The weekly newsletter on the art of photography from
 
Monday, March 06, 2006
IN THIS ISSUE
Featured Gallery
Welcome Note
This Week's Tip
Updates From BetterPhoto
Q&A 1: How Many Megapixe...
Q&A 2: Archival Ink Jet ...
Q&A 3: Diffuser for Macr...
Q&A 4: How to Keep White...
Q&A 5: Group Photo Shoot...


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THIS WEEK'S TIP
Essential Macro Gear ... by Brenda Tharp
Aside from macro lenses, diopters with telephotos, focusing rails, etc. there are some other equally important things that can make macro photography easier and more successful. When I go out for macro work, I bring along a small zippered back that contains the following:
1. Watercolor brushes with medium and small brush tips. These are excellent for dusting the sticky pollen off the petals and cleaning up messy things like that on leaves and blossoms.
2. Small hairclips - to pull back grasses, other flower stalks, etc. while arranging my background to be as clean as possible. If any of these things are close to your main subject, it's hard to get them out of focus, so bending them out of the way, gently, and holding them in place with a hair clip (or a clothespin) is really helpful. Colored plastic clips ensure you won't leave them behind!
3. McClamp - a reticulated (gooseneck type) arm with clamps on either end, or a clamp on one end and a stick on the other. These allow me to either hold the subject still in a breeze, or position the stalk of flowers or leaves against a better background. The stick version works independent of the tripod, whereas the clamp version attaches to the tripod leg. But even that can be attached to a small branch nearby. see http://www.mcclamp.com for more info and to order.
4. White diffusion umbrella or medium diffusion disc. A 32" disc is a good choice for diffusing your subject and the immediate background to it; anything smaller often creates diffusion only on the subject, and then the background can become too contrasty in comparison. Made by Visual Departures or Photoflex, these discs are invaluable - I never leave for the field without one! Umbrellas can be found in most any store, but you want a white one, not any color or you'll get a color shift.
5. Right angle finder - if you can get one for your camera, it can ease the neck pain and the resulting chiropractic bills! Low to the ground macro work is hard on the neck, and my right angle finder is a god-send.
6. Gardeners' kneeling cushion, or cushioned kneepads. Forget the wear and tear on the jeans - it's the kneecaps you're protecting here and being comforable means you'll feel more creative.
These are just a few things I have found useful in the field for macro work.
Brenda Tharp's Premium Gallery


PHOTOSHOP ELEMENTS WORKFLOW WITH RICHARD LYNCH
In this outstanding online course, digital imaging specialist and author Richard Lynch will discuss the essential image-editing workflow. And Richard should know: His most recent book is The Hidden Power of Photoshop Elements 4. Learn more...
Photo by Richard Lynch
   
Featured Gallery
Daisies -n- Details (in duotone)
© - Mellanie White

Welcome to the 254th issue of SnapShot!
Hi {FirstName},

We are thrilled to welcome new instructor Richard Lynch to Team BetterPhoto! Richard has written 6 books on image editing, including the most recent in his popular book series: The Hidden Power of Photoshop Elements 4. Check out his new Photoshop Elements Workshop online course. I am also excited about two upcoming events that help celebrate BetterPhoto's 10th anniversary: an Internet radio broadcast atop Seattle's Space Needle (tune in this Friday, March 10th, at noon, www.shutterbugradio.com), and the April 14th Washington Tulip Festival - One-Day Tulip Tromp. In addition, we are adding another camera-specific class: Mastering the Canon EOS Digital Rebels by Peter Burian.

Jim Miotke
Where Is Jim?

Updates From BetterPhoto

This Friday, March 10, from 12:00 noon-1:00 p.m. (PST), the weekly Shutterbug Radio Show will be broadcast from atop Seattle's Space Needle. The show's photo editor, BetterPhoto President Jim Miotke, will join host Jack Warren on the broadcast, which will be accessible at www.shutterbugradio.com. This unique online course is devoted to the Canon EOS Digital Rebel (EOS 300D) and the EOS Digital Rebel XT (EOS 350D). Taught by professional photographer and author Peter K. Burian, this 4-week course will take the mystery out of the camera controls, dials, menus, custom functions, etc., for the two Canon EOS cameras. Learn more... Are you ready to take the next step in your photography? We have an awesome schedule of online courses at BetterPhoto.com. Learn more...

