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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, December 13, 2005
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* SPOTLIGHT: BetterPhoto's Online School: Focus on Specialized Subjects
* BETTERPHOTO: Jim Miotke's Book & DVD: Two Great Products, One Great Price
* BETTERPHOTO: On-Location Excitement and Online Critiques ... BetterWorkshops!
* BETTERPHOTO: Article Excerpt: Should Megapixels Still Be A Big Deal?
* FEATURED GALLERY: Fashion and Beauty ... The Beautiful Photography of Bruce Smith
* PHOTO TRIVIA QUESTION: Full Metal Photography / New Look at Legend's Work
* THIS WEEK'S TIP: Lighting: Knockout Backgrounds ... by Charlie Borland
* NEW PHOTO Q&A 1: My Photos Aren't Lined Up Right
* NEW PHOTO Q&A 2: Photographing Through a Window Screen
* NEW PHOTO Q&A 3: Question on Photo of the Day
* NEW PHOTO Q&A 4: Photographing Basketball with Digital
* NEW PHOTO Q&A 5: Do-It-Yourself Reflectors
* NEW PHOTO Q&A 6: Displaying Photos for Art Contest
* NEW PHOTO Q&A 7: Which Is Best: Umbrella or Softbox?
* NEW PHOTO Q&A 8: Matting, Mounting, and Framing Photos
* NEW PHOTO Q&A 9: Suggestions Please ...
* NEW PHOTO Q&A 10: What Is a Lens Hood For?
* CONTINUING PHOTO Q&A 1: Photographing in an Aquarium


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IN THE SPOTLIGHT - ADVERTISEMENT
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BetterPhoto's Online School: Focus on Specialized Subjects
Our schedule of online courses features such a wide range of photographic topics. One creative collection involves such classes as: Adobe Photoshop Elements; Jump Start to Digital Photography; The Joy of Digital Photography; Fashion & Beauty; Making Masterpieces with Corel Painter; Stock Photography; Digital Wedding Album Design; and Digital Slide Shows. Details:
http://www.betterphoto.com/photocourses/categories.asp


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WHAT'S NEW AT BETTERPHOTO.COM
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Welcome to the 242nd issue of SnapShot!

Hi {FirstName}

This holiday season has been filled with excitement at BetterPhoto! Signups for our winter online photo courses are well under way, and our schedule is shaping up to be our best ever. Stop by our courses page at:
http://www.betterphoto.com/online-photography-courses.asp

Just in time for the holidays: Our new Deluxe BetterPholios™ are very sleek and very eye-catching. These sites offer beautiful and functional design and easy Web hosting – at a great price. Give a gift of a Web site this season! For information:
http://www.betterphoto.com/sites4photogs/deluxe-photographer-websites.asp

Speaking of holiday gifts, check out BetterPhoto's Book of the Month: Amphoto's Guide to Digital Black and White Printing by instructor George Schaub. Buy it before the end of December and get free U.S. shipping. Here's more:
http://www.betterphoto.com/product/ourProductDetailLg.asp?productID=1353

In this issue of SnapShot, don't miss instructor Charlie Borland's latest Photo Tip on lighting. Also, we publish an interesting article excerpt on the issue of megapixels. Lastly, check out our Trivia Quiz and our latest collection of interesting - and informative - questions and answers.

That's it for now. Have fun shooting during this tremendous, photo-rich holiday season!
Jim Miotke
http://www.betterphoto.com/MG.asp?ID=124


*****
Jim Miotke's Book & DVD: Two Great Products, One Great Price
Check out this very cool book/DVD bundle for a very cool price from BetterPhoto.com™ founder Jim Miotke: BetterPhoto Guide to Digital Photography (book) and Digital Photography Unleashed: Capturing Wildly Great Pictures (DVD). These helpful items are packed with everything you need to know to take great digital pictures. Also, both are autographed by Jim, and the two together cost only $40.00 - a 20% discount over what you would pay if you bought the two separately! Information:
http://www.betterphoto.com/product/ourProductDetail.asp?productID=1361


