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Monday, December 06, 2010
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Q&A 1: How Do I Improve ...
Q&A 2: Soft Focus with N...

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DSLR Overexposure: Blowing the Highlights
If you have problems with digital camera overexposure, says BetterPhoto instructor Jim Zuckerman, and specifically with blowing the highlights (which means a complete loss of detail and texture in the highlights), there are three reasons for this. Read Jim Z's insights and tips on how to prevent overexposed photos...

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Still Sleek!
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Welcome to the 502nd issue of SnapShot!

The holiday season has been filled with excitement at BetterPhoto! Our December online photography school kicks off tomorrow (December 8th), but there are still spaces available. These courses give you personal interaction with top pros, along with all the convenience of the Web. See the class schedule... ... In this issue of SnapShot, be sure to check out the Photo Tip ("DSLR Overexposure: Blowing the Highlights") and Featured Blog ("The Truth about HDR Photography"). ... That's it for now. Have fun with your photography!    Kerry Drager   Newsletter Editor    Where is Jim Miotke? Follow BetterPhoto's founder and president on Twitter - BetterPhotoJim - and in his blog:

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Updates From BetterPhoto

This year, give 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. When BetterPhoto instructor Rob Sheppard first saw HDR work, "I was unimpressed." But, he adds: "Once I discovered I could show off certain aspects of nature that the camera could not capture because of its limitations, I was hooked." Read more of Rob's thoughts on how to use HDR to your advantage... What an exciting goal that Ansel Adams had: Create a masterpiece every month! Now BetterPhoto is paying homage to this legendary photographer with our Masterpiece of the Month Membership.

Photo Q&A

1: How Do I Improve Focus?
I need some help on focus, since I am getting discouraged with my new camera. The camera bleeps, AF box shows focus is achieved and I come home to find I've got a soft focus, or worse, none at all. When is something in focus? (Do you determine this by magnifying it 100%, 600%?) I also see this thing called 'fringing' in the background sometimes.
What are the basics techniques in learning to focus? I'm very conscious of hand shake and try to use tripod. I guess I really want to know if there are any techniques used in schools to train students on how to focus? How do you hone this skill? Yes, I know, shoot shoot shoot, but be specific, pretty pleeeease.

My photog demographic:
Mostly portraiture and lifestyle shooting
Just upgraded my Canon Rebel XS to full frame 5D Mark II couple weeks ago.
Working with: 50mm 1.8 and 100mm 2.8
Shooting volume: 15,000 over last 4 months. 3,000 with new camera

- linda j. masty
There have been issues with some camera models when they first are introduced, they will have problems and may need to be recalled. I don't know off hand of anything with the newest 5D. But I'm not sure from what you've said if you're relying on auto focus or not.
If you're using autofocus, you can try testing it on a stationary object to see if it's off. If you're focusing yourself, it could be a technique thing if you're trying to stop focusing when you hear the beep or see the light in the viewfinder. Maybe you're accidentally going past a focusing point. A momentum kind of thing.
You could also be unknowingly looking at something other than what the focusing point is aimed at. I've always done my own focusing, and it's something that you get better at by doing. You can practice at home while watching TV. Focus on one object close to you, then switch to something across the room. Practice doing it quickly and getting used to seeing when something is in focus.
It could also be that you are not used to your new camera. The focusing glass in the viewfinder is different, the viewfinder just feels different. Think of it as playing basketball in a gym you're not use to. The rim is the same height, the court the same size, but it's a different vision to everything. You must get used to it before you get your shot going.
- Gregory La Grange
Set your camera for center spot focusing and Single Shot. Do not use your LCD screen to determine if the camera is in focus. Keep your eye at the viewfinder. Insure that your lens is set to AF. Check the diopter adjustment to insure that it hasn't been moved and the subject is nice and sharp. Are the front and rear elements of the lenses clean? When hand holding, make sure that you shutter speed is high enough to stop any body motion, at least 1/125 for your lenses. Test by taking photos of subjects at least 8-10 feet away. Use a low ISO.
If the subject is not sharp in the viewfinder, focus the lens manually until the subject is clear. Initial testing should be done with the camera mounted on a tripod and a cable release used or self-timer if you do not have the release.
You check for sharpness at 100% on the computer. At 600 percent, nothing is sharp. (br>As an aside: You have taken as many photos in four months as I have in four years. I do not know why you are taking this many photos unless you are shotgunning and hoping to get a good photo. Take your time with EACH photo - checking for composition, f/stop, shutter speed and ISO. Then determine if it is really worth taking. Sometimes things look great with our eyes but for some reason just don't transfer well when a photo is taken.
Above all, RTM, read the manual.

