The weekly newsletter on the art of photography from
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
Featured Gallery
Welcome Note
This Week's Tip
Updates From BetterPhoto
Q&A 1: Digital Color to ...
Q&A 2: Releases for Flow...
Q&A 3: Black Background ...
Q&A 4: ND Filter Vs. Pol...
Q&A 5: Flash Photography...
Q&A 6: Portrait Photogra...

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Computer Monitor: Keeping Out Glare ... by Brenda Tharp
"Many of us have our computers in rooms that are difficult to get dark enough to see the screen well or keep glare from skimming across the surface," wrote Brenda Tharp in a recent BetterBlog. "You can buy a hood for your monitor, but why spend the money when you can make one from railroad board or matte board from an art store? With a few cuts and taping, you can custom fit the hood for your monitor."
Editor's Note: Learn more about master photographer-author Brenda Tharp and her excellent courses at BetterPhoto through her Premium Gallery.

Learn to see creatively and to develop your photographic vision through sound principles of art. In his new online class, master photographer, author and instructor Jim Zuckerman draws upon decades of experience to share with you creative ways of "seeing" that will enable you to identify and capture great pictures. His 8-week online class begins in July. Learn more...
Photo by Jim Zuckerman
Featured Gallery

Welcome to the 265th issue of SnapShot!

Some exciting things are happening at BetterPhoto! Our Summer school session is shaping up to be our very best ever. For example, we recently added a new instructor (Scott Stulberg) who's teaching an awesome course: Photoshop Tips, Tricks and Filter Magic. We also have new classes by popular instructor Robin Nichols (Paint Shop Pro and Advanced Adobe Photoshop Elements) and two more camera-specific classes: Jim White's The Canon 30D and Simon Stafford's Nikon D50 Camera. At the same time, instructor Jon Canfield has just revamped his excellent Digital Slide Shows course into a fun and fast-paced 4-week class. That's it for now ... enjoy your photography!

Jim Miotke
Where Is Jim?

Updates From BetterPhoto

In BetterPhoto's online classes, you interact directly with well-published, professional photographers who are also experienced instructors. These courses are so much fun and you learn a lot in a very short time. Learn more... Learn the basics of photographing children in Jim Miotke's new DVD, Photographing Kids. This jam-packed DVD features over two hours of helpful, informative, and inspiring content. Learn more... Learn photography, meet friends, see programs by BP instructors, and have fun in a jam-packed weekend. The 2nd Annual BetterPhoto Summit takes place September 16th-17th, 2006, in Seattle, Washington. For details...

Photo Q&A

1: Digital Color to B&W
I use a pentax ist ds, and like all SLRs, you see the world in colour. I wanted to know if anybody had any tips for changing colour photos to black and white using Photoshop. I know you can desaturate the photo, but it doesn't quite have the B&W film quality to it.
- Jason Gehrman
Yes you can. Open the file. Make an adjustment layer and select Hue/Saturation then click OK. Now make another adjustment layer and select Hue and Saturation. Move the saturation slider all the way to the left at -100. The pic should be B&W now. Click OK. Now click on the first adj. layer and in the box where it says normal click and slide down and select color. After that double click on the layer and choose Hue and Saturation. The hue slider will do the tonal adjusting, and in the upper box that says master, choose only one color to adjust at a time. There is also a free plug-in from "Earthbound Light" for black and white. It works well but for some reason when I use it I can't do anything else afterwards like dodge and burn or sharpen. Maybe you would have better luck than me. Good luck
- Darren J. Gilcher
Here is what one BP member told me:
"I used the lightness channel method discussed by Scott Kelby. In the image drop down select lab color then go to channels and select the lightness channel. CTR "J" and you have a duplicate layer. Select blending mode of multiply. Then fine tune the look by using the % slider for that layer. Every time I've tried this it looks like about 50% looks good."
- Cherylann Collins
And look at this thread:"
There are some great plug-ins and techniques mentioned!