*****
On-Location Excitement and Online Critiques ... BetterWorkshops!
Treat yourself to a great photographic adventure in 2006! Our exciting lineup of workshops combines the best of two worlds - online and on-location. Leading things off for January and February is "Snow Shoot - Siberian Tiger, Horses, and Ranchers". There are several different sessions of this fantastic workshop. For specifics:
http://www.betterphoto.com/on-location-photography-workshops.asp


*****
Article Excerpt: Should Megapixels Still Be A Big Deal?
Here's an interesting "take" on the issue of megapixels, from a Los Angeles Times article that was just published in the Seattle Times:

"Not long ago, when a 2-megapixel image created by mid-range models couldn't yield a consistently good 5 x 7 print, it made sense to focus on megapixels (MP), those tiny dots that make up the resolution of a photo. As times have changed, today's cheapo models capture 3 MP of detail, now sufficient for 8 X 10 prints.

"Today, the camera industry presses to sell us more megapixels. But unless you want poster-size blowups or you crop your shots with a chainsaw, those higher resolution photos will not look any better on your PC screen or probably on your wall. What higher MP's does, though, is take great quantities of space in your camera and your hard drive.

"For those of us who are looking to take mostly candid snapshots, 3 to 4 MP is very adequate. And those who spend time composing shots and who might like big print results, 5 to 6 MP is quite sufficient."

Note: To help in your camera-buying decision, check out BetterPhoto's Digital Camera Calculators at:
http://www.betterphoto.com/digital/camera-calculator.asp

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FEATURED GALLERY
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Fashion and Beauty ... The Beautiful Photography of Bruce Smith
Instructor/photographer Bruce Smith has been photographing fashion for 30 years. He shares his expertise - and his passion for the subject - in an awesome online course right here at BetterPhoto.com - "Fashion and Beauty: Intro to Fashion Photography". For information:
http://www.betterphoto.com/photocourses/BRU01.asp

Incidentally, if you haven't viewed Bruce's awesome images in his Premium BetterPholio™, you'll in for a treat:
http://www.betterphoto.com/gallery/gallery.asp?mem=100195

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PHOTO TRIVIA QUIZ OF THE WEEK
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Last week, we asked:
One of the stars in Stanley Kubrick's 1987 film, "Full Metal Jacket", recently published a photo-essay book about the making of this classic war movie. Who is the actor?

The first, best answer - entered by BetterPhoto member Brenda is:
Matthew Modine.

Editor's Note: Right you are, Brenda! Matthew Modine is the author/photographer of the recently published Full Metal Jacket Diary. As a personal project, Modine served as the movie set's unofficial photojournalist by shooting hundreds of images and by writing numerous entries in a journal. In the film, Modine's character - Private Joker - was a combat correspondent.

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 - New Look at Legend's Work - entered by BetterPhoto member Kerry Drager

An exhibit at a major U.S. art museum features the work of a 20th-century photographic icon that captures his mastery of the medium. The exhibit includes images of intimate portraits, still lifes, close-ups, and even a coffee can that features a picture of a snow scene. Who is this photographer?

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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Lighting: Knockout Backgrounds ... by Charlie Borland

You may at some point want to photograph a subject with a pure white background for knockout. Here the client needs a pure white background behind the person or product because they might plan to insert text, an object, or lay the knockout across a different background. You cannot achieve a pure white background on film or digital with a straight photograph and lighting before getting "wraparound". This is a flaring around your subject and occurs when the light on the background is more than 2 stops brighter than the light that is lighting your subject. You can only get close creating the pure white background. You need a white seamless paper background or equivalent, and one light on each side of the subject and behind them. The lights are pointed straight at the background and power is adjusted to be no more than two stops brighter than your subject. Ideally, you would measure this with a flash meter, but if you do not have one, then you will need to carefully do this visually.

