The weekly newsletter on the art of photography from
Tuesday, January 01, 2008
Featured Gallery
Welcome Note
This Week's Tip
Updates From BetterPhoto
Q&A 1: Studio Background...
Q&A 2: Very Hot Camera B...
Q&A 3: Learning Photosho...
Q&A 4: Taking Better Bir...

"Thank you SOOOO much for your guidance and tips on approaching strangers. Very helpful and much appreciated! I've found that I'm much more comfortable approaching a stranger and asking to take their picture ... thank you!!" -student in Susan and Neil Silverman's Street Photography course

Learn creative compositional techniques to move your photography to the next level in Tony Sweet's outstanding 8-week course: Image Design: Revealing Your Personal Vision.

Our Deluxe and Pro BetterPholios now have the option of streaming music! These Web sites are easy to set up and easy to maintain, and have many excellent design options. Learn more...

Read our BetterBlogs: Instructor Insights, Digital Photo Blog, and the BetterPhoto Girls Blog!

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Viewfinder Shooting Strategy! ... by Kerry Drager
When faced with a captivating view, it's easy to get so wrapped up in the scenery that you overlook the "little" things that can mar an image. Assuming you have a non-action scene, then perform this last-minute viewfinder inspection before clicking the shutter:
Check out things from corner to corner and border to border, while looking for stray branches or pieces of litter, "hot spots" (sunlit glare) in the background, out-of-focus objects in an otherwise all-sharp picture, weird merges (i.e., the classic example being a telephone pole sprouting out of your subject's head), etc. Keep in mind that the brightest, lightest, most colorful object, or other contrasting element will attract the viewer's eye first - a problem if that area is NOT your picture's main subject.
Of course, this viewfinder strategy works best when you're able to carefully compose with your camera on a tripod!
Editor's Note: See Kerry Drager's online courses: Creative Light & Composition and Creative Close-ups.

Featured Gallery
Passage of Light
© - Christopher J. Budny

Welcome to the 349th issue of SnapShot!

I hope you are enjoying these opening days of 2008! At BetterPhoto, there's so much excitement as we launch our "frequent flier" program - specifically, BetterPhoto MVBP Rewards to express our gratitude to our most active course customers. See the exciting MVBP details... Also on tap for 2008 is our new and improved ClassTracks. Besides the inspiring experience of learning photography or Photoshop over a full year, ClassTrack graduates get an additional 4-week class AND a Pro BetterPholio for free! Learn more about ClassTracks... At the same time, we are looking forward to our next online photography school session, which kicks off Jan. 9th. In fact, the January session is our best ever, including a fine lineup of 8-week classes... The new year also brings great opportunities to share your photos (compare our four great options) and bond with photo friends (BetterPhoto Clubs). ... That's it for now. Best wishes for a great 2008 and, as always, have fun with your photography!

Jim Miotke
Where Is Jim?

Updates From BetterPhoto

Our year-long course program - ClassTracks - is back and better than ever! Choose from four exciting options: Nature Photography, Photoshop, Making Money, and Customize Your Track. Then, upon completion, you get an additional 4-week class AND a Pro BetterPholio for free - a $547 value! Learn more... We are thrilled to announce our MVBP* Rewards program! For every five courses you take, you will receive a 50% discount on your next course! Read all the awesome details... (*MVBP means Most Valued BetterPhotographer.) See our terrific 8-week online classes and 4-week online courses - all taught by top pros. School begins soon, so sign up now!

Photo Q&A

1: Studio Backgrounds
I am considering opening a storefront portrait studio. Any advice on a digital studio (greenscreen) vs. a studio with all the props and backgrounds?
- Beth Huling
Have you shot with a greenscreen or backgrounds? I purchased a greenscreen, backgrounds, and lights a while back to experiment at home. But after developing my own style more, I decided that's not the direction I want to take my photography, so I sold it all.
I recommend getting a greenscreen and a few different backgrounds to experiment with ... or better yet, there are some studios that rent to local photographers by the hour or day. Use their backgrounds and lights, and see if this works for you.
But back to your specific question - I would go with the backgrounds and props. You'll save yourself a ton of time editing photos, and you can put more of that money back into purchasing backgrounds.
- Cherylann Collins
Hi Beth,
I often use a medium grey fabric background. I change the way it photographs, by moving my subject in relation to the background (and the subject lights). Then I can change the color of the background with a gel over the light for the background. You can make your own backgrounds also! I have an article here at BetterPhoto about that:
P.S.: Don’t forget insurance and a business license!
- John H. Siskin

