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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 - Monday, November 15, 2004
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* SPOTLIGHT: Tony Sweet's New Course: The Four Essential Filters
* BETTERPHOTO: Focus on Marketing: Bryan Peterson's 1-Year Photo Course
* BETTERPHOTO: Capture Great Wildlife Photos in Natural Settings - in Utah!
* BETTERPHOTO: Book of Month: Jay Forman's Capture Your Kids in Pictures
* FEATURED GALLERY: Focus on Crane Birds
* FEATURED PLACE: Focus on North Carolina
* PHOTO TRIVIA QUESTION: A Very Big Subject / Picture Bride
* THIS WEEK'S TIP: Washed-Out Highlights ... By Jim Zuckerman
* NEW PHOTO Q&A 1: Photos in the Dark!
* NEW PHOTO Q&A 2: How to Shoot Subjects Wearing White
* NEW PHOTO Q&A 3: Dance Concert Shooting
* NEW PHOTO Q&A 4: Macro-Effect Filters
* NEW PHOTO Q&A 5: Negative From Print
* NEW PHOTO Q&A 6: Alternative to Gray Cards
* NEW PHOTO Q&A 7: How to Shoot Lightning?
* NEW PHOTO Q&A 8: Faster Film- Faster Shutter speed - BOTH ?
* NEW PHOTO Q&A 9: Slides for Publication
* NEW PHOTO Q&A 10: Model Release of Youth Sports
* CONTINUING PHOTO Q&A 1: Chicken Barn Shoot
* CONTINUING PHOTO Q&A 2: Light Meter


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IN THE SPOTLIGHT - ADVERTISEMENT
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Tony Sweet's New Course: The Four Essential Filters
A frequent question in Tony Sweet's online BetterPhoto classes and in his location workshops has to do with filtration. That's why he developed an exciting new 4-Week Short Course, "The Four Essential Filters for Film and Digital Cameras," in which he shows how to use common filters to dramatically boost your image quality! Filters are essential tools in one's quest to achieve professional quality imagery, and Tony will discuss the most important ones: polarizing, warming, graduated split neutral density, and non-graduated neutral density filters. For the details:
http://www.betterphoto.com/photocourses/TNS04.asp

Tony also teaches two popular 8-week courses here at BetterPhoto: "Image Design: Revealing Your Personal Vision" and "Fine Art Flower Photography." For information on those courses, and all of BetterPhoto's offerings:
http://www.betterphoto.com/online-photography-courses.asp


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WHAT'S NEW AT BETTERPHOTO.COM
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Welcome to the 186th issue of SnapShot!

Hi

Lots of exciting news at BetterPhoto! First off, we are thrilled to announce the latest addition to our 4-Week Short Course program: Tony Sweet's "The Four Essential Filters for Film and Digital Cameras." For more information on this online course, go to:
http://www.betterphoto.com/photocourses/TNS04.asp

Also, Bryan Peterson has checked in with one of the most ambitious online photo experiences around: his One-Year Stock Photography Course. Read all about this outstanding opportunity in the item below.

There's still more: The October contest finalists are now posted! As always, these images are fantastic. Review these awe-inspiring finalist photos at:
http://www.betterphoto.com/gallery/dynoGall2.asp?catID=4657

And in this issue of SnapShot, don't miss instructor Jim Zuckerman's thoughts on washed-out highlights. In addition, the Featured Gallery focuses on crane birds, while the Featured Place zeroes in on North Carolina. And, as always, we have a terrific collection of questions and answers.

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


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Focus on Marketing: Bryan Peterson's 1-Year Photo Course
We are pleased and excited to announce the One-Year Online Stock Photography Course - taught by Bryan F. Peterson, commercial photographer, and best-selling author of "Learning To See Creatively" and "Understanding Exposure." This is quite possibly one of the most - if not THE most - ambitious photo course taught worldwide! Says Bryan: "I know of no photo school that specifically emphasizes, over the course of one year, Stock Photography That Sells. Yet, I am more then confident that I can take you and your skills to a level that will make you money!" Find out all the details at:
http://www.betterphoto.com/photocourses/BFP06.asp

Bryan also teaches two popular 8-week courses here at BetterPhoto: "Understanding Exposure" and "Learning to See Creatively." For information on those courses, and all of BetterPhoto's offerings:
http://www.betterphoto.com/online-photography-courses.asp


