The weekly newsletter on the art of photography from
Monday, April 14, 2008
Featured Gallery
Welcome Note
This Week's Tip
Updates From BetterPhoto
Q&A 1: Sunrises and Suns...
Q&A 2: Depth of Field - ...
Q&A 3: Sweet Spot of a L...
Q&A 4: Studio Lighting...

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A Tripod Workflow ... by Kerry Drager
In my classes, I advise using a tripod for all stationary scenes - whenever possible - for getting top image quality and also for fine-tuning compositions. But after extending the tripod legs and locking your camera in place, it's always tempting to simply stay put, and not even consider a better viewpoint. Instead, try this tripod "workflow" strategy to maximize your creativity:
- Set the tripod aside (assuming there's a safe place) and wander around and scan your surroundings for fresh angles BEFORE you set up your tripod.
- Only when you've lined up a potential shot should you break out the tripod.
Editor's Note: Check out Kerry Drager's Creative Light and Composition and Creative Close-ups courses

Featured Gallery
The night when romance started
© - William60 

Welcome to the 364th issue of SnapShot!

With April rolling right along, things are starting to ramp up here at Our May online courses have just been posted, and what an awesome schedule of photography and Photoshop classes for any skill level! Review our school listings... By the way, we offer payment plans for all courses. Also, if you're a multiple course-taker, you'll want to consider our "frequent flier" program. Learn more about MVBP Rewards... A course isn't the only way to get professional feedback on your work. Check out BP's exciting ProCritiques... Have questions about the free photography contest at Then visit our Free Contest FAQ page. ... Or, if you would like to take a shot at winning up to $1,000, then check out our Cash Contest... That's it for this week. Enjoy your photography!

Jim Miotke
Where Is Jim?

Updates From BetterPhoto

Our inspiring online photography courses give you personal interaction with successful professionals and published authors! See our May school schedule... Enroll in our awesome yearlong ClassTracks program and you'll receive a free Pro BetterPholio. Then, upon completion, you'll qualify for an additional free 4-week course! Learn more... With our BetterPhoto Clubs, you can interact with photo friends, share photos, exchange tips, and even get together for trips!

Photo Q&A

1: Sunrises and Sunsets
What is the best exposure for sunrise and sunset photography? I have a Nikon d40X, and also a F2.8 105mm macro lens and a 18-200mm 3.5 -5.6. I'm going to Florida where I think the best sunsets are. Should I shoot manual??
Florida may or may not have "the best sunsets", but the Sunshine State IS one of the few places around where one can shoot a seascape sunrise and sunset on the same day without burning a whole lot of gas.
I agree with what John S. said and would like to add a few other points to consider:
It's true that metering off the sky to the right or left of a setting (or rising) sun will give you a good reading. This works very well if the sky is blue ... but not so well if there are dark clouds in the frame during metering. In this scenario, you will need to compensate (1 stop-down) to prevent over-exposure.
Bracketing is recommended whenever shooting during extreme conditions if you want to avoid a lot of fixing later.
Try to include a subject or point of interest in the foreground. Don't expect that vibrant sunset to carry the day by itself. A passing ship, the interesting shape of an object on shore, a couple jogging along the beach, or even just someone admiring the sunset will add interest and a focal point to that great background.
And, as John suggested ... DO turn around and see the magic light and interesting shadows that are developing behind you.
- Bob Cammarata
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2: Depth of Field - Where to Focus?
I took a shot this morning and need help. I was going for maximum depth of field - shooting at 0.6, f/22, ISO 100. Used tripod, mirror lockup, cable release and a 17-55mm lens in natural light. I shot at 55mm focal length. But the background is not sharp. What did I do wrong? Please help. Thanks in advance.
- Mary Beth AielloSee Sample Photo - Bed of Tulips

Mary Beth,
This is a great example of finding and using hyperfocal distance. Unless you have Depth of Field markings on your lens, you will have to do this by trial and error. There are tables you can find on the net that will also help you find the hyperfocal distance.
It is dependent on (focal length) of your lens AND the (f/stop) chosen.
The first thing I notice is your focus point is probably too close or near if you prefer. Try focusing about 1/3rd into the frame.
Next, you shot this at 55mm. As focal length increases, getting a deep depth of field becomes increasingly difficult.
If you shoot this again at 18mm, you will see a deep DOF is far easier to accomplish.
All the best,
- Pete H
Hi Mary Beth,
Your problem relates to a misunderstanding regarding the width and origin of the zone we call depth-of-field. Many falsely believe depth-of-field mainly impacts the background. Others falsely believe the span of depth of field is split down the middle equally. However, the span or zone that will be acceptably sharp, extends 1/3 back toward the camera, and 2/3 away from the camera as measured from the point focused upon.
We can put this knowledge to good use. In the case of a field of flowers we view the vista and guess-ti-mate. the center point, then we choose a point inward (back towards the camera) to focus upon.
Likely the depth-of-field zone is 5 feet - 20 feet. The center of this span is about 12 feet. Knowing the 1/3 - 2/3 rule of thumb as described above, we focus upon a flower at about the 8 foot mark. This plan maximizes depth-of-field.
Hope this helps,
Alan Marcus (marginal technical gobbledygook)
- Alan N. Marcus
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3: Sweet Spot of a Lens?
Does anyone know how to find out what the "sweet spot" is on different lenses I own? I have tried searching but I am not really finding the information. Thanks so much.
- Linda S. Buchanan
Actually, every individual lens may be just slightly different than other lenses of the same focal length and manufacturer. This is something you can easily determine by individual trial and error.
The ideal way is to set up a focusing target at a predetermined distance like 8-10 feet. Put the camera on a tripod, preferably with some kind of leveling device to ensure it's square and plumb to the focus target.
Then focus on the target and use the depth of field preview to stop the lens down to f8.0. You'll probably find the sharpest focus somewhere in the range of about f8.0 f11.5. Check the target and snap exposures starting at those stops. As you climb towards f16 through f22, again check the depth of field, and don't be surprised if the target seems soft or less sharp than it was at, say, 11.5. If it's sharper there or even down to f8 or 8.5, that would be the sweet spot for that particular lens.
Okie dokie? ;>)
- Mark Feldstein
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4: Studio Lighting
I have a Canon Rebel XT EOS, I am going to be taking studio pictures of kids in dance costumes with a backdrop. I will be setting up in the dance studio that is the size of a bedroom. I was wondering what you recommend for lighting? Can you help me? Thank you!
- Erica Dallas
You can use a 2-3 light system even in that size of room: main, fill and backlight. (The backlight can double as a hair light.)
How often you want to work with studio lights and the funds you have available for your purchase will really determine what you should start looking at.
If you give me a price range and a bit more of where you're looking for your business to head, I will be more than happy to help. If you'd rather do this by email, be my guest. I also find it so much easier to research by phone as well.
I hope this helps!
- Debby Tabb
Hi Erica,
Debbie is right about the number of lights. If the children move a lot it would help to use umbrella, large ones to create a large area of good light. It would help to have strobes with a good amount of power, as that will give you more options on how you modify the light.
Thanks, John Siskin
- John H. Siskin

See John Siskin's Premium BetterPholio™:

Take an Online PhotoCourse™ with John Siskin:
4-Week Short Course: Portrait Photography Lighting on Location and in the Studio
4-Week Short Course: Understanding the Tools of Photography Lighting
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