Good Luck.

- Lynn R. Powers
Hello Linda,
Both Gregory and Lynn have some good points.
I like Greg's suggestion for zooming back and forth at different subjects. I do a similar exercise sometimes when I switch lenses just to get a quick feel for its range and focusing characteristics.
I am assuming that you are setting your diopter. Use auto-focus and look at a milk carton or some writing on an object and when the auto-focus locks on, make sure it looks sharp to your eye in the viewfinder. If not, roll the diopter until it is. Take a test shot and examine it on the monitor. You should also see the numbers in the viewfinder sharp and can move the diopter to change it and this does the same thing as my previous example but I prefer to set my diopter by the lens focus.
My Canon 50mm f/1.4 was always a "little" soft when I used it on my 40D but when I shot with it on my 1DS and 5D Mk II, it was so terrible, I never used it again. I since bought the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 and it is a far better lens.
My point is that with full frame, any imperfections of the lenses are magnified BUT the flip side is that good lenses will really shine. My 70-200mm f/2.8 was good on my 40D but on my 5D Mk II, it is really amazing. I very rarely do any sharpening in post and many of my images don't even require ACR editing.
I will include a Raw image (converted to tif/jpg) that is straight out of the camera and I used auto-focus. I did crop in just a tad and that's all the editing I did (no levels, curves, saturation, sharpening, etc.). This one was taken with my 100-400mm L lens but it is equivalent to my 70-200 quality wise :)
Hope this helps!
- Carlton WardSee Sample Photo - Parrot

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2: Soft Focus with Nikon 105mm Macro
I have a problem I am not sure is with my equipment or my eyes so hopefully someone can shed some light on the subject. I can focus my Nikon 105mm macro on a subject and the little green focus light in the viewfinder will come on and the image will appear tack sharp. I'll take the photo and get it on the monitor and it will look very soft. Today I've been taking photos of old slides so it's not a DOF issue either. I'm shooting at f/16 and the film plane is level and the subject flat so it can't be a DOF problem but my slides aren't coming out sharp. BTW, it's not the slides either. LOL. They are sharp as well. I really do not think it's the monitor because most of my images that are sharp look sharp on the monitor. Is there any way of knowing if it's the lens somehow? I don't understand why it would look sharp through the viewfinder then not sharp after the image has been taken. Thanks!
- Sharon  Day
Check the diopter setting on the view finder, it might have accidentally changed.
- Usman Bajwa
Hi Sharon,
Could it be camera shake? Especially for slide copies, as you might be using long exposures? I normally use a self-timer when I do slide dupes, as well as in other macro/micro situations. If your camera focus system says the image is sharp, that should be independent of your eyes.
- John H. Siskin

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Thanks, UB & John! The diopter setting is good. I check that by checking the viewfinder against something I know is in focus then adjust the diopter until things look sharp again so all is good there. I have the camera on a tripod with a cable release. Today the light was getting low so I was shooting at 1/4th of a second with just the cable release. I didn't use mirror lockup. I will borrow a Nikon 60mm soon and see if that makes any difference. I just don't understand why it would look sharp in the viewfinder (with the in focus green light on) then be soft on the monitor. Thanks for the input and help!
- Sharon  Day
Hi Sharon,
If you're using a mechanical cable release, it really could be camera shake. You need a very stable platform to photograph something very small at ¼ second.
Thanks, John
- John H. Siskin

See John Siskin's Basic BetterPholio™:

Take an Online PhotoCourse™ with John Siskin:
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