The weekly newsletter on the art of photography from
Monday, February 11, 2008
Featured Gallery
Welcome Note
This Week's Tip
Updates From BetterPhoto
Q&A 1: How to Shoot Faci...
Q&A 2: Wrinkled Backdrop...
Q&A 3: Portraits: How to...
Q&A 4: Shooting NBA Bask...

"Jim is a superb instructor! Making Money is a practical, useful course packed with information I could not have learned otherwise except through years of trial and error. And his critiques are thorough and specific but kind. I actually feel prepared now to market my images, and I highly recommend this course!" -student in Jim Zuckerman's Making Money with Your Photography course

Photographer's Edge features a complete line of do-it-yourself Photo Frame Greeting Cards for all types of photographers and subjects. Visit Photographer's Edge...

Hunt's is a top retailer for photography gear and a trusted BetterPhoto partner. Each month, Hunt's offers specials just for BP members! Check out the latest deals...

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How to Cut Digital Noise ... by Sean Arbabi
There are two great programs out there to help cut the digital noise from your images, either from a high ISO setting, a small image or low-quality image sensor, or a scanned piece of film.
- Neat Image: This is the one I use. It's quick, has tons of controls or a basic auto setting, and works well. It's a Photoshop plug-in, so it's easy to access when your image is open in Photoshop.
- NoiseNinja: I've also heard good things about this program as well. I've never used it, but it compares with NeatImage.
Both are priced between $50-100 and well worth it. Now you can use a higher ISO if you are willing to fix it later in Photoshop!
NOTE: Check out Sean Arbabi's excellent online photo course: Better Exposure: How to Meter Light

Featured Gallery
Off The Lip
© - Warren Ishii

Welcome to the 355th issue of SnapShot!

Good news! It's not too late to enroll in one of BetterPhoto's interactive online photography courses. Sign up now, and we'll send you the first lesson pronto. See our school schedule... By the way, if you haven't already, be sure to check out our new "frequent flier" program. For every five classes you take, you receive a 50% discount on your next course! Learn more about MVBP Rewards... In this issue of SnapShot, don't miss instructor Sean Arbabi's excellent Photo Tip on cutting digital noise, the awesome new Successful Publication Photography course by Rob Sheppard, and a fine collection of questions and answers... That's it for now. Enjoy your week of photography!

Jim Miotke
Where Is Jim?

Updates From BetterPhoto

Our online photography courses give you personal interaction with successful professionals. You can join a short 4-week course, a more intense 8-week course, or a year-long ClassTrack program. See our school schedule... Learn what it takes to successfully have your photographs published! In this exciting new 4-week online class, instructor Rob Sheppard shares the experience of being the editor of Outdoor Photographer magazine for 12 years, as well as being editor-at-large and columnist with the magazine, plus author of over 20 photography books. Learn more... Check out our awesome BetterPhotoMentor program, which helps teens get involved with photography. And you can help - by donating a digital camera that you no longer use! Read the details...

Photo Q&A

1: How to Shoot Facing Toward the Sun
How do I take a photo with direct sun light in the background that does not create glare? Example: Sunrise on the golf course or beach.
- Don B. Durham
You will get flare if the sun is in the frame unless you "hide it" behind something...OR unless haze obscures and diffuses the direct rays as Sam described.
See Example
A bright rising or setting sun will create backlit silhouettes of the foreground objects. This effect can be dramatic and quite desirable but if you want to record more detail of the foreground you will need to illuminate it somehow.
With practice, you can allow a tiny peek of bright sunlight to enter the frame without getting flare. With a stopped-down aperture setting, a natural starburst effect will record at the point of light where the sun peeks out.
See Example.
You can also elect to display only the backlit foreground elements and allow the bright sun to paint a "halo" of light around them.
In this example, this technique was used.
To eliminate glare, hold up a card or something just out of frame to block the sun and keep stray light from entering the lens barrel. (On this shot I used the brim of my hat.) This is easy to do with practice and a tripod-mounted camera.
After composing the shot, set your timer and move the card around until you see a shadow cast over the top part of the lens and hold it there until the timer runs out.
- Bob Cammarata
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2: Wrinkled Backdrop
I bought a backdrop from Sky High (12x20 ecru-color muslin) and can't seem to get it to look right. Attached is a photo to show ... I like the wrinkled look on the floor around the little boy, but the background (hanging on the wall) looks like a "bad wrinkle", not a "good wrinkle." Please help me! I have a spendy backdrop that I can't use because it looks BAD! Thanks for any advice!!
- Carin GriffithSee Sample Photo - Bad Wrinkles!