View Charlie Borland's online photography courses:



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
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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:
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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: My Photos Aren't Lined Up Right
I've noticed lately that some of my shots don't seem like they are lined up properly after I take the shot. Has anyone else had trouble with the Digital Rebel XT? Sometimes the shot looks slightly off-kilter, although I usually line up shots properly. Could there be something wrong with the camera?
- Mary B. McGrath

See Mary's Premium BetterPholio™

Visit MaryMcGrathPhotography.com - Mary's Deluxe BetterPholio™

ANSWER 1:
It could be a problem with technique, such as inadvertently pulling the camera down slightly to the right when pressing the shutter button. Also, the viewfinder does not give a 100-percent view, but instead is about 90-95% of what the sensor will record. That 90-95% is not necessarily precisely centered, so lining up a subject at an edge/corner in the viewfinder won't necessarily be as close to the edge/corner in the recorded image. It is also possible for the mirror/viewfinder to be a little out of alignment with the sensor.
- Jon Close

ANSWER 2:
Thanks. This doesn't happen in all my shots, so hopefully it's me and my shadow! I do alot of architecture, so I will see how to rectify the situation, and try to pay attention more.
- Mary B. McGrath

See Mary's Premium BetterPholio™

Visit MaryMcGrathPhotography.com - Mary's Deluxe BetterPholio™

Read this Q&A at BetterPhoto.com:
http://www.betterphoto.com/forms/qnaDetail.asp?threadID=21126

Answer this question:
http://www.betterphoto.com/QnAredirect.asp?threadID=21126

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NEW QUESTION 2: Photographing Through a Window Screen
What are the camera settings for shooting thru a window screen?
- Tom W. Winn

ANSWER 1:
Greetings, Tom. There are no specific settings per se, but there are mainly two ways to shoot through a screen, which, by the way, acts somewhat like a light diffuser. One technique - to eliminate the screen in the photo entirely - is to get your lens up as close as you can to the screen and focus on whatever you want in the outside world. Then set your camera according to your built-in meter. If you're using a handheld light meter, just point that through the screen and take a reading.

The other way is to use the screen as a diffuser for whatever is in the background. In that situation, you've basically got a depth of field choice to make. To get the screen in focus along with the outside world, set your camera 1/3 of the distance from the screen to whatever you want in focus outdoors and check your depth of field by stopping down the lens to the f-stop you want to work at in order to maintain sharpness. Or, just focus on the subject at the window, if any, take a reading, set your camera and blast away.

Oh, and if you're shooting through some kind of chain-link fence, to eliminate the fence just get up close and personal to it and focus on the subject on the other side of the fence. That'll eliminate the fence in the scene.

Take it light.
Mark
- Mark Feldstein

Read this Q&A at BetterPhoto.com:
http://www.betterphoto.com/forms/qnaDetail.asp?threadID=21122

Answer this question:
http://www.betterphoto.com/QnAredirect.asp?threadID=21122

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NEW QUESTION 3: Question on Photo of the Day
I am new here (as of today) and I entered the contest in category "Nature and Landscapes". Does this mean that my photo is also eligible for the Photo of the Day contest? And is there a deadline, and if so and if I have submitted after the time, would my photo be considered for POTD the next day? I didn't know I needed to put any info on the photo (i.e., description before submission). Is this mandatory and does this disqualify my photo?? I'm just a tad confuzzled, trying to get to know the site here. Thank You, Donna
- Donna M. Paul

ANSWER 1:
Well, first of all: Welcome to BP, Donna! I think that you are confused about POTD ... unlike other sites, we don't have a POTD contest. The BP management just chooses photos that they like. Putting info on your photo is NOT mandatory - you don't even have to name the photo. Feel free to email me if you have any other questions.
- Brendan Knell

ANSWER 2:
Well, I just looked at another thread, and entries into the photo contest that are selected for POTD, and it's the judges that select them.
- Brendan Knell

ANSWER 3:
Hi Brendan,
Thanks for jumping in with the answer ... much appreciated!
Kerry

