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SNAPSHOT - PHOTO NEWS FROM BETTERPHOTO.COM
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Welcome to SnapShot, the weekly newsletter on
the art of photography from
BetterPhoto.com


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IN THIS ISSUE - Thursday, May 22, 2003
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* SPOTLIGHT: Summer School - Online PhotoCourses™ at BetterPhoto
* BETTERPHOTO: April Contest Finalists Have Been Posted
* BETTERPHOTO: Take an Online Photography Class This Summer
* BETTERPHOTO: Acadia On-Location Photography Workshop with Tony Sweet
* PHOTO TRIVIA QUESTION: Robert Capa, D-Day, and the Tea Boy - Part III / Light Clues in Photos
* THIS WEEK'S TIP: Summer Camera Purchase
* NEW PHOTO Q&A 1: How to Accentuate the Blue Sky Over Mountains?
* NEW PHOTO Q&A 2: Purchasing a Canon SLR, Question About Lenses
* NEW PHOTO Q&A 3: My Film Came Out Blank!
* NEW PHOTO Q&A 4: Course Sessions
* NEW PHOTO Q&A 5: Film Scanner PSI Resolution
* NEW PHOTO Q&A 6: How to Use the Canon 550 EX Flash
* NEW PHOTO Q&A 7: Buying a Printer And a Scanner
* CONTINUING PHOTO Q&A 1: Lighting For Portraits


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IN THE SPOTLIGHT - ADVERTISEMENT
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Summer School - Online PhotoCourses™ at BetterPhoto
Make this summer a special adventure by joining a photography course! Improve your picture-taking skills while having a great time enjoying the summer months. Each class is focused on teaching you how to improve your understanding of photography through exciting weekly assignments and helpful critiques direct from the instructor. Learn more about our excellent courses at:
http://www.betterphoto.com/workshops.asp

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WHAT'S NEW AT BETTERPHOTO.COM
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Welcome to the 114th issue of SnapShot!

Hi

After going through nearly 7,000 entries, the April photo contest finalists have been chosen and posted to the site. See below for a link to these excellent photos. We've turned the judges loose on these finalists and we should have the winners for you within the next few days. Stay tuned!

One change for the Summer Session Course line up: Kerry Drager will be guest instructing my Beginning Photography course. Students have found his critiquing style very helpful, informative, thorough and inspiring, so we are pleased that he is available for the beginning photographers this session.

Have a fantastic Memorial Day Weekend!
Jim Miotke
http://www.betterphoto.com/sites4photogs/dynoContact.asp?memberID=124


*****
April Contest Finalists Have Been Posted
Many of you have been emailing us, asking about the contest and when the results will be published. We've posted the finalists and the judges are working on the top placements. Why did it take so long this time, you ask? Quite simply we had an amazing selection of about 7000 entries! Way to go - keep up the excellent shooting!

View the contest finalists at:
http://www.betterphoto.com/gallery/dynoGall2.asp?catID=894


*****
Take an Online Photography Class This Summer
Our courses are 100% online... You don't need to go anywhere... You don't need to be in a particular place at a particular time. The lessons are sent to you weekly and you get to complete the assignment according to your own schedule, in your own time. After that, the instructor reviews your work and tells you what works and what you need to improve.

What could be a better way to learn photography than that? Choose from over a dozen courses... here are a few that you might want to consider:

"Beginning Photography" with guest instructor, Kerry Drager
If you are new to photography, you can learn all the basics of digital or film photography:
http://www.betterphoto.com/photocourses/JCM01.asp

"Mastering Light" with Jim Zuckerman
Learn about flash photography and making the most of available light:
http://www.betterphoto.com/photocourses/JZK02.asp

"Learning to See Creatively" with Bryan F. Peterson
Learn the art of seeing and composing truly creative and inventive images:
http://www.betterphoto.com/photocourses/BFP01.asp

Or learn more about all of our photo course offerings at:
http://www.betterphoto.com/workshops.asp


*****
Acadia On-Location Photography Workshop with Tony Sweet
Join BetterPhoto photography instructor Tony Sweet for an on-location photography workshop June 26-29, 2003. Enjoy early summer in the beautiful Acadia National Park in Bar Harbor, Maine. This scenic National Park offers rugged, although accessible, coastline, pink granite rock formations, majestic cliffs, hidden ponds and lakes and a variety of wildflowers... incredible photography opportunities enhanced by the in-depth instruction of Tony Sweet.

