The weekly newsletter on the art of photography from
Monday, August 11, 2008
Featured Gallery
Welcome Note
This Week's Tip
Updates From BetterPhoto
Q&A 1: HDR Exposure: Ple...
Q&A 2: Studio Equipment...
Q&A 1: Photographing C...

"Excellent instructor, great course with absolutely wonderful tips. I highly recommend the course!" -says Joan J. Stanton, student in Wildlife Photography with Jim Zuckerman

There are a lot of very cool happenings going on at BP's Community page, including the updated Announcements. Learn more...

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Any Lens Can Be a Close-up Lens! ... by Kerry Drager
You don't always need fancy equipment for capturing photogenic details and close-ups! Sure, you may not be able move in super-tight on tiny objects - that's what macro specialty equipment is for - but you might be surprised how close you can get with everyday lenses. This applies to any focal length ... with wide, "normal," and telephoto each providing its own unique close-up perspective. So how close can you go with a particular lens? One way to find out is to set the SLR lens's focusing on manual, turn the focusing ring to the closest position, and see how good and tight you can get while still keeping things in focus. Have fun experimenting with close-ups!
Editor's Note: Kerry Drager teaches Creative Light and Composition and Creative Close-ups at BetterPhoto.

Featured Gallery

Welcome to the 381st issue of SnapShot!

Our August online school session if off to a great start, but there's still time to enroll! These courses are by far the best way to hone your photographic skills - you'll love the direct interaction with master photographers, the personal feedback, and the flexible method of instruction. Learn more... In this issue of SnapShot, don't miss the item about our community page ("See What BetterPhoto Members Are Up To"), the photo tip by instructor Kerry Drager ("Any Lens Can Be a Close-up Lens!"), and another fine collection of questions and answers. ... That's it for now. Have fun with your photography!

Jim Miotke
Where Is Jim?

Updates From BetterPhoto

Yes, you can still join the fun. For example, if you sign up for one of our 8-week online courses today, we will send you the first lesson pronto. Then you will have plenty of time to do the first assignment, which isn't even due until August 17th! ... Too long? Then consider one of our fast and fun 4-week courses, with the next session beginning September 3rd. "I have really enjoyed this class! I feel very comfortable with my camera now, and I can take the pictures that I want with confidence. Your feedback has been very helpful. Thanks again!" -Heather L. Wilson, student in Digital Photography Course with Neil and Susan Silverman

