The weekly newsletter on the art of photography from
Monday, January 22, 2007
Featured Gallery
Welcome Note
This Week's Tip
Updates From BetterPhoto
Q&A 1: Composition: Simu...
Q&A 2: Photos Aren't...
Q&A 3: Reversing Center ...
Q&A 4: Printing the Righ...
Q&A 5: Photographing an ...
Q&A 6: Avoid Camera Shak...

"This class is just fabulous! John Siskin is a great teacher, who really goes the extra mile for his students. I would not hesitate to recommend this course to anyone!" -student in John's Portrait Lighting on Location and in the Studio class

Learn to create images that possess visual interest, movement and depth in a new course - Achieving Visual Depth in Your Photography - by Doug Johnson. Learn more...

Learn the fundamentals of capturing great sports images, in a new 4-week online class by Newman Lowrance. Learn more...

Get word of your product or service out to a rapidly growing list of over 62190 serious photographers.
Learn More...

Polaroid Image Transfers ... by Kathleen T. Carr
One of the most useful methods I've found for improving the quality of my image transfers, and those of my students, is to make a "damp" transfer, rather than a "wet" or "dry" transfer. It gives the smoothness and sharpness of a successful dry transfer (without the liftoff). Instead of soaking the watercolor paper, spritz (spray) it and squeegee off the excess water. Instead of floating the developing transfer on warm water, place it on a warming tray or warm surface for 2 minutes. Then peel off the negative underwater in the vinegar bath and rinse for 4 minutes. Blot with non-textured tissue, PhotoWipes, or blotter paper and air dry.
Editor's Note: Learn more in Kathleen's excellent Polaroid Image and Emulsion Transfer course

Featured Gallery
Arizona Dreaming
© - Jay Patel

Welcome to the 300th issue of SnapShot!

Lots of things to celebrate this month, beginning with this 300th issue of SnapShot! And we are thrilled to welcome the newest instructor to TeamBetterPhoto: professional photographer Doug Johnson. He will be teaching an awesome class - Achieving Visual Depth in your Photography - which starts February 7th... Also, there's still time to enroll in one of our popular 2007 ClassTracks@#153;! We have three one-year ClassTrack programs to choose from (nature composition, Photoshop, and making money), but time is running out for signing up. After January 31st, you must wait until January 2008 for the next ClassTrack sessions... Lastly, check out instructor Kathleen Carr's Photo Tip of the Week, plus another excellent collection of questions and answers... That's it for now. Enjoy your week of photography!

Jim Miotke
Where Is Jim?

Updates From BetterPhoto

At, you can learn photography or Photoshop in so many ways! First off, check out our yearlong ClassTracks™ program. There's still time to enroll for the 2007 session (last day is January 31st) - otherwise, the next ClassTracks begin in January 2008... For shorter sessions, see our splendid lineup of 8-week online classes, or our 4-week courses that are offered every month. While we are celebrating the 300th issue of SnapShot, three other free newsletters deserve attention too: a couple of monthlies (PhotoFlash and Digital Darkroom) and a daily (Photo of the Day). To see past issues or to subscribe... If you haven't lately, check out all of our articles, camera reviews, other newsletters, etc. See BP's Resources page...

Photo Q&A

1: Composition: Simulating a Rule of Thirds Grid
I would like to know if there is a way to create a grid to use in Photoshop 4. Recently, I read an article that showed how to create one to use in CS2 but was unable to duplicate it in PS4.
- Carole Loiselle
Carole, you may be getting too specific by wanting a grid. You can employ the Rule of Thirds by composing by eye. It really isn't necessary to place a subject exactly at a grid intersection. In looking at your gallery, several images illustrate the rule very nicely: "Summer Fun," Painted Flowers," "My Reflection." Don't get so technical that you lose the fun of capturing the image!
- John R. Rhodes
John, thanks so much for the vote of confidence! Greatly appreciate your comments. Carole
- Carole Loiselle
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2: Photos Aren't So Sharp...
Some time when I take a picture it looks real clear on the camera. When I get home and download it to the computer some of them are blurry. Is this from zooming in too close? I'm just learning.
- Heather  M. Wareham
Hi Heather and welcome to BP!
You did not say what type of camera you are using; however, I suspect I know what is happening. When you view an image on the LCD screen of your camera, you don’t really get to see the full detail of the image. This is particularly true when the screen is fairly small. You get home, upload the images to your computer and see the full detail and are disappointed when the image is not as sharp as it appeared in the field. Is this essentially the problem?
Lack of sharpness can be caused by a number of factors: focusing too closely on a subject and then limiting depth of field to a level that fails to register sharpness throughout the range of your subject; using too slow a shutter speed and not mounting the camera on a tripod; hand-holding the camera when you have a heavy lens attached; allowing the camera to focus in low light or mixed light situations and the lens fails to focus correctly ... and a multitude of other issues. Zooming in very close can be effective; however, if your subject is larger than your field of focus, the result will be blurring. For example (something I have done way too many times!) you want to focus tightly on a flower. So, you zoom tightly on the center of the flower forgetting about the petals at the edge and you end up with a blurry image of a flower.
If you are using a camera with a depth of field preview button (many cameras have these), try using the button before closing the shutter. With your finger on the button, carefully look at the edges of your image and determine if everything you want sharp is sharp. If you are not using a tripod, I suggest you start using one! I read someplace that a good sturdy tripod is the single most important tool a photographer has available. I know that when I started using a tripod on almost every shot, my photography really improved. Finally, make sure that you are using a shutter speed that matches the amount of movement in your image. If you want to stop action, you need a fast shutter speed. If you want to suggest movement, rather than show movement, a slower shutter speed will work better.
I hope that this gives you a starting place to figure out what is happening.
- Irene C. Troy
All I can say is that Irene covered it all.
- Mike Rubin
In addition, all pictures loaded to the computer need some degree of editing - that means sharpening with the Unsharp Mask or other software.
- John Sandstedt
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3: Reversing Center Column of Tripod: Why?
I see lots of tripods that have reversible center columns. What is that purpose of that?
- Stephanie M. Stevens
Instead of simply locating the camera on top of the tripod, a reversible column also allows one to locate it low - between the legs for shooting low-angle or close-up/macro of subjects on the ground.
- Jon Close
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4: Printing the Right Size Image
I am having trouble with printing. This has long been a struggle for me. What do I have to do to get the exact size image printed on an 8.5 X 11 sheet of paper? Say, for instance, I want to print an 8 X 10 image. The image size that prints is always slightly smaller than that ... like 7.875 X 9.875. What do I do to get the actual image size to print? Thank you,
- R.M. Fusco
It could be because your printer and print-nozzle head cannot print 'bleeding' prints (printing right up to the edges and actually a little over them). So the print software recalculates to stay away from those edges.
- W. Smith
R.M., first you have to make sure your printer can print borderless pictures. Some printers can, and some cannot. If your printer can print borderless pictures, then make sure 'borderless' is selected in the printer setting and the margins are set to 0. Hope this helps.
- Andy 
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5: Photographing an Aquarium
I would like some help in knowing how to take pictures thru glass. I am going to an aquarium soon and need to know what to do about flash and what is the best exposure to use. I have a D70s. Any ideas are appreciated. Thank you,
- letitia johnson
I just took a trip to the Seattle aquarium and used my 17-40mm lens. I used iso 800, 1600 and even 3200 on some pics with the lens held close to the glass to avoid reflections and No flash.
Most of the subjects had enough light on them. There were a couple of shots that could have used a flash but in those situations, it would have been better to have the flash unit held away from the camera to get illumination correct and again to avoid reflecting back at me. You may be able to shoot with the flash if you keep the lens close enough to the glass to avoid the reflection. Even with the high ISO settings, I was able to get dialed in with my exposure so that I didn't have to change anything in Photoshop to the point that noise became a problem.
I have some pics in my gallery and also list my exposure settings.
- Carlton WardSee Sample Photo - anonome