Editor's Note: For some great B&W inspiration, check out the Monthly Theme finalists in the April contest: Black and White.

- Cherylann Collins
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2: Releases for Flowers?
If I took a picture of someone's flowers that was very close-up and you can't see anything else in the frame, and they really could be anyone's flowers, would I still need a property release to sell that image?
- Stephanie M. Stevens
Technically and legally, yes. But not from the "someone" who grew the flower, rather from the company that produced the commercial seed it grew from. Why? Because flower varieties, like vegetables, are produced from specialized seed that are both genetically and agriculturally patented, and their particularized names are copyrighted by the seed company, the commercial grower, the seed coating company or all three. The patents and copyrights are "ownership interests" in their trade and protected under federal law. International varieties are registered as well here, and likewise protected.
How do I know this bit of rather esoteric trivia? Primarily because I shoot a lot of work for commercial vegetable growers like Tanimura and Antle, Fresh Express, Dole, and a lot of seed companies and coaters like Upjohn, Asgrow, and others, including flower seed producers and growers in Central California.
So, while a flower may be just like any other flower, unless you happen to be the Little Prince in St. Exupreux's book, a seed sales rep. can look at a whole greenhouse of plants, spot their firm's varieties and name them with nary a second glance. It's actually quite impressive. Lettuce has facial features as do flowers. A good seeds person can tell you when a plant has been cross-bred with another to produce another variety and which type of seeds produced it. So can a plant geneticist familiar with a particular species.
But, assuming the "someone" tossed out the envelope the seed came in, or the grower's name is no longer available, you could probably raise that argument in defense and as long as you don't show the flower in a derrogatory manner, like any other commercial product, your secret is safe with at least us. ;>)

Flower Photography Tip
BTW, as an aside to your question, which is a good one, I think, you might like to know that L the best way to photograph flowers, in any setting, is to rig a light tent above them to diffuse the light. Take an incident reading using a light meter and bracket by 1/3 of an f-stop to one full stop either direction. That in turn will help you capture all the neat detail without blowing out the highlights. You'll probably like the results in the 1/3 or 1/2 f-stop underexposed. Just thought I'd mention it.
Take it light.

- Mark Feldstein
Releases for flowers!

(...where will it end!)
I always thought that anything incapable of dialing an attorney was OK to shoot.

- Bob Cammarata
Yes indeedy Bob, the hits just keep on comin'!!! LOL !!!
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news :<(
- Mark Feldstein
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3: Black Background for Flower Photos
I am new to this site and I am learning a great deal here, but I still want to know how you get the black background when shooting a close up of a flower. I am very limited with my camera settings, since I have a cheap camera compared to most - Kodak Z740. I usually take way better outdoor pictures under natural lighting. I do not know how to take good pictures indoors at this point.
- Tammy L. Newcomb
Hi Tammy. Welcome to BP. When I started close to a year ago, I held up my husband's tux jacket behind the flowers. You have to be careful doing so as many materials reflect light and you can end up with shiny spots on your black background. What I have found that works just as beautifully is a piece of black velvet. The light doesn't reflect off of it; it is absorbed. Hope this helps and good luck!
- Margie Hurwich
Agreed, I use black velvet as well. I picked up a piece at the remnant table. My only problem with velvet is lint. I also use a simple piece of smooth black art paper. I usually do my close-ups in full manual and set the aperture for a limited Depth of Field and then adjust shutter speed for a slight underexposure.
- George R. BardSee Sample Photo - Rose in salt shaker.