Optional Nova Scotia Extension
Opt to also join Tony for the Nova Scotia extension and photograph around the Peggy's Cove Preservation Area. This is an area of large, isolated boulders on the land, small reflection ponds, old fishing villages, including Peggy's Cove, which is small, very charming and VERY photogenic! And of course, there's the world-famous Peggy's Cove lighthouse to photograph!

Sign up for this on-location photography workshop soon. It's limited to 12 participants and the deadline is fast approaching (sign up by June 5th):
http://www.betterphoto.com/on-location-photo-workshops/TNSworkshops2003.asp


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PHOTO TRIVIA QUIZ OF THE WEEK
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Last week, we asked:
In previous weeks, we learned how Robert Capa's D-Day invasion were ruined during developing, how a "tea boy" was the scapegoat for the fiasco, and how events later tied the "tea boy" back to Robert Capa.

Here is our third trivia question, thanks to John Lind:

What three things did Robert Capa and the "tea boy" have in common throughout their lives?

The first, best answer - entered by BettterPhoto member Doug DeWittis:
Both started in photography as 'print boys'. Both worked as photographers for Life magazine. Both were killed covering war assignments in Indochina.

[Editor: this was the closest to what we were looking for... Both: (a) were famous war photographers, (b) photographed the Vietnam War for Life Magazine, and (c) were killed in combat in Southeast Asia photographing the Vietnam War.]

To see all answers to this question, visit:
http://www.betterphoto.com/forms/trivia.asp?stat=PRV

And Now... This Week's Photo Trivia Question - Light Clues in Photos - entered by BettterPhoto member Jim Miotke

In which movie does a mom - played by Toni Collette - see a suspicious flare of light next to numerous photos of her son?

Submit your own answer to this question by visiting:
http://www.betterphoto.com/forms/trivia.asp

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THIS WEEK'S PHOTO TIP
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Summer Camera Purchase
Are you getting ready for a trip this summer and thinking about buying a new camera or lens? Before buying that new expensive piece of equipment, see if you can actually hold it in your hand. Try it out at the camera store, or if you are able to, rent it for the weekend. Trying out a new camera or lens will help you feel confident with your purchase and make sure that the equipment is really what you want.

Top Ten Tips:
http://www.betterphoto.com/exploring/tips.asp

All Tips:
http://www.betterphoto.com/exploring/allTips.asp

Add Your Own Tip:
http://www.betterphoto.com/forms/login.asp?category=tip&inputType=tip

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ADVERTISEMENT
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Absolute Beginner's Guide to Taking Great Photos
My new book guides you away from the point-and-pray method of taking pictures to shooting with confidence. In this simple and clear how-to book, you will learn:

  • How to compose your picture with a more artful eye
  • The top qualities that winning photos exhibit
  • Tips and secrets for consistently getting better results... and much more.
You can order this book online, call our toll-free order processing number 1-888-927-9992, or simply send a check or money order for USD $16.90 (or USD$18.90 if shipping to Canada or USD$24.90 to other international addresses) to:

BetterPhoto.com
P.O. Box 2781
Redmond, WA 98073-2781 USA

To order online, visit:
http://www.betterphoto.com/product/ourProductDetail.asp?productID=1096


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PHOTOGRAPHY Q&A - NEW THIS WEEK
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NEW QUESTION 1: How to Accentuate the Blue Sky Over Mountains?
I recently visited a popular hill station in India at an altitude of about 3500 meters. The sky was already deep blue and some of the peaks were snow capped. I had used an automatic SLR camera with circular polarizing and warm up filters screwed on the lens. I was worried that the polarizer would make the sky more deep than what it was, but the results have disappointed me. What I have got is dull and light blue sky instead. The clouds have well defined features though. Will anybody explain to me where I went wrong?

- Raman Chawla

ANSWER 1:
Look at your negatives. Do they look thin, somewhat washed out? If you were shooting slides, do they look very dense? If either applies, you allowed the white peaks and generally bright area of the sky to cause the automated exposure to close down too much, thereby underexposing. The clouds look great, because your exposure was close to correct for them. I've made this mistake (too) many times.

You could have taken your light meter reading from the dark blue part of the sky. In a situation like this, use the optional spot meter of your camera, and meter from a mid-tone area. Or, if your camera doesn't have a spot meter, choose a mid tone area, take your meter reading, use AE lock (usually by pressing the shutter button down slightly), then compose your picture while holding the shutter partly down.