Hi Donna,
Welcome to BetterPhoto ... glad to have you on board!!
As Brendan says, contest entries that catch the judges' eye are pulled for possible Photo of the Day status - although those photos remain in the contest. Also, this POTD selection is done before finalists or winners are selected. Many POTD selections, of course, go on to receive finalist or winner status ... though not necessarily.
Plus, in order to get a nice balance of subjects and techniques over the days - and weeks - many images are "held over" to the next month ... or, perhaps, even beyond.
Thanks for your interest in BetterPhoto, Donna!
Kerry
- Kerry Drager

See Kerry Drager's Premium BetterPholio™
Visit Kerry Drager's Web Site - www.KerryDrager.com

Take an Online PhotoCourse™ with Kerry Drager:
Creative Light and Composition
4-Week Short Course: Details and Close-ups - January
4-Week Short Course: Details and Close-ups -February

ANSWER 4:
Thanks to everyone very much, I really appreciate all the help. Now this may sound a little silly ... but where do you see POTDs?
- Donna M. Paul

ANSWER 5:
Hi again, Donna,
Now that's a great question! Here's the link to the Photo of the Day archives:
http://www.betterphoto.com/Photo-of-the-Day.asp

To subscribe to POTD or to any of our other free newsletters, go to:
http://www.betterphoto.com/subscribe.asp

Thanks again for your interest in BetterPhoto, Donna!
Kerry


- Kerry Drager

See Kerry Drager's Premium BetterPholio™
Visit Kerry Drager's Web Site - www.KerryDrager.com

Take an Online PhotoCourse™ with Kerry Drager:
Creative Light and Composition
4-Week Short Course: Details and Close-ups - January
4-Week Short Course: Details and Close-ups -February

ANSWER 6:
You have been so much help ... thank you again. This is a really nice site, with so many varied talents, and creative geniuses. I am sure that I am going to enjoy it here!!
Thank you again, and warmest regards!
- Donna M. Paul

Read this Q&A at BetterPhoto.com:
http://www.betterphoto.com/forms/qnaDetail.asp?threadID=21111

Answer this question:
http://www.betterphoto.com/QnAredirect.asp?threadID=21111

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*****


NEW QUESTION 4: Photographing Basketball with Digital
I am try to shoot basketball. I just can't get the lighting and speed right. I am using a Sony Cybershot 5.1 megpix.
- John D. DeArcangelis

ANSWER 1:
If you are talking about indoor basketball, John, the fact is that you might not be able to get good shots due to the limitations of the camera. Let me explain:
In order to freeze the action, you need a fairly high shutter speed or else a very powerful flash unit. Most times, indoor courts are not well lit enough to provide enough light for a fast shutter speed. Built-in flash units are only effective for about 5-10 feet maximum; for longer distances from the subject, an external flash must be used.
When the pros shoot for magazines, they use huge arrays of flashes in the rafters, triggered by radio remote controls on their cameras. For typical indoor court situations, anything less means that there is simply not enough light to give good shots.
- Bob

Read this Q&A at BetterPhoto.com:
http://www.betterphoto.com/forms/qnaDetail.asp?threadID=21109

Answer this question:
http://www.betterphoto.com/QnAredirect.asp?threadID=21109

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*****


NEW QUESTION 5: Do-It-Yourself Reflectors
Hi. I want to start using reflectors but I don't want to buy them. I heard white cardboard works just as well. I have those foil mats that you put on the car's windows to reflect back the sun and I could just attach a piece of cardboard to it to keep it firm. Will white cardboard or the foil mat work better to substitute a reflector? Thanks and any help is appreciated!
- Robert Park

ANSWER 1:
Hi Robert: Well, you can make reflector panels out of just about anything from cloth stretched out on a frame made from PVC pipe to 4x8 or smaller pieces of foamcore with material stretched over it or glued in place. You can take foamcore and spray paint it gold or whatever color to bounce light into a subject. And, you can even get some sheets of plywood and use a clamp to attach a reflector surface to them so that they can be changed a lot. What we do in our studio is cut the plywood into 4x4-foot sections and then hinge them together so they can be folded up for storage or loading in a truck.

