The weekly newsletter on the art of photography from
 
Monday, March 20, 2006
IN THIS ISSUE
Featured Gallery
Welcome Note
This Week's Tip
Updates From BetterPhoto
Q&A 1: Photography: Edit...
Q&A 2: Fill Flash with B...
Q&A 3: Buying Tripod for...
Q&A 4: Rules of Photogra...
Q&A 5: Macro Lens Vs. Ex...
Q&A 6: Indoor Arena Phot...
Q&A 7: Image Stabilizati...


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THIS WEEK'S TIP
How to Steady Your Camera by John Siskin
The simplest and best piece of photo equipment you can build is the chainpod. It works like a monopod, weighs a couple of ounces and fits in your pocket. To build it, drill a small hole in 1/2 inch 1/4X20 (that is a thread size) thumbscrew. Attach about 6 feet of chain to the hole (more if you are really tall). Next put a nut onto the thumbscrew and position it so that the screw canít go too deep into you tripod socket and glue it in place. To use, attach the thumbscrew to the base of your camera, drop the chain and step on it. Now pull up against the chain. Steady! You can see pictures of this in my Premium Gallery. Editor's Note: Check out John Siskin's exciting new course: Understanding Professional Lighting


NEW COURSE! ADVANCED CAMERA RAW CREATIVE TECHNIQUES
In this new online course, professional photographer and author Charlotte Lowrie will show you creative processing techniques for Raw images. This 4-Week Short Course will be fun and fast-paced. Learn more...
Photo: Charlotte K. Lowrie
   
Featured Gallery
Cataract Falls  In.
© - Randall & Kay Branham

Welcome to the 256th issue of SnapShot!
Hello,

March "madness" is going on at BetterPhoto.com ... so many exciting things happening! We welcome Charlotte Lowrie (Advanced Camera Raw Techniques course) to our talented team of online instructors. She follows right on the heels of another recent addition to our team: John Siskin (Understanding Professional Lighting). Kudos go to longtime instructor Tony Sweet, who has been named a Legend Behind the Lens by Nikon. Way to go, Tony! Also, Tony will be teaching a new class: Mastering the Nikon D200. More news: My Photographing Kids DVD is due out soon, but pre-order now and receive a free BetterPhoto toy for the kids! And even more news: The Second Annual BetterPhoto Summit is now official and promises to be an exciting, inspirational, and enjoyable event!

Jim Miotke
Where Is Jim?

Updates From BetterPhoto

This unique online course is devoted to the Nikon D200 digital SLR camera. Taught by professional photographer and author Tony Sweet, this 4-week class will take the mystery out of the camera controls, dials, menus, functions, etc., while offering many creative tips too. Learn more... This awesome Internet class has two goals: 1) to help you decide how to start with artificial lighting; and 2) to help you learn how to approach lighting problems with your equipment. New BetterPhoto instructor John Siskin, a widely published professional photographer, draws on years of experience in teaching professional lighting. Learn more... You've asked for it, you got it! Learn photography, meet friends, and have fun at the Second Annual BetterPhoto Summit! It takes place in Seattle, Washington, September 16th-17th, 2006. Learn more...

