The weekly newsletter on the art of photography from
Monday, March 03, 2008
Featured Gallery
Welcome Note
This Week's Tip
Updates From BetterPhoto
Q&A 1: Lens Selection fo...
Q&A 2: How to Make a Lar...
Q&A 3: Did I Buy a Defec...
Q&A 4: Airports and Your...
Q&A 5: Sharpening Softwa...
Q&A 1: High-Key Portra...

"I loved this class! Vik is a wonderful instructor, and her work is very inspirational. I enjoyed her feedback and that she was always readily available to answer questions." -student in Vik Orenstein's Photographing Children course

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Explore Your Subject, Then Trust Your Eye! ... by Kerry Drager
Amid the excitement of shooting, it's not always easy to keep all of the compositional strategies in mind. Here's the key: Whenever you're shooting non-candid stationary subjects, slow down and examine your scene in-depth. Vary your camera positions, place your main subject in different parts of the frame, switch from horizontal to vertical, zoom in and zoom out, etc.
So how will you know when you've come up with the "perfect" photo? If, after thoroughly investigating your subject AND you really like what you're seeing in the viewfinder, then you most likely have your shot! But what if the view through your viewfinder still "doesn't quite feel right"? Well, you may be shooting the subject in the "wrong" light, you might not have the "right" lens (i.e., you need a super-tele to properly frame a distant animal), etc. Then it may be time to practice the "fine art of giving up": move on and find a more cooperative subject.
In short: Look, analyze, experiment ... and then go with own visual instincts!
Editor's Note: Check out Kerry Drager's online photo courses here at BetterPhoto: Creative Light and Composition and Creative Close-ups

Featured Gallery
© - Monika Sapek

Welcome to the 358th issue of SnapShot!

Exciting times at BetterPhoto, as our March online photography courses kick off this Wednesday! These classes offer personal interaction with top pros and published authors. We have an awesome lineup of 4-week and 8-week courses, plus our year-long ClassTracks. See our school schedule... Need help finding the right course? Try our easy-to-use CourseFinder... Do you qualify for our "frequent flier" program? MVBP Rewards is our gift to you. For every five classes you take, you receive a 50% discount on your next course! Learn more about MVBP... And if you haven't checked it out already, see our BetterPhoto Clubs page, and consider joining one of the established photo clubs - or start up one of your own. ... That's it for now. Enjoy your week of photography!

Jim Miotke
Where Is Jim?

Updates From BetterPhoto

Are you ready to take the next step in photography or Photoshop? Sign up for a fun-and-fast 4-week course or a more intense 8-week class. See the course listings... With purchase in our awesome yearlong ClassTracks program, you receive a free Pro BetterPholio, and upon completion, you qualify for an additional free 4-week course! Learn more... Congratulations to the January winners in BP's first monthly Cash Photo Contest! To enter the current contest...

Photo Q&A

1: Lens Selection for Variety of Shots
Just wondering what size lens, filters and attachments would be required for the following situations: 1) high-energy fashion shot of active sports wear using male and female models interacting physically; 2) power shots of women in business suits situated in a city environment with lots of action around them; 3) oOutdoor shot of a model's head on an overcast day.
- Stuart Watt
I'd say a large aperture prime lens: 50 f/1.4, 85 f/1.8, 100 f/2, 135 f/2, depending what type camera you're using. 50-85 for a "crop" DSLR or APS film camera. 85-135 for 35mm film or "full frame" DSLR. Longer lenses for medium format. I wouldn't be concerned with filters, but accessory lighting and reflectors are helpful, even outdoors.
- Jon Close
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2: How to Make a Large Print
Hi, I have been asked for a large print 36x42 from a client. I'm wondering if an 8 TIFF will suffice, shot in RAW and processed. I use a 20D with a 24-70 2.8 Canon lens, so the image sharpness is amazing. I've only ever offered up to 16x20, which my camera has done very nicely.
- Sherri  L. Regalbuto
The short answer: You should have no trouble with a print that large from the 20D, especially if printed at a professional print shop with high-end equipment. Of course, there are many variables like: Did you crop, and if so, how much? What ISO did you use? Was the exposure correct, or did you have to fix it during processing? How sharp is it? I'm sure there are other factors.
- David A. Bliss
The result depends on the quality you are looking for, the printer you are using, and a few other things. Your resolution on the 20D is 3502 x 2336 pixels, which translates to about 14.6 x 9.33 inches at 240 ppi - often a good number to look at for higher resolution printing. This is all the real detail you will ever have in the image no matter how you process, upsize, or what plugins you use. The kind of size you are talking about printing here realistically translates to about 83ppi at 42x36 ... extremely low resolution - closer to what you get in Web images, and about 1/3rd the generally recommended resolution for sharp prints.
Sure, you can print it. You'd be able to print any image at that size ... the question becomes more about acceptable quality and file handling. As to what happens when you start blowing images up to 3 times their resolution to get a print, what you expect and what the client does become real issues. The client may likely know less about images and resolution than you will and might expect details to remain sharp - or even somehow enhanced after resizing. Quite the contrary, that much upsizing will noticeably soften edges, and details will no longer be as sharp. Certainly a larger image won't be scrutinized from as close. So perfect sharpness may not matter as much, but any tiny flaw in the image will be amplified, and may require more meticulous care in post-processing.
By 8 TIFF, do you mean an 8-bit TIFF? Printers only handle 8-bits anyway (or convert from 16 to 8), so the extra file size of a 16-bit wouldn't improve results anyway. More to the point:
* Are you planning on resizing before submitting to the service?
* If so, to what resolution?
* How are you planning to sharpen/compensate?
* What type of printer is the service using?
* Have you tested the output?
I cover these issues in far more detail in my courses (notably From Monitor to Print: Photoshop Color Workflow and Photoshop 101: the Photoshop Essentials Primer
If you are really considering doing such large prints in the future, you may have to consider a more substantial camera depending on the quality you expect.
I hope that helps!
Richard Lynch
- Richard Lynch

