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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 - Tuesday, July 20, 2004
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* SPOTLIGHT: Promote Your Portfolio of Photos in a Deluxe BetterPholio™
* BETTERPHOTO: View the June Showcase of Contest Winners
* FEATURED GALLERY: For BetterPhoto Shooters, No Horsing Around
* FEATURED PLACE: Spotlighting Italy's Color and Character
* PHOTO TRIVIA QUESTION: A Special Chaplin Effect / Great Shots, Radical Views
* THIS WEEK'S TIP: Shooting Horse Portraits ... By Kenton L. Elliott
* NEW PHOTO Q&A 1: How Are Filters Used?
* NEW PHOTO Q&A 2: What Does Bulb Mode Means?
* NEW PHOTO Q&A 3: Portable Image Storage
* NEW PHOTO Q&A 4: Is a Zoom Lens OK for a Group Photo?
* NEW PHOTO Q&A 5: Problems with Some Prints
* NEW PHOTO Q&A 6: What's Causing My Grainy Images?
* NEW PHOTO Q&A 7: Digital Wedding Photography
* NEW PHOTO Q&A 8: Image Backup: DVD Versus CD-R
* NEW PHOTO Q&A 9: The Many Meanings of "Depth"
* NEW PHOTO Q&A 10: How to Shoot Fountains
* NEW PHOTO Q&A 11: Good Places to Sell My Manual Camera?
* NEW PHOTO Q&A 12: How to Shoot a Stage Performance
* NEW PHOTO Q&A 13: How to Take Outdoor Wedding Photos?
* CONTINUING PHOTO Q&A 1: Saving Photos from a Digital Camera
* CONTINUING PHOTO Q&A 2: How to Take Good Portrait Pictures
* CONTINUING PHOTO Q&A 3: Info on Macro Lenses


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IN THE SPOTLIGHT - ADVERTISEMENT
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With a Deluxe BetterPholio™ by BetterPhoto.com, you can show off up to 1000 of your best images, set up slide shows, and create the look and feel you want! Our Deluxe BetterPholio™ solutions give you a ONE STOP SHOP for getting your portfolio on the Web. What's more, people can search for your photos via a search engine! And if you opt for the Image Sales option, you can sell your images via the Internet! Learn more at:
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WHAT'S NEW AT BETTERPHOTO.COM
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Welcome to the 169th issue of SnapShot!

Hi

Lots of exciting news this week, and it all begins with BetterPhoto's contest. Once again, we are blown away by the caliber of the entries. And, if you have not yet seen them, the June winners are absolutely stunning! For more details and a link, see the update item below.

Horses are always a popular subject for BetterPhoto shooters - including contest entrants! This week we have an outstanding Featured Gallery and an excellent photo tip that provide a double dose of horse "action."

But there's still more in this issue of SnapShot: the Featured Place focuses on Italy, while Photo Trivia reveals Chaplin's "secret" and asks about a photographer known for her camera skills and radical views. Lastly, we have yet another great batch of questions and answers, with topics ranging from filters, grain, and image storage to weddings, fountains, and stage performances.

That's it for now. Have an enjoyable week of photography!
Jim Miotke
http://www.betterphoto.com/MG.asp?ID=124


*****
View the June Showcase of Contest Winners
Congratulations go to Jim Mires for his Grand Prize winning photo, "Madaket takes a ride." Kudos also go to Bob Garas, Eric Schneider, Mike Wehrman, Paul Harrett, and Robert Ganz for their terrific First Place prize winning images. Of course, the second-place finishers and the finalists deserve plenty of praise, too! We hope you enjoy checking out these images, while also analyzing how composition, light, and other creative techniques have turned often-ordinary subjects into eye-grabbing images. See the contest shots at:
http://www.betterphoto.com/contest/winners/0406.asp