Use a sync cord so that you can hold your flash up and aim it down. Or to the side. You can use a bracket, so you are able to hold it and move it out farther, which moves the reflection from the glass farther away. If you use the flash's auto exposure, you may need to either use flash compensation to make it brighter because of the glass and the water. But then again, you may not, because if the background inside the tanks is dark, that may cause the flash to fire off a brighter light that could cancel out the light loss from the glass and water. But put your lens as close to the glass as you can. Right up against it if possible. And only shoot through clean sections of the glass.
- Gregory La Grange
And support for when you're forced to use slow shutter speeds. A tripod if possible, of course, but that's not very likely to be allowed. The next best thing is to use a railing, a bannister, a(n aquarium window) sill, a doorway - anything to squarely set down your camera upon, or lean against. You may gain 2 to 3 stops that way. Oh, and further to Greg's pointers: bring tissue and window cleaner!
- W. Smith
Many aquariums don't allow flash, so you may have to do without. Hold your camera so that the front of the lens (or lens hood, if you have one) is right against the glass. This will prevent reflections.
- Stephanie M. Stevens
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6: Avoid Camera Shake Without a Tripod?
Are there any tips to taking good pics without a tripod? Thanks!
- Levix M
(a) Fast shutter speeds. The general rule of thumb (your results may vary) is to use a shutter speed at least as fast as 1/focal length. eg. 50mm lens = 1/60 shutter speed, 200mm lens = 1/200 or faster.
(b) Good technique: solid stance; left-hand cradle camera, left elbow in and against chest; lightly press the shutter button rather than a quick punch; control breathing, avoid caffeine; if necessary, try to brace yourself against a solid object like light pole, wall, fence post, etc.
- Jon Close
Have a seat ... on the ground, if you must, and anchor your elbows firmly on your knees. Take a deep breath and squeeze it off.
If your camera has multi-frame capabilities (i.e., a motor driven film transport or digital equivalent), set your camera for multiple exposures and, again, SQUEEZE the shutter button. Whatever movement you are responsible for will register on the first and last exposures ... (when you pressed and released the shutter button).
That said, use your tripod whenever it is practical to do so or in critical scenarios.
- Bob Cammarata
Hi Levix,
Use a chain pod. The simplest and best piece of photo equipment you can build is the chain pod. It works like a monopod, weighs a couple of ounces and fits in your pocket. To build it, drill a small hole in 1/2 inch 1/4X20 (that is a thread size) thumbscrew. Attach about 6 feet of chain to the hole (more if you are really tall). Next put a nut onto the thumbscrew and position it so that the screw can’t go too deep into you tripod socket and glue it in place. To use, attach the thumbscrew to the base of your camera. drop the chain and step on it. Now pull up against the chain. Steady!
- John H. Siskin

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Take an Online PhotoCourse™ with John Siskin:
4-Week Short Course: Framing and Mounting Your Photographs
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Understanding Professional Lighting See Sample Photo - Chainpod detail

In cold weather, wait to stop shaking before pressing the shutter. Don't stab at the shutter button but gently press down the shutter button with the tip of your finger while applying pressure on the camera body with the rest of your hand. Take a couple of deep relaxing breaths and then exhale before shooting. And to be safe, when possible, increase Jon's formula by one exposure factor (ie. 50mm x2 = 100 or 1/125 s/s). I know, basic stuff, but easy to overlook when excited by a wonderful image through the viewfinder.
- Christopher A. Walrath
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