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Capture Great Wildlife Photos in Natural Settings - in Utah!
The red rock country of Southern Utah is the spectacular setting for Jim Miotke's unique photo adventure: the combination on-location and online workshop for photographing wildlife - April 13th to April 16th, 2005. This on-location and online experience offers photographers the chance to record wildlife models in an array of natural settings, providing you with beautiful and convincing backgrounds for your animal pictures. Just imagine the possibilities: photographing animals such as grizzly bear, mountain lion and kittens, wolves, bobcat, black bear ... all in natural surroundings. Plus, there's a bonus "Birds of Prey" session! For more information on the Digital Wildlife Photography combo workshop, go to:
http://www.betterphoto.com/wildlife-photography/digital-wildlife-photography-Utah.asp



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Book of Month: Jay Forman's Capture Your Kids in Pictures
Our online store showcases the fantastic books and DVDs from our staff of BetterPhoto instructors. For November, we put the spotlight on Jay Forman's awesome book, "Capture Your Kids in Pictures: Simple Techniques for Taking Great Family Photos With Any Camera." If you buy this fine book before the end of November, you will receive free U.S. shipping. Best yet, it's autographed by Jay! For all the details on this November selection:http://www.betterphoto.com/product/ourProductDetail.asp?productID=1204

Jay is also the instructor of two excellent courses here at BetterPhoto.com: "Beginning Photography" online class (guest instructor) and "Capturing Your Kids in Pictures" online course. For information on those courses and others, go to:
http://www.betterphoto.com/photocourses/JAY01.asp

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FEATURED GALLERY
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Focus on Crane Birds
Wildlife is one of the more popular subjects among BetterPhoto photographers. A check of our gallery shows some amazing images of egrets, pelicans, cormorants, herons, and storks. They have been captured in flight, at rest, in groups, as portraits, and in many humorous poses. For shooting ideas and inspiration, go to:
http://www.betterphoto.com/gallery/dynoGall2.asp?catID=538

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FEATURED PLACE
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Focus on North Carolina
The eastern U.S. state of North Carolina offers a surprising variety of photo opportunities. In fact, BetterPhoto shooters have captured memorable images of lighthouses, winter scenes, beautiful seascapes, and even architecture. Check it all out at:
http://www.betterphoto.com/gallery/dynoGall2.asp?catID=1074

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PHOTO TRIVIA QUIZ OF THE WEEK
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Last week, we asked:
In what movie does Gerard Depardieu talk about shooting elephants with a camera?

The first, best answer - entered by BetterPhoto member Gillian Lunn is:
"Green Card"

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 - Picture Bride - entered by BetterPhoto member Kerry Drager

In the movie Picture Bridge, what is the deception that puts the story into motion?

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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Washed-Out Highlights ... By Jim Zuckerman
Extremes in contrast are a problem for both film and digital photography, but it is especially a problem when shooting digital. When the highlights and shadows are too extreme, the detail in both areas are in jeopardy of being lost. Even if you try to "average" the exposure - a compromise between the light and dark areas - the shadows tend to go black and the highlights are washed-out.

With digital photography, even a subtle difference in contrast can mean the complete loss in detail in the highlights. A light area on the bridge of the nose, for example, that would show detail in a negative, can easily be blown out on a chip. Therefore, try your best to avoid contrasty situations. Patchy lighting is a classic example of what to avoid, but I've seen portraits done on overcast days (it was a bright overcast) that show a loss of detail in skin tone, because the contrast was just a little too much for digital cameras to handle.

Jim Zuckerman teaches a number of excellent courses at BetterPhoto.com, including:



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: Photos in the Dark!
Hi. I have a Canon EOS 300D and have just started being paid to take pictures for a very local newspaper. The problem is, every time I take pictures at an evening party (i.e., somewhere in the dark where you have to use flash), the subject is either underexposed or overexposed. I don't think my flash has any manual controls as I bought a cheep flash for about 35 by Centurion. Is a new flash in order, do you think?
- Douglas Easton

