The weekly newsletter on the art of photography from
Monday, July 31, 2006
Featured Gallery
Welcome Note
This Week's Tip
Updates From BetterPhoto
Q&A 1: Stacking Filters:...
Q&A 2: Double Image: Wha...
Q&A 3: Polarizing Filter...
Q&A 4: Blurry Pictures...
Q&A 5: Tripod Buying Tip...
Q&A 6: Best Portable Bac...

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Take a Break from Image Editing ... By Richard Lynch
There are times in editing your images that you will know the image could be better, but you just aren't getting it right. Certainly you'll want to be sure you are using the right tools for the right job and applying layered corrections so you can adjust your corrections optimally. Get help when you need it by asking questions (and where better to do that than the helpful BetterPhoto forum or classes!).
But assuming you are using the right tools and you know what you want to accomplish, if you are getting a little frustrated, put the image aside and do something else for a while. Trying to work on an image without stopping during a frustrating correction is one way to make image editing a chore, rather than the exploration and joy that it can be. The best images were never made when someone was working on an image while they were frustrated and tired. After a break, you'll come back with new vigor, and likely you'll tackle that image problem!"
Editor's Note: Richard Lynch teaches two awesome online courses: From Monitor to Print: Photoshop Workflow and Leveraging Layers: Photoshop's Most Powerful Tool.

Featured Gallery
Sometimes, Teeball is Boring
© - Rob Friedman

Welcome to the 275th issue of SnapShot!

At BetterPhoto, we are absolutely thrilled with all of the good things going on as we start a new month. For instance, our August 4-Week online school kicks off this Wednesday (Aug. 2nd). These Short Courses are fast, fun, and to the point. Also, we are kicking off a new program to reward members who have taken multiple courses: with discounts to the 2nd Annual BetterPhoto Summit - see all of the details elsewhere in this SnapShot newsletter. In addition, we have totally revamped our courses page and our skill levels page - all to make it easier to find the photography or Photoshop course that's right for you.

Jim Miotke
Where Is Jim?

Updates From BetterPhoto

Check out our awesome August class session, with online courses beginning this Wednesday, August 2nd! Too soon? Then see our September class schedule. Do we have a deal for you! Take 2-4 BetterPhoto courses, and receive a 20% discount to this year's BetterPhoto Summit (September 16-17, near Seattle, WA). Take 5-9 BetterPhoto courses, and receive a 50% discount to the Summit. Take 10+ BetterPhoto courses, and receive free admission to the Summit. If you have 2+ courses under your belt, email or call us to get your special Promo Code for the discount. Learn more... BetterPhoto's Fall online school promises to be the best ever. We have dozens and dozens of fantastic 8-week classes, including the new Better to Best Color in Digital Photography by Outdoor Photographer editor Rob Sheppard. Not sure which course to take? Give our Course Calculator a try ... it's easy!

Photo Q&A

1: Stacking Filters: Is It OK?
Can you use more than one filter at one time? In this photo, I only used a circular polarizer to enhance the water, but the lake and trees still show up hazy (it was a very hot and humid day). Could I have used the UV filter at the same time? If so, which should go on first--or does it matter?
- Amber StephensSee Sample Photo - Lake Cumberland 2

