The weekly newsletter on the art of photography from
Monday, December 15, 2008
Featured Gallery
Welcome Note
This Week's Tip
Updates From BetterPhoto
Q&A 1: Blurry Background...
Q&A 2: Photographing Art...
Q&A 3: Recover Deleted F...
Q&A 4: White Background...

"Thank you for the great lessons in exposure techniques! I just returned from a wildlife photo shoot and am thrilled with the outcome of my photos. Most of them, over 1500 shots, were correctly metered and exposed. I would not have had this kind of success without your expertise. Thanks again for everything!" -Marvil LaCroix in Digital SLR Exposure Techniques with George Schaub

Check out a special money-saving program with one of BetterPhoto's trusted partners - Photographer’s Edge. Save 15% off your entire order of do-it-yourself Photo-Frame Greeting Cards and accessories. Please use this code: BPHOL (offer expires 12/19/08)

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Macro Photography: Get Sharper Images!

by Jim Zuckerman

Two tips on making sure your macro shots are crisp and clear:

- Don't do macro photography without a tripod. Your pictures will not be sharp and/or your depth of field will be so limited that you won't like the images.

- Wind is the enemy of macro photographers. If you shoot close-up to small subjects when there is even a slight breeze, your efforts will be in vain. You won't be able to get sharp pictures. If there is a very slight breeze, your only hope is to wait for a lull in the wind before you shoot.

In fact, the lack of wind is why I love shooting in greenhouses. Outdoors, I like to shoot macro subjects before sunrise and after the sun goes down because often if there was any wind during the day, it dies down. There are many days where the air is very still, of course, but if you try doing macro work in the wind, you'll make yourself crazy.

Editor's Note: Learn more about Jim Zuckerman and his excellent online courses!

Featured Gallery
L.A. Bus in motion
© - Michael J. Bandy

Welcome to the 399th issue of SnapShot!

This holiday season has been filled with excitement at BetterPhoto! Our winter online photography school, for example, is shaping up to be our best ever. You can join a short 4-week course, a more intense 8-week course, or a year-long ClassTrack program. Classes begin January 7th, 2009. Stop by our main courses page... ... We're also looking forward to the next BetterPhoto Summit - coming up February 28th, 2009, in beautiful San Diego, CA! See the Summit details... ... In this issue of SnapShot, don't miss Jim Zuckerman's latest Photo Tip - this one on sharpness in macro photography. Also, we have another fine collection of questions and answers. ... That's it for now. Enjoy the rest of the week, and be sure to keep your camera close at hand to capture those holiday memories!

Jim Miotke
Where Is Jim?

Updates From BetterPhoto

Give your creativity a jump-start at the BetterPhoto Summit - Feb. 28th, 2009, in San Diego, CA! Sign up now to take advantage of the "early bird special" of $77. Find out the Summit details here... Keep up with all the latest happenings with the community. See our What's New page. Treat yourself to an easy gift-buying experience this year, while also giving your favorite photographer something really special. Consider a BetterPhoto Gift Card.

Photo Q&A

1: Blurry Background
I am having trouble making my background nice and blurry when taking portraits. I have been doing some reading and it seems that the lower number on the appeture (f2.8), the more blurry the background but that is just not working for me. Does anybody else have any other suggestions?
- Rhonda Fleck
It's affected by lens type, and distance you are away from the background. So you have to consider those things too.
- gregory la grange
What camera and lens? Short focal length lenses will have great depth of field even at wide-open apertures. While compact digitals will have "35mm equivalent" lenses marked "35mm - 250mm", they will in fact have focal lengths of only 5mm - 25mm. In that case, the most you can do to blur the background in portraits is to move the camera closer to your subject and move the background farther away.
- Jon Close
One school of thought regarding portraits, eyes in focus - nose and ears just out of focus. We are talking about a shallow depth-of-field. A large lens opening such as f/4 or f/2.8 yields reduced depth-of-field. To achieve, use aperture priority mode on your camera and pre-set the aperture to one of these wider openings. Be advised that wide openings often require that the ISO be set to a low number, try 100. Often, if the light is bright you will need to keep the shutter speed high like 1/250.
Additionally, shallow depth-of-field is achieved when the lens is zoomed to a high magnification (telephoto) so zoom out. High magnifications will require you to step back making the camera-to-subject distance further than you normally work.
If all of the above fails, have the subject extend his/her hand towards you and focus on the hand not the face. This works because you are focusing on a distance closer to the camera than the subject’s face. This ensures that depth-of-field will not carry to envelop the background.
Best of luck!
- Alan N. Marcus
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2: Photographing Artwork
Can anyone give me any suggestions for photographing artwork? A friend has an art collection that he wants me to photograph for the purpose of sending these photos to a museum to inquire if they would be interested in exhibiting his collection. I am not a studio photographer so I do not have all the lighting equipment one would probably use for this. I have been told in the past that photographing things outside on a sunny day in the shade is the way to go. Anything else?? Thanks in advance.
- Paula E. Marsili
Manual white balance
North window light

Good Luck!

- Pete H
Like Pete said: No special lighting gear needed. A north-facing window provides the best light possible. A (D-I-Y) reflector may come in handy to soften and open up shadows, and model the subject's texture.
Plus: set ISO 100. And pay special attention to the camera's position relative to the artwork to avoid perspective distortion. A grid in the viewfinder, or a bubble level in the hotshoe will help.
For the same reason – avoiding perspective distortion – I would use a 100mm focal length lens. Which, depending on the size of the artwork, may mean that you need to step back from it: increase the camera-subject distance.
Also I would shoot Raw and bracket, to leave myself as much editing latitude as possible. And later, in PP, you ONLY work on copies!
Have fun!
- W. Smith VIII
One more thing... use the selftimer, set at 10 seconds, to release the shutter, to allow for the tripod/camera/lens combo to REALLY finish swinging/moving before the shutter pops.
- W. Smith VIII
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3: Recover Deleted Files
I have a Canon Powershot SD1000. I accidentally deleted the video of my son's first christmas concert last night. Is there any way to recover this file?
- Dex 
As long as you haven't shot over the photos on the card, you can get some "image recover" software and try to recover them from the card. Google "image recovery software" and see what you come up with. I just bought some Lexar CF cards and they come with a free download for one. Others may cost you 30 bucks or so.
- Todd Bennett
Sandisk 2GB and 4GB cards also come with the recovery software. As Todd said, free recovery software is available on the net while some are shareware and/or commercial product, and you may have to pay a small fee if you decide to keep them. There is a good chance you can recover your video.
- Nobi N, III
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4: White Background
I have noticed portraits that have a solid white background and the person looks like they are popping off the page. Can you only do this if the background starts out white? Or is there a Photoshop trick? Has anyone done this before? Thanks.
- Robin E. Nichols
Photos like that require oooodles of light, Robin. Of course, the subject needs to be lit well, but the white background needs to be lit a LOT more. The background must be at least 2 stops more than the subject to get it really white (and not grey).
Have fun!
- W. Smith VIII
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