The weekly newsletter on the art of photography from
 
Monday, September 10, 2007
IN THIS ISSUE
Featured Gallery
Welcome Note
This Week's Tip
Updates From BetterPhoto
Q&A 1: Macro Focusing...
Q&A 2: Low Resolution fo...
Q&A 1: Color Enhanceme...
Q&A 2: Buying a Hand-H...
Q&A 3: Best Monopod...


TESTIMONIAL OF THE WEEK
"Creative Light and Composition is very well-organized, and I have learned so much about not only photography, but myself. Second, Kerry Drager is one of the best teachers I have ever had. His reviews are very constructive, and he genuinely wants you to learn all that you can. Bravo, Kerry!" -student in Creative Light and Composition





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THIS WEEK'S TIP
Photoshop Actions: Naming Actions and Sets ... by Al Ward
When naming your actions and action sets, try to use short, descriptive, relevant names, or even use a coded lettering system to further help you categorize your actions and keep track of them. This, in conjunction with a color coding system, will help you find actions easily, and that in turn will help you further shorten the amount of time it takes to perform a task or function. Actions save time, and having a solid organization system for your actions saves even more.
Editor's Note: Al Ward teaches an excellent online course here at BetterPhoto:
Right-Brain Photoshop: Merging, Melding and Morphing


   
Featured Gallery
"Cat-uccino"  Anyone?
© - Traci Bender

Welcome to the 333rd issue of SnapShot!
Hello,

Good news at BetterPhoto, but you'd better hurry! There's still time to sign up for a September online photo course, so enroll today. Or check out the Fall 8-week courses, which get under way on October 3rd ... Also, the deadline is coming up soon for an opportunity to win an exciting prize: a trip to the 2007 BetterPhoto Summit in Chicago! See all the details on the conference and the Summit Contest... Note: Catch up with the girls who work at BetterPhoto in their excellent new blog ... That's it for now. Enjoy your week of photography!

Jim Miotke
Where Is Jim?

Updates From BetterPhoto

The 2007 BetterPhoto Summit photography conference is coming up in late September. You'll learn new techniques, get inspired, and receive personal one-on-one feedback on your work from a BP pro instructor! But you'll want to hurry, since the Live Critiques sign-up deadline is Friday, Sept. 14th! Our online courses are fun, fast and to the point. Review our September 4-week classes and our October 8-week online courses. Note: Payment plans are now available for all classes! BetterPhoto's instructors not only have extensive professional and teaching backgrounds, but they also love to share their expertise. Read BetterBlogs...

Photo Q&A

1: Macro Focusing
I love taking macro photos, but I always have the hardest time with focusing them. My 5MP HP E327 has a macro mode, but it's near impossible to get a decent macro shot out of it. It doesn't even focus on the LCD. Am I doing something wrong or do I just need a better camera?
- Calven Mitchell
ANSWER 1:
Hi Calven,
I just completed Brenda Tharp’s macro class here at BP, and since I learned a huge amount, I thought I might send you a few ideas. First, from what I have seen and read, the macro mode on most point-and-shoot cameras is really not designed to capture true macro images. By this, I mean that the lens is not capable of producing good quality 1:1 images – the subject in the image being equal to the true size of the subject – because it cannot focus clearly close enough to the subject. In this case, macro might more accurately be labeled "close-up"”.
If you are attempting to capture an image of a flower without much background, your camera would probably be capable of producing an acceptable image. However, if you are attempting to capture just the stamen, the lens would probably not be able to capture this small part clearly. So, it pretty much comes down to what you are attempting to do when you use the term "macro". Why don’t you load some of your images and perhaps we can see what the problem is about and offer some suggestions?
Some ideas, if you want to capture better close-ups with your current camera: first, if possible, use manual focus since when you move up close, sometimes autofocus simply cannot figure out what you are trying to get sharp. Second, use a tripod! Even with a lighter weight P&S camera, a tripod is essential if you want maximum sharpness. When you come in close and narrow the depth of field, any slight movement will show in the resulting image and you will lose sharpness. Hopefully, some of this will be of use.
- Irene Troy
Read this Q&A at BetterPhoto.com

