The weekly newsletter on the art of photography from
 
Monday, February 23, 2009
IN THIS ISSUE
Featured Gallery
Welcome Note
This Week's Tip
Updates From BetterPhoto
Q&A 1: How to Get the Be...
Q&A 2: Cannot Get the Co...
Q&A 3: What Is the Best ...
Q&A 4: Portable Lighting...


TESTIMONIAL OF THE WEEK
"I can thank BP for helping me hone my photography skills and for making my work available to people all around the world! This is a very rewarding membership with a (group) that truly cares. Thank you." -Lynn Haack

Editor's Note: See the BetterPhoto membership options...




NEW NAME, SAME GREAT COURSE!
BetterPhoto's popular instructors Susan and Neil Silverman offer three outstanding 8-week online courses. One of these classes (Digital Photography Course) now has a snappier and to-the-point name: Tips and Tricks for Digital Photographers

GREAT DEALS FOR BP MEMBERS!
Hunt's is a trusted BetterPhoto partner. Each month, Hunt's offers specials on photo equipment and software just for BP members! Learn more...

DID YOU KNOW? ...
BetterPhoto provides a daily dose of visual inspiration! Check out our free Photo of the Day newsletter.

ADVERTISE YOUR BUSINESS IN SNAPSHOT
Get word of your product or service out to a rapidly growing list of over 65927 serious photographers.
Learn More...

THIS WEEK'S TIP
More Tips for Getting Sharper Pictures ... by Jim Zuckerman
Here are a few more ways to make sure your photos are as sharp as you want them to be: - Don't trust the autofocus mechanism in low light situations. Don't be so dependent on automation that you can't take good pictures without it. Switch to manual focus when necessary. Autofocus works on the basis of color and contrast. If there isn't enough contrast in a scene, it can't work well. - When there is more than one plane of focus in front of your subject (i.e., in scenes with depth - foreground, middle ground and background), the autofocus mechanism can't know which plane should be sharp. Therefore, use manual focus. You have no choice in certain situations.
Editor's Note: Jim Zuckerman teaches many courses here at BetterPhoto.com, including Techniques of Natural Light Photography and Wildlife Photography.


   
Featured Gallery

Welcome to the 409th issue of SnapShot!
Hello,

Give your photography a creative jolt at this Saturday's BetterPhoto Summit! Learn from the pros and meet fellow members at this jam-packed photography conference, which takes place Feb. 28th in beautiful San Diego, CA. But seating is limited, so sign up now! Learn more about the Summit... ... In this issue of SnapShot, don't miss the details about our next school session, This Week's Photo Tip, information on Masterpiece Membership, and a fine collection of questions and answers. ... That's it for now. I look forward to seeing you in San Diego!!

Jim Miotke
Where Is Jim?

Updates From BetterPhoto

BetterPhoto's online photo courses feature personal interaction with top pros! Our 4-week classes are fast, fun, and begin March 4th. Too soon? Check out our excellent 8-week school, which gets under way on April 8th. Discover the best practices for shooting nature photos, as well as processing those images in Photoshop CS4! Check out Kevin Moss's excellent 4-week course: the updated Photoshop For Nature Photographers Connect with the beauty of our world and share that connection with storytelling photos! This exciting new 4-week course with author-photographer Rob Sheppard begins March 4th. Learn more...