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FEATURED GALLERY
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For BetterPhoto Shooters, No Horsing Around
Horses have provided all sorts of photo opportunities for BetterPhoto members and instructors. And the results have come in all sorts of creative ways: portraits (both full-length and head-only shots), beautiful light (in which the animals glow in the late-day warmth), silhouettes (thanks to the horse's distinctive form), humor (especially when zeroing in tight for a wide-angle perspective), and action (on the racecourse and along the countryside). Plus, look for horses reflected in ponds and interacting with riders and children. For shooting ideas and inspiration, check out BetterPhoto's "Horse Pictures" gallery at:
http://www.betterphoto.com/gallery/dynoGall2.asp?catID=477

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FEATURED PLACE
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Spotlighting Italy's Color and Character
Europe is such a cool place for photography, and one of the hottest spots is Italy. It's no wonder, considering such classic cities as Rome, Naples, Venice, Florence, and Milan. Specifically, BetterPhoto shooters have produced a stunning range of imagery: outstanding architecture (exteriors AND interiors), big landscapes and intimate details, Vatican views, and shots of the great Roman ruins, water ways, reflections, gondolas, mountains, and valleys. And, of course, there are lots of striking images of people. For shooting ideas and inspiration, check out BetterPhoto's "Italy Pictures" gallery at:
http://www.betterphoto.com/gallery/dynoGall2.asp?catID=176

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PHOTO TRIVIA QUIZ OF THE WEEK
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Last week, we asked:
There's a scene in Charlie Chaplin's film "The Kid" in which his famous hat "jumps back" to his head, after he throws it. How did he create that effect?

The first, best answer - entered by BetterPhoto member Michael is:
It's simple: Just run the film of that particular shot backward during editing.

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 - Great Shots, Radical Views - entered by BetterPhoto member Blanca Acosta

Who was the Italian photgrapher who lived in Mexico most of her life and was known not only by her excellent photos but also by her radical views?

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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Shooting Horse Portraits ... By Kenton L. Elliott
I found a useful tool when photographing horses. Use a small tape recorder and record several sounds of horses - stallions and mares. When shooting, have a second person stand with the recorder at a distance in the area you would like your subject to look. When you're ready to shoot, have them turn on the recorder. The voices of the strange horses on the tape really perks up their interest and you have some very alert expressions from your subjects. This will work with nearly all animals, providing you have the sounds of the type of animal you're shooting.

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

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

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ADVERTISEMENT
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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:

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To order online, visit:
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PHOTOGRAPHY Q&A - NEW THIS WEEK
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NEW QUESTION 1: How Are Filters Used?
How are the different kinds of filters used? I use a circular polarizer and a skylight/UV filter, but what about the others (such as a warming filter, 81A, etc.)? Which ones are necessary?
- Steve McCroskey

See Steve's Premium BetterPholio™

ANSWER 1:
Steve, since I know you are a film user, I will attempt to give you my recommendations from a film users' perspective. None are really "necessary", but the ones you have already can benefit you in helping to reduce reflected glare and for lens protection.

Personally, I try not to use ANY filters unless they are prerequisite to what I'm attempting to achieve. The one I use most often is an 80-A corrective filter when doing small product photography, still lifes, or other studio shots with outdoor film. This filter balances the lights from my floods (or copy stand), and eliminates the yellow cast associated with using daylight-balanced film indoors.
A warming filter - such as an 81-A or 81-B - can be beneficial if you shoot a lot in the early morning ... before sunrise, or for shooting ice formations in winter when they are in deep shade. In both these scenarios, the light is "cold" and will lean more toward the blue side on film. A warming filter can help to balance this a bit, and make the scene look more like your eyes and brain perceived it.

A gradual neutral-density filter may also come in handy for situations when exposure values within the scene you are shooting exceed the limits of your film's exposure latitude ... such as dark foreground subjects against a bright sky. Without filtration, your sky will wash out and overexpose, or your foreground will darken and silhouette. A grad. ND filter will usually allow you to darken the sky enough to bring out the detail of your foreground objects - to balance the exposure throughout the scene.