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3: Did I Buy a Defective VR lens?
I recently purchased a Nikkor 70-300 VR (Vibration Reduction) lens. I noticed that even with the VR supposedly on and active, I'm getting blurred shots. Am I doing something wrong? Thanks.
- Simon A. Velu
Hello Simon,
When the VR is "active", you can actually hear it if you are in a quiet place. (It's a high-pitched whine) You can also "see" it functioning through the lens ... it kinda' looks like a slight image delay when you move the camera.
VR is not a cure-all. It does have limitations. For instance, if you are zoomed in at 250mm and shooting at 1/2 second, no way will it prevent blurring from camera shake. A standard guideline for hand-holding is 1/focal length. So, with the example above, most photographers strive for a shutter speed 1/250th or faster. With VR, you should be able to shoot the same image about 3 to 4 stops better - 1/15th-1/30th.
Also make sure you are operating in "normal" mode, not "active".
To test it, zoom to maybe 100mm and shoot at 1/10th sec. Try it VR on and then VR off. You should see a big difference, if it's working.
All the best,
- Pete ****
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4: Airports and Your Camera
This isn't a problem (yet), but I was wondering about airport screening and your gear. I will be taking my camera as a carry-on and, of course, it will have to go through the X-ray scanner. I wanted to make sure nothing would happen to it or the CF cards in my bag. Any tips or pointers anyone has would be so greatly appreciated. :) Thanks!
- Amanda  M. Freese
From everything I've read and heard, it isn't a problem. I recently flew from Houston to Chicago, on American and the screener had me take my camera out of the camera bag and give it to him, and he handed it right back to me after I walked through. My bag went onto the belt with all my extra cards, and they all work fine. Have a great trip!
- Corinne M. Thompson
Hi, Amanda,
One more bit of advice (and this goes for computers, too): Be sure to go through the magnetometer after your gear has started through the X-ray. And, don't put the gear on the conveyor for the X-ray until you're actually ready to go through the X-ray.
A lot of cameras and computers are lost by people not being aware of where their gear is as they're going through TSA.
- RK Stephenson
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5: Sharpening Software
Has anyone used a focus program such as focus magic or other sharpeners that you are satisfied with?
- fred wilson
There will be others that argue for some plug-in or another, but the suggestion I have is several fold:
1) Don't rely on sharpening to enhance the sharpness of a soft image. It is really for sharpening images that are already sharp. Only sharp images can be truly sharpened ... I know that sounds perverse, but that's the fact.
2) Always make the effort to take the sharpest image you can, and don't rely on sharpening as a fix. If an image is soft, it may be best to go with soft-focus or other effects than to try and impose sharpness on it. Use a tripod, monopod, image stabilization lenses, quick shutter speeds, mirror-up locking, other bracing, and whatever it takes to make the capture the best before coming to a sharpening technique to rescue images.
3) When you want to use sharpening, the Unsharp Mask and manual techniques like I discuss in my BetterPhoto online classes - Leveraging Layers: Photoshop's Most Powerful Tool or Correct and Enhance Your Images - can provide tasteful, simple sharpening. Masking can do the rest.
4) I'm always a proponent of learning what your image-editing program can do so you can control your effects. Adding a plug-in only adds to the number of tools you have to learn to use, and really those already in Photoshop (or Elements) are quite good. Make the most of the program before adding on.
Not quite the answer you wanted, but I don't use plug-ins and have not run into one that I consider a 'must have'.
- Richard Lynch

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Leveraging Layers: Photoshop's Most Powerful Tool
Hello Fred,
I agree with Richard. (hello, Richard!) I had him recently for a Photoshop 101 class. If you try too hard to rescue an image, it will show up and look over-edited (as I've learned - I am a newbie too). This can be a big waste of a time and a bunch of back-peddling to redo your work. Best to stick with what the program offers (assuming you have Photoshop).
There are classes you can take here at BetterPhoto that help you learn to actually use your camera better in order to get the best shot while you're there rather than try to fix them at home. I have taken a couple, and I highly recommend them!
Good luck!
- Amanda  M. Freese
Oh, and take one of Richard's courses, if you want an instructor that excels in critique.
- Sharon  D
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1: High-Key Portrait: How to Do It?

Hi all,

How can I do high-key portraits? Any tips or ways to do that professionally?

- Tareq M. Alhamrani

Hi Tareq,
Get a lot of light, a subject in very light colours, a white background, and nearly overexpose. Tada! You've got high-key portraits!
Have fun!

- W. Smith
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