Photo Q&A

1: How to Get the Best Exposure
My images look great on my camera. Then when I load them to the computer, they look so much different - too dark, too light, etc. What is the best way to get accurate exposure?
- Linda Terranova
ANSWER 1:
Hello Linda,
I don't know how much experience you have shooting with a DSLR but I will tell you that the single most important thing about photography is getting proper exposure which is why BetterPhoto offers several classes on the subject.
You can't trust the LCD camera display to show how sharp or properly exposed the image is. If you use the histogram, you will get better information than just looking at the LCD display. But you also need to know what the histogram is telling you to understand how to adjust your exposure.
You can also set up the LCD to show blown highlights and also set the brightness etc.. for the LCD. This may also be part of your current problem. Do you have your camera set for Adobe RGB?
If you shoot Raw, you get quite a bit of flexibility with Photoshop ACR to adjust for over/under-exposed images.
There are many variables between the adjustments on the camera and learning to meter your shot for good exposure. There are lots of tips and tricks for shooting landscapes, exposing for snow, the sunny 16 rule, rule of thirds, artistic Depth of Field, action shots, portraits, using available lighting - too much to mention here.
If you are a beginner, I suggest learning your camera and reading and taking classes for Exposure. Then I would move to composition and Photoshop (or other editing software programs), since editing is so vital to digital photography and then start narrowing your studies to specific areas pertaining to what kind of photography you want to shoot.
This may seem like a lot, and there is a big learning curve to get a grasp on everything that is needed to know to get better photographs, but it is a fun learning curve and after taking some classes, reading, studying and practicing, your images will start looking better and better very quickly.
I hope this helps and please ask if you have more questions or would like some suggestions.
Hope this helps,
Carlton
- Carlton Ward
ANSWER 2:
You should consider a good hand-held light meter and learn to shoot in manual.
- Dennis Flanagan
Read this Q&A at BetterPhoto.com

Answer this question:



2: Cannot Get the Correct Exposure
Hi. I received advice earlier on how to take pics at a hockey game, but when I tried the settings given to me, I could not get the correct exposure. I'm adding one of the pic's set to manual mode - 1/125 - 4.0 - iso 400 (800 was very grainy) EF70-300mm @ 70.0 and on evaluative metering. Can anyone explain to me what I'm doing incorrectly? Thank you,
Cindy
- Cindy SandersSee Sample Photo - Exposure Issues


ANSWER 1:
Cindy,
Photography requires light, and if you are under-exposing you need one of several things to happen:

- You need more light
- You need the camera to be more sensitive to light
- You need to let in more light

Doing the first requires changing the lighting conditions (e.g., adding a flash). Doing the second requires increasing ISO (makes the camera more sensitive to light; like high ISO film). Doing the third requires changing camera settings (increasing the aperture diameter; decreasing shutter speed).

There are limitations in accord with what you are shooting. As you are looking to shoot sports/action, you do not want to lower shutter speed a lot unless you desire blur. Your other options are a wider aperture or higher ISO. If your camera delivers grainy high ISO images, you may actually need to consider different equipment. For example, I love my Sigma SD14, but it is not very good for low-light conditions. If I were to want to seriously shoot high ISO with existing light, I'd really need to get another camera (on the other hand, it is fine with long exposures and low ISO). I see why you may want a longer lens to shoot hockey, but you can pick up some additional light with a faster lens (f2.8) ... probably at no small expense, and with a trade-off on depth-of-field.

So, I'm not sure that you are doing things so much 'incorrectly' as that there may not be enough in your setup and with existing lighting to support what you want to shoot. You may be able to adjust 16-bit exposures to recover some of this, but if it is a need, you'll want a better long-term solution.

I hope that helps!

- Richard Lynch

See Richard Lynch's Basic BetterPholio™:
http://www.betterphoto.com/mg.asp?id=121428

Take an Online PhotoCourse™ with Richard Lynch:
4-Week Short Course: Correct and Enhance Your Images
4-Week Short Course: From Monitor to Print: Photoshop Color Workflow
4-Week Short Course: Photoshop 101: The Photoshop Essentials Primer
Leveraging Layers: Photoshop's Most Powerful Tool
ANSWER 2:
Cindy, try an experiment, preferably using the same lighting conditions as the hockey game ... put your camera on a tripod, put in aperture mode at F4, ISO 400. Click the shutter button or cable release ... then, check what the camera thinks is an auto-exposure. Is it bright enough? And if so, what is the shutter speed? My guess is it's more than 1/125th sec that you show ... unless somehow you've accidently set your exposure compensation way down; e.g., minus 3.
- Ken Smith
ANSWER 3:
Thank you Ken and Richard. Your advice has helped me a lot. I did the experiment with my camera as suggested. I found that on manual mode for some reason the camera sets the exposure compensation to -2 under these conditions. Strange, huh??? So I used my 50mm f1.8 lens today and I got a lot better shots. Again thank you both Cindy
- Cindy SandersSee Sample Photo - What do you think the ref. is looking at?