Also, to reduce or eliminate reflected glare, you can usually get away without a polarizing filter by adjusting your position and shooting perpendicular to the sun: Hold your thumb and forefinger into an "L" shaped right-angle. Point your thumb at the sun, and shoot in the direction your forefinger is pointing. Reflected glare will be at its least from this direction. Hope this helps.
- Bob Cammarata

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NEW QUESTION 2: What Does Bulb Mode Means?
I am a beginner photographer and I have a Canon Rebel 2000 and for the first time I heard the term "bulb" mode. What does it mean, and what do I do? Also what is the purpose? Thanks!!
- Jo-Anne Walsh

ANSWER 1:
Bulb mode will keep the shutter open as long as you push down the shutter button. So, you are in complete control of the exposure ... You can also use it when cleaning a CCD and you want to keep the shutter open.
hth
- Damian Gadal

Visit gadal-imagery.com - Damian's Deluxe BetterPholio™

ANSWER 2:
Hey Jo-Anne: Typically you'll just want to use a timed shutter, because most subjects don't require shutters more than a second or so, but the bulb has some interesting and creative uses. For example, if you're out at night and with little light, you can leave the shutter open for a long time and capture the motion of the stars around the north star. I even know one guy who left his shutter open for 9 or 10 hours, all night outside in the pitch black, and captured a scene entirely from the light reflected off the moon!
-Steven
-http://www.vinrock.i8.com/photos/
- Steven Chaitoff

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NEW QUESTION 3: Portable Image Storage
I have heard there is a device that you can transfer images from a CF card into, for instance when traveling. If there is, is it cost-effective, is it reliable, or are you better off to buy more CF cards?
- Jeanne Griffith

ANSWER 1:
I use a Nixvue Vista and love it. It doesn't hurt to have extra CF cards so that you can be filling one up, while transferring data from the other.
Cost effective? Depends on the storage of the device you buy and the amount you shoot.
hth
- Damian Gadal

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NEW QUESTION 4: Is a Zoom Lens OK for a Group Photo?
Will a zoom lens make a good-quality group photo that can be enlarged to, say, a 20x24 and still be sharp, or do I need to have a wide-angle lens?
- Freda

ANSWER 1:
I'd use a regular lens for a group shot, though you could use a zoom. It depends on what you want in the shot - head to toe, or shoulder and above, etc.
- Damian Gadal

Visit gadal-imagery.com - Damian's Deluxe BetterPholio™

ANSWER 2:
A medium wide-angle prime lens will give you better corner-to-corner sharpness than a zoom. If you have no choice and have to use a zoom lens, try to scrunch the group together toward the center of the frame as much as you can.
- Bob Cammarata

Visit cammphoto.com - Bob's Deluxe BetterPholio™

ANSWER 3:
Depends on your zoom lens and its optical qualities! In general, a modest wide-angle prime lens has better optical characteristics, making great enlargement easier. You're asking a lot for a 20x24 enlargement from 35mm. Medium format is usually used to get extremely high detail level for 20x24 prints. Not that good detail level cannot be had from 35mm format, provided you do everything possible with careful focusing and camera shake elimination (use tripod and cable release if possible).
- John A. Lind

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NEW QUESTION 5: Problems with Some Prints
Several prints (2-5) from an occasional roll of film will show an image only on the top half of the picture. The lower half is black or very dark grey. I checked the negatives, and they show the same thing. The camera was not opened. Could it be the film, Kodak 200? Or the processing, Walmart? All the other pictures have been great. I appreciate any help or suggestions.
- Sharon

ANSWER 1:
It shouldn't have anything to do with the processing, because the negative is made inside the camera. I don't know what it is, but it probably has something to do with the camera.
- Nancy Grace Chen

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ANSWER 2:
Sounds like a flash problem. If you use flash at a shutter speed faster than your camera's recommended sync speed, partial blackening of the image frame will occur. Check your manual to see what the flash sync speed is ... (it's also usually highlighted on the shutter speed dial), and shoot with flash only at that speed or slower.
- Bob Cammarata

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NEW QUESTION 6: What's Causing My Grainy Images?
This may be a silly question. In using 100 ISO film, what could be causing grainy photos? Is it an exposure problem? If so, do you think I was under or over?
- Tonya Autry

ANSWER 1:
My guess would be that you are underexposed. If you have some negatives around from which you got good prints, compare those negs to the ones in question - underexposed film would look lighter.

