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Vivid Light Photography, digital and film photography online
Beginner Questions
by Chuck McKern

With over 12 years of retail and professional experience Chuck thought he'd heard it all - until he took this job.

Send us your questions for either the Beginner or Advanced columns by clicking HERE.  Please include as much detail about the technique, camera, lens, or film as you can so Chuck can answer your questions.

Are there any articles that deal with flash photography, especially fill flash? I don't know anything about this aspect of photography and everything I read is very confusing.

I've done several articles on using flash. For a basic introduction to fill flash techniques check out Flash Photography Made Simple from our August 2001 issue.

Hi! I just bought a QUANTARAY 100-300mm 1:4.5-6.7 NIKON AF NR MT for my Nikon N50. I wonder if it is the right lens for my camera? I love to take photos of wild animals.

Thanks a lot, 
Khanh Luu

The Quantary 100-300 should work for you. If you're looking for something a little better, the Quantary 70-300 f4-5.6 would be a good choice. It is a little faster lens and will help with tricky lighting situations lower light levels. It also has Low Dispersion (LDO) optics, which will provide truer color rendition and help reduce glare when shooting in the bright sun.

I recently inherited a Canon 35mm camera, #AE-1, 3900407, about which I know nothing. Do you know where I can obtain an instruction manual?

Constance Joseph

The best source I've found for manuals for older cameras is John S. Craig at Craig Camera. You can find him at

I have been asked to take the photos at my sister's large indoor church wedding and indoor reception. I will be providing the service free but would like them to look as professional as possible since I will be the only photographer.

I have been taking pictures for many years but of outdoor landscapes. I know very little about indoor techniques and have no experience with flash but just purchased one for the wedding. The flash mounts directly to the camera hot shoe but I am considering purchasing a bracket.

I would appreciate any help you could provide with technique, film to use, types of filters and when and where to use them, and the best way to go about processing. I have a computer and wonder about converting photos to digital for cropping or is it done easily through major photo labs?

My camera is an SLR Nikon 8008 with a Sigma f3.5-4.5 35-70mm zoom lens. I am using a Kalimar UV filter. The flash is a Nikon SB-50DX and compatible with my camera's automatic features.

Thank you for your time, 
Gary Peek

A good flash bracket will help with shadow control and gets the flash farther from the lens to help minimize washed out details and red-eye. If you do get a bracket, make sure you get the dedicated off shoe cord so you can keep your flash connected to the hot shoe so you can take advantage of the cameras flash meter and exposure modes just as if the flash were mounted on the camera.

I would use either a 160 ISO or 400 ISO professional films from Kodak of Fuji. Kodak's films are both available in a Natural Color (NC) and a Vivid Color (VC). I would prefer the NC versions for weddings for their natural looking skin tones. In Fuji films I prefer NPH 400 or NPS 160 - both of which provide excellent skin tones.

I would definitely find a good local lab. Try to find a local custom lab that does proofing for wedding and portrait photographers and you can even check your local camera stores. Some have good labs in them that work regularly with local wedding photographers. A luster/matt finish on the prints looks best.

The best way to decide on techniques, filters, and compositions is to be check out some of the books that are available on wedding photography. The following two are good ones to start with. Finally you might try taking some shots during the rehearsal if possible. It will give you a feel for the lighting in the church and for your flash settings. The chance to do some test shots can do wonders for your confidence on the big day.

Professional Techniques for the Wedding Photographer: A Complete Guide to Lighting, Posing and Taking Photographs That Sell, by George Schaub, Kenneth Sklute, Paperback:144 pages, Watson-Guptill, Revised edition (June 2001), ISBN: 0817456023

The Best of Wedding Photography: Techniques and Images from the Pros, by Bill Hurter, Paperback:128 pages, Amherst Media, ISBN: 1584280859

I am what has been called an "Advanced Beginner", so I am not so sure where to direct this. But here it goes. I have been shooting 35mm digital now since receiving my Nikon D100 in August 2002. I have been fortunate to have email here in Bosnia where I currently work. I have used your site and the sites featuring the various authors you have writing for you. They have helped me improve my photography exponentially!

