The weekly newsletter on the art of photography from
Monday, October 30, 2006
Featured Gallery
Welcome Note
This Week's Tip
Updates From BetterPhoto
Q&A 1: Shooting Portrait...
Q&A 2: How Long Do Memor...
Q&A 3: Getting a Good Ex...
Q&A 4: Lighting and Focu...
Q&A 5: Which First: Redu...
Q&A 6: 3nd Annual Better...

"Ibarionex is very encouraging and speaks clearly when critiqueing. The lesson plans are clearly laid out and easily digested. He responds quickly to individual questions. He is an excellent photographer, and his examples are impressive as well as inspiring. You will walk away from this class a much better photographer than when you signed up!" - student in Available Light Portraiture by Ibarionex Perello, who also teaches Posing and Portraiture Techniques. Both classes start November 1st!

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In Praise of Lens Hoods ... by Kerry Drager
I use a lens hood (lens shade) on ALL of my lenses! This handy device fits on the front of the lens and helps keep sunlight from hitting the glass, which can cause flare - unsightly reflections or splotches of light on the photo. More thoughts:
- Each lens has a specific recommendation for its add-on lens hood. Note: Some telephoto lenses come with their own built-in lens hoods. A wrong-size hood can cause vignetting (dark corners on the picture). But even when using the correct-size hood, however, vignetting can sometimes occur if you're also stacking filters (using more than one) - particularly a possible problem with wide-angle lenses.
- The hood only works when the sun is totally out of the picture frame. With the sun just barely out of view, you may even need additional help - say, your hand or hat to block out rays of light. And, something to keep in mind: Occasionally, flare can be used for creative effect!
- Side effect: A hood can also provide extra protection for your valuable lens glass.
Editor's Note:Kerry Drager teaches two online classes here at BetterPhoto:
- Creative Light & Composition
- Creative Close-ups (which begins Nov. 1st).

Featured Gallery
Chicago at Night
© - Tali Kimelman

Welcome to the 288th issue of SnapShot!

What an exciting week with the changeover from October to November! First, our new round of four-week online photography classes gets under way on November 1st. Second, I'm thrilled that copies of my latest book have just arrived at our offices! In celebration, if you're among the first 200 orders of BetterPhoto Guide to Digital Nature Photography, you will receive a free Betterphoto.comŽ Canvas Tote. ... And more good news at the BP Store: All books are $5 off the list price. ... In this issue of SnapShot, don't miss our usual features, including a great Q&A, with info on low-light photography, getting good snow exposures, etc. ... That's it for now. Enjoy your week of photography!

Jim Miotke
Where Is Jim?

Updates From BetterPhoto

BetterPhoto's November 4-week online school gets under way this Wednesday (the 1st). These classes are fast, fun, cover shooting techniques, Photoshop, specific cameras, and many other exciting topics. So what are you waiting for? Sign up today! ... OK, this week too soon? Check out our line-up of eight-week classes, which begin January 3rd. In his awesome new book, BP Founder and photographer Jim Miotke offers hands-on lessons that cover every aspect of digital nature photography. Best yet, the first 200 orders of the BetterPhoto Guide to Digital Nature Photography will receive a FREE Betterphoto.comŽ Canvas Tote! Learn more... Want to receive critiques of your photographs from a professional? At BetterPhoto, we offer two exciting options. Learn more...

