The weekly newsletter on the art of photography from
Monday, December 18, 2006
Featured Gallery
Welcome Note
This Week's Tip
Updates From BetterPhoto
Q&A 1: Muslin Backdrops...
Q&A 2: Equipments Questi...
Q&A 3: What Kind of Ligh...
Q&A 4: How to Use a Whit...
Q&A 5: Rock Band Portrai...
Q&A 6: Lighting in Churc...

"In only 8 weeks, Brenda managed to teach us how to create visual impact by providing excellent lessons, cheerful comments, competent feedback and much much more. The course exceeded my expectations, and I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in photography. I am very sad that it is over but have now got some new photo-friends and a lot of information ... for the future!" -student in Brenda Tharp's Creating Visual Impact class


Learn to control your image sharpening like a pro. With Photoshop trainer Todd Morrison as your guide, you will learn how to stop guessing about settings and how to start taking charge of your final image output. In just four weeks, you'll discover the hidden sharpening power in Photoshop. Class begins Jan. 3rd. Learn more...

Learn how to get a better understanding of how to use color as an element of design in Color as a Design Element - an awesome new 4-week PhotoCourse by Lewis Kemper. Class gets under way January 3rd. Learn more...

Check out BP's exciting new ProCritiques™ feature. Upload up to 8 photos and get a critique by one of our professional instructors!

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Photographing in Diffused Light by Sean Arbabi
Capturing images in soft, diffused, or ambient light (that is, away from direct sunlight, flash or strobe, such as shade or overcast conditions), can provide nice lighting for your images.
Why? One reason the soft light works is it can provide even lighting in your scene. Smooth even lighting can help remove any potential splotchy highlights and/or shadows helping to create cleaner, less-distracting backgrounds (drawing your eye to your main subject in focus).
Editor's Note: Check out Sean Arbabi's excellent online course: Exposure A to Z: The Ins and Outs to Metering .

Featured Gallery
Christmas Explosion
© - Terry  R. Hatfield

Welcome to the 295th issue of SnapShot!

First off, let me wish you all a terrific holiday season. And, for everyone who celebrates it, an early "Merry Christmas" greeting too!... Also, our Winter online photography school promises to be our very best session yet. In fact, I am thrilled to welcome Jay Dickman to our awesome team of BetterPhoto instructors. This Pulitzer Prize-winning National Geographic photographer will teach a terrific class: The Art of Creating the Photo Story. The next round of online classes begin Jan. 3rd... By the way, the holiday season is always great for photography, so if you haven't aready, check out these how-to articles: Top Ten Tips for Better Holiday Photos and How to Photograph Christmas Lights... Also, several of our instructors - including Brenda Tharp, Jim Zuckerman and John Siskin - contribute thoughts and insights to our BetterBlogs... That's it for now. Have a great week of photography!

Jim Miotke
Where Is Jim?

Updates From BetterPhoto

Learn how to put together a dynamic photographic story from Pulitzer Prize-winning National Geographic photographer Jay Dickman! If you shoot more than one photo on your vacation, you are involved in the process of "visual narrative", and this course will teach you how to shoot a photo story. This new 8-week class begins January 3rd. Learn more... 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 Learn more... An exciting new feature from BetterPhoto now makes it much easier to learn photography or Photoshop over the course of just one year! We have simplified things by giving you fabulous combinations of PhotoCourses™. Learn more...