Photo Q&A

1: Photography: Editorial Vs. Commercial
Is an editorial photographer the same as a commercial photographer? If they differ, how so?
- Lauren 
ANSWER 1:
Actually, Lauren, yes and no. They do different types of work or perhaps similar depending on the assignment.
Traditionally, editorial photographers are thought of as shooting for publications, either as staffers or freelancers. They shoot for newspapers, periodicals, magazines, books, pamphlets, etc. Their primary role is to illustrate articles according to the assignment of their editors. In photojournalism (kind of a subdivision of editorial work and what I do mostly) most assignments are done without directing the subjects. Kind of shoot it as you see it, work without interfering and working more as an observer. Pure, illustrative editorial work is done primarily with some sort of direction.
Commercial work is essentially work done to promote products or services. A commercial photographer, more often than not, works with a number of people at once, usually an art director, account manager, and an illustrator and they're employed by ad agencies mainly. They may shoot anything from cars to jewelry and everything in between. They may do catalog work, or fashion advertisements. Commercial photographers usually require a lot more equipment than editorial shooters, usually in the form of lighting and related gear.
Most of my work is done on 35mm (film) cameras, some on medium format SLRs, and once in awhile, to shoot something like architecture, I use a view camera which is 4x5 format.
Oh, and for the most part, commercial work pays more than editorial. Two Web sites you might want to peruse:
http://www.asmp.org (This is the site for the American Society of Media Photographers.) Oh, there's also http://www.nppa.org. This group is pretty much newspaper photographers. (National Press Photographers Association)
And... one of my faves, http://www.apanational.com. That one is for Advertising Photographers of America, essentially commercial work.
I belong to all three but most of the time, I work as a photojournalist doing editorial work. ;>)
Take it light.
Mark
- Mark Feldstein
ANSWER 2:
BTW, forgot to note one thing that may be significant to you. In most instances, editorial work provides a photo credit beneath the photo or caption. Commercial work/ advertising doesn't.
- Mark Feldstein
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2: Fill Flash with Backlight
So far, I have been playing it safe and finding soft light in open shade and using a reflector. I would like to get into using fill flash but I'm not sure how to meter. If I am having the subjects positioned with the sun behind them and I don't want the background blown out, how do I meter to properly fill them with flash and still look natural?
- Jane Sheers
ANSWER 1:
Hi Jane,
What kind of camera are you using? Most of today's cameras have fill flash settings. This includes point and shoots. If you are using an old camera (my mainline camera is a Minolta X700), there are formulas. If I'm using my Maxxum 5D, I let the camera do the work. On my X700, I will meter off the background and find settings that will allow me to shoot at the flash sync speed (1/60 sec). I use the manual setting so the camera won't try to reset itself. This has worked very well for me.
Have fun and keep shooting,
Mark H.
- Mark R. Hiatt
ANSWER 2:
Hi Mark. I'm using a Nikon D-70. I shoot all my portrait stuff on manual settings. When I've tried using flash, I have it set on TTL and find that there is to much flash and it looks unnatural. Whenever I do natural light, I meter for the highlight side. I'm new to this and just not sure how to meter a background such as an ocean view for example with sun behind the subject. Do I point my meter to other way for that reading?
- Jane Sheers
ANSWER 3:
You may want to try taking your readings off a grey card. I'm still learning on my digital, so I'm mixing both what digital I've learned with what I know from my film camera.
Have fun and keep shooting,
Mark H.
- Mark R. Hiatt
ANSWER 4:
Hello Jane,
There really is no "magic" formula when calculating fill flash exposure to do what you are seeking. That being said, the D-70 has a wonderful attribute; it will sync at 1/500th. Pretty good for a 35mm.
You are on the right track shooting full manual. I would suggest this, especially if you do not want the background blown out:
Spot meter your subjects face ... meter the brightest area. Use this setting.
The D-70 can vary its flash from full to 1/16th. Experiment a little from full to 1/16th output. You should be able to find a pleasing middle ground.
The biggest problem with fill flash outdoors in bright sunlight is that your subject looks flat. A bounce card will help soften these shadow areas.
I'm assuming you are using the built-in flash? If you go with the SB-600 or 800, your results will be considerably better as you don't need to be as close.
- Pete Herman
ANSWER 5:
YOu want to use the SB-800 on manual. TTL will properly expose the subject, but will pretty much ignore the background. In Full manual, simply begin dialing down the flash power.
- Pete Herman
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3: Buying Tripod for Macro Photography
I am looking for a tripod that is relatively lightweight and compact that I can use for travel. I would like to use it for macro photography and have the capability of going low to the ground. I think I want a ball head with a quick release. Does anyone have any suggestions? I would like to keep it under $200. I am overwhelmed at all the choices. I have a Nikon D50 and my longest lens is a 300mm. Thanks for any suggestions.
- Teri L. Witt
ANSWER 1:
I would look at carbon fiber tripods. Gitzo and Manfrotto both offer various models. My preference is Gitzo. It is one of, if not, the finest tripods made in the world (IMHO). However, I doubt you'll find too many carbon fiber tripods in your price range. A good Gitzo with a Gitzo ball head, or a Kirk Enterprises ballhead (my choice), is as good as they come. The Kirks and Gitzos both come with the Arca Swiss Quick Release. Many of the Gitzo models also have legs that will span out straight, allowing you to literally lay the tripod on the ground. Manfrotto offers similar products, including their own QR system. These are not the best tripods you can buy (quality-wise), but they are certainly the most popular.
