The weekly newsletter on the art of photography from
Monday, December 10, 2007
Featured Gallery
Welcome Note
This Week's Tip
Updates From BetterPhoto
Q&A 1: Neutral Density F...
Q&A 2: Oversize Backdrop...
Q&A 3: Shooting in a Gym...
Q&A 4: How Much Computer...
Q&A 5: Residential Archi...
Q&A 6: Photographing Chr...

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Give Your Creative Eye a Visual Workout! ... by Kerry Drager
Since I'm not always able to visit beautiful cities and parks, I often "exercise" my photographic vision with close-to-home subjects! This often means looking beyond the bigger view for the smaller pictures - in particular, shots that emphasize patterns, lines, repetitions, or abstracts. Another benefit to exploring "everyday" surroundings: It's fun! And the next time I venture far from home, I'll be ready to see - and capture - the photogenic images that great cities and national parks have to offer!
Editor's Note: This tip was adapted from one of Kerry Drager's BetterBlogs. Also check out his online courses: Creative Light & Composition and Creative Close-ups

Featured Gallery
Exhausting Elements
© - Jim Kinnunen

Welcome to the 346th issue of SnapShot!

This holiday season has been filled with excitement at BetterPhoto! Our December online PhotoCourses have just begun, but there are still spaces available. See the school schedule... ... Speaking of the holidays, consider giving the gift of a memorable photo experience - i.e., a course or personal Web Site! A BetterPhoto Gift Card! is easy to order and easy to personalize - and it's redeemable for a variety of BetterPhoto experiences! ... Just a reminder: SnapShot is just one of four free newsletters that we offer on photography and Photoshop. For details and to subscribe... That's it for now. Enjoy your holiday season photography!

Jim Miotke
Where Is Jim?

Updates From BetterPhoto

Our photography and Photoshop classes are so much fun and you learn a lot in a short time! See our 8-week course lineup and 4-week course schedule. ... Need help deciding? 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. Shop for the holidays online with and win a free $100.00 gift card. However, this drawing ends Dec. 15th, so act now! More info... For photo insights and techniques, read the frequently updated BetterBlogs. Read recent entries from Jim Zuckerman and Kerry Drager, plus an excellent Dec. 4th "Making Your Own Holiday Card" entry from Richard Lynch!

Photo Q&A

1: Neutral Density Filters
Hi Everyone! I am wondering if anyone could advise on whether you can/should use a neutral density filter for portraits on the beach and what to watch out for. I try to shoot in late afternoon so that the sun is behind me (East coast of Australia) but sometimes there is still a lot of glare from the water (and sometimes peope want shots in the morning! Any help would be greatly appreciated.
- Sue McLeod
Sue, I don't believe an ND filter would be of help in the situations you describe. The purpose of these filters is to simply cut down on the light entering the lens across the spectrum. On the other hand, if you want to open your lens wider than is possible due to too much ambient light, the ND can help. That is, if you set the ISO to 100 and use the highest shutter speed possible and still have to use f8 to get proper exposure, then an ND filter can be used to cut the light so that you can open to f2.8 or whatever and get less depth of field.
Now, as for glare on the water, you might want to try a polarizing filter. Assuming you use a modern camera, you'll need to get a so-called citcular polarizing (CP) filter (the older linear type polarizers don't allow modern auto-focus systems to work properly). CPs usually also cut light out by 1 to 2 stops, so in a sense, they act as ND filters - but they do much more than that due to the effects of polarization.
Hope that helps.
- Bob Fately
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2: Oversize Backdrops
I have been shooting a lot of dance/school groups lately, and I need a larger backdrop. Currently, I'm running with a 10x10. I need to fit 22-30 people. Where are the best places to buy larger backdrops (like 20 ft wide)? Or would it be better to buy two identical smaller backdrops to get the length I need.
- Holly K. Henkels
You can make these out of painter's Muslin found in most hardware stores and paint stores. Or just buy a few and piece together.
I hope this helps,
- Debby Tabb
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3: Shooting in a Gym Without Flash
I have a Nikon D50 and love it. I took about 1200 pictures during my daughter's soccer season. Now we move indoors for basketball, and I have no idea what to do. I don't want to distract the players with a flash. What do I need to take pictures of my daughter playing basketball? I consider myself a beginner. So please keep your answer simple. I have a very good eye for pictures, but I really don't know much about my camera. Please help. Thanks!!!
- Saundra Vaudreuil
Hi Saundra,
In low light, you need a "fast" – light sensitive – lens to be able to use large apertures and reasonable shutter speeds with high ISO settings. Lenses like that are very expensive. What lens, with what max aperture, have you got? You may also want to use a tripod or monopod for support to mitigate camera shake.
- W. Smith
You don't say what lens you will be using, but I will give you the benefit of my experience. Where I live, we have a junior college, a high school, and a junior high school gym, with the lighting in each one progressively darker. To shoot in the junior college gym with a D200 (at ISO 3200), I need an 85mm f1.8 and/or a 50mm f1.8 lens. Shooting either lens at f1.8 gives me a shutter speed of about 1/500. (I shoot under the basket so I need as fast of a shutter speed as possible). The images are noisy but usable for prints of 8x10 or less. I assume your daughter is not college-age and therefore playing in a not-so-well-lit gym. Also, your camera only goes to ISO 1600. Here's the bottom-line: Buy yourself a 50mm f1.8 for around $100 new (or a 85mm f1.8 for $300 used), set the D50 to ISO 1600, continuous focus, dynamic focusing, and set the lens aperture to f1.8. Then get as close as you can and shoot away. Good luck!
- Scott H.
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4: How Much Computer Needed for PS Elements 6?
I would like to purchase Photoshop Elements 6, but read somewhere that some people were having trouble with running it on older PCs. My PC is approximagely 5 years old - 512mb ram and 2GB hard drive. I know, don't laugh, it's got me this far. I'm kind of on a budget but was wondering if someone could offer some opinions as to system requirements. We are looking at a new PC but I would like to go shopping with a bit of knowledge. Thanks.
- Chuck 
At Adobe's Web site, they specify the software's system requirements. For Elements 6, it is a process running at least at 1.3 GHz, 512 Mb RAM, and 1.5 GB of free hard drive space. Consider that an absolute bare minimum. I would get at least a 2 GHz processor and 2 Gb or more of RAM. Hard drives are commonly 100+ Gb. Bigger is better, as is faster = look for a hard drive spinning at 7200 RPM rather than 5600 RPM. Upgrade video card would also be preferred.
- Jon Close
Just to second the notion: So long as you can find the system requirements on Adobe's site, those are the minimums. Keep in mind that this is in addition to the operating system requirements and any other programs you expect to run at the same time.
I tend to see how long I can last with a system, as the change is not always a lot of fun (see some of my philosophy of upgrades blog), but my 5 year-old system that I am replacing was 2GB RAM and 4x 60GB hard drives. Granted, my demands are on the high end because of the work I do ... but RAM and hard drives these days are cheap.
You can see more of my recommendations in my building the ultimate machine blog. Just a few ideas (and gift ideas ;-).
- Richard Lynch