And just plain old white poster board that you can buy at an office or art supply store works fine. too. Sure, you can use the foil car reflectors you mentioned, with or without a firm backing. In fact, if you've got an assistant or helper, they can hold that reflector where you want it.

So, just about anything will work. But remember: Different textures will have different degrees of reflectance, and if you're working in color, the surface of your reflector - say, gold, for example - will tend to cast that color of light on your subject.

Okie dokie?
Take it light.
Mark
- Mark Feldstein

Read this Q&A at BetterPhoto.com:
http://www.betterphoto.com/forms/qnaDetail.asp?threadID=21106

Answer this question:
http://www.betterphoto.com/QnAredirect.asp?threadID=21106

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*****


NEW QUESTION 6: Displaying Photos for Art Contest
My daughter is planning to enter an art contest for high schoolers. She wants to do a collage of her nature photos, and the instructions say that the art must be "ready to hang". My question is: How does she go about mounting her photos? Is there a standard way to do this? What do you put them on - canvas, foam board, something else? I appreciate any information or insight on this. She's very interested in being a photographer one day, but we are new to all this.
- Lisa

ANSWER 1:
By collage, I assume this is more than just a few images mounted on the same mounting surface, that they will be, in fact, mounted in an overlapping fashion?

Chris Walrath
Walrath Photographic Imaging

http://home.comcast.net/
~flash19901/wsb/html/
view.cgi-home.html-.html
- Christopher A. Walrath

ANSWER 2:
I don't think she is going to overlap them. The maximum size is 24" x 36", and she was going to use about 10 - 12 photos, probably 5 x 7 size. Once we get whatever she's going to mount them on, she will play around with it to see what looks best. Do you have any recommendations? Thanks!
- Lisa

ANSWER 3:
Unless the rules specifically indicate that collages are acceptable, I'd recommend entering individual images. Secondly, are the submittals to be framed or on mat board (or foam core, etc.)? If they are not to be framed, then in all probability, they'll be judged in a "pass-through" competition of some sort - possibly using a print box display device that the judge(s) will sit in front of to assess the entries. In this instance, frames might damage another's entry - that's why they'd be disallowed.

If framing in requested, it's because all entries will be hung on a wall and the judge will be able to assess an image from varying distances.

The general rule is "bigger is better." Your daughter should plan on 8" X 10" prints [MINIMUM,]and mounted on 11" X 14" boards. Use white [first choice] or black mat board. [Of course, you can buy board in a variety of colors. If that's her choice, the colored board should not overpower the print.] In many competitions, judges will not score [or they may down-score] prints that are not on white board.

Why do I suggest staying away from a collage? Because one or two of her images will, most probably, be superior to some/all of the others. So, take advantage of that superiority!

Good Luck to her.
- John Sandstedt

Read this Q&A at BetterPhoto.com:
http://www.betterphoto.com/forms/qnaDetail.asp?threadID=21096

Answer this question:
http://www.betterphoto.com/QnAredirect.asp?threadID=21096

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*****


NEW QUESTION 7: Which Is Best: Umbrella or Softbox?
I am just beginning to start doing studio photography and want to purchase an umbrella or soft box but I don't know which one would be the best. What is the difference between them? Which would you recommend I buy?
- Judy K. McClure

ANSWER 1:
Welllllll, the short answer is neither. They're both light modifiers, and each one produces a different effect that, in turn, can be further modified depending on how you use them. There are also different kinds of interiors for both umbrellas and softboxes. You can get them lined with removable inserts made from highly reflective materials like silver or gold cloth, or in just plain white.

With umbrellas, depending on their size, the power of your lights and whether you use a device to prevent light spill, they can be pretty efficient but IMHO produce a slightly harder light than softboxes. Both tend to wrap the subject in light, but you need to experiment to learn how.