See Sample Photo - The one that got away


ANSWER 4:
Looks like you are getting closer Cindy. Richard & Ken gave you some great advice.
I forgot to mention that I also either use my long lens to get high to shoot over the glass or sometimes I go into the corner of players bench area (just watch out for pucks) and shoot from there so that the glass is not in front of my lens. As a "rule of thumb", I like to shoot a couple stops over what my lens shoots wide open as this is often the sharpest aperture for a lens. That is why I try to shoot f/6.3 or f/7.1 with my 100-400mm f/4.5 lens.
I am hoping to get the 5D Mark 2 soon for its better high ISO performance in these type lighting situations. I don't mind using higher ISO settings and as long as I dont have to lighten the image when editing, I can usually keep the noise down.
I didn't do so well my first time shooting my nephew's game but after a couple of practices for me and the team, I was able to find what was working for my setup.
Good luck!
- Carlton Ward
Read this Q&A at BetterPhoto.com

Answer this question:



3: What Is the Best Lighting Equipment?
I am a former BetterPhoto student and would like any advice on what is the best lighting equipment to buy on a tight budget? I am using a Sony A-700 Digital Camera. What setup would be compatible with this camera? I am looking at starting up my own studio and need any advice on how to start out. I have mostly taken outdoor shots of landscape, nature, and people, so the indoor shoot would be different for me. Any help is greatly appreciated - thanks!
- Tammy Aurand
ANSWER 1:
Hi Tammy,
I suppose you are asking about strobes. I have Alien Bees and what is good about these is that you can buy one light and build on as you have the $$. If you are asking about a flash to mount on your camera - check the Sony HVL-F56AM Digital Camera Flash.
I also have 2 speedlights w/STE2 remote and small stands for a very portable setup, but the Alien Bees are great for studio work.
I strongly recommend John Siskin's An Introduction to Photographic Lighting course. It is so worth the time & money as John gives you a great understanding of where to start and how to build as you go. He provides a ton of information and takes away the mystery of how to get the type of lighting that will fit how you shoot.
Cheers,
- Carlton Ward
ANSWER 2:
Hi Tammy,
Thanks Carlton. You need not only strobes to control lighting, in a professional way, you also need light modifiers. White all these things, stands, umbrellas, light panels ... do add up, you can still spend less than you might for a camera and a couple of lenses. Keep in mind that a digital camera has a short life because the technology is changing so fast, but the strobes can last more than twenty years. Mine have. I also think the Alien Bees are a good value. There are also good values in used equipment. I have often evaluated auctions on eBay for my students. You will probably be better off if you stick to one brand. Also, I would suggest that you start with a powerful light, more than 500 watt-seconds. This will give you more options on how you manipulate the light. Additional lights may not be as powerful. I will attach some information about what to buy from my class.
Thanks, John Siskin

Here is a one light kit that I would put together. I would suggest that you start with one light. You will understand lights better if you do that.
Alien Bee B1600
Or Calumet Travelite 750
60º reflector with umbrella holder if they are built that way.
1-45 inch white satin with a removable black back. An umbrella with covered ribs would be better.
2- light panels with 2-white cotton or nylon covers and a black cover and a sliver cover.
Light stand. At least 8 feet tall, 10 is better
Perhaps a background stand and a neutral muslin background.

