The weekly newsletter on the art of photography from
Monday, November 26, 2007
Featured Gallery
Welcome Note
This Week's Tip
Updates From BetterPhoto
Q&A 1: JPEG Vs. Raw...
Q&A 2: Capturing Action ...
Q&A 1: 'Competitio...
Q&A 2: Photographing A...

"The Nature and Landscape Composition course was excellent. Jennifer does such a good job with her critiques. She is straightforward, clear and kind with her comments on any mistakes or need for improvement. She always finds something encouraging to say, which kept me wanting to take pictures. I enjoyed and learned from the lessons, but the true gold of the class was the feedback!" ... Note: Jennifer Wu's 8-week Nature and Landscape Composition class begins December 5th.

For great insights, tips and techniques, read our updated photography blogs!

We have a number of exciting online options for showcasing your work - from a sleek gallery to a full-fledged Web site. Learn more...

BetterPhoto Radio is on the air - Fridays at 1 p.m. Pacific time. Listen to Jim Miotke interview pro instructors and BP members!
Get word of your product or service out to a rapidly growing list of over 69565 serious photographers.
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Going Gold with Portrait Photography! ... by Scott Stulberg
"I love photographing people all over the world," instructor Scott Stulberg wrote in a recent BetterBlog. "When I am shooting outdoors during the day, there is one piece of equipment that I never leave home without: a soft/gold reflector that collapses into a little sack and fits right into my camera backpack. They are available at any good camera store or online. It can easily take your portraits of people up a couple of notches and open up your eyes to a different way of thinking outdoors. I almost always prefer to use a soft/gold reflector over an on-camera flash, because it gives me the look that feels right to me."
Note: Scott Stulberg teaches the 4-week course Eye to Eye: Capturing the Face here at BetterPhoto.

Featured Gallery
Morning at Mount Moran (Grand Teton NP)
© - Wally Orlowsky

Welcome to the 344th issue of SnapShot!

What an exciting holiday season at BetterPhoto! Our upcoming December online school session just got better: We've added an awesome selection of 8-week courses on photography and Photoshop. That's in addition to our 4-week lineup... By the way, we are really proud of our virtual classroom, so if you aren't familiar with our online courses, then take a quick tour... Are you familiar with our very cool BetterPhoto Community page? Check it out... In this issue of SnapShot, check out instructor Scott Stulberg's "Going Gold with Portrait Photography" photo tip, 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

At BetterPhoto, we have an awesome online photo school led by top pros. See our 8-week school schedule, which starts next week (Dec. 5th)! ... Also, consider our exciting schedule of 4-week online courses in photography and Photoshop! Give your favorite photographer something special this season: a BetterPhoto gift card ... no wrapping required! Our Course Advisors are available toll free Monday - Friday 8am - 4pm Pacific Time at 1-888-586-7337. Or try our easy-to-use CourseFinder.

Photo Q&A

1: JPEG Vs. Raw
I am trying to decide what to shoot in Raw or JPEG, I have been doing JPEG but find my card fills up too fast, so I was thinking of trying Raw. The quality of the picture is still the same with both, right?? But don't you have to change the files over when using Raw?? What is the best option, the easiest and the best quality??
- Rachelle P. Cooper
First of all, if your card fills up too fast with JPEGs, you won't believe how fast it fills up with RAW. For instance, with a 1GB card, I can get about 60 Raw images or 165 large fine jpegs. If your card fills up too fast, get a bigger card. Some cameras ship with a 32 MB card - not good for anything. I just ordered 2 Gb Sandisk Utra II cards from Staples for $15 each (this offer may still be good, but offers like this are available if you look.).
My second point: if you have a question about "what happens if...," try it and see for yourself. The best way to learn what is possible is to experiment.
Finally, yes, Raw files do require processing to "develop" and convert to TIFF, psd, or jpeg. If you are not comfortable with the extra steps involved, you might wnat to get a higher capacity card and shoot with the largest jpeg file you can use (least compression).
Bottom line: RAW is superior in that the image contains much more information, so the resulting image may be better than if shot in jpeg, depending on how the file is handled.
- John Rhodes
Nice answer John...
* RAW will be bigger than JPEG (not the other way around)
* Getting more memory is a great way to enjoy taking more pictures (I use a portable reader/drive as well: Wolvarine).
* Quality of the picture is potentially better with RAW (more bits, and no in-camera pre-processing)
* RAW isn't for everyone. Some find the additional technology intimidating or bothersome.
You certainly have to process a RAW file... JPEG files are, to some extent, pre-processed in the camera (which doesn't necessarily make them better, just more convenient if you don't like processing them yourself from RAW).
I hope that helps!
- Richard Lynch