Vince www.PhotoAgo.com
- Vince Broesch

ANSWER 2:
Tonya, you may have been unknowingly "pushing" the film. Pushing tends to make film more susceptible to grain appearing, but particularly in high-speed films. The only thing that makes me discount myself is that you have to develop pushed film differently, and I doubt this was your case. Anyway, just always make sure you set your camera to the appropriate film speed.
Hope that helps...
Steven - http://www.vinrock.i8.com/photos/
- Steven Chaitoff

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NEW QUESTION 7: Digital Wedding Photography
My son is getting married in 2 months. He has informed me that he hired a digital photographer who does this only as a side business/hobby. He is getting 2 discs of photos from him - some in black and white and the rest in color. I am not sure this is the way to go. I asked him what extension the man would use, and he stated .jpg. He is not receiving any actual photos, but the guy told him that Wal-Mart makes nice prints. These are wedding photos, and I feel you truly only get one chance to get them right the first time. What is your opinion? Please respond, we need someone else's opinion. Thank You
- Margaret Frazier

ANSWER 1:
Not to diss Wal-Mart, but a wedding photographer who gives YOU the images and tells you to go print them at Wal-Mart doesn't seem very professional to me. There are many digital photographers who do a GREAT job, but I don't know about this guy.
Did your son look at past examples of his work? This is a MUST. How else will he know how good this guy is? The guy should have some examples in print (not just on a computer!) - and not just a few. He should have an example of a whole wedding he did, to show that he does a consistently good job.
You're right, you don't want to get messed up wedding photos - there is only one chance!
And don't get a worse photographer because he/she is cheaper. These are photos you want to cherish for the rest of your life. You don't want any regrets!
- Nancy Grace Chen

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ANSWER 2:
Jpg is a "lossy" format, meaning that data is compressed, and some data is thrown away. The savings in file size are huge. A 30MB photo can easily become 3MB. BUT the photos - while looking fine on a computer monitor - will not print as well as they could have if they had not been compressed. I would recommend TIFF. This might be a problem for the photographer due to limited storage space at the shoot.
Vince - www.PhotoAgo.com
- Vince Broesch

ANSWER 3:
As well as concerning yourself about the images you should make sure this guy is well-insured.
- Gordon

ANSWER 4:
I'd be concerned on a number of counts.
(a) I'd bet dollars to donuts the CDs will be ones the photog burns on his own PC. The long-term archival life of them is quite variable and AFIK nobody has gotten much of a solid "fix" on which brands/types are better in this regard yet. Suffice it that they don't last nearly as long as those made by the record companies using an entirely different technology to "burn" them. This doesn't even begin to consider having to deal with transferring them to a new medium when CD technology sunsets (eventually JPEG format will too).
(b) As already mentioned, the JPEG compression format is lossy; how lossy depends on the level of compression used. This could limit the size of print being made. I'd want original TIFF or perhaps RAW files ... ones that I could work with starting with all the information the camera gathered to begin with.
(c) Delivering the pix in only data files on CDs is a very non-standard practice. I, like many other wedding photographers, do it as a side business ... it's too competitive with depressed pricing around where I live ... with a low population density and very modest average income level ... and would be below the poverty line even if I booked two per weekend all year! Since I still use film, I'll liken it to handing the bridal couple all the negatives without any proofs and telling them to print what they want at Wall-Mart. I'd NEVER think of doing that ... everything goes to a pro lab, even though that's 70 miles away in the "Big City." The photographer they've hired is avoiding the "back end" work of editing down the total shoot, making proofs and presenting them. The back-end editing (choosing keepers and tossers), sequencing the keepers, proof printing, and building the proof book are a major cost in time and materials. I hope they're paying next to nothing for this job compared to a normal wedding shoot. He's chopped everything down such that his only cost is the value of his time to do the shoot, perhaps do some editing to pick what goes onto the CDs, and burn them. Add in a little more for the overhead of camera equipment depreciation (wear/tear) and maintenance. (This is a legitimate business cost; pros - even part-time - can easily shoot a hundred times the pix the average non-pro does in a year.)
(d) While some Wal-Mart stores can make decent prints if they have good negatives or digital files to start with, variability varies wildly from store to store, and can vary wildly depending on who is working that day. In addition, there is also some variability from print to print. Not something the average consumer would notice when having one of this and another of that done ... but do an entire wedding, and variation in color balancing and print density can be quite noticeable. One of the reasons pros use pro labs is that they're accustomed to "project" shoots with hundreds of frames and the need to make the prints very consistent in color and density across the entire project (and any reprints made months later looking exactly like the proofs unless otherwise specified).
The Practical "Ann Landers" Side of This: It's their wedding ... so there's only so much you can do (or should do) beyond trying tactfully to point out the pitfalls I and others have mentioned. Ultimately, it's their decision.
- John A. Lind

