The weekly newsletter on the art of photography from
Monday, August 04, 2008
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Welcome Note
This Week's Tip
Updates From BetterPhoto
Q&A 1: How to Decide Whe...
Q&A 2: Reflectors: White...
Q&A 3: Photographing Chi...
Q&A 1: How / Who Selec...

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Focusing on Graphic Design ... by Jim Zuckerman
Finding strong graphic design when you are shooting architecture and cityscapes is a lot easier than when photographing nature and wildlife. Architects are very much aware of beautiful lines and shapes and they design their buildings.
Indeed, architects work to incorporate strong graphic design in the doors, the windows, the facade, and the overall shape of the structure. Buildings built on a tight budget usually have to sacrifice the beauty of an elegant or captivating design, but many older works of architecture as well as modern engineering marvels are truly stunning. Even though a building or skyline is graphically dynamic, the way you compose the photograph still has to be carefully considered. You don't want to include distracting elements like power lines, out-of-focus trees in the foreground, and unattractive shadows. I feel that too much concrete or asphalt is a problem as well. Don't include a lot of the street in the foreground so it dominates the picture. Our attention should be drawn to the lines of the building.
Editor's Note: Jim Zuckerman teaches many fine courses here at BetterPhoto, including Developing Your Creative Artistic Vision

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MGTF 1954
© - Mark S. Cox

Welcome to the 380th issue of SnapShot!

Time is running out! With only a day left before the next session of BetterPhoto's online school starts, several classes are quickly approaching maximum capacity. If you've been thinking about taking one of our exciting online photography courses, now's your chance! Learn more about our school... In this issue of SnapShot, be sure to check out instructor Jim Zuckerman's excellent Photo Tip ("Focusing on Graphic Design"), along with 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

Are you ready to take the next step in photography? Our online classes offer excellent interaction between pro instructor and students, plus the convenience of the Web. But hurry, since class begins Wednesday! Learn more... On the lookout for tips, articles, equipment information, etc.? Check out BetterPhoto's resources pages...

Photo Q&A

1: How to Decide When a Picture is Sharp
After taking pictures and going through the pics, I have trouble telling if a picture is a bit blurry. The obvious blurry pictures, I discard. But if there are borderline blurry pics, sometimes I can't tell. Is there a fool-proof method to deciding if a picture is out of focus?
- Danielle H. Ross
If you can, use a tripod as much as possible. It can be a pain to carry around, but it makes a huge difference. Other than that, use a fast lens (again, a dSLR option) and/or a fast shutter speed.
- Susan Fox
Try enlarging it and see how big you can make it before it looks really blurry. You can use this technique in-camera to check the critical focus on an eyeball or other key element and delete the ones that don't pass the test.
(...but you DO have to have trust in your own eyesight.)
Once you've uploaded them, apply sharpening techniques in steps and stop before the image looks garish or fake.
I know of no "fool-proof method" to check for sharpness of a photo on a computer screen other than by closely examining it (...through your own competent pair of baby-blues).
With slides, it's easy. You can view them on a light table with a loupe. (My preferred method is with a reversed 50 mm lens.)
Even with less-than-perfect eyesight, I can move the lens up and down over the image on the light table and watch it go in and out of focus. If I can't see tack-sharp edges of a critical part of the scene while doing this, the slide was not taken in focus and gets trashed.
- Bob Cammarata
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2: Reflectors: White vs. Gold
I've bought a set of reflectors that I like some of the looks I am getting. My problem is when I use the white it dosn't seem strong enough, but when I use the gold it looks better but overpowering, blinding even. Are there some tricks that may help? Thanks in advance.
- Charles E. Mann
The white reflector provides the softest, most even fill. Silver gets a harder fill. And gold begets the same harder fill AND changes the color temperature of that fill. Gold is best used for skin tones.
I never use gold, though, since I prefer to twiddle color temp in PP, because that can be more delicate and precise than using a gold reflector.
Have fun!
- W. Smith VIII
I've recently moved to San Francisco from Orange County and shoot for a lot of swimwear companies. I've noticed in SoCal the models were obviously much more tan so I used gold reflectors more often. The silver is my most frequently used up in San Francisco. I used the white usually with a strobe since it's so minimal. You can even shoot a strobe through the white and use it as a diffuser. All and all, it's all kinda personal preference...
- Oliver Anderson
Gold is used for warming skin tone mostly. Silver is a highlighting reflector. White is used most often and is the reflector that is most often sold. I mainly use white. I use silver very rarely, and use, like Oliver, gold for beach shots.
Have fun and keep shooting!
- Mark R. Hiatt
You didn't mention the size of the reflectors or material. These will also determine the overall effect besides color.
The brightness issue is easily handled by moving further away with the reflector if too bright; now you have to deal with "light spill". Different subject.
As mentioned, reflectors come in many sizes, shapes and reflective material. Some provide "hard" light, some "soft" and everything in between. Some reflect nearly 100 percent of the light "mirror" some reflect a low percentage such as a deeply textured flat white reflector.
Some cover a very small area, maybe just a subject's face, while some cover a huge amount of space such as photographing a full size jet aircraft and covering the walls of the hanger with white (or any color necessary) material if necessary.
It all comes down to size, material and reflectivity.
all the best,
- Pete H
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3: Photographing Children
What settings should I be using when taking pictures of children that don't sit still? I use continuous lighting and my camera is a Canon Rebel XT. Thanks.
- Mandy Kopitzke
You should use a setting that will give a proper exposure, fast enough shutter speed to prevent unwanted blur, and focus is up to you or the camera if you have to use auto focus.
Keep the shutter speed above 125th. And either use a high enough ISO, or if you want the ISO low to prevent noise/grain, then you may need brighter light or flash.
You can get pictures of kids with a broad range of shutter speeds and apertures.
- gregory la grange
Children are some of the hardest, and most rewarding subjects that I have shot. If you put them in an environment that they enjoy, such as the back yard or park, and keep the camera at the ready, you will find that awesome portraits will follow. I have rarely posed children, and gotten some fantastic portraits.
Have fun and keep shooting.
- Mark R. Hiatt
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1: How / Who Selects POTD?

How does a photo get selected for Photo of the Day?
- Samantha L. Dean

Hi Samantha,
Thanks for your interest in BetterPhoto's free Photo of the Day newsletter! As noted in the subscription page and the POTD archives, the pics are selected from the monthly contest entries.


- Kerry Drager

See Kerry Drager's Premium BetterPholio™:

Take an Online PhotoCourse™ with Kerry Drager:
4-Week Short Course: Creative Close-ups
Creative Light and Composition
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