deviates from a middle gray and adjust accordingly. In the bridal gown situation, that white is maybe two stops brighter than the way the meter reads it, so you open up two stops. (Then shoot another one three stops over, and another 2 1/2 over, and another a stop brighter).

Autofocus is useful if you're losing your ability to fine focus because of failing eyesight, like me. For sports and wildlife, AF may well be essential. The better systems work quite well. Trouble is, in low-contrast situations, AF just doesn't work, but hunts back and forth to find the correct focusing point. Or it may put out an infrared beam, scaring your subject. When this happens, just focus manually. This is also necessary in fine macro work. The better Canon EF (and probably other makers' better lenses) allow you to do this.

8/11/2005 6:55:22 AM

Kerry L. Walker

member since: 12/21/2004
  LOL. We all learn more from our mistakes than our successes. Here is an example of how to meter a backlit scene. It also works at times when you know the meter (which averages all the light it reads) will be fooled. I used this technique on Man of God by the Light of God in my gallery. I had to because I knew the meter would read too much light coming through the window and overexpose the subject.
1. Set your camera to manual and walk up to your subject. Get close enough that the part of the subject you want to expose correctly fills the viewfinder (in my case, his face.)
2. Set the shutter speed and aperture so that the exposure is correct (you may have LEDs or match needle metering, whichever).
3. Back up to where you want to shoot from and re-compose your picture and focus - manual or AF, doesn't mater.
4. Shoot.

Hyperfocal distance - The smaller your aperture, the greater the depth of field (area of acceptable focus). When shooting a something like a landscape shot, you can use the DOF to your advantage, assuming you have a distance scale on your lens.
1. Compose you picture (decide what you want to shoot).
2. Set your aperture to a small aperture (f/16 or f/22).
3. With your camera in manual focus, set the infinity mark on your lens to coincide with the aperture you have chosen. Everything from the shortest distance (where your aperture mark is on the other side of the distance scale) to infinity will be in acceptable focus.
4. Shoot.
Believe me, it is quicker and easier to do this than the time it takes to read what I just wrote. Also, note that hyperfocal distance focusing should be used judiciously. You don't always want everything in focus. Sometimes you want to intentionally blurr the foreground, for example.

8/11/2005 7:02:59 AM

Kathy L. Pollick
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 7/14/2005
  Thanks. I sure hope I catch on to this lingo soon. It's the most frustrating part for me.

8/11/2005 7:03:43 AM

doug Nelson
DougNelsonPhoto.com

member since: 6/14/2001
  Kathy, don't let it frustrate you; just enjoy taking pictures. Your light meter and exposure system will work, most of the time, except for the unusual situations mentioned. I have an article on exposure that may help you. I'll send it along when I get home. Believe me, you'll find photographers willing to help you, and willing to distill this lingo to understandable terms. If you want to learn serious photography, there's a course on exposure here at BetterPhoto. The instructor has also written a book on it.

Editor's Note: "Understanding Exposure" is the name of Bryan Peterson's online course and his how-to book.

8/11/2005 7:19:00 AM

Kathy L. Pollick
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 7/14/2005
  I ordered the book Understanding Exposure by that Peterson/Peterman... whatever his name is. I haven't received it yet, but I've heard it's pretty good & very easy to understand!!

It IS frustrating to me as I feel I'm a pretty intelligent person (at least with computers I am). And WHY I can't seem to understand this is driving me crazy.

8/11/2005 7:23:58 AM

Kerry L. Walker

member since: 12/21/2004
  I have never read Brian's book but I understand it is very good. I do know that he is a GREAT photographer and knows his stuff. It should help a lot.

8/11/2005 7:40:34 AM

Robert Staniewicz
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/20/2004
  Kathy, I know how you feel. I am in the same boat as you. I am glad you asked the question on "why use manual setting." In my experimenting with the different modes, I found myself wondering the same thing. Thanks everyone for answering this and helping us new people get a better grasp on things.

8/12/2005 12:56:41 PM

Deborah Bettencourt

member since: 2/2/2005
  I'd like to insert another question into this one... Kerry Walker mentions using hyperfocus if the lens has a distance scale. What do you use if it doesn't? I'm using a Nikon N80 with a Nikkor 28-80mm lens and it has no markings. Sorry if I shouldn't send a question off into another direction but couldn't find another way to tack onto Kerry's reply.

Thanks!

8/16/2005 10:24:07 AM

Maria Melnyk

member since: 5/2/2004
  Kathy, I think that part of your question wasn't answered. If you were asking if you should leave the camera on AF to focus manually, don't do this. If you manually focus, you need to set the camera to Manual Focus; you don't want to mess up your camera's AF motor.

8/16/2005 10:48:40 AM

Jon Close
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/18/2000
  If your lens does not have a focus distance scale, then all you can do is guesstimate. You can look up the hyperfocal distance based on the focal length and aperture set from a chart (see http://www.dofmaster.com/charts.html), then focus your lens on something about that far away.

8/16/2005 10:51:19 AM

Bill Lewis

member since: 8/15/2003
  Kathy, you have received some good advice in answer to your question. Let me add another twist to the discussion. I use manual focus to control my depth of field sharpness. I may want to place my plane of sharpness (or sharp focus) in the middle of my image. Autofocus does not always find the particular spot in the image that you want sharp. If you are using a zoom lens then zoom all the in make the image as large as you can in your view finder. Focus manully on what you want to be sharp in your image. Zoom out to recompose the image and shoot away knowning that you have placed your focal point exactly where you want it to be.

8/16/2005 6:06:24 PM

Maria Melnyk

member since: 5/2/2004
  Hi, Bill. Your "zoom in, focus, zoom out" technique won't work with all lenses. With my Canons, as soon as you change the focal length you have to refocus.