Amber, there's no rule that says you can't use multiple filters, but there are some potential issues to consider:
First, there is a chance for more flare to occur, as each fulter adds two air/glass interfaces.
Second is the (minor) chance of increasing optical distortion - if you use top-quality filters like B+W, then you should be OK, but less-expensive filters may not be as perfectly flat and thus can cause some distortion on their own. Adding more filters just multiplies the effect.
Third is the possibility of vignetting - that is, having the corners go dark because the filter rings themselves extend far enough to get caught in the picture. Now this is only an issue when you use very wide-angle lenses (like 24mm or less on a 35mm film camera), so if you're using normal or tele lenses or have a DSLR with a crop factor this is very unlikely.
If you do decide on multiple filters, I'd put the polarizer on top.
- Bob 
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2: Double Image: What Happened?
What happened? I used a main light with a white umbrella, a hair light., an off-camera flash with my Canon Digital Rebel XT. Why the double image?
- Joy glenn
Without actually seeing the images you mentioned, I'll just hazard a guess: It sounds like what you have is "ghosting", which can be caused by your flash units firing and your shutter speed is so slow as to record an image using ambient room light. OR, make sure your lights are all working and firing at the same time (assuming your umbrella and hair light are also strobes or flash).
Whaddya think?
- Mark Feldstein
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3: Polarizing Filter: Using with a Zoom Lens
How do I properly use a polarizing filter on a zoom lens?
- Karen J. Grouten
Hello, Karen:It depends what you want to do. Tip: If your zoom lens rotates the barrel externally, you will have to readjust the filter each time you zoom.
A polarizer is primarily used to limit glare. Natural light is "non-polarized" - i.e., the light scatters in no particular direction. A polarizer "aligns" the light by accepting or rejecting a particular narrow scatter angle. Hence, blue skies can be made to look bluer... window reflections can often be eliminated, etc.
This filter is best used at "off angles" to the sun - 90-120-145 degrees, etc. It's not useful looking towards the sun or 180 degrees away from the sun.
Hope that helps a tad. Pete
- Pete Herman
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4: Blurry Pictures
Recently, I purchased a Nikon D70s - easy to use, but I am finding quite a few of my photos are blurred... I came across another photographer who was having the same problem with his D70s. Is this a common fault with the camera? Thanks.
- Ellen 
Ellen, there are two kinds of blur - focus and motion related. Focus problems might occur if there is a problem with the auto-focus mechanism of your particular camera, but frankly that's quite unlikely.
The more likely answer is that you are shooting at too slow of a shutter speed, and the motion of your subjct (or even of you) causes the blur. As a general rule of thumb, the slowest shutter speed you whould use handheld is 1 over the focal-length- times-1.5. That is, if you are using a 200mm lens, the slowest speed you should use is 1/300th of a second. If the shutter remains open longer than that, it's quite likely that the image will appear blurry.
- Bob 
Hi Ellen,
The term "easy" to use in reference to the D-70 is a misnomer. LOL
This camera has so many features, many who are not familiar in setting it up will often experience problems. There are three focus modes, further sub-grouped into three more modes... Closest focus... Dynamic focus... Center focus; AF area... AF spot... AF zone lock... etc., etc.
Setting it improperly for a particular shot will often lead to so-called focus problems.
Do this: Shoot something in your home with the flash on full program mode... a chair, an apple, whatever. If it's in focus, you do not have a focus problem.
- Pete Herman
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5: Tripod Buying Tips
Any Nikon shooters out there with advice on a good tripod, not too expensive. I plan on using it for portrait photography. Thanks:)
- Lisa M. Sherwood
Lisa, I too shoot with the D70 and have been very happy with my Bogen-Manfrotto 3021 BPro tripod with the 3047 three-way head. The tripod is tall enough that I can look through the viewfinder with the legs extended without the center column extended at all. This is an alun=minum tripod, not carbon fiber, but the price was right for me; about $140 for the tripod and $85 for the head. I Think this head would be great fro portrait work; however, I'm considering a ball head for outdoor and nature photography.