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4-Week Short Course: Portrait Lighting on Location & in the Studio
4-Week Short Course: Understanding the Tools of Lighting
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2: Very Hot Camera Batteries
My camera (Minolta Maxxum 5000) quit working. I've noticed that the battery pack gets very hot ... so hot that the batteries are untouchable. Has anyone ever had this kind of problem? Can anyone advise me what to do? Thanks!
- Carl W. Bradberry
Overheating of the batteries is due to either faulty batteries (try replacing them), or perhaps a problem in the camera that it is attempting to draw too much current from them.
- Jon Close
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3: Learning Photoshop Elements 6
My wife bought me PSE 6 for Christmas. I've never ran any Adobe Photoshop software before, so - needless to say - when I opened it to play around with some pictures, I felt a bit overwhelmed. Could someone direct me to a Web site, book or other means of learning what appears to be an impressive tool. I plan to just play with some images and see what happens, but some targeted step-by-step instruction I'm sure would be beneficial. Thanks again.
- Chuck 
Whatever you do to your photos, do it to a COPY of the original(s)! Then, if something goes wrong, you can start again and you haven't ruined or lost anything. Have fun!
- W. Smith
I teach an introduction to Photoshop and Photoshop Elements (works for versions 3-6) right here at BetterPhoto:
Photoshop 101: the Photoshop Essentials Primer.
The advantage of courses - especially at the beginner's stage - is the ability to ask questions directly, which you can't in a book or video. Books, in my opinion, can be a great option when you have a budget-conscious approach. While they may be less expensive, they will also probably not get you up and running as quickly.
I suggest approaching it with small goals in mind. Open a picture or two and decide what you want to do (color correct? convert to black-and-white? clean up dust? crop?) and look for tutorials that help with those specific tasks. Don't forget there is a Help menu that tells you how to use the tools. Try to avoid working on huge manipulations ("gee, that dog would look better as a goat facing in the other direction!"). Often new users want to do spectacular things, and the level of difficulty they set for the tasks makes them discouraged with the result.
And as WS says, work on copies!
Richard Lynch
- Richard Lynch

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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
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4: Taking Better Bird Photos
I like to take bird pictures ... which lens would be best? The problem is the birds are afraid and far away. What is the best technique? My Camera is a Canon EOS 400D. Thanks!
Hi Ahmad –
I do a fair amount of bird photography and have learned a few things: first, the most important "accessory" you need is knowledge of the bird you are attempting to photograph. Get a good bird book for your region and study not only the picture of the bird, but something of its habits. If you take time to sit quietly, in your car, behind a window or near a feeder, and watch the birds, you will begin to learn something about their behavior and thus be better able to anticipate your shot.
As for equipment: I use several different lenses – Sigma 70-500mm, Canon 70-200mm, and Canon 28-135mm. I generally use a tripod, but on occasions, I shoot handheld or use a bean bag resting on a fence post, tree limb, car window, etc. Once again, if you know something about the bird you can more easily guess where to focus for the best results. Plan on making multiple images, since sometimes you will need to shoot rapidly in order to capture that one good image. I tend to select a fairly high shutter speed and it helps that my Canon 5D has a constant focus mode that permits clear focusing even if the subject moves during capture.
Be prepared for at least some level of frustration when trying to make good images of birds. I suspect that even the real experts have days when nothing goes right and each image is somehow flawed.
Good luck!
- Irene Troy
For serious birding, lens choice will depend upon the quarry you seek. A fast super telephoto prime lens of at least 300mm that will accept matching teleconverters will be a wise choice for raptors or any other skittish species.
Waterfowl and wading birds can be easily approached in public parks and preserves where they've become accustomed to humans. In this scenario, shorter focal lengths will suffice.
- Bob Cammarata
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