The weekly newsletter on the art of photography from
Monday, November 27, 2006
Featured Gallery
Welcome Note
This Week's Tip
Updates From BetterPhoto
Q&A 1: Can I Use Lenses ...
Q&A 2: Family Portrait L...
Q&A 3: Printing 4x6 and ...
Q&A 4: Indoor Basketball...
Q&A 5: Photographing 3-M...
Q&A 6: Signing a Photogr...

"Great course! Paul has reinvented the wheel as far as photography with flash is concerned. Finally, I have the confidence to use my flash and know that I will be getting a great, natural-looking image. Paul is very generous with his time and advice - this is one course that I will always be thankful that I took!" - student in Paul Gero's Using Your Canon Strobe Creatively class


In his exciting new PhotoCourse™, stock shooter Scott Stulberg will show you how to harness your love of photography and how to create images that generate income year after year. Class starts December 6th! Learn more...


Learn more about photography through "Instructor Insights" (by Jim Zuckerman, Brenda Tharp, John Siskin, etc.) and Jim Miotke's "The BetterPhoto Digital Photography Show"! Better Blogs...

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Important Things About Lighting ... By John Siskin
There are 2 and 1/2 important things about lighting.
#1 is color - whether you control it in the camera or in the computer.
#2 is the size of the light source - the bigger the light source, then the softer and more directionless it is. Light on an overcast day seems to come from everywhere.
#1/2 is direction - the smaller the light source, the more important direction is. So the smaller the light source, the easier it is to create a strong line on the face.
Another tool for controlling the amount and strength of the dark side is a light panel covered with black fabric. This prevents reflections from filling in your shadow. If you want to lighten a shadow use a silver, white or gold cover for the light panel, it will do the job.

Editor's Note: John Siskin teaches a number of courses here at, including: Understanding Professional Lighting and Introduction to Product Photography.

Featured Gallery
Scene through Brooklyn Bridge
© - Liz Leyden

Welcome to the 292nd issue of SnapShot!

We are thrilled to welcome a new instructor to our talented Team BetterPhoto: Todd Morrison. His credits include Photoshop User and Rangefinder magazines, the Photoshop World Dream Team Book, and video training programs for Software Cinema. Check out Todd's awesome new 4-week PhotoCourse™ - Gain Control of your Camera... Also new for the upcoming December session two other exciting 4-week courses: Sean Arbabi's Exposure A to Z: The Ins and Outs to Metering and Scott Stulberg's Stock Photography Boot Camp... In this issue of SnapShot, don't miss Robin Nichols's new article on color calibration, John Siskin's photo tip on lighting, and another fine collection of questions and answers... That's it for now. Enjoy your week of photography!

Jim Miotke
Where Is Jim?

Updates From BetterPhoto

Would you like to learn more about exposure, composition, digital photography, photographic field techniques, Photoshop, specialty subjects, or the business of photography? Then join us for an inspiring online PhotoCourse™ at We have 4-week classes beginning December 6th, and 8-week classes beginning January 3rd. Would you like to give your favorite photographer something really special? Our gift cards are redeemable towards any products: PhotoCourses™, ProCritiques™, books, DVDs, merchandise, and Web hosting. Learn more... Check out instructor Robin Nichols's new article that outlines strategies for getting perfect color on screen and in print! Or, make that "colour" in his part of the world :-) A popular instructor here at BetterPhoto, Robin teaches several popular classes, including Paint Shop Pro and Bare Bones Digital Photography. Check out Robin's article...

