The weekly newsletter on the art of photography from
Monday, December 17, 2007
Featured Gallery
Welcome Note
This Week's Tip
Updates From BetterPhoto
Q&A 1: How to Merge Phot...
Q&A 2: How Do I Take a H...
Q&A 3: Saving Actions in...
Q&A 4: Wattage of Strobe...
Q&A 5: Photographing Tre...

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A Rule for Breaking the Rules ... by Kerry Drager
Compositional rules are made to be broken - for those times when you want a certain creative effect. But the "trick" is to make it perfectly clear that "rule" breaking was your artistic objective, and not an oversight. Examples:
- Straight horizon line: A slight slope looks like a distracting mistake, but a radical slant produces a strong diagonal line and distinctive look.
- Wide-angle "distortion": Tilt your camera a little bit and buildings will lean in an unsightly, clumsy way. But move in super-close and point the camera upward, in order to produce a great sense of movement or visual energy due to the exaggerated "distortion".
"Breaking the rules" doesn't always work successfully, but it can be fun to experiment!Editor's Note: Check out Kerry Drager's Creative Light & Composition and Creative Close-ups courses.

Featured Gallery
© - Shelline Watts

Welcome to the 347th issue of SnapShot!

First off, let me wish you all a wonderful 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! Courses kick off in January, but sign up now to ensure enrollment in your favorite photography or Photoshop class. See the course schedule... In this issue of SnapShot, don't miss the Weekly Photo Tip, and the new 4-week version of Jim Zuckerman's awesome How to Photograph Animals & Wildlife course. ... That's it for now. Have a great week of holiday photography!

Jim Miotke
Where Is Jim?

Updates From BetterPhoto

Make 2008 the year you take your photography - or Photoshop - to the next level! We offer awesome online photo courses led by top pros. These classes are a lot of fun, and you learn a lot in a short time! Classes begin January 9th. is thrilled to announce that we have added the option of streaming music to Deluxe and Pro BetterPholios! We have a library of 70 songs for you to choose from in your music library, and we are adding a few songs every week. Get in the "sing" this holiday season: Buy a Deluxe or Pro BetterPholio for you or the photographer in your life! For great tips on photography, read the frequently updated Instructor Insights. Recent blogs from Jim Zuckerman and Kerry Drager include "Depth of Field in Low Light", "Outdoor Lighting and Contrast", "Focusing on Close-up Photography", and "Soft Light & Close-up Compositions".

Photo Q&A

1: How to Merge Photos for Panoramas
In Photoshop, when I merge two photographs together using the Photomerge tool, at the locations where the photos overlap a little, the color is darker. Now can I get the overlapping portions not to be a different color?
- Tim 
Part of this will start with the shooting. Do you shoot on Auto? If so, when you move the camera to other parts of the panorama, the exposure will adjust, and that can lead to difference in the exposure, brightness and color of the overlaps. You want to set the exposure and control it for all the shots in the panorama. If you shoot in Raw, you'll want to make the conversions exactly the same way.
If you have already shot the panorama and the exposures are different, you have the much more difficult task of getting the parts to behave. When you make the panorama, you'll want to keep Photoshop from doing the merge for you and just create the image with layers. This way you'll be able to lighten dark shots in the series or darken bright ones to match manually. You will also be able to control masking and blending by other means (much of which I discuss in my online course - Leveraging Layers: Photoshop's Most Powerful Tool).
On top of this, you may need to do dodging and burning or other adjustments ... it isn't a simple answer - and often the automated ones are not the best: computers can't see.
Photoshop is an enabler: it enables you to do things. It is best at what it does when it acts as your tool to do your bidding with your direction rather than the mastermind.
- Richard Lynch