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NEW QUESTION 8: Image Backup: DVD Versus CD-R
Is there any loss in image quality if I back up images on DVD compared to CD-R?
- Andrew Smith

ANSWER 1:
If you mean storing the files on DVD or on CDR, then no.
If you mean creating a DVD-movie slideshow, then yes.
The creation of a movie slide show shrinks the image down to about 720x520 pixels - basically, around 1MP. So you lose a lot of quality.
Simply storing your original files on a DVD to back them up does not affect the quality of the images.
- Wing Wong

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NEW QUESTION 9: The Many Meanings of "Depth"
What is depth?
- Chan Annie

ANSWER 1:
Focus with depth is more area behind and in front of something in a picture that appears to be in focus along with whatever it was that you took a picture of.
Color with depth is more saturated, a little darker, not pale or faded looking.
Contrast with depth is when you get a look in which you can feel the three-dimensional shape of something better - like seeing all the different lumps in clouds better, instead of big white areas with no detail.
- Gregory La Grange

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NEW QUESTION 10: How to Shoot Fountains
Any photo tips for photographing a fountain - slow-moving water with the sun shining through the water on one side? I want to attain an artistic rendition of it and show the water clearly. Thanks.
- Paul D. Carter

ANSWER 1:
Shoot at a speed of 1/60 or above and a small aperture. Use flash. You'll have to experiment; it depends on the effect you're trying to get. The flash will show the water and make the foreground stand out from the background. No flash will probably wash out the foreground, because your camera will use the sun as the exposure to use (called backlight). Use your meter to measure the water without the sun in the background, then use that as a manual setting. Set your flash about -1 stop below the aperture you use on your lens.
- Jerry Frazier

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NEW QUESTION 11: Good Places to Sell My Manual Camera?
I've just recently purchased a digital camera, so I've decided to sell one of the two Nikon FM2n 35mm cameras that I own, along with a 50mm lens and some good Vivitar flashes (all the stuff is excellent condition). However, I live in El Paso, Texas, where there is not much of a market for photo equipment; and I've looked into selling on ebay, but their fees seem way too high, and it's too much of a hassle (they want your bank account number as well as your credit card number!). So I was wondering if the good people of this site knew of any good places to sell, on the Internet or elsewhere. All replies will be welcome, and if anyone here is interested, I'll give you a good deal.
- Charles

ANSWER 1:
Charles: I have sold camera equipment on ebay and got top dollar - more than I would have gotten anywhere else that I know of. More than two friends (who wanted my Canon D60 when I was selling that) offered me. A lot more. Cheers!
- Peter K. Burian

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ANSWER 2:
Thanks, Peter, for your quick response. Maybe I will try to go through ebay after all. The lure of extra capital is always great.
- Charles

ANSWER 3:
Charles: There is not a huge demand for older, manual-focus cameras anywhere, but I still think you will net more on ebay than anywhere else that I know of. And Nikon or Canon products in very good condition always bring decent money.
- Peter K. Burian

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NEW QUESTION 12: How to Shoot a Stage Performance
I just purchased a Canon Rebel digital camera. My son is in a stage performance, and we can take pictures ... if we do not use the flash. I used the no-flash setting and a tripod, and the shutter was too slow to get good pictures. Is there a better way to do it?
- SHeri