With a second light, which would probably be lower in power based on your usage. I would also get:
60º reflector with umbrella holder if they are built that way.
Barn doors and/or snoot
Light stand
2- umbrellas, one matching the one you got and the other a 60 inch umbrella.
Very short light stand

If you add a third light I would get
60º reflector with umbrella holder if they are built that way.
1 more light panel with a gold cover.
Light stand
Barn doors or snoot if you didn’t get it before.
45 inch umbrella.
I hope this helps.

- John H. Siskin

See John Siskin's Basic BetterPholio™:
http://www.betterphoto.com/mg.asp?id=158091

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
Read this Q&A at BetterPhoto.com

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4: Portable Lighting
I am by no means a professional - but I do enjoy photography as a serious hobby. I am being ask by many people to take photos of their children, animals, etc., on location shots. I am interested in purchasing some type of portable lights ... but I am not sure what I need. Most requests are for home or outside situations. I currently own a Canon D20 and a 580esII speedlite.
I appreciate any suggestions passed my way!
Thanks!!!!
gretchen :0)
- Gretchen J. Gilkey
ANSWER 1:
Hi Gretchen,
I'm sure that you will get a lot of responses on portable lighting systems. My studio system is "luggable," but not the most fun to lug around.
However, you can consider using your 580 EXII and add one or two more flash units, and you have a very light-weight and portable lighting system. I use 3 Speedlites for location portraits. I mount two on inexpensive ($25) light stands and shoot one or two of them into an umbrella. I use the third to light the background. Then I mount a Canon Speedlite Transmitter ST-E2 on my camera's hotshoe, and the ST-E2 fires all the flashes wirelessly. It is a sweet setup and cordless. The ST-E2 isn't cheap, but it's worth the price for me to not be navigating through coiled cords.

Plus with the ST-E2, you can set the lighting ratio from the transmitter itself without ever moving around to touch any of the Speedlites.
Hope this helps.

- Charlotte K. Lowrie

See Charlotte Lowrie's Basic BetterPholio™:
http://www.betterphoto.com/mg.asp?id=161243

Take an Online PhotoCourse™ with Charlotte Lowrie:
4-Week Short Course: Camera Raw: From Capture to Finished Photo
4-Week Short Course: Learning the Canon Digital Rebel Camera
4-Week Short Course: Learning the Canon EOS 50D
ANSWER 2:
Good Day,
Yes you should get many responces to this post. With many suggestions on brands, it can all get very confusing.
You can take a look at my reference page for some more help, but here are a couple of different price ranges on one of the most popular brands. A 3 light system is always the best to start with. But if finances are an issue then building slowly towards your goal can work as well.
Try reading the old "Studio Photography" threads. You'll see many discuss brands and make decisions and start their studios right there on the 28 threads that make up the "Studio Threads".
OK, here are the less expenssive of my suggestions:
http://www.betterphoto.com/forms/QnAdetail.asp?threadID=17534
Studio Thread 1:
http://www.betterphoto.com/forms/QnAdetail.asp?threadID=17534

This would be really good:
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/301901-REG/Photogenic_958192_Powerlight_Studiomax_III_3_Light.html

And, of course, they go up from there.
Please feel free to contact me if you need help or have any questions.
I wish you the very best in your new venture,
Debby

- Debby Tabb
ANSWER 3:
Hi Gretchen,
There are advantages to going with an additional Canon strobe, it is controlled automatically and is light weight. For situations like you describe, I usually use Norman 200B strobes. These are only available used, and are pretty inexpensive. They do require a greater understanding of light to use, as they have no automatic function. Using tripods can be very helpful, as already mentioned, but a light stand, to be useful, must extend to more than 8 feet high. You just have to be able to place a light above a person’s head. I would suggest that you stay away from any fluorescent light sources - they do not have entirely reliable color. I hope this helps. Thanks,
- John H. Siskin

See John Siskin's Basic BetterPholio™:
http://www.betterphoto.com/mg.asp?id=158091

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
Read this Q&A at BetterPhoto.com

Answer this question:

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