Hi, Tammy and welcome to BP! Flowers are some of my favorite subjects in photography, and most of what I shoot is done outside in natural light. The secrets I have learned to make flowers pop and to creating a dark or at least unnoticeable background: 1. shoot either in early morning or during a heavy overcast – never in the middle of the day when colors get washed out by bright sunlight. 2. Use a large aperture (small f stop #) to focus in on the flower and eliminate the background. 3. When necessary, use a piece of dark cloth or even a piece of black foam core as your background. You may also use a photo-editing program such as Photoshop to blur your background or to make it black; however, I find that if I am careful while creating the image I do not need to do much editing. I do not do much indoor work, so have not really explored that avenue to creating these images.
- Irene C. Troy
Get close to your flower and use flash ... set to illuminate ONLY the flower. As long as there is nothing behind the subject within range of the flash, your background will be black. I've also used the methods Margie and Irene described (felt and posterboards), and it's true that outdoor flower work in natural light works best in heavy overcast. If you meter the flower, the black background will come out black. (Sometimes a tweak in contrast with your software program can make a not-so-black background a little bit darker.)
- Bob Cammarata
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4: ND Filter Vs. Polarizing Filter
I am going to be shooting some outdoor pictures this weekend. I have both a polarizing filter and neutral-density filter. Which would be better to use to capture a little boy in a shaded area? Or would you recommend using a filter at all? I'm going to try to keep everything in the shade, but may be in the sun a bit, too.
- Valarie Paris
A ND filter is useful for "dimming" the light when you are in bright light and/or desire a slower shutter speed. No real need for it if you are shooting in the shade. The polarizer, in addition to removing certain reflections, also acts as a 2-stop ND filter. Unless there are reflections you need or want to remove, I see no reason to use it in this situation either. A word of caution to you: Shooting in the shade on bright sunny days (with daylight film, or daylight-balanced white settings) will result in images with a pronounced bluish cast - normally not advisable or desirable on human skin.
- Michael H. Cothran
Sounds like a perfect scenario for a warming filter. Shaded sunlight is cold and will record on film or on digital sensors with the blue-cast Michael described. The intensity of the color-cast will be more pronounced in areas of really deep shade. With film, an 81-A or 81-B filter will correct the blue-cast incurred during shaded sunlight conditions and render more natural colors and skin tones.
- Bob Cammarata
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5: Flash Photography: Some Tips and Tricks
Idiot's Guide to Flash-
I'm so green with photography that I'm still planted in the dirt ... no sprout yet. I need a book or a Web site or some other type of instruction that explains flash (when to use, when not to use, how to take the romantic picture without the "in-your-face" flash).
- Olivia Hurtado
LMBO! Your beginning sentence was so funny I had to respond! I don't know if there is a book like what you are looking for but I hope you find it.
A quick and dirty response of when to use flash and when not to is as follows: Use it as sparingly as possible but do use it when there is not enough light to illuminate your subject. Surprisingly, one of the times you really need to use the flash is outside during the bright part of the day. The sun can create harsh shadows on your subject and you will want to add a little flash to fill in those shadows. (Better to shoot in the shade though, if possible.)
To eliminate the "in-your-face" flash, keep the flash out of their faces. Bounce it, diffuse it, whatever you can do to keep from using direct flash.
- Kerry L. Walker
If you want to bounce your flash and have nothing to bounce it off of, there are bounce cards made for such a purpose. Lumiquest makes a line that covers most situations, including one with a diffusion screen mounted to it.
- Mark R. Hiatt
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6: Portrait Photography: Lens, Flash
I'm planning a career in mainly children and family portraits. I have a Nikon D50 with the 28-80mm lens. I also bought the Tamron 28-300mm lens. I'm really wanting to know what other lenses I should have for portraits. I also bought the Sigma EF-500 DG Super NA-iTTL speedlight. Should I get a light meter for this?
- Courtney newman
A separate flash/light meter is useful with studio strobes where you have to set flash exposure manually. The EF 500 DG Super is fully automatic, controlled by the camera's i-TTL metering. A separate meter would be useful only if you were to use the EF 500's full Manual output settings. For portraits, a prime lens with a wide maximum aperture to narrow the Depth of Field is desirable - 50 f/1.4 (or f/1.8) and 85 f/1.4 (or f/1.8) are good choices for the D50.
- Jon Close
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