Photo Q&A

1: Muslin Backdrops
I am intrested in finding out how to create photo muslin backdrops. My questions are: How or what to use for preparation of muslin? Also, what kinds of paints are recommended if using airbrush and paintbrushes?
- Gina R. Arredondo
Hi Gina,
I have some backdrops I made using sheets and spray paint in my gallery. Very easy to do and quite inexpensive.
- Pat Worster
Hi Gina,
You can check out my gallery too for muslin backdrops. I have about six colors now.
If you want to use fabric store muslin to do yourself, buy the 108". Buy some RIT dye, and have a plastic bucket to use, some household rubber gloves, boil about 3-4 gallons of water on the stove top. Wash the fabric first, then while it's wet, don't dry it, lay it out on your floor, and crumple it randomly and bunch it up, and then tie the whole ball of fabric up with twine or jute, tightly.
Either outside, or in your kitchen sink, CAREFULLY add your dye to the hot water, in your bucket with 1 cup of table salt and stir it in, and add the fabric. Wear your gloves at this point. Make sure your fabric is completely submerged in the water for a full 1/2 hour. Don't stir it, just let it sit, making sure it's covered.
Now you have to rinse it. Don't splash the water if you can help it, as it will stain everything permanently! Rinse, rinse, rinse until all of the water runs clear. This will take a little while, then you can spin it out in your washer, and dry it on low heat in the dryer. I usually do a rinse and spin in the washer, to get as much of the dye out as possible.
There's a ton of info on the net for making backdrops.
- Jessica  A. Eiss
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2: Equipments Questions
Hi all,
These are my questions:
1- What are the best lenses of Canon for Portrature?
2- What are the best lenses of canon for Landscape or nature?
3- What are the best lenses for wildlife including birds?
4- What are the best lesnes for Sports.
5- I want a studio lighting system or kit good enough and powerful, not less then 1500 or 1600 (prefer minimum 1600, but want more) for many kinds of photography that need enough strong lights indoor or outdoor (but not very expensive more than $2500-4000), and I hope it is available in my area (UAE in the Middle East). Otherwise, I can't buy from online stores which don't have internationally shipping or orders.
6- What other accessories can I get for my Flash 580EX?
7- What are good meduim format cameras that can be used in the studio or in general outdoor sometimes?
Thank you. Regards,
- Tareq M. Alhamrani
Boy, Tareq, you sure ask a lot of questions! :-)
Portraiture lens - depends on yor style of shooting portraits, but since the 85MM focal length is frequently preferred for head-and-shoulder shots then a lens that gives you about that same angle of view would make sense. This might be an 85MM f1.8 or f1.4 on a "full frame" digital, or a 50MM lens on a digital with "crop factor". In any event, you want a relatively fast lens to minimize depth of field.
Landscape or nature - usually wide angle lenses are preferred to gather in the beauty of an entire scene and give greater depth of field so everything is in focus. Again, much depends on your style as well. Perhaps a 24MM or wider lens would make sense, but that's not necessary either. A prime lens will probably be better than a zoom, though the pro-level zooms are almost as high quality as prime lenses nowadays.
Bird/nature shooting generally requires long telephotos - 400MM or longer, and f4 or faster. When you see shooters lugging 10+ pounds of 400MMf2.8 lens into a blind you realize it's because birds (and much wildlife) are skittish and you can't get very close. You want the fastest glass possible to ensure the ability to catch shots at dusk and dawn, and IS would probably help as well.
Sports - what kind? Curling? Baseball? Auto racing? Gymnastics? So much depends on the venue and the sport, though a fast zoom (70-200 f2.8) couldn't hurt for most situations. Again, though, if you wantched the Olympics or pro football or soccer events you see the sidelines crammed with photogs using the same huge long fast lenses that bird shooters use.
For lighting, I can recommend you check out Quantum flashes and accessories - kind of costly but very powerful and flexible.
Flash accessories - there are all kinds of diffusers out there; I use Gary Fong's Lightsphere but others like different versions.
Medium format - do you mean film? If money is not an issue, Hasselblad is always a great option. Mamiya, Fuji and Pentax are other brands to check out as well.
- Bob 
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3: What Kind of Lights to Buy?
Hey, guys and gals...
Can someone help me make a wise decision as to what lights to get for someone who has been shooting for about three years but has never used lights other then a flash. I am currently looking at two different setups from B&H and I am on a very limited budget. I have posted links so you can see what I am considering.
Also are monolights better then strobes or vise versa?
- Anthony Ruiz
Hi Anthony,
There are tremendous challenges in buying lighting on a budget. Basically, you are looking for power and a limited amount of control on the light. Then you might like to have some accessories. This light - - does have more power than the ones you put into your post, but it does not have a light stand or any accessories. It is more than twice as powerful, that is really important. Some of my students have used this brand of equipment and like it.
I have an article here on BetterPhoto about shooting with only one light, perhaps it would help:
I also have one on building a light panel, I know that would be useful:
A monolight is a strobe that uses AC power (plugs into the wall). It plugs into the wall directly, not through a powerpack. They are very flexible equipment. The light I suggested above is a monolight as is the Impact light you found on the site. The Smith-Victor stuff is very low power. Smith-Victor does make some good gear; this set isn’t it. If you can’t step up to the Patterson/Interfit monolight, get the Impact light.
I agree with W., don’t buy tungsten.
Good luck!
- John H. Siskin