Photo Q&A

1: How Many Megapixels for the Best Prints?
I am new to digital photography. I understand that a 3 megapixel camera is more than enough to get a good 4x6 photo. I know that more megapixels are needed to get a larger photo with the same quality. However, if the same 4x6 photo is taken with a 6 megapixel camera, for instance, do I still get a better 4x6 photo with 6 instead of 3 megapixels?
- George E. Cole
ANSWER 1:
George,
Theoretically yes, but not necessarily so. A 3 mp image will yield a 4x6 at approximately 360 ppi. A 6 mp image will yield a 4x6 at approx 500 ppi. One's eyes cannot really discern any more detail past about 300 ppi, so saving a file at 500 ppi is overkill. If you downsized the 6 mp file to equal 360 ppi, then your file would be the same size as your 3 mp file is to begin with, thus no difference.
The advantage of the larger 6 mp image is being able to print larger sizes while maintaining more quality and detail. However, if 4x6 is your goal (or even 5x7), then 3 mp is plenty, and anything larger would really be wasted.
Note: You also need to take into consideration whether your 3mp camera is equal to your 6mp camera in terms of lens quality, pixel quality, etc. The optics used on a 6mp DSLR just might give you better color, resolution, and contrast to begin with than that on a 3mp P&S camera. Many factors to be considered here, but, assuming all else is equal, then my opening statement would be credible.
- Michael H. Cothran
ANSWER 2:
Megapixels are, at best, an indirect indication of the possible quality one can get from a particular image. The rapid rise in popularity of digital cameras has led to the megapixel "arms race" because consumers have wanted one simple number to quantify camera performance.
However, you can't always judge a camera by its megapixel rating. For instance, most 6 mp point-and-shoot 'digicams' give better image quality than their 8 mp siblings in the same product line. Why? Because more megapixels in the same sized sensor means that photosensors (what many people call 'pixels') are physically smaller and thus suffer from reduced sensitivity (and therefore increased noise).
Another example: the Foveon sensor-equipped Sigma SD9/SD10 dSLRs, which are nominally 3.4 MP (according to the way the industry calculates MP, as # of photosites instead of # of photosensors), actually provide image quality as good or better than conventional Bayer sensor-equipped 6- and 8 MP dSLRs.
In short, if you're looking to pick up a good 'point-and-shoot' digital camera ('digicam'), then you'll most likely find the best performance in the various manufacturers' 5- to 6 MP cameras. You will get outstanding ISO 100 4x6 and 5x7 prints from such cameras, and they will be decent at 8x10. More megapixels in this category will NOT give you better enlargements.
If you're looking for under $1k dSLRs, then the various manufacturers' 6 to 8 MP dSLRs (and the Sigma SD10) are certainly worth a look. Due to the increased sensitivity from their larger sensors, these dSLRs will give you outstanding ISO 100 prints at up to 8x10 and decent up to 11x14 or larger, depending on the camera.
- John Clifford
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2: Archival Ink Jet Prints
I understand what the word archival means. Is an archival inkjet print versus a regular inkjet print achieved with the paper, the ink, the equipment, or a combination of them? Thanks!
- Donald G. Blais Sr.
ANSWER 1:
The ink and paper that's made to last longer.
- Gregory La Grange
ANSWER 2:
An inkjet print is considered "archival" when it will last at least 50 years without showing signs of visible fading. Inkjet printer manufacturers have found that the biggest problem that leads to premature fading and aging of prints is the breakdown of the dyes used in the inks due to exposure to UV light or pollution in the air (ozone).
Using special swellable papers and preservative coatings can give dye-based prints from Epson printers like R200/300 family longevity from 25 to 40 years or more (not in direct sunlight, prints framed).
The newer lines of archival printers from these companies tend to feature pigmented inks that can give print lifes of up to 100 years or more, and even longer if the prints are sprayed with preservative coatings and properly framed. - John Clifford
ANSWER 3:
Concerning inks, there are two basic types of inks available to the consumer - dye based and pigmented. Dye-based inks have long been more colorful and vibrant, but with a much shorter lifespan, and as such, have never been considered "archival." Pigmented inks ARE considered archival, but have long suffered in their lack of brilliance and vibrancy. This is changing, as newer developed pigmented inks (such as Epson's Ultrachromes) are now closely matching the brilliancy of dye-based inks, yet giving much longer lifespans.
Concerning papers, "fine art" papers are considered more "archival" than standard glossy, semi-gloss, and matte papers. Papers with the longest lifespans seem to be those fine art papers WITHOUT any whiteners or bleaches.
- Michael H. Cothran
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3: Diffuser for Macro Photography
Does anyone know how to make a diffuser for outdoor macro photography? Also, what are the best materials to use for this? Thanks in advance.
- Todd Bennett
ANSWER 1:
Sure. Go down to the local hardware store buy some metal gray or black window screen, cut it to fit your lighting and figure out how to attach it. If you just want to build diffusers to block direct daylight, you can use the same material (but much bigger) build a frame for it and a way to hang it or position it over or around whatever ou happen to be photographing. Remember, though, if you buy translucent materials like using white cheese cloth, you have to make sure it's truly white and won't produce a color cast.
Also, by the time you spend dough for the materials, cloth, screen, mounting hardware, etc., it might be cheaper for you to just buy a portable diffusing panel from, say, B&H in N.Y. Get the picture? ;>)
- Mark Feldstein
ANSWER 2:
Yep. A bunch of companies makes portable panels with collapsible pvc tubing that's bungee corded together. The whole frame just kind of flips together - but stay out of its way during assembly, I've almost lost two assistants with these things. LOL !.
And the panels themselves come in varying densities. The whole thing can be quickly attached to a light stand with a couple of clamps. If you're working outdoors, make sure you use a sandbag or something to keep the stand from being windblown. Domke makes a good rig for this.
Anything else? Just holler.
Be well Todd.
- Mark Feldstein
ANSWER 3:
For macro applications, a piece of beaded plastic diffusion material works well to diffuse a harsh sunlit scene. You can find one at any home repair store (the kind used for fluorescent light fixtures). They are inexpensive and are easy to cut to any size you can comfortably carry around. I have a piece 12"X10" in my backpack which provides full diffused coverage for shooting a scene up to two feet away.
It's important to hold the diffuser flat, at a right angle to the sun to get the best results.
Also, you will need to compensate for around 1/2 stop of light loss or meter with the diffuser in place. The attached examples show how this simple tool can help to soften harsh shadows.
- Bob CammarataSee Sample Photo - Sample 2