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2: Low Resolution for a CD
A customer has requested her images on a disc. I agreed, telling her the images would be low-resolution - only good for printing 4x6 prints. My question is, how many pixels per inch is this? Thanks in advance.
- Stephanie D. Moon
ANSWER 1:
Stephanie,
Do you want them to view on screen at 4x6? That would be safest to do, as you can provide a 4x6 at 72ppi to let the client get a view of everything in color. If you promise to give them enough for printing, that is WAY more resolution ... and it varies depending on your output. Assuming they are using a common inkjet, 240ppi is probably the right resolution, but I might go cheap on the resolution and only send 180ppi to keep from losing business if you expect to make money on reprints. 180 may be a little soft, though, and you risk them printing out a softer image if they are using that to make an honest proof (one they really do mean to buy).
You might also want to consider dropping your copyright on the images to keep them safe. It won't stop a person from printing them off at home, but most services worth their salt won't print copyrighted materials - sometimes even if you own the copyright (I've had these troubles before)!
The plan by Christopher (on the discussion thread) is about right ... but I'd just save as 240ppi (or 180) and don't bother switching to 72. PPI is really a rather arbitrary assignment - what matters more is the amount of pixels in the image (1000x1500 will not change). Just to be clear, as well: ppi is pixels-per-inch, a term for digital image resolution (pixels in a file); dpi is dots-per-inch, a term for printer resolution (dots on a page). Many people interchange these, but ppi is what you are referring to here.
I hope that helps!
- Richard Lynch

See Richard Lynch's Premium BetterPholio™:
http://www.betterphoto.com/mg.asp?id=121428

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Leveraging Layers: Photoshop's Most Powerful Tool
4-Week Short Course: Photoshop 101: The Photoshop Essentials Primer
4-Week Short Course: From Monitor to Print: Photoshop Color Workflow
4-Week Short Course: Correct and Enhance Your Images
Read this Q&A at BetterPhoto.com

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1: Color Enhancement Software?

Does anyone know of some digital enhancement software that helps to make photos VERY vibrant with rich, deep color? Thanks!
- Jenny Gibbs

ANSWER 1:
Just about any image editing software will have the ability to saturate an image and enhance contrast - which is what you seem to be looking to do. Some of the more popular packages are Adobe Photoshop and Photoshop Elements. That these two are popular does not make them your only choices, but popularity sometimes does have its advantages in that people can tell you specifically how to accomplish your goals.
Some packages have automated tools to enhance images, and these work more-or-less well, depending on the quality of your exposures. Frankly, I advocate learning to use whatever package you choose to edit images rather than depending on auto features, as you will get better results more consistently.
The digital darkroom is, to some extent, the new photographic frontier ... personnally, I consider it an endless creative well. Learning to work with these tools and get more out of your images is a process, and is rarely served consistently by pressing a button or owning one particular program over another.
I hope that helps!

- Richard Lynch

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http://www.betterphoto.com/mg.asp?id=121428

Take an Online PhotoCourse™ with Richard Lynch:
Leveraging Layers: Photoshop's Most Powerful Tool
4-Week Short Course: Photoshop 101: The Photoshop Essentials Primer
4-Week Short Course: From Monitor to Print: Photoshop Color Workflow
4-Week Short Course: Correct and Enhance Your Images

ANSWER 2:
Thanks so muchn Richard. I've been using Photoshop for the basics: converting to B&W, small touch ups, etc. I should take a class to learn what else I can do! Lately I've come across some photographers web sites where the color and vibrancy is AMAZING. I'm thinking ... they must be incredible with their camera or there is something being done in the digital "darkroom". Any comments on that? Thanks!

- Jenny Gibbs

ANSWER 3:
Part of what you see in those images is someone taking pictures with excellent knowledge of how to shoot. The other part of what you see is someone knowing what to do in the digital darkroon. A great photo can be the result of one or the other, but more often, in my experience, it is the result of both at the same time.
I do adjustments for professional photographers because they know they have the source and that it can be better. I can teach them how to do most of what I do, but those I work with would rather concentrate on shooting well than learning the digital darkroom, even though I don't work for free. It is possible to do both, but you have to know how, and be good behind the lens as well as in post-processing. To me, it is part of the art.
Knowing post-processing will not instantly make you a better photographer, but it will instantly make your images better, and can help you get a better handle on what you need to do to shoot better photos.
I teach several courses here at BetterPhoto that can help get you moving forward on becoming competent in the digital darkroom.
- Photoshop 101: The Photoshop Essentials Primer
- Correct and Enhance Your Images
- From Monitor to Print: Photoshop Color Workflow
- Leveraging Layers: Photoshop's Most Powerful Tool
But there are many excellent courses here at BetterPhoto to choose from.