Photo Q&A

1: Can I Use Lenses of Nikon N70 for D80?
I have Nikon's N70 film-based camera with a couple of lenses. I want to by a digital SLR that can go with my lenses. I am planning to buy the Nikon D80. Will my gear fit for D80? Thanks!
- Archana Padhye
Generally, yes. But it depends on the specifics of your gear. Virtually all Nikon autofocus lenses will work with the D80. Only the AF lenses specifically made for the old F3 won't. Older manual-focus lenses can be mounted and used, but the D80 will meter properly only with AI-P series lenses. The D80 cannot meter with AI, AI-S, and E series.
- Jon Close
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2: Family Portrait Lighting
Hi there,
I have been asked to take a family portrait for a friend of mine. I have done this in the past with some senior portraits and had some very nice results using natural window light (I have no professional lighting equipment, just the flash on my camera). My problem this time is that I will be taking the photos in the evening with no natural light available. Any suggestions??? I know that using your average home lighting can sometimes be harsh and difficult to manage, so any ideas would be greatly appreciated. (I am using a Canon Digital Rebel, by the way.) Thanks!
- Niccole Holtzinger
If you shoot in RAW, you will be able to adjust the WB if you need to because of the type of lighting in the room and how the camera interprets it.
- Mike Rubin
Niccole, I'm afraid an on-board flash with GN 11 won't make for a pretty family portrait. The lighting will be harsh, frontal, with heavy shadows and possibly red-eye. If it's enough... If you don't have more light - much more light! - it may be wise to turn this one politely down.
- W. Smith
Hi Niccole,
For occasional portraiture, you can get by without any fancy lighting equipment. Go to your local hardware store and buy several clip-on reflector lamps. Get the ones with 8 or 10-inch aluminum reflectors. Load them with 100-watt lamps and place them around the room shining up at the ceiling and/or at the walls. This elevates the ambient light level. Your task is to simulate open shade. Reflected light from the ceiling and walls is non-directional like open shade (i.e. under a tree, etc.).
Some will tell you this is wrong because the color balance of ordinary household lamps is far too warm. However, most digitals will have auto white balance or have a setting for incandescent. You can replace the incandescent with compact fluorescence advertised as “true-color” or “full-spectrum”.
You can become creative and make fine portraits using these inexpensive pin-up lamps. Try them shining directly on the subject. One lamp (the fill) at camera height near the lens. One lamp (the main) off to the right or left and high. Place the main closer than the fill. Measure fill to subject distance and multiply by 0.7. This revised distance is main to subject distance. This set-up will give you a pleasing 3:1 lighting ratio.
Good luck,
Alan Marcus
- Alan N. Marcus
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3: Printing 4x6 and Cropping
I have a Nikon D50, and when I send out pictures to be printed, some are cropped, others are printed full image. What is the key to getting full images that are not cropped?
- Jim Echols
Martin, Your camera has an aspect ratio of "nearly" 3:2. That is, for every 2 units in one dimension, the image has 3 units in the other. I say nearly 3:2 - not exact. If you do no cropping yourself to ensure the image is 4x6, then the folks who make the prints will crop for you. Sometimes, you may not notice any loss of critical parts of the image, but at other times, something important will be lost.
Bottom line: You do the cropping.
- John R. Rhodes
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4: Indoor Basketball Photos With Digital Rebel
I am looking for advice for taking clear indoor basketball pictures from the bleachers. I have a Canon Digital Rebel with a 75-300mm Canon zoom lens. What settings are best? I have some success in some gyms and very blurry pictures in others.
- Lynn Biggart
Getting good shots in a gym is dependent on the lighting in the gym along with the maximum aperture your lens has and the shutter speed. I tried to get shots of my son in a basketball game and found that my 70-300 was not "fast" enough (i.e., not a large-enough maximum aperture). If you raise the ISO, you may end up with a lot of noise in the image. That would require software to remove it. I had to use my 50mm 1.8 at a aperture of 2.0 to get decent shots. But I also had to get down by the court because of the focal length. I wish I could afford a faster 70-300 than the one I have.
- Mike Rubin
Lynn, too bad you have to be in the bleachers and not down by the floor. But regardless of where you sit, you will want to go down to the floor before the contest and take a meter reading and use it. If you rely on the light levels in the bleachers, most likely they are lower than on the floor and your camera will try to use a slower shutter speed than needed. Figure out what focal length (zoom level) you will be using, and meter for that, then stick with it. If you can help it, don't bump your ISO above 400 - the digital noise isn't worth the gain in light. Hopefully, you can get at least 1/125th for a shutter speed. Good luck!
- Dennis Flanagan
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5: Photographing 3-Month-Old Twins
I am photographing 3-month-old twins. I have no clue what to do - I don't think they sit up. One baby I can do, but I have no experience with twins (only newborns). Any suggestions or props would be so appreciated ... thank you!
- Kelly Pot
Select a nice background first. If the weather is any good where you are, that could, of course, also be a picturesque landscape or such. Put down a big, thick soft blanket with the twins on that. If possible, shoot with the sun coming from the left or right, for some 'modeling', and set on-camera flash to half-power fill-flash. Then - VERY important! - get your camera down to THEIR eye-level (if they're on a table, you can use a tripod, otherwise you'll have to crouch) and shoot away.
Use a short telephoto lens (100 to 150mm; in 35mm equivalent), not a wide-angle lens, because that distorts too much. Use wide-open apertures to throw the background out of focus. Or small apertures to keep the background (relatively) sharp.
Make as many exposures as possible (before they start crying...), so later you will have as much choice as possible.
If you don't want to use flash for fill-in, you can also use a big piece of foamcore to soften shadows.
If the weather prohibits going outside, you can do the same thing inside. But you will need at least 1 strong flashgun reflected via foamcore to provide a main soft light (from 45 degrees left or right) and a big foamcore reflector on the other side to open up/soften any remaining shadows. Choose a light coloured - pastel tinted – background.
If you want to merge later with another photo as background, you should choose a black background - well-distanced from the twins (to get it under-exposed = black).
Have fun!
- W. Smith
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6: Signing a Photograph?
Are photographic artists supposed to sign their work when selling? For example, the same way painters sign their paintings, etc.? Thanks!
- Sasha 
That depends. If you are a "name" photographer with a proven reputation, your signature will add value and collectability to the piece (especially after you have passed on to that great darkroom in the sky). ;(
On all of the prints I have sold, I've placed a small label/sticker with my name and contact information on the BACK of the print so, it doesn't compromise the photo's integrity. Sometimes a client may ask you to sign a print. If that happens, go ahead and do it.
- Bob Cammarata
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