ANSWER 1:
Use a higher ISO setting.
- Bob Cammarata

Visit cammphoto.com - Bob's Deluxe BetterPholio™

ANSWER 2:
What Bob C wrote, but in addition to that ... The performers themselves are usually pretty well-lit by spotlights, but the rest of the stage/theater is quite dark, leading to the camera's evaluative meter to choose more exposure/longer shutter speeds than really necessary. Set your Digital Rebel in one of the creative exposure modes (P, Av, Tv, or M), and with the center focus sensor on a performer, use AE Lock (thumb button marked by '*' on the upper back of the Digital Rebel). This invokes the partial metering mode, which meters just a small area around the center focus sensor. See pp. 78 and 84 of the user manual.
- Jon Close

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NEW QUESTION 13: How to Take Outdoor Wedding Photos?
I am shooting an outdoor wedding on the beach with little or no shade. The wedding itself will be at 7:00 in evening but most of the pictures will be around 5:00 pm. Can you give me any guidance on how I should accommodate for the harsh lighting? I have a Canon Rebel with Vivitar 283 flash and Nikon N80, but I do not have the dedicated flash. Should I focus mainly on fill flash? Typically, when I have done indoor weddings, I have used 400 ISO and set the camera to 200 ISO to overexpose it one stop. Should I continue to do this for the outdoor pictures as well? Also, I would like to shoot at least one roll of B/W film, should I do anything different to accommodate for B/W film? Any suggestions that you can offer would be wonderful! Thanks!
- Sandra

ANSWER 1:
Yes, rate your 400 speed film the way you have before. I go -2/3 (250) stop, but if -1 works for you, use it. Then for outdoors, set your flash for 1 stop below your meter for fill. This should almost eliminate any shadows on the subjects.
- Jerry Frazier

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

CONTINUING QUESTION 1: Saving Photos from a Digital Camera
I just purchased my first digital camera (Canon Rebel Digital). My question is what is the best way to save my photos to a CD and still keep the quality that they have on my camera?
- Tracy

ANSWER 1:
The most data is in the RAW, but a TIFF would be fine for most people. Be careful with those neat, small JPG files, because the price of that small file is data lost forever. www.PhotoAgo.com
- Vince Broesch

ANSWER 2:
Vince is right. If you shoot RAW like I do, I always keep the RAW file as that is the data directly from the CMOS sensor of the camera. No matter what I do I know I always can start again with the original shot. I will give you my workflow as maybe that will help you.

I first sort through the pictures using a great freeware program called Pixort.
http://www.jotto.no/pixort/
Jahn the creator wrote the program because he got the Canon 10D and saw how many more pictures he was taking compared to 35mm and needed a way to quickly sort out the good from the bad. Why spend time processing pictures that are no good? I have as many as almost 2000 pictures of my last big shoot and processed 1225 pictures for the photo CDs I created. Needless to say there was a lot of work involved and Pixort saved me a lot of time. Thx Jahn.

I then convert all the good ones from RAW to TIFF. Tiff is a lossless format and the RAW will make an 18MB TIF file if you are in 8bit mode or a 32MB file if you are working in 16Bit mode (Photoshop CS). 8 is all you really need as that is what you will end up with anyway.

I then do any editing or cropping and save the final in JPG. I keep ALL the files, backing up the RAW to DVD first and later backing up all the other versions.

While I'm giving out some great freeware solutions to the workflow, I will add another program, JAlbum.
http://jalbum.net/
This is the best Web page-creating software I could find, and the price is certainly right.

Neatimage has a freeware version for reducing noise.
http://www.neatimage.com/


I also use a program I purchased called iMatch.
http://www.photools.com/
This is a photo database program that you can use to sort pictures, edit, create output (slideshow, web pages, etc.) and most importantly keep track of your photos. I keep an offline cache so I can group my photos and index them and be able to find any picture I have ever taken and see the thumbnail without having to find the CD/DVD I stored it on, yet if I need the picture it tells me which disk it is on. It is a great program with a 30-day free trial available.