Additionally, in a tough metering situation like this, shoot a stop over and a stop under, then shoot maybe 1/2 stop over and 1/2 under. Alternatively, try using exposure compensation and metering full frame as you did before. Then set it for + 2 stops, shoot one at + 1 1/2, another at +1.

Try it without the polarizer and filter, and again with them. A word of caution: stacking filters will sometimes cause vignetting or darkened corners of your negatives.

Go back and try it again, and show us this wonderful place.

- Doug Nelson

See Doug's Deluxe BetterPholio™:
http://www.DougNelsonPhoto.com

Read this Q&A at BetterPhoto.com:
http://www.betterphoto.com/forms/qnaDetail.asp?threadID=5823

Answer this question:
http://www.betterphoto.com/QnAredirect.asp?threadID=5823

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*****
NEW QUESTION 2: Purchasing a Canon SLR, Question About Lenses
After reading a lot of reviews, and a lot of the questions on your site, I think I've decided on the EOS Rebel Ti, but I have a question about the lens. I understand from the reviews that the lens that comes on the kit (28-90mm, isn't very good and that I may be better off buying just the body and the 50mm lens recommend in a prior posting. I'll be using the camera primarily to take pictures of my kids, but I've always been interested in photography as a hobby.

Being a complete novice, I'm wondering what makes one better than the other. Does it matter the brand of lens I buy seperately, as long as it fits the camera, or do I need to buy only a Canon lens? One more question, with the 50mm lens, I will only be able to get a closer picture by actually moving closer to the subject, right? Maybe you could recommend a good beginner's book too.

- Kathy Byrnes

ANSWER 1:
Since a 50 is a single focal length and not a zoom, you just move closer to the subject, probably no closer than about 18 inches. The 50-mm 1.8 (older metal version or II version) is reasonably priced, especially used at keh.com, a reputable used camera dealer. I'd save the zoom for the 70-210 range or maybe 100-300. A 50 is most camera maker's best optical quality lens. This means that it resolves detail well, resulting in a sharp looking image. For a book, look at Jim's, The Absolute Beginners Guide to Taking Great Photos, available on this web page.

[Editor: Thanks for the plug, Doug!]

- Doug Nelson

See Doug's Deluxe BetterPholio™:
http://www.DougNelsonPhoto.com

ANSWER 2:
The 50 f/1.8 is one of the sharpest lenses that Canon (or anyone) makes, don't be put off by its cheap look and feel. The cheap Canon zooms normally sold as a kit with the camera (EF 28-80 f/3.5-5.6 USM, 28-90 f/4-5.6 USM, 28-105 f/4.5-5.6 USM) are good enough for 4x6 snapshots, but not for big enlargements, and are cheaply made.

The preferred "standard" zooms (covering moderate wide angle to short telephoto) from Canon are the EF 28-105 f/3.5-4.5 USM, 24-85 f/3.5-4.5 USM, and EF 28-135 f/3.5-5.6 USM IS (Image Stabilization). These 3 zooms are sharper, much better build quality, and have better ergonomic features including non-rotating front elements (for use with polarizer filter), focus distance scale, and ring-USM focus motors that allow nicely damped full-time manual focus without having to fiddle with the AF/MF switch.

You can get lenses for your Canon from other makers such as Sigma, Tamron, and Tokina. There can sometimes be an electronic incompatibility between these 3rd party lens makers and the most current Canon models, but the lens maker will generally update the lens to fix the problem.

- Jon Close

Read this Q&A at BetterPhoto.com:
http://www.betterphoto.com/forms/qnaDetail.asp?threadID=5819

Answer this question:
http://www.betterphoto.com/QnAredirect.asp?threadID=5819

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*****
NEW QUESTION 3: My Film Came Out Blank!
I recently bought a Nikon FM, which worked fine until I got the rubber seals fixed, took a roll of pictures and went to collect them, none came out at all! What could have caused this, could it have been anything to do with the repair I had done?

- Anya

ANSWER 1:
Usually the causes of blank film are that the film was not loaded into the camera correctly. If the leader of the roll of film does not catch coreectly on the advance it will not take the film to each successive frame and therefore will not expose it at all, thus leaving you a blank negative.