ANSWER 1:
I'm not familiar with the Centurion brand, but assuming it's a non-dedicated flash with a sensor on the front to control the flash output, a la Vivitar 283, then ...
When using this type of flash, you have to use the 300D in either Av or M mode, setting the aperture to match the automode on the flash. You'll also have to make sure the ISO set on the 300D matches that which is set on the flash. If you use any other exposure mode, the camera will set a lens aperture and ISO other than what the flash is set for.
- Jon Close

Read this Q&A at BetterPhoto.com:
http://www.betterphoto.com/forms/qnaDetail.asp?threadID=12613

Answer this question:
http://www.betterphoto.com/QnAredirect.asp?threadID=12613

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NEW QUESTION 2: How to Shoot Subjects Wearing White
Any responses would be greatly appreciated. I have been trying to photograph a little girl in an all-white formal dress. No matter what lighting I have the dress is overexposed and washed out. Help. I would like to be able to see the detail in the dress.
- Michelle Prince

ANSWER 1:
If it were just overexposed, all you'd need to do is bring down your exposure. If it's a light type, you need one light to the side. Diffuse it for a more portrait look, if you want to.
- Gregory La Grange

Visit gregorylagrange.org - Gregory's Deluxe BetterPholio™

ANSWER 2:
Try shooting outside on a cloudy day, and meter off a gray card.
- Bob Cammarata

Visit cammphoto.com - Bob's Deluxe BetterPholio™

Read this Q&A at BetterPhoto.com:
http://www.betterphoto.com/forms/qnaDetail.asp?threadID=12598

Answer this question:
http://www.betterphoto.com/QnAredirect.asp?threadID=12598

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NEW QUESTION 3: Dance Concert Shooting
I have a Canon EOS 3000N and would like to shoot zoomed photos of my daughter in a dance concert without flash. The zoom needs to be at least 300. Please advise ... Suggested lens type? Do I need IS (image stabilization)? Film type 800? Camera settings? Tripod?
Thanks.
- Michael Zantides

ANSWER 1:
Staying with your requirement of 300mm, the best lens to use would be a 300 2.8. But that's not considering price. So if price is a concern, you may have to come down on the focal length to around 200mm. There are 70-200 2.8 zooms and telephotos that are 200 and 2.8. The cheapest price is around 650.
IS will help prevent the hand-holding blur, but doesn't do anything for blur from movement if you don't pan with the subject.
You'll need 800 even with a 2.8 lens.
A tripod will work like an IS.
- Gregory La Grange

Visit gregorylagrange.org - Gregory's Deluxe BetterPholio™

Read this Q&A at BetterPhoto.com:
http://www.betterphoto.com/forms/qnaDetail.asp?threadID=12590

Answer this question:
http://www.betterphoto.com/QnAredirect.asp?threadID=12590

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NEW QUESTION 4: Macro-Effect Filters
Hi all, I was wanting to get some good macro pictures, but it's hard to get as close as I want to. So, I was checking out some filters for use on the lens that are supposed to magnify to get a macro effect. Are these efficient? Has anybody noticed any horrible distortion with them? Thanks!
- Andrew Laverghetta

ANSWER 1:
I've used those screw-on magnifiers in the past and wasn't real happy with the results. (I wouldn't say they're "horrible", but the corner-to-corner sharpness and effective depth of field leaves much to be desired.)
If you have interchangeable lens capabilities, get a set of extension tubes. They can be used singly or stacked, and can allow you to get close without compromising the quality and sharpness of your lens.
You will also need a tripod or other firm support when shooting close.
- Bob Cammarata

Visit cammphoto.com - Bob's Deluxe BetterPholio™

ANSWER 2:
I have also tried the Cokin filter. It was like $60, and I hated it. It didn't do want I wanted. If you really want to get into macro, then I suggest that you either go with extension tubes or save up for a macro lens.
Hope that this helps a little.
- Rochelle K. Westgarde

Read this Q&A at BetterPhoto.com:
http://www.betterphoto.com/forms/qnaDetail.asp?threadID=12582

Answer this question:
http://www.betterphoto.com/QnAredirect.asp?threadID=12582

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NEW QUESTION 5: Negative From Print
I have lost a negative to a VERY important print. I have the print. Is there any way a negative can be made from it? I need a negative to submit for publication of the print. Any help would be very much appreciated!
Thanks.
- Leesa White