Most importantly, enjoy actually using your new camera and keep taking photos.
Michael Kaplan
Canon EOS-10D
http://www.pbase.com/mkaplan

- Michael Kaplan

ANSWER 3:
Tracy: All the above info is good stuff! A couple added notes. Always save your JPG print files at the highest- quality setting your editing program allows. Never re-save an original JPG - keep the original as a back-up/source file. Be very careful about the brands of CDs you use to save files. Many cheap brands use dyes that can deteriorate in just a few years.
God Bless, Greg
- Greg McCroskery

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CONTINUING QUESTION 2: How to Take Good Portrait Pictures
I've had little experience taking portrait pictures. I have a Canon Rebel 2000 with a couple different lens, a flash. I was just recently asked to help take some senior pictures indoors and outdoors. What kind of setup would I need to take good pictures? They asked for some in black and white and some in color. What film would you recommend? What settings are generally considered good when taking good portraits? I welcome any comments and suggestions. Would it be good to use any kind of filters? Thanks for your help!
- Hillary L. Perry

ANSWER 1:
Hillary: It's all about light and how you use it. For portraiture, it's also posing people (and paint them with light) to create a flattering likeness, and controlling background to enhance the pose, and keep it from being distracting.

The subject of portraiture is enough to fill an entire textbook (and then some). It sounds as if you're using direct on-camera flash (in the hot shoe). If you look at fine portraits of individuals, you'll see that the light is NOT coming from the camera location. It's coming from elsewhere. This is what models their features. You'll also notice that it's very soft with gradual transition from highlight into shadow ... which means the lighting is "soft" (diffused). If you look at the eyes, you'll see "catchlights" in them ... light reflecting off of the moisture on the surface of the eye; it brings the eyes to life ... especially for people with dark eyes. I can tell a lot about the lighting direction by looking at shadows, and the kinds of lighting equipment used ("modifiers," such as umbrellas or softboxes) by looking at the catchlights (one or two small pinpoints in each eye, their location and their shape).

IMHO, filters won't do much for you with color work, or solve your basic lighting issues. My use of them is exceptionally rare for standard portraiture ... only if I'm doing something very unique and quite unusual. Don't worry about them until you've got basic lighting under control.

One of the basic things you can do with a single flash indoors (under a white ceiling) is to use bounce lighting and a reflector to soften the light and get it coming from different directions than the camera ... without losing catchlights in the eyes which is one of the tell-tales of pure white ceiling bounce.

Outdoors, I try to put the individual in open shade against a background that isn't distracting . . . hedge, thick stand of trees, side of a building with interesting texture, etc. I avoid bright direct sunlight like the plague ... it's too harsh. Then I use fill flash which is very little ... just enough to put a little highlight on their face. I set exposure so that the light needed from flash is less than one f-stop ... just barely in need of flash. If you use too much flash outdoors, it's pretty obvious and starts to become harsh.

If you can ... go to a large library and look for a book in the photography section with a tutorial about portraiture. It may show studio lighting positions, etc., but you can do things with an on-camera flash if you can tilt it upward and rotate it to the each side as well. Then think about how you can get light coming from those directions using some home-made reflectors ... which can be as simple as some white foamcore.

One of your disadvantages with camera mounted flash is lack of "modeling" lights ... studio strobes and monolights have powerful halogens inside or under the flashtube ring so you can see what the flash will create when it's triggered. This will require some experimentation with a spotlight simulating the flash to get a feel for how to set up reflectors and aim the flash to put light where you want it.

I'm trying to give you some ideas that can let you do this without spending a fortune on studio equipment. If you're trying to do this professionally, you should think very, very seriously about buying professional studio equipment for the indoor work. Life gets much, much easier in achieving the lighting you want.