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2: Capturing Action in Low Light
I have recently starting shooting a lot at barrel races. I am having problems capturing the images after the sun gets low or when the barrel races are inside an arena. They tend to blur because there is not enough lighting for the fast-action shots. Can anyone tell me exactly what type of lens and flash that I need to do this?
- Robin C. Byers
Robin, I am not sure what lens you currently have but here is what I do to capture low-light action:
1. Set you camera for Shutter Speed Priotity at about 1/200 or 1/250.
2. Depending on the maximum aperture of your lens (lowest f/number), set your ISO as high as necessary to get an exposure (not a Lo aperture indicator on the viewport).
If your lens' max aperture is smaller than f2.8 (i.e., higher f/number), you will probably have trouble getting a good exposure, in which case the only option you have is to shoot underexpose and try to "fix" the image in post processing. The key is to get a sharp image. You can fix a lot of exposure problems in post processing but it is nearly impossible to fix a blurred image.
FYI - Even with a f2.8 lens, I end up shooting ISO 1600 or 3200 often in dark places.
3. Get a noise reduction filter (Neat Image and Noise Ninja have free demo versions you can download). Run your images through it to reduce the noise that will pop up when you shoot high ISO. then try to the fix the brightness/contrast in PS (or equivalent photo editing tool).
Most likely, you'll need a telephoto lens with f2.8 max aperture if you are going to do this often. I started with the Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8. It is great lens but it is a bit expensive. Very versatile and not too heavy. I now also have a Sigma 120-300mm, which is also great and a LOT cheaper. It, however, is heavy. I use it a lot on shoots where I will be stationary most of the time. I've carried it around the zoo in the middle of a TX summer and it is a load!
By the way, you'll likely need a monopod to increase your chances of not blurring shots. I prefer it for sports vs. a full function tripod because of the greater mobility it affords.
Good luck!
- Mike Perez
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1: 'Competition' on an Assignment

I recently had a photo shoot of a baby girl. Then her father brought his own camera and started taking pictures everytime I posed her. I was so shocked that he would be that bold. I didn't really know how to handle the situation so I didn't say anything. Then, this week, it happened again with a mother this time. I nicely asked her to put her camera away, and she got really angry. Does anyone know of a tactful way to deal with a situation like this? I hope I am not being too touchy, but I really feel ripped off by this. Thanks in advance!
- Kim L. Jones

When you use the phrase "brought his own camera", I assume you did this at your place rather than theirs. You should have asked him to leave or terminated the shoot. I would NEVER EVER put up with that kind of nonsense on a commercial assignment. Since this is the second time it's happened to you in a short time, it may be that word is getting around that you allow it to happen. You need to put your foot down or somewhere else if this happens again.
Take it light.

- Mark Feldstein

Mark's right, Kim. Don't stand for it at all. One way you might avoid this is to have them sign a contract ahead of time - if you don't already - that states that you will be the only photographer at the shoot. And get at least half of your pay up front to RESERVE THE DATE so if you get this situation again, you can say: 'Please stop. You agreed to this in the contract'. Or, if they get mad and walk, at least you have gotten your pre-prints overhead and you can move on to the next job. Be assertive as Mark says. But be polite. Always keep your cool. Be shrewd in your dealings with clients. And cover your assets ahead of time so that you have a leg to stand on later.