My suggestion to you is the same as I keep mine. Steam or iron the backdrop and then, when not in use, roll it up either onto a backdrop system roller or by itself. if by itself, then roll again somewhat like rolling a cinnamon roll and store. This should help,
Have fun,
- Debby Tabb
Try Downy Wrinkle Releaser while it's hanging ... works on mine. Most of the wrinkles will soften out.
- Cyn D. Valentine
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3: Portraits: How to Get White Background
I have four lights for my home studio. I would like to shoot children's pictures on a white backdrop (with the "white out" high-key look). I was also going to purchase plexiglass so the subject looks grounded but wasn't sure how big of a piece I needed ... is 3 x 8 OK on a 10 x 12 backdrop? I am not sure what f/stop to set all 4 my lights on in order to get the affect of a "white out". Can anyone help me?
- Jen Topp
You need 3 stops difference in light between the subject and the background.
- W. Smith
Hi Jen,
As you know, “High Key” is achieved when the majority of tones are reproduced light. When children are the subject the light should be highly diffused, this adds an even softer touch.
Two schools of thought on “High Key” Some maintain the image must not contain any blacks. Some claim a black is needed to key off the light tones to give an illusion of extra brilliance. In any event the lighting should maintain a feeling of depth accomplished with the 3:1 ratio or perhaps slightly less.
It is advisable to position the main light a little closer to the camera than normal as this position more fully illumines frontal areas of the subject. The main is kept high to simulate midday sun. The fill is positioned at lens height as near as possible to the lens with out getting in the picture. The lighting ratio main to fill is set to 3:1 or slightly less. Best accomplished using a light meter. We want the fill light to arrive at the subject 1 f/stop weaker (50% less light) than the main. No meter? Set both main and fill at equal distance from the subject and set the power of the fill to ½. No power adjustment? Accomplish brightness difference by setting the two lamps at different distances. Assuming main and fill are identical fixtures, set the main closer. To achieve the correct ratio, measure fill-to-subject distance and multiply by 0.7. The answer is the distance main-to-subject this math places the main closer so that its energy arrives at the subject plane 100% greater than the fill i.e. 1 f/stop. This achieves the target ratio of 3:1
As Mr. Smith told you, the background is illumed quite bright. You want to light the background uniformly with 3 f/stops more energy (300% more) on the background as compared to the main. Not an easy task. Best to use a light meter. You can use more than one light to brighten up the background. If you are using the distance method, this assumes all lamps are equal in power and design, multiply main-to-subject distance by 0.35. Place back ground lamp at this revised distance; this achieve the desired 300% brighter background.

Exposure is based only on the fill i.e. turn off all lamps except fill and measure subject’s skin. Set camera to this setting. It is always wise to bracket your exposures meaning you should shoot a series using aperture adjustments.

For “High Key” overexposure is your enemy as you need to record the delicate tonal difference. These will be lost if you overexpose.

Best of luck,

Alan Marcus, Anaheim, CA (dispenser of technical gobbledygook)

Editor's Note: Also check out BetterPhoto's excellent Understanding the Tools of Lighting course!

- Alan N. Marcus
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4: Shooting NBA Basketball Game
I own a Nikon D40x and want to take pictures at the Houston Rockets NBA game. I will be using my 200mm lens. Is there enough lighting in a basketball arena to take good photos with using a flash? Largest fstop is 5.6 on my lens when at 200mm.
- Andray Stroud
Hi Andray,
For starters, you will need a good vantage point of course - as close to the court as possible. Next, you will need a powerful external flash gun (the on-board peanut flash is, well, a peanut flash). And even a powerful external flash gun won't be enough. But combined with a 'BetterBeamer' flash extender – and a tripod! – you will have a viable setup.
Good hunting!
- W. Smith
However, ambient light photos of basketball games - no flash - are much more 'alive' than those flash-frozen snapshots. Sure, they're much trickier too, of course, and require an expensive low-light lens. And most exposures will bomb. Well over 90% in fact. But when you get a good one, it can be a VERY good shot! Never mind the noise with a high ISO. You can work on that later, and nobody minds a bit of grain in dynamic shots like that. Shoot supported, RAW, bracket, and sequences. As many exposures as possible.
Have fun!
- W. Smith
You will not be able to get good photos without flash using a f/5.6, and that's an understatement. I am in the process of experimenting with no and low light. The smallest lens I use is f/2.8, my largest is f/1.4.

Editor's Note: Also check out BetterPhoto's online course - Basics of Sports Photography, taught by pro sports shooter and author Newman Lowrance.

- Bernard 
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