Film: Color portraiture ... Kodak Portra 160NC ... or Fuji NPS. For B/W portraiture, Plus-X Pan (ISO 125) is a fine-grain classic. Tri-X Pan (ISO 400) is another classic with extremely wide latitude and a soft grain that gives the photograph a classic "texture" when enlarged into a large print (8x10 or larger). Both have excellent mid-tones. For B/W shooting, filters - a light or medium yellow - is often used to for more natural- looking skin mid-tones ... and they won't get you into too much trouble with clothing or background colors like other B/W filters can (colors other than the lighter yellow ones).
- John A. Lind

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ANSWER 2:
Another suggestion for your outside shots is to go out in the evening. Try about an hour to an hour and a half before sunset for a nice warm light. For inside shots, you can also try shooting next to a window. Northern light is my preference. You can put some fabric up on a wall and position your subject at least 3 feet away from it. Then use the window light with a homemade reflector if you need it. You can just use a white poster board. Taking good portraits is not as simple as it may seem. John gave you some great tips.
- Peggy Wolff

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ANSWER 3:
Peggy, the other responses to your question were quite good. Let me add that I prefer to use a large aperture to minimize depth of focus. You might want to get a bracket for your flash to increase the distance from the lens -helps to get rid of red eye. I use a lot of Kodak Portra VC & NC, but lately I've been using and loving Kodak Ultracolor 100.
- Daun

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CONTINUING QUESTION 3: Info on Macro Lenses
I am interested in macro photography - flowers, insects, etc. - and am curious as to the most efficient lens to purchase. I have been told to get the 50mm and others have said to go for the 100mm. I would like to have the lens that can do the most with other possible uses but I don't know the advantages/disadvantages of each. I am new to the field and only know what I would like to accomplish. Thanks.
- john

ANSWER 1:
You should get a telephoto lens. I have a 70-210mm lens with macro capability, and it works great when using the macro feature.
- Matt M. L'Etoile

ANSWER 2:
Check the life-size reproduction of any macro lens you are considering. They should say "1:1" (which is true life-size), or at least "1:2" (1/2 life-size). Anything else would be considered a "close-focusing lens" and would have limitations ... not only in your ability to get in real close, but in sharpness and clarity as well. A true macro prime lens produces better corner-to-corner sharpness due to specialized glass designed specifically for close-up work. They are also better for use in low light than a zoom would be. As far as lens focal length, that would depend upon your intended subject matter. Macros in the 105mm range and larger will allow you to shoot farther away from skittish insects, but would have less depth of field than a lens in the 50-60 mm range.
- Bob Cammarata

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ANSWER 3:
Hi John. I've been shooting a lot of flowers in the last six months. I'm on the Nikon platform and have both the 60mm and the 105mm but use the 105mm more often with the Canon 500D diopter and an 81A filter. Extenders are good too and the 1.4x teleconverter. I also use an 80-200mm or an 80-400mm lens for subjects that interest me but are too far away to use the macro lens. I also pack a 12" collapsible diffuser by Westcott and the small reversible reflectors by Photoflex. And don't forget the bug spray!
- Corinna Chifari

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ANSWER 4:
Try extension tubes. These are a really great and inexpensive way to get up close and personal to your subject without the cost of a macro lenses. And the image quality remains the same as the lens you're using!!
- Michael McCullough

ANSWER 5:
I've used extension tubes on my 90TSE Canon. I just purchased the new upgrade, Sigma 70-300 APO Macro Super II, 1:2 macro ratio, and also the Canon 500D close-up lens, which takes it down to less than 1:1. Now I'll buy the Canon 250D, which will go even smaller. This lens has been highly rated by PopPhoto to meet pro standards. It really is sharp, corner to corner - plus the versatility of a zoom for anything including fine portraits. I'm glad I purchased this instead of a 100mm macro lens.
- ken henry

ANSWER 6:
If money is an issue, consider a manual-focus macro lens. At the prices they go for, you could afford both a 50mm and a 90 or 100. They can be had for about $150 each. I have used the 50mm f3.5 Canon FD macro and the 90mm Vivitar Series 1; both are superb. All the major manufacturers made excellent macro lenses. Get the best deal you can on the lenses, and buy a manual-focus body to fit, between $75 and $150. As Michael says, try 25mm of extension on your 50mm and see if that meets your needs.
- Doug Nelson

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