So, in response to your question, I use both but which one depends on what I'm trying to accomplish. It's all about how you use and control light. My preference is Chimera. I've got one of their 36 x 48" softboxes, without an insert, that's been used multiple times per week and lasted so far about 25 years. (Yikes!) The hardware (used to attach the box to my Bowens monolights or Speedotron pack lights) has also held up well. Strip banks from Chimera also hold up extremely well. They're a bit pricier than others but if you rely on this stuff to earn a living and not fail at the worst possible moment (is there ever a good one?), then I think they're well worth the cost. I've tested products for Photoflex, and they just don't seem to hold up to location use.

Umbrellas are a lot cheaper than softboxes. Sure, you can get the type with a removable back and shoot through it which is nice, but I still don't think it produces nearly the same quality of light as a softbox.

Take it errrr ... light, Judy. Anything else ... just drop me an e-mail if you'd like.
Mark
- Mark Feldstein

ANSWER 2:
I use both in my studio. There is a specific difference, which makes the determination over which to use -

An umbrella is like a shotgun - it spreads light everywhere, and I mean EVERYWHERE! Just aim it in the general direction, and you're bound to hit something.

A softbox is much more directional, and easier to control. A softbox's light pretty much only goes where you aim it. If you need further control over light spillage, you can add a set of louvers to your softbox, which will really fine-tune the light fall-off.

In my studio, an umbrella (42" silver) is used as a fill light, when I need one. Since it spreads light everywhere, this is the ideal delegation for it. A softbox is always used as the main light, and usually with louvers so I can keep it off the background.

The softbox (and white umbrella) loses about 2 stops of light. The silver umbrella loses next to nothing.

Hope this helps,
Michael H. Cothran
- Michael H. Cothran

See Michael's Premium BetterPholio™

ANSWER 3:
Thank you both for your input. It sounds like I have a lot to learn! What is the best size softbox to use? Is it necessary to get a large softbox or since I am just beginning to learn, would it be better to start small? I was planning to get either an umbrella or softbox and use that with my reflector. I really can't invest tons of money on equipment right now.
- Judy K. McClure

ANSWER 4:
The softbox or umbrella size depends on what you're photographing and its size. For small group portraits, you need a larger softbox than for individual portraits, although I have a 3x4' box that does double duty - again, depending on how I control the light.

Same is true with umbrellas. As Mike pointed out, unless it's controlled, umbrella light goes everywhere. Umbrellas compared to softboxes are less expensive.

And, you should also understand that when you charge a fee for your services that you need to build in your prorated cost of doing business. That includes the gradually depreciating cost of your equipment including softboxes and umbrellas and power packs, monolights, ad infinitum. Try thinking of it this way Judy: If someone wanted to just rent your shooting space for a day and use your equipment, what would you charge them?

And as Mike and I have tried to explain, different uses for different modifiers, including softboxes, stripbanks (which are essentially narrow softboxes), and umbrellas. It's your choice. Take a look at Chimera's Web site and Photoflex for some further thoughts on the subjects: http://www.chimeralighting.com and http://www.photoflex.com

In short, experiment and you shall see the light ... errr ... so-to-speak. ;>)
Mark
- Mark Feldstein

Read this Q&A at BetterPhoto.com:
http://www.betterphoto.com/forms/qnaDetail.asp?threadID=21070

Answer this question:
http://www.betterphoto.com/QnAredirect.asp?threadID=21070

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*****


NEW QUESTION 8: Matting, Mounting, and Framing Photos
I am entering a local art exhibit and contest where the photos need to be mounted on hard board and matted. Both photos are color, and I wanted to know what color of mat was appropriate. Black, white, or coordinate it with the colors in the photo? I also would like to know if hard board is another name for foam-core board? And one more question: Is it better to have the image displayed in a frame or just the mat and mounting board? I'm new to all of this, so any answers would be greatly appreciated. The show starts 12/12/05.
- Leah J. Earle