Photo Q&A

1: Shooting Portraits Against a Sunset Sky
Hi, all you experienced photographers, I have just started shooting weddings and will be doing my first in Hawaii on a beach at sunset. I know how to do silhouettes but I am looking for tips on flash use to get the couple in the picture looking great with the sunset in the background. Thanks.
- Erica Crawford
Fill-flash with one stop under exposure. I'd bracket for good measure. If this is for the formal photos, you may want to consider two flash guns, off-camera wireless if possible, on their own light stands/tripods, and two reflectors held by assistants to open up shadows on the couple.
Want to know for sure? Then do a test run the night before, with somebody else.
- W. Smith
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2: How Long Do Memory Cards Last?
I have been using my memory card for more than two years, just erasing pics when I have them saved to disc. Do they ever wear out? How long is too long to use them?
- Camilla Mecham
I don't know about them wearing out - but they can corrupt, at any time! I was given advice to not just delete my images, but to always re-format my card. But be very sure you've saved the images first!! By re-formatting, you erase all those teeny little bits of info that are left behind, so I guess, if you just keep deleting, you're going to get a sort of build-up. If you delete, you'll be able to 'save' and recover lost images. If you re-format the card, and THEN shoot again, the original data will be gone forever.
- Robyn Ball
Hello Camilla,
Your question depends on a number of factors. 1) How often is it written to? 2) What duration is it written at? 3) Operating temperature?
There are currently two types of memory "cards" for digital cameras:
1) "CF" and/or "SD" The only difference in the two are physical size, and the CF card uses a "controller" in it's circuitry.
2) Micro drives: These are essentially tiny hard drives. While they have tremendous capacity, they also have moving parts.
CF and SD cards do not have moving parts; hence the word "Flash" in CF, or flash memory. They are EEPROMS... eraseable.
A microdrive has more disadvantages compared to its high capacity advantage. 1) Mechanical shock can damage it more easily than a CF or SD ... and, the moving parts within are always being degraded when accessed.
Whew! That being said, the short answer to your question is this: CF and/or SD show a failure rate somewhere around 40,000-70,000 cycles. This is an average; again depending on operating parameters. The card will probably wear out mechanically before this will occur (i.e., the edge card pins will wear out unless you never remove it from the camera).
1)If your question stems from a safety point of view, I suggest you ALWAYS have extra cards on hand.
2) Avoid large-capacity cards (4MB and up). While it may seem a time saver NOT having to change the card as often, this is what I call the "eggs in one basket" philosophy. Let's say you shoot on a 4GB card... Lots of images of that once-in-a-lifetime vacation. Then your card "crashes" or you lose it... You have nothing to take home.
Shoot several 1 MB cards - at least if one crashes, you'll have images on the others. You'll thank me for this advice someday. LOL
While considerably more durable than "microdrives", CF and SD cards are still prone to electrical, mechanical and environmental shock. Treat them nice. :)
Finally, yes!... There are quality differences between card manufacturers. Cheap brand X cards have poor circuit board construction...poor component tolerances. These will lead to premature and more frequent corruption.
- Pete Herman
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3: Getting a Good Exposure in Snow
With the snow season coming up, could you give some pointers on making adjustments with the Digital Camera and the effect bright snow has on the camera? Thank you.
- James C. Scott
You could try to meter the sky (if sunny), and then re-compose. Another thing to try is to compensate by +1.5 to +2 stops. The reason for this is that your meter will think the snow is very bright and it will give a false meter reading which means ,you may end up with gray snow if you don't compensate. It is not a typo, you want to ADD 1.5 to 2 stops.
- Mike Rubin
James, if you don't have an incident hand-held meter, you can just get an 18% grey card and meter off of that. Before you take your shot, put the grey card in the same light your shot will be and point your camera at that. Now press down halfway and see what the meter says. Now shoot the scene the same as what the meter said.
You said you're shooting digital, so here's the best part. That whole immediate feedback thing everyone brags about ... USE IT! lol. Just shoot one and check it out on the LCD. If it's way off, the change your exposure to fix it. Now if it looks good, expose two more shots. One shot 1/2 stop over-exposed and another shot 1/2 stop under-exposed. This will give you 3 shots that are very close to each other but when you get on your monitor you can pick the best one. The reason I say bracket your exposures is because the LCD screen should only be used as a guideline. What looks good on there may not be a perfect exposure, so if you do the 1/2 under/over, then once you hop on the computer, you should have a perfect one. Hope this helps any.
- Justin G.
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4: Lighting and Focus Issues in Low Light
I take many low-light sunset pictures with some success but a lot of failures. My primary camera is a fuji S-5000. I love this camera and will buy a fuji S-9000 soon. I think this problem of focus is from my being newly brouht into the digital feild and I hope my new camera which has image stabilisation. Is a tripod the way to go? Also, what do you think of the new Fuji S-4 (yet to be briught out)? I guess you can tell I am hooked on Fuji. It is the only digital camera I have a good working knowledge of. Thanks for any info you can share with me!
- dean winchell
Thanks for your question. Photographing in low light situations brings a host of new challenges that, with a little practice, you can master and really diversify your photography.
A common cause of disappointment in low-light situations is a blurry picture. Because there is significantly less light at dusk than during the day, the camera selects a slow shutter speed to correctly exposure your picture. Unfortunately, our body's natural movement causes blurry pictures at these slow shutter speeds. The best remedy is, as you mention, a tripod. Using a tripod regularly is the single best way to improve your low light photography.
I haven't had a chance to use the Fuji cameras you mention. You might try posting a Fuji-only question to the forum and see if you can get feedback from other BP members using those cameras.
Enjoy your low-light shooting!

Editor's Note: Jay Kinghorn teaches two excellent courses right here at BetterPhoto: Digital Fundamentals, which begins November 1st, and Night and Low-Light Photography.

- Jay Kinghorn

See Jay Kinghorn's Premium Gallery:

Take an Online Photo Course with Jay Kinghorn:
4-Week Short Course: Digital Fundamentals
Night and Low-Light Photography
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5: Which First: Reduce Noise or Sharpen?
I'm using Photoshop CS2 and Imagenomic Noiseware. I use adjustment layers for levels, curves, etc. After the adjustments, I create another layer with "stamp visible", which is basically a flattened version of the previous layers (but without actually flattening). Next, I've been doing noise reduction with Noiseware and then sharpening using the smart sharpen filter. Should you reduce noise before sharpening or vice versa?
- Deb James
I've heard it both ways, Deb, and frankly I'm responding as much to see what others say as to offer a definite answer myself. I have also heard that it may depend on the image itself. Generally, though, I think it's best to save sharpening to the final step, since the artifacts created by sharpening may become exaggerated with noise reduction. Of course, that too may depend on what kind of sharpening is done - "normal" or luminance based.
- Bob 
Hello Deb,
Conventional wisdom dictates sharpening last. With that said, not all photos require sharpening and/or noise reduction. Furthermore, many people will sharpen the entire image... this is often not necessary.
As an example: a portrait with wispy clouds in the background. I would most likely sharpen my subject, but NOT the clouds. The clouds may or may not need noise reduction.
Example 2: Formal portrait... Some will only sharpen the eyes as they want the skin to look soft.
Sharpening and noise reduction are quite image dependent.
All the best,
- Pete Herman
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6: 3nd Annual BetterPhoto Photography Weekend - 2007
Thanks to all participants for making the 2006 BetterPhoto Photography Weekend a huge success. Next year, we are looking into holding our 3nd Annual BetterPhoto Photography Weekend on September 14th and 15th, 2007.
Since many of our members live near the East Coast and have been patiently waiting for us to come to them, we are looking into taking this show on the road! The New York area is looking very likely but we are open to suggestions.
If you have any suggestions as to where to hold the 3nd Annual BetterPhoto Photography Weekend, or suggestions regarding venues near the New York / New Jersey area, let us know here.
Again, thanks for helping us make the 2nd Annual meeting this September such a fun-filled, high-energy event. It truly was fantastic!

- Jim at
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