If it's at all possible to increase your tripod budget, you will not be sorry buying a quality brand tripod. A quality Gitzo tripod will last your entire life, and to my knowledge, they still offer a lifetime warranty. I own two, one about 13 years old, and the other 21 years old. Neither were cheap to buy, but again, neither will ever have to be replaced.
If you buy a cheap, or second-rate tripod, you will eventually replace it. And if you repeat your process, you may have to ultimately replace your replacement! Think about it. I truly believe it is financially cheaper to pay more for a better product one time. Good Luck.
- Michael H. Cothran
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4: Rules of Photography
Hi, I would like to know the steps or the rules of photography that all photographers should follow ... such as angle, light, composition...
- Adlah A. Alessa
ANSWER 1:
There aren't any definite rules. Get it in focus, get close enough, expose it right. Anything else depends on how you want the photo to look. The only thing I can think of is make everything you see in the photo work together to make a good photo.
- Gregory La Grange
ANSWER 2:
There are several so-called rules like the rule of thirds (don't put your subject in the middle of the frame), don't put a foreground object in the middle of the frame, don't put the horizon in the middle of the frame, etc. However, I have seen dramatic photos that broke all of these rules, so I have to agree with Gregory. If it looks good, it works.
- Kerry L. Walker
ANSWER 3:
This is why it is called art. If there were finite rules, it would be called Xerox. Let's not be afraid to be bold. Take what you want and how you want to express it. Peace, Karen
- Karen E. Michaels
ANSWER 4:
Hi Adlah; I know of only one granite rule for photographers. If it's a person or a work of art, get a release signed.
Have fun and keep shooting,
Mark
- Mark R. Hiatt
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5: Macro Lens Vs. Extension Tubes
I have a Digital Rebel and I am interested in getting into macro. Now, in class my teacher suggested that before buying all the macro lenses I wanted, that I should try out extension tubes and diopters. Plus, these would be interchangeable with my lenses, allowing all of them to focus closer. Here's my question. I was originally going to go for the 50mm macro lens and use it for portraits also. But then I also read that the plain old 50mm was an OK lens, even for being so cheap. So, do you think I should get the regular 50mm and get an extenion tube, thus giving all of my lenses the capability of macro, or should I go for the specific macro lens? I do like that the regular 50 is faster than the macro lens. I would just like some feedback. Thanks!
- Autumn Hernandez
ANSWER 1:
The extension tube should allow full use of aperture. I wouldn't bother with diopters, although some may like them. I got Canon's 50 macro so I'd have a macro and 50mm. It's not known for portraits because everybody goes with typical 100-135 ranges. But I like it ... gives an intimate feel to pictures that I like. Canon makes a life-size converter just for the 50 macro. Something to get later on.
- Gregory La Grange
ANSWER 2:
Thanks, Gregory, for your input. Yeah, I do a lot of infant photos so I think the 50 would actually be great for the types of photos I enjoy shooting. Ah, and yes, the life-size converter, yet another thing that makes it harder for me to choose. Why do there have to be so many great toys out there?! It makes choosing so difficult.
- Autumn Hernandez
ANSWER 3:
Just keep in mind that extension tubes will cost you light and DOF. The more you stack, the more you lose. Also, with a 50 with one or more 'tubes attached, you will need to get very close to your subject to get it in focus and you will lose the ability to focus on distant objects. A true macro lens can focus from 1-1 lifesize (or 1/2 lifesize) all the way to infinity. For those days I need to travel light (only one body and lens), I reach for my 55mm 2.8 macro (micro) lens for its versatility. I can shoot portraits and landscapes as well as getting close without adding any lens accessories.
- Bob Cammarata
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6: Indoor Arena Photography
I take equestrian photos in indoor arenas where natural lighting is not good; but flash units are not practical for non-pro use. Currently, I am shooting with a Canon 5D with 135mm f2.0 fixed lens with ISO ramped to max. While my photos are OK to good, I generally have to use digital darkroom techniques to optimize. I am currently looking to improve with a Canon 85mm f1.2 lens, but am cautious about the small depth of field (and reportedly slow autofocus). Any words of advice on this for a non-pro photographer?
- Ralph 
ANSWER 1:
Ralph,
The most important factor in considering the 85/1.2 lens is if the focal length is long enough for your needs. If you're comfortable viewing the arena with a 135mm lens, it may be that 85mm will be too short, requiring you to crop deeper into your image. Shooting at f1.2 would be about 1.5 stops faster than your f2 lens, which is significant in my book. And considering the distance, assuming you are in the stands shooting into an arena, I don't think DOF will be too much of a problem at all. I'd check further into the focusing speed issue, and especially into the focal length difference. Unfortunately, there are no other alternatives as far as speed goes.
- Michael H. Cothran
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7: Image Stabilization: What Is It?
What is image stabilization? Is it very important to someone who mostly takes family/vacation snapshots?
- Stephanie M. Stevens
ANSWER 1:
Hi, Stephanie! In a nutshell, image stabilization is a mechanical "anti-shake" system built into either lenses or digital camera sensors. It senses and counteracts subtle movements when you are hand-holding a camera, and helps prevent blurred pictures. It's great if you do a lot of low light shooting, especially indoors when you don't want to (or can't) use a flash. It would also be helpful on vacation when you want to get that great "postcard" shot, but the crowds prevent you from setting up on a tripod. It can really help you get a few more great shots when conditions are less than ideal. Hope this helps!
- Paul Tobeck
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