Visit ImagesbyLeesa.com - Leesa's Deluxe BetterPholio™

ANSWER 1:
It can still be done the old way, which is to have a lab put it on a copy stand and take a picture of it. But these days, there are better ways. You can have a pro lab do a high-resolution scan, do any necessary digital clean-up, and then output to a film recorder to make a new neg.
Vince
www.PhotoAgo.com
- Vince Broesch

ANSWER 2:
I think your only alternative is to have the print re-photographed on a copy-stand type setup with a fine-grain film ... preferably with one of a larger format.
A pro lab can do a better job at this than you could probably do yourself but some loss of image clarity and detail is un-avoidable.
You might want to inquire if a transparency would be acceptable. You could have one made using the above process with a slide film, and have one less "generation" of loss in clarity than a negative which has to be re-printed ...just a thought.
- Bob Cammarata

Visit cammphoto.com - Bob's Deluxe BetterPholio™

ANSWER 3:
Thanks, Bob and Vince,
I will definitely look into those options. Thanks so much for the quick response!
- Leesa White

Visit ImagesbyLeesa.com - Leesa's Deluxe BetterPholio™

Read this Q&A at BetterPhoto.com:
http://www.betterphoto.com/forms/qnaDetail.asp?threadID=12574

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NEW QUESTION 6: Alternative to Gray Cards
Hi everyone,
I just read a thread somewhere that mentioned a trick/tip if you will - about alternatives to using grey cards. The hand and a brown paper bag, but - without a whole lot of detail. (It said that, provided you knew how to do this, the method works as good as grey cards)
As an alternative to grey cards, has anyone used this trick/tip? To what success/failure? And how is this method for each done? Is there any f/stop value change? Is it front hand, back of hand? And, lastly, what's a brown paper bag? I only get white/brown plastic ones.
TIA
- Chase

ANSWER 1:
There are many alternative ways to meter, but none are as reliable as "the card". The "hand trick" works in a pinch.
One day when you have time, meter your palm in bright sun and in deep shade. Then meter a gray card in the same light extremes and compare the difference. For me, my palm reading is about a stop brighter than the card, so I would open one stop over my palm reading and bracket from there.
Other "neutral" areas to meter are green grass, fall foliage, gray asphalt roadways, and flower petals ...as long as they're not white.
I've never heard of "brown baggin'"

- Bob Cammarata

Visit cammphoto.com - Bob's Deluxe BetterPholio™

ANSWER 2:
I too have never heard of the brown bag trick, but I have heard of the palm as being 1 stop brighter, green (not dead brown) grass, and weathered asphalt/concrete. And also one of my favorites is the blue sky on a cloudless part of the sky opposite the sun. I've used this one many times, as well as the green grass, and it's been wonderful for me!
- Jason G. Gainey

ANSWER 3:
Think in terms of middle gray and meter off something you think comes close. At a recent peace demonstration, faded army jackets seemed about right. Your meter should give you the flexibility to pick up a portion of the scene without having to walk up on someone's shirt. One reading should do it; all the other tones will fall into place.

Alternatively, at this event, I could meter off a white banner with some print on it and open up two stops, because I thought it deviated from a middle gray by two stops.
- Doug Nelson

Visit DougNelsonPhoto.com - Doug's Deluxe BetterPholio™

Read this Q&A at BetterPhoto.com:
http://www.betterphoto.com/forms/qnaDetail.asp?threadID=12556

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http://www.betterphoto.com/QnAredirect.asp?threadID=12556

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NEW QUESTION 7: How to Shoot Lightning?
I am wondering how to shoot lightning. What shutter and aperture, but more importantly. how do you know when to click the shutter? We don't get lightning that often where I live, and if we do, not repeatedly in same storm.
Thank you.
- Jacqueline McAbery

ANSWER 1:
If you see it, you lost it. To photograph lightning, you need to check the weather and set yourself in a safe place. Put your camera on a tripod, use the hyperfocal distance to set the focus and have great depth of field, and make long exposures. You have to guess.
If you are lucky, taking a series of about 30 or more, you may have one or more lightning strikes in a picture.
I once photographed lightning with a 3-minute exposure at night. During the 3 minutes, the shutter was open, many lightning strikes happened and the film captured.
It is not easy. It is a lot of patience. You need many pictures of some seconds or maybe minutes, and keep trying :)
Moni
- Simone Severo