- Richard Lynch

See Richard Lynch's Premium BetterPholio™:
http://www.betterphoto.com/mg.asp?id=121428

Take an Online PhotoCourse™ with Richard Lynch:
Leveraging Layers: Photoshop's Most Powerful Tool
4-Week Short Course: Photoshop 101: The Photoshop Essentials Primer
4-Week Short Course: From Monitor to Print: Photoshop Color Workflow
4-Week Short Course: Correct and Enhance Your Images
Read this Q&A at BetterPhoto.com

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2: Buying a Hand-Held Light Meter

I am am looking to buy a light meter. Can anyone suggest which one would be best? I am using a Canon 300d SLR. Thanks!
- aileen cockburn

ANSWER 1:
Hi Alileen,
In the classes I teach, I don’t suggest that people get meters. A digital camera provides better information than a meter would. This is information about metering from one of my classes:
When you use a strobe meter, you get a response that tells you how to make a middle density, but it doesn’t tell you how to make it look right. There is no automatic way to make it look right - only the application of brains can do that. When I make a shot with strobes and a digital camera, the first thing I do is to put the camera on manual and I will pay no attention to the meter in the camera. The only things I pay attention to are the proof image on the camera back and the histogram. More than metering, these two things tell you about your image. Let me suggest a plan for seeking the right exposure:
1) Set the shutter speed to the sync speed;
2) Set the aperture to your middle aperture, whatever that is on the lens you are using;
3) Take a picture, it will be wrong;
4) Move the aperture dial to let in more or less light based on test exposure 1. You can look at the histogram to help determine how much to change the aperture, but the proof image should tell you if you need to change a lot or a little;
5) More test exposures and changes of light placement and light power until the strobes are right;
6) Change shutter speed to balance values between existing light and strobe light, this will require more test pictures. This same technique will work if you are mixing strobes and daylight. This was why the Polaroid bill was so high with film cameras, but with digital, these test exposures are free, so we should not be afraid to make them.
This is the essential trick with strobes: to evaluate and change our images in search of the right levels for our lights and our exposures. With the histogram and the proof image on camera or in the computer, we have better tools for creating the right exposure than any meter could give us, but it does take repeated testing.
Thanks! John Siskin


- John H. Siskin

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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
4-Week Short Course: Building Better Photographs with Strobes
4-Week Short Course: Assignment Photography
Read this Q&A at BetterPhoto.com

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3: Best Monopod

I'm going on a hiking trip to Utah in a couple of weeks and am considering buying a monopod that can be used for a hiking stick as well as a monopod for my camera. I would like a quick release. Any suggestions?
- Regina 

ANSWER 1:
Any pod should work. Just also buy a ball head with a mounting plate, and you'll have your quick release... I use a Manfrotto mini ball head. Depending on your camera and lens combo weight, you might be able to buy the micro ball head instead of the mini ... it is really small but strong.
As for the pod, they are basically all the same. I'd go for an aluminum one or a carbon fiber ... but honestly, I had an $18.00 aluminum one I got off eBay that was great! To me, it's all about the head.

- Craig m. Zacarelli

ANSWER 2:
One with three legs. You can actually get one (I think it's made by Manfrotto) with "pop-out legs.

- John Sandstedt

ANSWER 3:
Try this instead of a monopod. It weighs less and costs less. The simplest and best piece of photo equipment you can build is the chainpod. 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

See John Siskin's Premium BetterPholio™:
http://www.betterphoto.com/mg.asp?id=158091

Take an Online PhotoCourse™ with John Siskin:
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
4-Week Short Course: Building Better Photographs with Strobes
4-Week Short Course: Assignment Photography See Sample Photo - Chainpod detail
http://www.betterphoto.com/gallery/dynoGallDetail.asp?photoID=1865341



ANSWER 4:
I also have the ball head with mounting plate - Manfrotto 322RC2. I can quickly release it from the monopod and place on my tripod, and vice versa. The ball head gives you quick flexibility for moving it around ... no more fooling around with several knobs. I've never used my monopod as a walking stick, but I guess I could...

- Ken Smith

ANSWER 5:
The Manfrotto 682 has the pop-out legs.

- Philip Frederiksen
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