That is the most likely cause, but of course there are the famous ones such as the lens cap was not on, the light was too low and the shutter speed too high, etc.

Most likely, though, it was probably that the film was just not catching on the advance and not going forward. I would suggest just getting a cheap roll of film and taking some quick shots and getting them developed. Make sure that you get the roll wound around the leader catch (if you can, insert the film leader edge and then advance the frame a couple of times before closing the camera back to make sure it will catch and wind correctly. Since this is going to be a test roll those extra lost frames will not be worth worrying about wasting.).

If that is not the case, then I would suggest contacting the people who did the repairs as they should fix their work. But if the negatives are truly blank, then it was not light leak from their repairs, but maybe the shutter was not opening instead.

Let us know what happens!

- Bradford E. Anechiarico

Read this Q&A at BetterPhoto.com:
http://www.betterphoto.com/forms/qnaDetail.asp?threadID=5813

Answer this question:
http://www.betterphoto.com/QnAredirect.asp?threadID=5813

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*****
NEW QUESTION 4: Course Sessions
I'm planning on taking "Understanding Exposure" starting July 9 and am also interested in two other courses. How do I know when these will be offered again? Is there a calendar I haven't found on the web site? I'm planning on taking "Learning to See Creatively" and the Marketing Course. Thank you.

- Jennifer Sena

ANSWER 1:
Jennifer,

Thanks for your interest in the online photography courses, we look forward to having you in our summer classes. We offer photo courses four times a year. Our fall and winter course line-up may have some exciting changes, but for the most part, these will be additions to the current offerings. We plan to continue offering the current courses, with only a few changes here and there. You should be able to take Learning to See Creatively and Photo Marketing later.

Thank you.

- Jim at BetterPhoto.com

See Jim's Premium BetterPholio™:
http://www.betterphoto.com/sites4photogs/dynoMG.asp?memberID=124

Take a photo course with Jim:
http://www.betterphoto.com/workshops.asp

Read this Q&A at BetterPhoto.com:
http://www.betterphoto.com/forms/qnaDetail.asp?threadID=5810

Answer this question:
http://www.betterphoto.com/QnAredirect.asp?threadID=5810

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*****
NEW QUESTION 5: Film Scanner PSI Resolution
I'm going to be signing up for your Deluxe BetterPholio™,what would be the best psi resolution for up-loading(color/B&W) photo's to the web site?

- Michael Boylan

ANSWER 1:
Resolution for images in the JPEG format should be around 75 pixels per inch. Image size, in pixels, should be as Jim recommends on the upload page.

Don't over-compress them; a compression level of 10 is fine. Perhaps Jim's software compresses the image further. This OK, Jim?

- Doug Nelson

See Doug's Deluxe BetterPholio™:
http://www.DougNelsonPhoto.com

ANSWER 2:
Thank you Doug.

- Michael Boylan

ANSWER 3:
Yes, this is correct, Doug. Thanks for answering Michael's question.

In fact, the ppi (pixels per inch) is not as important, as long as you make sure that you measure the overall image dimensions in pixels and go for something close to 500 x 750 pixels. That is the most important dimension.

In Photoshop's Image Size function, for example, you can change the units pull-down menu from inches to pixels. Then, with the Resample checkbox checked, change the shorter dimension (whether it be the width or the height) to 500 pixels.

For an added touch of clarity, it also often helps to slightly apply the Unsharp Mask filter.

Then save either as a TIFF or a high quality / low compression JPEG and upload to the site.

This will result in the best quality images on your Deluxe BetterPholio™.

- Jim at BetterPhoto.com

See Jim's Premium BetterPholio™:
http://www.betterphoto.com/sites4photogs/dynoMG.asp?memberID=124

Take a photo course with Jim:
http://www.betterphoto.com/workshops.asp

Read this Q&A at BetterPhoto.com:
http://www.betterphoto.com/forms/qnaDetail.asp?threadID=5795

Answer this question:
http://www.betterphoto.com/QnAredirect.asp?threadID=5795

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*****
NEW QUESTION 6: How to Use the Canon 550 EX Flash
I'm taking a chance here as to not look to silly, but I've put off asking this question long enough, so here goes. I have the 550 EX flash and it swivels. I also have a stroboframe with a cable to attach to my Canon Elan 7E. However, everything I read says "get the flash off the camera and to the side". With the 550 EX, would this be the same as moving the flash head, or is there a stroboframe or something out there that I can attach the flash to, to move it to the side? I don't want to use off-camera flash if I dont have to, I only have 2 hands and no helpers. If you need more information to answer my question, let me know.

