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Monday, December 07, 2009
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Q&A 1: Portrait Studio B...
Q&A 1: Lens for Studio...

"Your class was the highlight of my day, and I loved reading all the critiques and looking at all the pics. I hope I have another opportunity to take one of your classes. It is obvious you give personal attention to everyone's work. Thanks for such an interesting and enjoyable class!" - Sharon Edwards, student in Tips and Tricks for Digital Photographers with Susan and Neil Silverman

Top pro Jim Zuckerman share his thoughts on shooting with and without flash during a nighttime shoot in Los Angeles. Check out his excellent BetterPhoto Instructor Insights blog...

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When to Use a Polarizing Filter? By Doug Steakley
A circular polarizer is the one filter that every photographer should have in their camera bag, advises Doug Steakley. Find out how and when to use it in his excellent BetterPhoto Instructor Insights blog.

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Sorrento Skiffs
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Welcome to the 450th issue of SnapShot!

This holiday season has been filled with excitement at BetterPhoto! Our December online photography classes are under way, with the next 8-week school session kicking off on January 6th. ... Speaking of the holidays, consider giving the gift of a memorable photo experience - i.e., a course or personal Web site. A BetterPhoto Gift Card is easy to order and easy to personalize - and it's redeemable for a variety of BetterPhoto experiences! ... In this issue of SnapShot, don't miss the fine contributions of three of BetterPhoto's top pro instructors: Jim Zuckerman ("Night Photography Techniques"), Doug Steakley ("When to Use a Polarizing Filter?") and John Siskin in the Photo Q&A. ... That's it for now. Enjoy the holiday season, and keep your camera close at hand! Kerry Drager   Newsletter Editor    Where is Jim Miotke? Follow BetterPhoto's founder and president on Twitter: BetterPhotoJim

Jim Miotke
Where Is Jim?

Updates From BetterPhoto

There are many awesome reasons to jump into a BetterPhoto online course, and here are 10 of them... Check out these outstanding online courses: The Digital Landscape, Nature and Landscape Photography: Composition, Inspiring Nature Photography: The Essentials, Creating Depth in Landscape Photography. For BetterPhoto's daily dose of visual inspiration, check out our free Photo of the Day newsletter at the subscription page. ... In addition, view the past contest winners of our monthly contest.

Photo Q&A

1: Portrait Studio Background
I love the look of seamless backgrounds, so I have white and black paper rolls. However, they - especially the white ones - get dirty quickly and I go through quite a bit of paper. Someone suggested making a wood curve between the floor and the wall and tacking white linoleum to it, repainting when necessary. Has anyone done this or something similar? How well does it work? Thanks.
- Tara R. Swartzendruber
Hi Tara,
This is usually called a Cyc, or cyclorama. However, I have never heard of one covered with linoleum. You would have to get rid of the line to make this better than paper. Cycs are usually painted with flat white paint, every time you use them. So probably not better than paper. I have never put one in a studio, because of the upkeep. A way to control your costs is to buy the long rolls of white seamless - either 100 or 150 yards. It's a greater outlay at first, but much lower per-shoot costs. Studio specialty outlets sell these lengths, but you will probably need to special-order it. I have used long rolls, and it is quite economical.
- John H. Siskin

See John Siskin's Basic BetterPholio™:

Take an Online PhotoCourse™ with John Siskin:
4-Week Short Course: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting
4-Week Short Course: Business to Business: Commercial Photography
4-Week Short Course: Portrait Photography Lighting on Location and in the Studio
Read this Q&A at

Answer this question:
1: Lens for Studio Photos

What lens should I get for studio photos so that I can stay in the same room with them while taking their picture? I have a 70-200 for outside action shots. I would like to know what would be the best other lens to have.
- Wendy Wyatt

Hi Wendy,
I love my 70-200mm f/2.8L IS lens for portraits. The added compression is very flattering. I also use the 24-70mm f/2.8L and 135mm f/2L prime lens, but the 70-200 is usually my first choice.
Some of my best animal portraits are done with the 100-400mm f/4.5L lens. Set at f/7.1, the subject is extremely sharp, and with the background 10 feet behind the subject, the bokeh is very smooth.
Check my gallery and look for the EMU and Parrot pics to see the 100-400 lens :)
Have a wonderful "Thankful Day" today.

- Carlton WardSee Sample Photo - cmzoo 0056

I'm also having trouble focusing on people on slightly different planes. What am I doing wrong?

- Wendy WyattSee Sample Photo - Focus planes

Hi Wendy,
You will need to use more Depth of Field to get the dog and the child both focused and sharp. What f/stop are you using? Try f/8 or f/11, and see if this is better. Lens selection also affects the characteristics of the DOF used. I have shot lots of small groups of people at f/7.1 with good results. With a smaller aperture, you will need to adjust either shutter speed or ISO (second choice) but with strobes, this is easily manageable.
Are you shooting Raw? Adjusting white balance and exposure are much easier and less destructive working with Raw images.
Hope this helps!

- Carlton Ward

Wendy, the lens choice depends heavily on two things: the size of your room and the camera. If your camera has a lens magnification factor of 1.5, then 70mm is probably too long a focal length.
Are you using strobes? If so, I set mine for 1/250 and f11. You still want to try keeping most faces close to the same focal plane. Either by camera angle or by posing (of both). If I have two rows of people, I still try to put their faces close to the same plane. One way to do this is shooting from a high angle.

- Dennis Flanagan

Hi Wendy,
Everyone’s comments have made a lot of sense. However, I’m guessing that your shot was made with continuous light, maybe the fluorescents that are supposed to be OK for photography. I have my doubts about that. I think some of the sharpness issues, with the dog, are caused by movement. Strobes generally solve that problem, because the duration of a strobe is about 1/1000th of a second. Not much happens in that amount of time. You might want to look at this article about types of light:

- John H. Siskin

See John Siskin's Basic BetterPholio™:

Take an Online PhotoCourse™ with John Siskin:
4-Week Short Course: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting
4-Week Short Course: Business to Business: Commercial Photography
4-Week Short Course: Portrait Photography Lighting on Location and in the Studio
Read this Q&A at

Answer this question:

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