Read this Q&A at BetterPhoto.com:
http://www.betterphoto.com/forms/qnaDetail.asp?threadID=12549

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http://www.betterphoto.com/QnAredirect.asp?threadID=12549

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NEW QUESTION 8: Faster Film- Faster Shutter speed - BOTH ?
OK, Need some advice. I am having difficulty with action shots with rodeo Photos. I normally shoot 400 speed film, with a shutter speed of 500 at f11 with a 70-300 mm. This particular arena is covered, but open air, and the lighting is good. My pictures tend to be blurry, but only when they are coming "by" me instead of "towards" me. In order to correct this, should I go up in shutter speed as well as trying 800 speed film? Help ...
- Sharon Barberee

ANSWER 1:
At 1/500th you should be stopping action regardless. I think you're moving the camera, anticipating where the action is going. At 300mm, your angle of view is very small, certainly less than 10 degrees. So, you're moving the camera, following the action. And, I think, you're not "frozen" when you press the shutter.
Try shortening the zoom to give yourself more room. And try to pre-focus using either a "continuous" or manual mode.
Hope this helps.
- John Sandstedt

ANSWER 2:
I agree with John. Try supporting the camera when pressing the shutter. Look at the photos that are fuzzy carefully. If they are fuzzy throughout, then camera movement is to blame and supporting the camera will help. If only the action is fuzzy and the rest of the scene is sharp, then maybe a faster shutter speed IS needed.
- Bob Cammarata

Visit cammphoto.com - Bob's Deluxe BetterPholio™

Read this Q&A at BetterPhoto.com:
http://www.betterphoto.com/forms/qnaDetail.asp?threadID=12548

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http://www.betterphoto.com/QnAredirect.asp?threadID=12548

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NEW QUESTION 9: Slides for Publication
I have taken photos on Kodak 400 film. I want to submit them to a travel magazine that asks for slides or transparencies. I took the negatives to a professional lab to have them made into slides. They want to charge me $5 per slide. Am I doing this the right way? And is that price standard? Any suggestions welcome, as I plan to submit other photos to other magazines and stock photo places and they to ask for slides. Thank you!
- Christy Penders

ANSWER 1:
That's about right for the price. Maybe you'll find $4.50 somewhere else.
Did that travel magazine tell you slides after you told them that you originally took negatives? Or are you going by what they say they want and you're trying to accommodate? Because if it's the latter, they meant taking the picures with slide film.
- Gregory La Grange

Visit gregorylagrange.org - Gregory's Deluxe BetterPholio™

ANSWER 2:
Greg's right. Magazine editors are real fussy about image quality, and a second-generation slide from a 400-speed negative won't have the sharpness, contrast, color, etc., to meet their specs. Most of the photos published in magazines were shot on fine-grain slide films (50-100 ASA/ISO).
- Bob Cammarata

Visit cammphoto.com - Bob's Deluxe BetterPholio™

Read this Q&A at BetterPhoto.com:
http://www.betterphoto.com/forms/qnaDetail.asp?threadID=12535

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http://www.betterphoto.com/QnAredirect.asp?threadID=12535

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*****


NEW QUESTION 10: Model Release of Youth Sports
I'm interested in starting a Youth Sports (action) Photography business ,but I have a few questions on model release. First, do I need a model release in order to post the photos on my Web site so it could be viewed and purchased? Second, is a model release required to use the photos in my portfolio?
Thanks.
- Steve H. Kajihiro

ANSWER 1:
You will need a release to use for promotional purposes, but not for posting images to your site. As long as you are contracted or have an agreement to be on the premises shooting, parents will not have a problem with you shooting and posting their kids. If someone contacts you upset that their child is on your site, just politely agree to pull the image and let them know that you are the photographer for their league. The parent may come around and even purchase prints from you down the road.
- Chuck A. Muirhead

ANSWER 2:
I've heard conflicting advice on this. It is my understanding that if the person (or youth) is recognizable you need a release. There are too many cases of unhappily divorced parents, and many parents would not want their child's photo on your Web site without their permission! Check with a legal expert before posting!
- Diane L. Dupuis-Kallos