See Sample Photo - Sample 1


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4: How to Keep White Backdrops White
I have just painted a wall white in my small home studio. I took some test shots and they turned out bad... the white looks very grey in some and orange in others. (I was trying different white balances.) Any suggestions?
- Tammy L. Murdock
ANSWER 1:
Some are grey because you underexposed. Try opening up a stop or two. And set your WB to daylight, because flashes are balanced for the ~5500K daylight.
- Justin G.
ANSWER 2:
Just to add to what Justin said, when your camera sees a lot of white in the frame, the metering system automatically tries to bring the image to an 18% gray and, under normal instances, would give you good results. But when you introduce a lot of white you are fooling the metering system and the camera tries to make it gray. You can do what Justin recommends and overexpose by one to two stops, or you can use the exposure compensation feature to overexpose. The other option is to use a light meter.
- Ken Raymond
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5: Group Photo Shoot Indoors
Hi there,
I own a FinePix 5500 and have been asked to photograph a group of kids. The shoot will be in a very bright room with fluorescent lighting. Do I need to use my built-in flash or not? White balance adjustment, use ISO 800 (my maximum)? I appreciate any response. Regards.
- Paul O mahony
ANSWER 1:
The room may seem very bright to you, but chances are, without a fast lens you will need to use your flash. There are two ways you can try it. If you don't use flash, you would probably need to increase your ISO setting in order to get a shutter speed fast enough to prevent blur. A tripod would help keep the camera steady. If you do it without flash, you should set your white balance for fluorescent lighting. Otherwise, your pictures would likely have a green tint to them.
The other approach would be to use your flash. This will be easier, since you won't have to worry so much about camera shake or fidgeting subjects. You can leave your WB set to Auto or Daylight.
I would recommend using the flash. I think fluorescent lighting gives ugly results in general, and the wide variety of tubes out there means the fluorescent WB setting doesn't always work that well.
- Chris A. Vedros
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