- RoxAnne Franklin

ANSWER 1:
Although I do not have a stroboframe, I can help you with your 550EX flash. First of all you keep hearing people say "move your flash off the camera and to the side". There are several reasons: to avoid red eye, eliminate shadow behind the subject and give three dimensional look to the subject.

With the 550EX on your camera, you can achieve the side lighting only if there is something (a wall, for example) to bounce the light back to the subject, usually in an indoor environment. If your subject is close to a white wall, you can simply turn the head toward the wall and shoot. Your flash will adjust the intensity of the light needed. Or you can mount a reflector on a tripod or light stand if there is no wall. If there is a ceiling, bounce the light off from the ceiling. Even the subject will look much better than using direct flash (and you will notice that there is virtually no shadow behind).

The 550EX came with a mini stand that you can mount on a tripod or a light stand. To trigger it, you need either a wireless transmitter (ST-E2), a connecting cord 60 or 300, an off-camera shoe cord 2 or another 550EX mounted on the camera. If you are seriously thinking to expand, I would recommend getting the wireless transmitter because it can control more 550EX or 420EX.

Hope this helps. If you have more question, just post it here and I can try to answer them.

- Andy Szeto

ANSWER 2:
Thanks so much, it did help me a lot. As far as what you mentioned about bouncing it off a white wall if the subject is close to the wall, did you mean if the subject is standing "beside" the wall or "in front of the wall"? Am I right to assume that if the subject is standing beside a white wall, the lighting would be softer as it would be bounced onto the wall and then onto the subject? And if the subject is standing in front of the wall, then should I make sure there is about 6' between the subject and the wall so as not to cast a shadow?

Also, there is a "diffuser panel" on the flash, someone at the photography shop told me to use that if I'm shooting a black object and when shooting a white object. Does this make sense to you? I thought that panel was just to aid in shooting "macro" type of distances. This flash is very advanced and I've thrown myself into the manual but am still very confused. I also did some shots with it and one thing that I'm finding out is that my background tends to not get as blurred as I'd like. I've practiced different ways and it just isn't sinking into my brain. Do you have one of these? Your help is so much appreciated, I have so much to learn.

Thanks.

- RoxAnne Franklin

ANSWER 3:
Let me try to answer your questions one by one.

"Bouncing light from the wall", I mean bouncing light from the wall beside the subject. But the wall cannot be too far away from the subject, up to six feet maximum perhaps. The light bounced from the wall is softer too. It's the shadow on the other side of the subject which is not exposed to the light that gives the overall picture a three dimension look.

The diffuser is used for lens wider than 28mm, if it's pointing at the subject directly. For close up direct shots, you can press the flash head down a notch below the normal position. For macro shots, you need a different type of flash (the MT-34EX or the MR-14EX Macro Ring Lite, which can also use as the master unit to trigger other 550EX or 420EX).

Now onto the background, I am assuming you set your camera at the green mode. For Canon's EOS system, the default exposure with the flash on camera is 1/90 at f5.6. Depending on the distance between the subject and the background, if you use a short focal length lens, the depth-of-field area is quite large. You can either move the subject away from the background, or use a longer focal length lens and move yourself back (if you are using bounce light, you may have to adjust the flash head's angle). Another option is to set your camera on 'A' mode, which is aperture priority mode, and set the aperture to the maximum. Here are the problems, when the aperture is wide open, the shutter speed will be set faster automatically to compensate, thus the blackground may be total black out (not enough time to capture the ambient light). Second, your camera's max sync speed is 1/125 and if the speed required is faster than 1/125, your camera will show an error. Fortunately, you have the 550EX that you can set it to high sync speed mode by pressing "+" and "-" buttons, then either one until the ~H symbol shows on your flash. Another solution with a longer focal length lens is to put your flash on a tripod and use a wireless transmitter. Thus you can move freely with the flash stationed in a fixed location and you don't have to worry about the "Av" mode or high speed sync.

I have two of the 550EX for portrait use. I also have the ST-E2 transmitter. So far I have used all the features of the 550EX except the stroboscopic flash.

I hope I explained it clearly.