I have, for now, just one question. Once I have shot images with my D100, and view them on MY computer, they look fine. Even better on my laptop. But when I burn the same pictures or download them straight from my camera to ANOTHER computer, they are all far too dark. This only happens with CRT monitors. A combat cameraman here in theater shot beside me at one venue, with a D1, and his images, which he put into an Internet Explorer browser on a CD, looks good on both types of monitors also. What gives? My shots were better. (Ed. the end of the email was cut off)

Jerry Wilson, Jr.

This is actually a pretty common problem for digital shooters. It sounds like the gamma is set to different levels on your laptop and your desktop monitors and the colors may be off as well. You didn't mention if there were differences in color or if there were differences in images other than those you captured with your D100.

For a quick and dirty explanation lets just call gamma a measure of lightness and darkness (there's actually more to it). Here's a quick and dirty calibration method by eye that will get you in the ballpark with both computers. I'll assume that your computer is Windows based.

Let's start with a known image. On a clear day set the white balance on your D100 manually to "daylight" and take an image of a known object or scene - preferably something you can see while sitting at one or both computers and preferably something with a range of colors. Make sure exposure compensation is not on. Load the image onto one of the machines. How does it compare to the actual scene?

Starting with the brightness and contrast settings for the screen set to their default positions follow the instructions from the Advanced Q&A column for calibrating your monitor gamma by eye that appeared in the December issue. Be aware that you'll likely have to tweak the color a bit as well.

Next follow the same steps for the other computer. Have them side-by-side if you can. When you're done the two images should look pretty close. Be forewarned, it's almost impossible to get an LCD and CRT to look exactly the same. The idea is to get them close. Also be aware that calibration depends on the computer/monitor combination and can be affected by the age of the monitor. The process will either be a piece of cake or an absolute "pain in the you know where". There is no middle ground. The good news is that once it's done you can save the settings and you never have to do it again. Also pay close attention to the viewing angle of your laptop screen. On most laptops the brightness of the screen will change dramatically as you tilt the screen or move off to one side.

1. My Nikon N60 has no manual ISO setting. To " PUSH " ISO 400 film to 800 in N60, I have to select the +/- Expo compensation on F60 at minus 1.0. Am I correct?

2. My Nikon SB27 speedlight mounted on my Nikon N80's hot shoe. The SB27 on AUTO will automatically get the ISO setting from the N80 for the speedlight. It does not matter whether the ISO setting on N80 is set manually or not (DX-Code option used). Am I correct?

Thanks for your reply, 
James Ahlan

You are correct on both. To push ISO 400 to 800 your exposure compensation should be set to -1.0. If the DX option is used the SB-27 will read the ISO setting from the camera body.

Your emazing tip of printing b&w photos by substituting black ink in the color cartridge, is this special black ink, or do the different color cartridges dispense ink differently than the black cartridge? And where are these inks available?

Ed Bristol

The two biggest companies making these inks are Piezography and Luminos

For more information on creating high quality prints check out the following articles:

Creating Fine Art Prints at Home

Creating Fine Art Prints at Home: Black & White Printing

Black & White Inkjet Printing, Tools of the Trade

After The Fact: Using Photoshop Before You Print

Preserving Luminosity

These are a good starting point on the subject. If you take a look through our index of back issues you'll see that each month there are articles in our digital darkroom section on using Photoshop to prepare and print images. There are also reviews of quite a few Photoshop books in our monthly book review section, too many to list in a single answer, but this should help as a starting point.

I have a Nikon 6006 body and am trying to purchase a shoe mount flash that will give me more flexibility than its pop-up flash. I've been told the Nikon SB-50DX and SB-80DX will work with my camera (is this true?), but they are expensive. I was also told Sunpack manufactures good flashes at cheaper prices. Which Sunpack flashes would work with my camera?

Thank you, 
Cheryl McCullough

Either the Nikon SB-50DX or SB-80DX will work on the 6006. As a matter of fact, you can use any flash dedicated to the Nikon AF system. Sunpak also makes reliable flash units for your camera. The Sunpak flashes closest to the Nikon SB-50DX and SB-80DX are the Sunpak MZ440AF, PZ4000AF, PZ5000AF.

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