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Read this Q&A at BetterPhoto.com:
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PHOTOGRAPHY Q&A - CONTINUING FROM PREVIOUS NEWSLETTER
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CONTINUING QUESTION 1: Chicken Barn Shoot
I have been asked to take pictures of a family in their chicken barn with little baby chicks. I know that the lighting will be very poor. Dark. I am thinking I may have to take some with me. I will also have the movement of the chicks and kids. Any suggestions on settings that I should use and modes? I am a beginner, so not that comfortable with manual yet. Thank you.
- Michelle Thalen

ANSWER 1:
Low light with moving subjects can be tough. Ask if they have a heat lamp set up for the chicks. This can be very nice soft lighting. It's a nice yellow tone that complements the yellow hue of the chicks. If they have one set up they might be able to pull it up a little higher so the family can sit under it with the chicks ... but watch for shadows. Try to get hay or straw in the background as it goes so nicely with the chicks and mood.
But if it's too tough ask that the chicks be moved to the chicken yard. A backdrop with chicken wire could be very suitable for the subject matter and outdoor lighting is almost always better.
As for modes, indoors with a heat lamp or artificial lighting you could get away with auto perhaps, but use a tripod! If you're outdoors you could easily use auto. If you're dealing with somebody holding just one chick though use portrait mode, stand back and zoom in. This will soften your subjects and give you much better DOF.
If you can't bring your own light, and they have fluorescent, I would insist on going outdoors. It's a very uncomplimentary harsh light in my opinion.
Good luck!
- Karma Wilson

See Karma's Premium BetterPholio™

ANSWER 2:
Hi,
Bracket your exposures to increase the odds of getting a good shot. And (I used to raise poultry!), if you have an SLR, try and change your lens outside the barn. Poultry barns and coops are notoriously dusty :)
Good luck.
- Carolina K. Smith

Visit CarolinaSmith.com - Carolina K.'s Deluxe BetterPholio™

ANSWER 3:
Hi Michelle,

If they want the photos inside the coop, I suggest using off-camera flash. This will give enough light to stop movement without the harshness of direct flash. If you have a white umbrella to bounce it into ... it would be even better for softening the light. The heat lamp would never be enough light and would come out very red on film. Now, if you're using a digital camera, that's a different story.
- Shirley Cross

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Read this Q&A at BetterPhoto.com:
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CONTINUING QUESTION 2: Light Meter
Hi. My mother is an amateur photographer, and I was considering getting her a light meter for Christmas. I was wondering if you had any suggestions for one? She doesn't do anything fancy or serious. It's a hobby, not a profession, so I need something good, but within reason. Is there something that is like that? I was told about a brand called Sekonic, so do you have any other suggestions? Thanks for your help in advance.
- Heather

ANSWER 1:
This is just my opinion. If your mother is not really into photography and she does not seem to need one, then the handheld light meter is only a burden for her. I have one, and I seldom use it. The internal meter in the camera and a few exposure techniques are more than enough for most amateur photographers.
Anyway, Sekonic is a very good brand (I also have the Sekonic). I recommend getting one with the digital readout (easier to read) and can measure flash output (you won't know when you'll need it). The Sekonic L-358 is a pretty good one at about $250. Another one I recommend is the Konica Minolta AutoMeter 5F for about $220. Hope this helps.
- Andy Szeto

ANSWER 2:
I agree with Andy. No need to give your Mom an extra burden. I have several light meters, but ever since, I use the Nikon F5, F100 and D70. I don't use the meters any more, for their built-in meter is just as good as the handheld meter. I still use the flash meter for commercial portrait with Haselbald medium format camera in studio, and I don't see your Mom will go to this field. How about give her a 1:1 macro lens instead? That way she can take pictures of the tiny insects, small flowers, the eyes of your pets, etc. - that is a lot of fun.
- Tom Kwan

ANSWER 3:
You really might ask your Mom what she needs first. Good Luck!!!
- Michael McCullough

ANSWER 4:
I'd have to agree with Michael: Ask her what she wants! If she "doesn't want anything", figure out what lens mount she uses and buy her another lens to play around with! The macro suggestion was good. Or, if she only has zooms, get her a 50mm f/1.8 (or f/1.4, but those are more expensive, though).
- Alex Cabrall

Read this Q&A at BetterPhoto.com:
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ASK YOUR OWN QUESTION ABOUT PHOTOGRAPHY
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READ PAST ISSUES OF THE SNAPSHOT NEWSLETTER
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