- Christopher A. Walrath

Sure, you can put it in your shoot contract as Chris suggests, and then flash it on them if necessary during the shoot. But I think if it gets to that point, it may already be a tad late in terms of brewing bad feelings.
Maybe it would help at the time of signing the contract to good-naturedly remind them that you're the sole photographer on this assignment, you don't allow, work with or need back-up photographers so tell them to leave the cameras in the car (preferably in the glove-box storage container on a hot day).
And get 1/2 your fees up front with a non-refundable cancellation clause built in, as Chris mentioned as well.

- Mark Feldstein

Thank you, Mark and Chris. Your suggestions are really helpful. I will definitely put something in my contract, and be sure to point it out before the shoot. And if that fails, I like the glove box idea!

- Kim L. Jones
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2: Photographing Artwork

A local artist asked me if I would photograph her work, and then they could get prints made from those photos. What lighting would be best to use? I have studio lights - umbrellas and softboxes. What about what focal length to use so there is no distortion and that it would be close enough that would be very clear and detailed? Thanks!
- Sandra Wortmann


Hi Sandy,
If it is flat artwork, scanning is a much faster, much easier way for digitizing it than "reproduction photography". Have fun!

- W. Smith

Sandra, you don't say how large the artwork is. If you're talking about poster-size or bigger, then scanning would not be the way to go. For that matter, if the artwork is oil on canvas, with a lot of texture in the paint, then again a flatbed isn't going to do.
That said, if the artwork is actually flat (paintings, for example), then a lens designed to have a flatter plane of focus would be best.
Let me explain: With a regular lens, the zone of focus is actually described by the surface of a sphere. If depth of field is ignored, when you focus at 10 feet away, the actual layer that will be sharp are all the points exactly 10 feet from the focal point of the lens - and the area described by measuring 10 feet from a point is a sphere.
What this translates to in the real world is that if you are taking the picture of a flat subject and get the center in precise focus, the corners of the subject will be less sharp.
Of course, DOF allows for some "slop" with all this, so using a smaller aperture will ensure better focus all around. But some lenses were made with corrections to "flatten" the focus plane - Nikon's 50MM Micro lens is an example (it was often used to take shots of documents).
So if you use a Nikon camera, you could get a used 50mm Micro (macro) lens. I frankly do not know if the current 60mm Nikkor macro lens is similarly designed, or if Canon or anyone else has something similar.
Again, though, with a small enough aperture to give deep DOF (and a tripod to keep things rock steady), you should be okay. As for focal length, this depends on the size of the artwork and the size of your studio - and keep to something at the normal or slight telephoto side as wide-angle lenses tend to be prone to barrel distortion.
One more thing: You might want to investigate a program called DxO Optics Pro. This is a package that takes digital files and makes corrections for optical and chromatic abherrations - so it could make further corrections to the images.

- Bob Fately

Sounds like the artist would like to make a series of sellable prints from her original paintings. IMO, the important thing here is quality. Her print customers are going to want to believe they're buying a little piece of her and so the print must be absolutely sharp.
This CAN be done with a d-SLR, but you'd want to ensure that you captured enough information to be able to print at the printer's native resolution at full-size.
Let's say the artist wants to sell 16x20-inch limited-edition prints. I'm going to use an Epson 4800 to print them on, and I want 360 dpi for the best quality. That means I need to have an image that is at least 5760x7200 pixels in size, or about 42 MB.
If I were doing this job with my personal equipment (Sigma SD14), I'd take a 3x3 multi-row panorama using an 85mm to 105mm macro lens. I'd want to be off at a distance to minimize any lens distortion and I'd shoot at f/8 to f/11. I'd make sure I had absolutely flat lighting from multiple sources so that any ridges or texture on the image would not show shadows.
I do have one shot somewhat like this on my gallery ... it's actually the ceiling mural, made with a 3x3 multi-row panorama using a Fuji F30 6 MP digicam!

- John Clifford
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