Photo Q&A

1: HDR Exposure: Please Explain
I am hearing so much about HDR and the pictures I see are really stunning. Am I to understand this is basically not much more than "bracketing"? I saw a post where someone did HDR with 11 exposures and got the "perfect" picture. Can you give me more details on this? Thank you!
- Debbie Crowe
Yes, glorified bracketing.
To put it in plain language, HDR (high dynamic range) means you make different exposures for all the wide ranges of bright and dark parts of a scene, because a camera can't get what your eyes have the ability to get.
And then you use layers to erase and combine all the parts that hold detail and you can make a picture that shows everything. And you can make it look realistic or unrealistic (some people will say surreal)
You can think of it as reaching your arms out to the side and blocking a hall way. You can't cover wall to wall, you can only cover a certain portion by shifting side to side.
But if you add a separate person and link hand to hand, you can hold on to more of what passes your way.
- gregory la grange
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2: Studio Equipment
My husband just told me to buy some studio equipment because I have just really gotten into doing portraits and once winter sets in I will need it! I'm just starting out so I didn't need anything too fancy, but I also wanted to get as much as I could with a smaller amount of money. From shopping around stores in my area, this eBay set is a steal! Let me know what any of you think, please!
- @imee c. eisaman
The lights you're looking at are 160 watt seconds per head. I get 200 watt seconds out of my Quantum portable / on camera light. In other words, 160 watt seconds for portraits is like trying to empty the ocean with a teaspoon. You need depth of field in terms of f-stops to get sharpness - working at, say, f8.0 to f11, for example. At 10 feet from your subject and ISO 100, you'll be hard-pressed to get those numbers.
I suggest you look for a small used pack system on eBay like a Norman, Speedotron, 800 watt seconds (w.s), or something with even more pop. Photoflex makes excellent monolights, reasonably priced, in the range of 500 w.s. to 1500 w.s per head. The Calumet Traveler monolights are made by Bowens in England. An excellent product.
In sum, it's much better to have more light and switchable to lower output when you need it than less when you really need it, especially if you shoot small groups or multi-person portraits, even two or three people using a reflector card with one lamphead.
I like the Bowens monolights like the 1000 w.s. unit I use in a 3x4 foot softbox or Chimera Strip bank. I can switch that power down to 250 w.s. as a fill light when I need to but use a single light to shoot most portraits. (See my web site.) And later, you can always add another light or two to your set-up. They're also very portable, durable, relatively light weight and versatile in terms of available accessories and mounting rings for things like modifiers.
I highly recommend that you buy a system you can grow into. I'm pretty sure that my buddy John Siskin will be inclined to agree. (Take a look at his BP lighting course). Meanwhile, save your dough, buy something good that's useful and you won't need to buy twice.
IMHO, the lights you're looking at are mainly accessories and not really useful lights at all other than perhaps for fill light or hair or shooting small products at wide f-stops. I wouldn't buy them because chances are they'll fail when you need them most: when you're shooting. Get the better stuff and enjoy your purchase. Avoid buying lighting off eBay unless you REALLY know what you're looking for. It's a lighting jungle out there.
Take it light.
- Mark Feldstein
Hi Aimee,
I took John Siskin's An Introduction to Photographic Lighting to help me get an idea of what I needed. I ended up going with Paul Buff's Alien Bees - - and have added more as needed.
Cheers, Carlton
- Carlton Ward
Hi Aimee,
I really wish I had checked in earlier. I’ve been busy! Here’s the problem: As you spend more on lights, what you really get is more power, not more features. For instance, almost all monolights, like the Alien Bee or the Calumet Travelite, have the same switches and controls: power, power control, modeling light, modeling light power, trigger and slave. So if you buy a car with only thirty horse power, you shouldn’t expect to learn to drive on the freeway! Really, you should consider starting with one powerful light, perhaps the B1600 from Alien Bee. Check out this article on shooting with one light: Then you can build up more equipment.
Speedotron is excellent equipment, as Mark said. I would certainly buy used power pack equipment from either Speedotron or even Norman (I have a lot of Norman gear). I do not think I would buy most monolight gear used. To continue the car analogy, older cars are easy to work on, plenty of room to work, but newer cars require you to grow more elbows to reach anything. I don’t do strobe repair, but the guy I use to do repairs doesn’t like to work on most monolights. Since I said I have Norman, you have to assume I know a strobe repairman. Also good working monolights are not sold very often, too useful.
As Mark mentioned, strobes have dangerous amounts of electricity. It takes about 150 to 250 watt-seconds to defibrillate your heart. Mark and I are talking about strobes with 500 to 1000 watt-seconds of power. Bad to make a mistake.
Here is an article on setting up home studios: And one on making backdrops here at BP:
You might want to check out the other articles on my Website!
Thanks, John Siskin
- John H. Siskin

See John Siskin's Premium BetterPholio™:

Take an Online PhotoCourse™ with John Siskin:
4-Week Short Course: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting
4-Week Short Course: Portrait Photography Lighting on Location and in the Studio
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1: 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

When I was able to move around and lie on the ground, as well as get quickly to my feet prior to two severe injuries, I used to photograph children outside doing something they enjoyed.
I used a 135 - 200 mm telephoto lenses (my camera then was different than the ones today; they did not have zoom lenses so I shot prime lenses). I used higher shutter speeds like 1/250 to 1/500 Sec. and wide opened apertures to reduce my depth of field and allow the background to go way out of focus. This however is a ballpark figure, it depends upon the situation.
Generally, I find that working in open shade there is still directional lighting with more flattering skin tones, with the use of an outside-camera flash reduced by 1/3 to 2/3 as fill-light reduces the ratio between the highlights and the shadows.
The Canon 580EX flash has a card that can be pulled out to place a catch light in the subject's eyes.
I would also have my subjects explore creatures in the grass, or snuggle with their dog/cat, stand with their horse, explore a beaver pond with me; do something that they enjoyed. Because when they are busy, they are not absorbed in running around, but being inquisitive.
I laid down on the ground with my camera facing up to a hammock and captured a portrait of a 6 year old peering through a hammock in the open shade with his muddy fingers and long eye lashes. It was Peter at age 6, and his parents love the portrait! Peter Seibert, Jr. rarely sat still for anything, but he was doing something, being a child, and being inquisitive, and I was at his level, but not totally in his space.

- Bunny  Snow

Higher shutter speeds are great for stopping the action, but one of my best pics was of three kids playing on a merry-go-round - the "anyone's child look" of making them unrecognizable. I did this by using a 1/8 shutter speed and panning on one child only.

- Mark R. Hiatt
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