ANSWER 1:
I'm partial to black matting without frames. If you do decide to go without frames, consider what kind of margin you want on all four sides.
I'm a graphic design student, and the printed projects that I turn in have to be mounted on black board. My professors want a 2-3 inch boarder around the compositions. When some of my classmates put on tiny 1 inch boarders it looks tacky and wiimpy. The larger margins look awesome.
I don't know if the rules are at all similar with photography, but you might want to experiment and see what looks best to you.
I think frames are too constricting. What if you don't want to stick to a straight 4x6, 8x10, 11x14, 16x20, etc? Consider keeping the same margins on both photos. Or, if they are different sizes, you might keep the overall sizes of the matting the same.
But, like I said, this all works for graphic design. The rules might be different for photography. I look forward to reading what others think.
- Cherylann Collins

ANSWER 2:
I usually use a white mat for most of the photos I display for public viewing. Some sort of a neutral white or a slight variation of it. I find that when people consider purchasing photos, they are often thinking in terms of how it will look with their decor. Colored mats are probably not a good way to go, unless someone asks for a specific mat color in advance. But, of course, that is not to say that color mats might not be a good choice in some instances. I would advise keeping the matted photos to standard sizes ... 8x10, 11x 14, 16x20, etc. That lets folks choose from readily available frames.
- Calgarey G. Penn

See Calgarey's Premium BetterPholio™

ANSWER 3:
Believe it or not, there are many judges who will not give a score to, or downgrade, any print not presented on white mat board. So, think very carefully about using black or any other color in competition unless you know the judges and the "tastes". I'd start out with white board on general principles.
As to hanging your work on a wall: for black and white, use black or white matboard as first and second choices (not necessarily in that order). For color, I also like to pick up a color in the print - but you need to be careful that the board doesn't dominate!
Oh, DON'T frame your images for the competition. That's routinely a "NO! NO!" as the frames might cause damage to another's work as it's handled and passed through the print light box.
Good Luck.
- John Sandstedt

Read this Q&A at BetterPhoto.com:
http://www.betterphoto.com/forms/qnaDetail.asp?threadID=21061

Answer this question:
http://www.betterphoto.com/QnAredirect.asp?threadID=21061

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*****


NEW QUESTION 9: Suggestions Please ...
Hi Everyone,
I have a friend going to India for two weeks (sightseeing) in February, and I know he only has a camera body and two lenses and polarizers. I am trying to figure out what things I could get him for his Christmas gift this year that he could use on his trip. Now nothing that is outrageous, but within reason. Any suggestions? One item I was thinking is a grad neutral-density filter, but never using one, I don't have a clue on what kind, etc., to get. And is there a good book on photographing India out there?
Thank you all!!
- Michele Wassell

ANSWER 1:
How serious is he about photography? If he's like me and not super-serious/advanced, and he really only has the body, lenses, and polarizers, here's what I'd want in his place. Maybe it can give you some ideas:

extra battery/ies
extra memory card/film
remote trigger
lens cleaning kit
camera bag or lens bags
tripod and/or table-top tripod
lens hood

I'm jealous!!
- Jennifer Wytmans

ANSWER 2:
Thank you, Jennifer. I am trying to find out what little things he has and all. Some really good suggestions. He isn't very serious or advanced, but he takes pretty good photos. He uses the Canon 10D.


- Michele Wassell

ANSWER 3:
Consider a monopod. That's on my Christmas wish list. Some of them have little levers that fold down so the photographer can step on them and keep the monopod a little more stable. A monopod is smaller and lighter than a bulky tripod. Easier to travel with.
- Cherylann Collins

ANSWER 4:
"A monopod is smaller and lighter than a bulky tripod. Easier to travel with."
I think it depends on the tripod. A shorter tripod can weigh very little and compact down to 15", tabletop or c-clamp models even more so. Monopods can be useful in museums, zoos, or sports activities where tripods are banned, but they definitely are limiting compared to tripods for longer exposures, macro shots, night photography, timer shots with yourself in the photo, etc.
There are monopods that convert to tripods with attachable integral legs, but you really gain little over a tabletop because fully extending the 'pod with the slightest amount of wind will whip them around like a leaf.
- Will Turner