8/16/2005 9:23:38 PM

Bill Lewis

member since: 8/15/2003
  Maria,
I shoot minolta. I can only speak for the camera that I shoot. It seems odd that Canon does not have a manual focus feature that does not require refocus when you zoom.

8/17/2005 6:19:54 PM

Maria Melnyk

member since: 5/2/2004
  Yea, Bill, it's somewhat irritating when I decide to change my focal length at the last minute, or when I want to do two photos in rapid succession; one zoomed out and one zoomed in.

8/17/2005 6:40:55 PM

Jon Close
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/18/2000
  There are two types of zoom lens designs - parfocal will hold focus throughout the zoom range, and varifocal will change focus with zoom.

While it was common for manual focus lenses to be parfocal design, this is much more difficult with autofocus. With Canon and Nikon I know that most of their pro-level zooms are parfocal, but most of their entry-level zooms are varifocal. I'd assume the same for Minolta, but I could be wrong.

8/18/2005 5:51:21 AM

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Photography Question 
David Allen
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/7/2005
  30 .  Snowy Mountaintop Vs. Dark Foreground
I am about to go to the Himalayas for the second time. The first time I struggled to get a good early-morning shot of the sun just catching the top of the mountains, when I also wanted the lodge or the valley in the foreground. Basically, the mountains were burnt out and/or the valleys were too dark. Do you think I should use a grad filter and, if so, which is best?

8/8/2005 9:15:22 AM

Andrew Laverghetta
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/13/2004
  Did you happen to catch what the exposure difference was between the shaded area and the lit mountain top? I'm sure the graduated neutral density filter would help a lot if you can get one that will allow enough stops difference between the top and bottom - that is, unless you are willing to do this digitally. You could take two separate pictures metered for the highlights and the lowlights. If it were me, I would leave the feeling of shadow and highlight there, because they are different color temperatures. See what Shadow/Highlight will do in Photoshop (if you have it) under Images>Adjustments.
Again, if you can frame the image correctly with the filter split down the middle, go with that. If not, take two separate exposures metered for the shadow and sunlit peaks and put them together in an image editing program.
Hope this helps!

8/8/2005 11:03:28 AM

David Allen
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/7/2005
  Thanks Andrew. I am a bit of a newbee at photography and on a steep and fast learning curve. Yes I did improve my shots with Shadow/highlight but still lost a lot on the mountain tops. I will have a go at taking two seperate shots and then see if I can put them together.
My wife thought I needed an other outdoor hobby but I spend more time on the computer than with the camera.....

8/8/2005 11:59:46 AM

Andrew Laverghetta
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 9/13/2004
  If it was your wife's choice, maybe you should see what you can do with the filter since that will keep you out there a little longer lol.

8/8/2005 12:57:41 PM

Maria Melnyk

member since: 5/2/2004
  Rather than spending all that time putting 2 shots together, it's easier and quicker to use a grad ND filter instead. (You can still take the 2 separate shots as a back-up plan.) With mountains you need a soft grad as opposed to a hard grad. If you use a square Cokin filter and not a round one you will be able to move the filter up and down in the holder to position it exactly where you need it.

8/9/2005 9:49:17 AM

Kevin Elliott
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 8/10/2004
  ND grads are good - if you can hide the transition. Can be next to impossible in mountains. Another idea is to use a polarising filter. This will bring the sky down by 1 stop in relation to the rest of the scene. For this to work best the sun needs to be to the side of the subject. Make sure that you get teh right sort for your camera, most require circular polarisers these days, but you can save a lot buying a linear one if it's OK for the camera.

If you're not digital, I'd use a slow lower contrast (iso 100) fine grain print film with the camera on a tripod, there's a much wider exposure range on neg film, but you'll need to scan to get the most out of it - lab printing doesn't usually do it justice. Suggest you meter off the brightest point, then overexpose it by 1-2 stops from there. Bracket, it's an expensive shot to lose.

8/9/2005 2:45:00 PM

Dan Fogelberg
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/24/2005
 
 
 
I recently ran into the same situation in Switzerland (and frequently see this here in the Colorado high country). A grad ND filter is nice, but not always handy or possible. If you're shooting digital, and find in editing your image in Photoshop that lightening or darkening the whole image is sacrificing detail in highlights or shadows, you could try using a mask.

Here's one way to do it: After opening the image in PS, duplicate the background layer by dragging it down to the New Layer icon. Lighten the image using Levels until the dark foreground looks correct (the highlights will wash out, but don't worry, you'll get them back). With the lightened image still visible, click on the Mask icon (white circle in grey rectangle) at the bottom of the layers palette. Type "B" to select the brush tool and slide the hardness to 0 and the diameter to get the stroke coverage you need. Hit "D" so that black and white are your default colors at the bottom of your toolbar. Click on the double arrow to toggle the boxes so the black overlaps the white to make black the foreground color. Now, apply the brush to the areas that are too light, and you will see the darker layer reappearing. You can adjust the opacity of the brush and make very subtle changes as you brush in the layer. Sometimes you'll need to reduce the brush diameter for the very edges of your adjustment area. Of course, for this to work, you'll need enough information recorded in the lighter parts of your subject, so it generally works best if the original is a bit underexposed, but I've found that this technique is easier to manage than complex selections using tools like the magic wand. Plus, it's fun.

8/10/2005 9:23:18 PM

Dan Fogelberg
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/24/2005
 
 
  High ridge above Gimmelwald, Switzerland
High ridge above Gimmelwald, Switzerland
The clouds were changing so fast that I didn't have time to mount the grad filter, so I shot fast and equalized the foreground and background in Photoshop when I got home.
 
 
Here's an image from Switzerland that required a bit of Photoshop tweaking as in my response above. Somehow missed the upload the first time.

8/10/2005 9:30:21 PM

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