- Andy Szeto

ANSWER 4:
Wow,

You are awesome! Thanks so much for your help. You explained everything to me in terms I could understand, you are the first one to do that. Everyone at the camera shop sounded like they were speaking a foreign language to me. Thanks again Andy. I'm going to try all the things that you mentioned and then I'll get back to you to let you know the results.

Thanks again.

- RoxAnne Franklin

Read this Q&A at BetterPhoto.com:
http://www.betterphoto.com/forms/qnaDetail.asp?threadID=5793

Answer this question:
http://www.betterphoto.com/QnAredirect.asp?threadID=5793

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*****
NEW QUESTION 7: Buying a Printer And a Scanner
Looking for two recommendations:

1) Archival quality photo printer

2) Negative scanner.

Looking to keep each purchase under $700.00.

- Kristina M. Covey

ANSWER 1:
The best printer, as far as I have heard, in that range is the Epson 2200. If you don't need bigger than 8 x 10, go for a less expensive Epson. The 1280 prints bigger than 8 x 10 and has a good reputation. The definition of archival quality is constantly changing. In inkjets, Epson seems to lead the pack.

Nikon and Canon each have film scanners for about $700. You may not get 4000 ppi resolution for that price, but you will get an 8 x 12 image at 300 ppi from 35-mm film. Other readers here may have other suggestions for you.

- Doug Nelson

See Doug's Deluxe BetterPholio™:
http://www.DougNelsonPhoto.com

ANSWER 2:
I think the Epson 2000p has archival ink and the price has dropped major in the last year. I love my Epson 1280 and have had wonderful results, no fading in a year. You can also use an injet fix spray to make them water proof. Can't recommend a film scanner, I haven't made up my mind yet, but went digital so I probably won't get one.

- Judith A. Clark

ANSWER 3:
Thanks for the recommendation...

Knowing that achieving film quality is near impossible with your average consumer grade printer, what is an acceptable professional quality print (portrait)in ppi resolution? (My personal standard of professionalism is somewhere between average and picky...price is the dictator at this stage of my business). Is the Epson 2200 acceptable for this purpose, in your professional opinion?

- Kristina M. Covey

ANSWER 4:
I have an Epson 1280 and print at 1440dpi. The average person can not tell the difference. Even at 11x14 you get amazing results. If you are picky you may see a difference, but your customers will not.

- Judith A. Clark

Read this Q&A at BetterPhoto.com:
http://www.betterphoto.com/forms/qnaDetail.asp?threadID=5789

Answer this question:
http://www.betterphoto.com/QnAredirect.asp?threadID=5789

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PHOTOGRAPHY Q&A - CONTINUING FROM PREVIOUS NEWSLETTER
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

CONTINUING QUESTION 1: Lighting For Portraits
I would like info. on the lighting equipment I would need to take portraits with a film camera. I am barely beginning and would like some advice and info. on what type of inexpensive equipment and lighting I would need to begin taking portraits. Please advise. Thanks.

- Rachael Arellano

ANSWER 1:
Racheal,

You can get some good deals on used equipment... check professional camera stores and want ads in your area. You could get a good start with strobes, 800watt seconds total is fine to start, since for portraits you don't want a lot of depth of field, anyway. You should have at least two heads to start, and possibly three. The light heads should be adjustable --that is, you should be able to change the power of the light without moving it by dialing the power up or down. Monolights (lightheads with the powerpack attached) are good, but an old fashioned Novatron, Norman, or Speedotron set-up is great, too. For more info, check out my course on studio lighting, there is a summer session coming up July 9th!

Good luck!

- Vik Orenstein

See Vik Orenstein's Premium BetterPholio™:
http://www.betterphoto.com/sites4photogs/dynoMG.asp?memberID=31350

Take a photo course with Vik Orenstein:
http://www.betterphoto.com/workshops.asp

ANSWER 2:
Rachael,

You do not need a lot of equipment, and of course, it depends on what types of portraits you have in mind. For basic portraiture, and to learn how lighting affects your results, tungsten lighting is fine. Since you state you are a "beginner" you need to read as many books on the subject that you can. There are about as many ways to take portraits as there are photographers, and many opinions as well. I'd suggest the following:

1. Lens -- if you already have a zoom in the range of 35-135 or similar, you are fine. You need some working distance between you and your subject to avoid unflattering exaggeration of facial features. Typically, 85-105mm is great for most portraits in 35mm format. I use a 90mm Tamron, and it's great.