- John R. Rhodes
Lisa, if that's more than you want to spend the Manfrotto 724b is a decent tripod as well. It's lightweight, but the ball head does not come off. If at all possible, you should go to a camera store and look at them. That's the only way you can know with some certainty you'll be happy with your choice.
- Sharon D
My question to you, Lisa, is why you need a tripod to shoot portraits in the first place. I ask that for a number of reasons. If you're working at very slow shutter speeds and in a dimly lit shooting space then yes, a tripod is helpful to prevent camera shake. But having the ability to move around your subject while working, using your camera, in a sense, like a sketch pad is real useful and you may find working without a tripod actually improves your work. Whaddya think?
But if you really want a pod, I recommend Gitzos. I shoot (not portraits) with Nikon F-2's on a Gitzo Reporter or Studex using a Linhof Profi II or III ballhead and quick fix plates. The Reporter is really portable but sturdy as is the studex which is also solid and extends to about 9 feet with a shorter center column. Both have lasted about the length of my career.
Regardless of which tripod you get, it should last you through camera and format changes so it doesn't end up in a closet gathering dust bunnies with the equipment bags we outgrew.
Take it light.
- Mark Feldstein
Hi Lisa,
For what it is worth, I would add the following general advice to this thread concerning choice of a tripod.
A number of tripod manufacturers now offer tripods made from composite materials, such as carbon fiber or basalt rock, rather than the more traditional metal (generally aluminum) - the advantage is a significant reduction in weight without any loss of rigidity.
Here are a few things to consider when choosing a tripod:
Choice of tripod head type will depend on your personal preference between either a ball and socket head, or a pan and tilt head. If you opt for the ball-and-socket type, make sure it is a centre ball type, as the off-centre varieties are awkward to position with any precision.
Ball-and-socket heads are much quicker to operate and lock securely, whilst pan-and-tilt heads are much slower to use but can be useful when you need to align the camera with a high degree of precision.
As far as the choice of tripod is concerned, you should look at models that will position the camera at eye-level without use of the centre column. The number of leg sections will generally be compromise based on factors such as speed of operation, rigidity, and compactness; models with fewer sections are usually better in respect of the first two attributes but are less compact. The type of leg lock is another important consideration; twist locks are quicker to use but are more susceptible to the ingress of dust and dirt, which can clog the threads. Lever locks offer better resistance to this problem but tend to protrude, so they often snag on things when being carried.
My personal choice is the Gitzo Studex Series 3 G1348 carbon fibre tripod with Gitzo G1377M centre-ball head, as this offers me the best compromise between weight and size, whilst being very rigid. I have replaced the standard Gitzo head plate with a dovetail clamp from the Really Right Stuff and use dedicated camera/lens plates from the same manufacturer. However, what works for me is not necessarily going to work for you, so spend some time researching what is available from the various manufacturers.
You may wish to start by taking a look at the following:

Editor's Note: Check out Simon Stafford's online courses: The Nikon D50 Camera and The Nikon D70-series Cameras

- Simon Stafford

See Simon Stafford's Premium Gallery:

Take an Online Photo Course with Simon Stafford:
4-Week Short Course: The Nikon D70-series Cameras - August
4-Week Short Course: The Nikon D50 Camera - August
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6: Best Portable Backdrops
I'm starting to do portraits on location. Most of them are done outside, but if I can't shoot outside and have to go into the home, I'll need a backdrop just in case. Any suggestions on the best portable ones out there? What's the best material and color to start out with?
- Pamela Hodgdon
Pam, check these Web sites:, and
- Buddy Purugganan
Pamela: I'd recommend white muslin as your first backdrop - very basic but commonly used color. I think everybody should have white. After that, you can start getting more interesting colors. :)
- Danielle E. Rutter
You should have a black one and a white one for starters. I have some sample ones that I made from sheets and spray paint in my gallery you could look at.
- Pat Worster
Greetings Pam: Some of the best backgrounds I've had are well-used house painters canvas drop cloths. What I usually do is buy a couple of new ones - heavy-duty commercial variety from Home Depot - and call a couple of painters I know and see if they've got any used ones to trade. The patterns are always random, colorful, they wash well, travel in a small duffel bag, can be cut down, AND you don't spend a lot of money for them ($25-$50 for each blank one) and don't get locked into using one color. AND you can even buy blank ones to make your own with a couple of cans of watercolor tempura paint. That way the paint is washable and you can redo your masterpieces. :>))) Knowhatimeanhuh?
Take it light.
- Mark Feldstein
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