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5: Residential Architecture
I work for a residential architect in upstate NY and was approached by one of the builders to take pictures of some of his projects for him. The problem is that I've never taken any pictures like this before. I stick to nature photography. My question is how much to charge for photos if he likes them (I said I'd shoot some, and if he likes them, we'll go from there). Any feedback will help. Thanks a lot!
- Matthew M. Sciortino
What does the architect expect? Pro shots? If so, you'll need a shift lens.
- Pete Herman

Architectural photography can be difficult. Sometimes it can be as difficult as action photography. A lot depends on the intended use. Pete's correct in asking what is expected. I work for a builder in my day job and look at the photos that are printed in the listing magazines and wonder what they were thinking when they took the picture. If the builder expects the same shots as a pro would shoot, say for Professional Builder magazine or the NAHB magazines, you're in for a major undertaking. I'll guarantee you the builder you are talking to has no idea what it costs to produce these types of shots.
You need to find out what his/her intended use is, how many are going to published, etc., before you can figure out how to charge.

- Todd Bennett
I don't think any of the shots will be for submitting to a publisher. He just realized that he has no pictures of any of his jobs so he has nothing to show prospective clients, short of taking them to the actual site. Basically, from my understanding, these shots will be portfolio pieces for the builder.
- Matthew M. Sciortino
I can't help you with the pricing, but you will need to be careful when shooting these homes. I am sure you'll use a tripod. The camera needs to be level and pointed straight at the building you intend to photograph. If the lens is pointing the slightest bit up or down you stand a good chance of getting distortion. A zoom lens positioned a little further back may also help reduce the distortion, if your working space will allow for it.
As far as the charge for this goes, it more than likely should be on an hourly rate including your driving time to and from the sites you are to photograph.
- Todd Bennett
Hi Matt,
I think that architectural photography is the most technically demanding work that you can do. The goal is to use strobes to raise the shadow values giving you an image that shows all aspects of a room. I usually use 2 to 5 strobes for this. I use Norman 200B strobes to do this much of the time. You can do this with the HDR feature in Photoshop. I don’t think this works as well as using strobes does, but you may not have strobes. Richard Lynch (another instructor here at BetterPhoto) and I have an article in Photo Techniques magazine in January. It describes some of the differences between using strobes and fixing the job in Photoshop.
You can see another article about shooting interiors at my Web site, The direct link is
- John H. Siskin

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6: Photographing Christmas Lights
Help! I have always used the auto setting on my Canon EOS SLR and achieved great pictures. I recently bought the Canon S5 IS digital camera and want to take pictures of outside christmas lights. However, when I put it on the fireworks setting, the pictures turn out blurry. Carrying a tripod with me is not an option. I know I will probably need to set it to manual and set everything, but I don't even know what aperture, shutter speed or ISO to even start with. Thanks!
- Cindy Zimbelman
You can start with ISO 1600, shutter speed 1/60, f/2.8 ... Reconsider the tripod.
- gregory la grange
A smaller aperture setting will expand the Depth of Field and create little starbursts of light off the most vibrant, brighter features of those displays. Set the aperture (in aperture-priority AE) and be prepared for a multi-second exposure time. This, of course, means that you WILL need that tripod.
- Bob Cammarata
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