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*****


NEW QUESTION 10: What Is a Lens Hood For?
OK, I am trying my hardest to figure out everything and learn everything about photography. I just went and bought a Quantaray 70 mm - 300 mm lens and it came with a lens hood, but ... I don't know how to use it or what it is even for. Somebody, please help!!
- Jessica A. Evers

ANSWER 1:
The hood helps to minimize lens flare from the rays of the sun entering the lens opening. Kind of like how the rim on a baseball cap shields your eyes on a sunny day.)
- Bob Cammarata

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ANSWER 2:
It's smart to use a hood on any lens. You never know when stray light will cause a problem. Overhead light streaked a shot down the middle when I was too lazy to bring along the hood. Also, you have protection from impact. Kudos to Quantaray for providing a hood. Canon makes you pay extra on a NEW lens that costs hundreds.
- Doug Nelson

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ANSWER 3:
The hood prevents stray, off-angle light from striking the edge of your lens, which may cause light streaks ... and often does ... sometimes with spectacularly beautiful effects; although not controllable. LOL
A camera lens is NOT intended to capture light "off axis" (i.e) anywhere except from the front. A hood should be used at all times when shooting on a bright day. At night, it is probably not needed, although I do use one at night just in case a passing car's headlights ruin my shot.
I say at all times for this reason...
Try this experiment: Curl your fingers as if making a tunnel. Look at a scene through this tunnel. Now look at the same scene straight on without your finger tunnel. You'll see why I say to always use a hood.
Off-angle glare is a real problem, especially with multiple lens elements arranged in groups.
The hood will help with better color rendition as well as it prevents, or at least inhibits, glare, be it above, below or from the side from getting in.
All the Best,

Pete
- Pete Herman

ANSWER 4:
Jessica, the lens hood is certainly for controlling unwanted light from causing flares on the photo. However, there is another very important reason for always keeping the hood in place. It does a remarkable job of protecting the lens from damage. Some use a UV filter, but that just adds glass that could cause image problems. Use the hood--save the glass.
John
- John R. Rhodes

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PHOTOGRAPHY Q&A - CONTINUING FROM PREVIOUS NEWSLETTER
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CONTINUING QUESTION 1: Photographing in an Aquarium
I need tips for photographing at an indoor aquarium. I use the Canon Digital Rebel user-75-300mm zoom. Should flash be used? How high an ISO rating? How to avoid reflections from glass? Thanks.
- Elizabeth Locke

ANSWER 1:
Use at least 400 ISO. And, to avoid reflection, get as close to the glass as you can (right ON it, if possible). They say you can use flash if you're right up on the glass, but I never have.
- Carolyn Fletcher

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ANSWER 2:
I took photos in an indoor aquarium with my older Sony DSC 85 digital. I had it on auto with the flash off. The only thing I did was to point the camera to focus at a distant point and then I brought it over and took the photo through the glass ... no reflections at all.
I will put up a sample for you to see ... if it doesn't appear, I have the same one in my gallery ... and you can see it there.
Margie
- Margie Heldt

ANSWER 3:
Using a circular polarizing filter will also cut down on the glare. This works best if you shoot at a slight angle. I frequently use flash at a local zoo with pets behind the glass and never get reflections with the polarizer.
- Candy Newbury

ANSWER 4:
Flash really brings out the colors and makes them look really fluorescent. You can use it if you tip the camera just slightly or use a remote flash against the glass.
- Mary N C. Stebbins

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ANSWER 5:
If you purchase a rubber lens hood at your local photo store, it works as a good buffer so you can go right up to the glass. No reflections, because no side light can get in. You can then use flash, if you wish, without any stray reflection.
- Paul Michko

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ANSWER 6:
The lighting inside the tanks makes a difference, too, but I have had no trouble shooting through glass so long as you follow the tips on getting as close as possible (those folding rubber lens hoods Paul mentioned are excellent for this); but the best thing of all is to get inside the tanks with a waterproof camera!
- David A. Rich

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