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Take an Online PhotoCourse™ with John Siskin:
Understanding Professional Lighting
4-Week Short Course: Framing and Mounting Your Photographs
4-Week Short Course: Introduction to Product Photography
4-Week Short Course: Portrait Lighting on Location and in the Studio
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4: How to Use a White Backdrop
I have just started using a small home studio. My portraits with the white muslin backdrop turn out yellowish. I've read about a homemade aluminum foil reflector to make the images whiter. Can you offer any advice?
- Christy L. Burgess
Consider using white seamless paper, available in 4.5, 9 and 12 foot widths by 30 feet or longer. You can get this from most large photo retailers. At least you would start off with a good white. As others said, the problem might be someplace other than your backdrop, which is your lights. Also keep in mind that white will photograph as a very light grey, NOT clear. The best way to get a clear background is by cutting it out in Photoshop. The best way is not necessarily an easy way. Thanks, John Siskin
- John H. Siskin

See John Siskin's Premium BetterPholio™:

Take an Online PhotoCourse™ with John Siskin:
Understanding Professional Lighting
4-Week Short Course: Framing and Mounting Your Photographs
4-Week Short Course: Introduction to Product Photography
4-Week Short Course: Portrait Lighting on Location and in the Studio
You most likely need a backlight, to get that "white, white" that is so sought after. Paper or muslins, you just can't get it with out a backlight source. And regular light bulbs will also add a yellow cast.
if you are using a regular camera flash, you can go get another off-camera flash and slave them, using one as your main (on-camera) and one as you backlight. If you have a strobe, you need a low watt, for use as backlight.
For more, you may want to visit the "Studio Photography" threads.
Wishing you the best,
- Debby TabbSee Sample Photo - Holiday Collage

See Sample Photo - mommy and me

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5: Rock Band Portraits
Hi everyone,
I will be taking my first rock band portrait in a few weeks. I have some ideas on what to do (poses and such), but I wanted to see if anyone with experience with these types of shots, had any suggestions. =) Thanks!
The only idea I can offer is to listen to their music BEFORE your portrait session. This should awaken your creative juices when doing their portraits and you will know what they are about... try to come up with something that has a unique feel to it and is your own... so many rock bands have the same look. Good luck!
- Debbie Del Tejo
All bands want the same thing... a cemetery, railroad tracks, a dirty dingy alley somewhere, an old abandon warehouse. It's all been done, and there is no originality in it. They usually want something very specific and can tell you what they want. Then, just use the background or surrounding area and get killer images.
Don't pose them. Let them do what they want, and capture it.
I'm doing a project with rock bands. If I get some time, I'll post some.
- Jerry Frazier
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6: Lighting in Church - No Flash
The church at which I will be shooting a wedding does not allow flash. The wedding will be in the evening. Does anyone have any tips? Please help!
- Jess  Smith
If you are shooting film, you will need faster film, like ISO 800. Your images will be grainier, but you don't really have much choice. If you are shooting digital, you will need to set your camera's ISO higher, probably to 800. Your images will be noisier, but again, you will have to live with it and try to correct the noise in post-processing. How noisy your images are will depend a great deal on what camera you are using.
In either case, you will need to use fast lenses, with a max aperture of f/2.8 or better.
A monopod may help keep your camera steady, since you will still probably be dealing with fairly slow shutter speeds. I don't recommend a tripod - it's just not practical when you are moving around a lot at a wedding.
Chris A. Vedros
- Chris A. Vedros
Chris makes good points, Jess - you might also try asking the pastor (or whomever) if perhaps you could take shots of the bride, groom and family after the ceremony. Somtimes the "no flash" rule has to do with the elders not wanting the patrons disturbed by the light - and often they will allow flash after the service is over. On the other hand, if the rule exists because of concern that the artwork on the walls will fade more quickly when exposed to the UV that flashes emit, you probably won't get permission to use flash after the fact anyway. But it can't hurt to ask... if it's OK with the bride and groom. Or, more to the point, with the MOB (mother of the bride).
- Bob 
Fast lens, high ISO. Getting the shot is more important than worrying about noise.
- Jerry Frazier
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