2. Lights - You can get by with a photoflood light and a reflector on a stand. Two lights are better for many reasons, but you CAN get by with just one, and a reflector on the opposite side of the subject. A big piece of white foamcore board will work great. Go to the fabric store and find some reflective silvery or gold material and glue that to the opposite side of the board for different "moods." You can also buy a folding photoflex reflector, but the foamcore version costs only a couple of dollars.

The reason I suggest "hot" lights, is that you are learning how to use lighting to make your portraits work. Using strobes entails many other details, such as flash metering and additional, expensive equipment. If you use color print film, an 80A filter helps. B&W film works fine (including the Chromogenic C-41 b&W) without any filtration.

Backdrop -- you can buy a cotton painter's drop cloth for less than $15, and dye or paint it any way you want, or take a trip to the fabric store and find something that you think will work.

Portraits can be done in any fashion that works for you -- and your subject. Use natural light to your advantage when you can. A north window and a foamcore reflector can give fantastic results, so can an open shade.

In a nutshell, you don't need a 3 light flash system to do portaits. The best shots I have seen were done by great photographers that knew their materials and how to get the best they could with pretty simple setups.

Have fun!

- Mark O'Brien

ANSWER 3:
I agree with Vic on this one. Mark is correct that lighting with tungsten lighting and hot lights are less expensive and possibly easier to learn, but for portrait work they just don't really give you the same effects. If you are serious about this, start with a 2 or 3 light strobe set, read everything you can and yes take Vik's course, it's great. You need a light meter also. Mark was right about the drop cloths and dye, they work great to start, also King size bed sheets work great. You need some kind of background stand, you can get them for less then $100.00. I have a Photogenic StudioMax 300 plus and payed around $800.00 for it. It has three lightheads, plus stands umbrella's and barndoors with a bag. It was a great start. If your budget doesn't allow for this, then go with Marks' suggestions to start, but I think you will find, as I have, that you're just not happy until you have the real thing.

- Judith A. Clark

ANSWER 4:
Don't start too cheap because if you really get into it you'll be updating your in-expensive light soon and it will cost you more in the long run. Go to www.alienbees.com and take a look at the 160WS lights. I would suggest getting one and using a white panel board as a deflector for a fill light. Backdrops can be purchased at a local fabric store to get started. You may need a light meter and eventually you should get one. Otherwise take a series of shot making notes of distance and and light position and then look at the test prints. If you find one you like, shoot with that setting. These are suggestion for entry level beginners.

- Gregg

ANSWER 5:
Portraits are all about controlling shadows. You can use flat, even lighting or dramatic, contrasty lighting depending on the subject. The worst light is the single flash on the camera that produces red eye and the deer in the headlights effect. Most beginners use too much light and wash out all the interesting details. Start with a two light setup (flash or continuous, your choice. First practice shooting a doll or mannequin with one light only. Shoot a few rolls in different positions and keep track on the shots so you can study the shadows later. Black and white would be a good start for this. Then do the same with two lights. With two lights, you will have to understand "fill ratio" which is simply, how much light each source contributes. You will want a main (stronger light) and a fill (weaker light) to provide some contrast. Otherwise it goes flat.

After you have finished the test shots, you will have a nice catalog to choose the effects you want for a given subject, repeatability is the key.

You can use simple equipment to do this without overspending. Then add more as you understand the needs.

Good luck! Commercial Photo San Diego

- Nick V

ANSWER 6:
Racheal,

You have gotten a lot of really good advice since I last checked on you. Although it may seem confusing and somewhat contradictory, all the info people have volunteered is good. As mark says, some of the best shots ever are made with natural light in open shade and/or with one reflector. The drawback to this is that you can't rely on or control natural light --it's very difficult to get identical results from one shot to another. and while tungsten (continuous or flood) are good and do provide a beautiful, almost smokey affect on some films, they're not as adjustable as strobes, they're hot, and they are difficult for lighting large areas (if you're thinking of doing full length, action, or group shots). I really think the best way to "learn lighting" is, as Nick says, to use a set-up with which you can control as many variables as possible and create situations that you can repeat and get exactly the same results. Strobes are great for this. Reading books is great, but the only way to really learn this is to just do it. Mark also mentioned filters for use with color film, 81EF is another good one. Good luck!

- Vik Orenstein

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