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2: How Do I Take a High-Resolution Image?
Hi all,
I'm all confused about high resolution photos. I use a Nikon d80 and shoot JPEG. I use a fine setting with large format, but I guess this isn't high resolution? What is it? How do I do it? Do I need to shoot Raw? If so, what program do I get that will allow me to open Raw images in Photoshop elements 5.0? Any help would be greatly appreciated!! Thanks so much!
- Diane C. Pontious
Hi Diane, even at fine and large, with JPEGs, some compression and loss of data occurs. At your settings, this is not really a loss of resolution as much as a loss of color bit depth or data. But this loss will limit the exposure, saturation, sharpening, etc., adjustments you can make without introducing some artifacts. So for the maximum data in your files, shoot Raw. I believe Nikon View is the free software will allow you to open NEF files. But if you really want to work with NEF files, get Nikon Capture NX. This one program will allow you to do all edits that you can do in Elements without ever leaving the NEF raw format. Plus you have the control over white balance, exposure and lighting that working in raw gives you. And all edits are nondestructive and saved as a sidecar instruction file that is much smaller than multilayered PSD files.
- William Schuette
Hello Diane,
The term "high resolution" is relative. Compared to most DSLRs, the point & shoot cameras are low resolution. A Mamiya 2.25" with a digital back is high resolution compared to a DSLR. It is all relative.
All the best,
- Pete Herman
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3: Saving Actions in Elements?
I used to use Photoshop (old version), and I could save actions. So, for example, I would resize a photo I've taken and add a 5cm border around it for printing, and I could save those actions so next time I wanted to do it to another photo, all I had to do was click a button and it did it automatically... so easy!!
I'm now using Elements 6 (new to it) and I've been looking for something like this ... does anyone know if you can save actions? Maybe it's called something else now ... lol !!
Any help is appreciated :) Thanks!
- Ben F
Actually, you can use actions in Elements - and I have a Web site (not quite updated, but I got a new computer today that should help me get around to it!) that is dedicated to that amongst other things:
I have add-on tools that enhance what you can do in Elements, and a white paper that talks about how to make actions work in versions 1-4 (needs to be updated for recent versions).
I hope that helps!
- Richard Lynch

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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
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4: Wattage of Strobes
Hey everyone,
I'm looking to buy a couple of strobes with umbrellas but I have a few questions. I will be using them with 2-250 watt lights with softboxes:
What is the recommended wattage I should get? I'm looking at one with 40 watts per strobe. Is that enough?
Any other tips or insights on purchasing these would also be very helpful.
Thank you all for your time!
- Rachel Larson
Hi Rachel!
Look, here’s the deal: A 40-watt-second strobe(watts are for continuous lights) will work OK if you point it directly at the subject from a few feet away. By OK, I mean it will light the subject. The quality of the light will be really lousy, I mean really lousy. In order to make better light, you need a larger light source. I use about 4X6 feet for the most important light in a shot. Because the light is so large, it requires a great deal of power. I agree with Mark about 750 watt-second Bowens and Calumet Travelites. I have one of the 750 Travelites, and it is a great unit. Many of my students here at BetterPhoto use the Alien Bee strobes. I know from their experience that the B1600 will do a reasonably good job of making the light I like. It is very possible to use smaller lights - like a 200 watt-second strobe for additional light in a shot - so not everything has to be a big gun. I point out that I have an article in Photo Techniques this month about using hard and soft light sources, and this may help you to understand how to work with light. There is an article here at BetterPhoto on working with one light that might also help: I have a couple of other articles about lighting here as well, and I teach the Understanding the Tools of Lighting course here at BP.
Thanks! John Siskin!

Hi Mark,
Thanks for the plug!

- John H. Siskin

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5: Photographing Trees With Ice
I was driving to work and noticed how lovely the trees look with the ice on them. I have a Nikon N80, 28-80 & 28-105 Nikkor lens, and using Fuji Professional film and would like some advice on how shoot them. Where there are buildings in the background, would I shoot with aperture priority, or would I be better off shooting with shutter priority? When viewing them, the tree trunks and branches are dark in color, while the ice is clear. I found a couple of trees with red berries still on them along with the ice and some have little nests in them. Thank you in advance!
- Nanette B. Stephens
Which priority doesn't matter much. You can adjust one until you get the desired other setting. Get close, get back. Look for details and walk around for different angles. The light is going to make the ice look different depending on which way it's coming and point of view. It's a good time for some black and white too!
- gregory la grange
Get in close to record the intimate details of individual ice-laden branches rather than the whole frozen landscape, which is really hard to re-create. And remember that deep shade will render "blue ice" without a warming filter. Meter (manually) off something neutral in the same light for best results.
- Bob Cammarata
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