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

With over 15 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. 

In your opinion, Which 400 iso slide film is the sharpest with the finest grain and best color saturation? I'm looking for a good slide film for avaiable light in shadowed areas.

Steve P.

I personally like the Fuji Provia 400F. You can read a review we did on this film in Issue #6 

I am considering switching from a 21" Trinitron monitor to a similar sized LCD monitor. Have LCD's come of age yet for purposes of digital editing? If so, which monitors are favored? How does one go about finding the ICC profile for a new monitor? It is not as easy as I had hoped to get this information.

Richard Lieberman

LCDs have indeed come a long way. In fact there were some amazing LCDs on display at PMA this year and the first quarter of 2004 will be the first quarter in which LCD displays will outsell CRT monitors. Over the next few years you can expect to see LCD prices continue to drop steadily and quality and features continue to increase.

But how good are they? Well just like CRTs the quality can vary greatly from monitor to monitor. But there are some general rules of thumb. First look for higher contrast ratios. Today there are LCD monitors with contrast ratios as high as 700:1. Look at an LCD with a contrast ratio of 300:1 next to one with a contrast ratio of 500:1 and the difference will be dramatic. 

Next consider the resolution you like to work in. Text will look more crisp in the monitors "native resolution". Native resolution is when one pixel on the LCD equals one pixel of screen resolution. In other words if the monitor has a 1280x1024 native resolution it will look best when run in that mode. Text won't appear as crisp in other modes. 

LCDs cause less eye strain than CRTs because there is no flicker. The problem with earlier LCDs was low contrast and poor color representation. Today's LCDs address both problems and the better units can be used for image editing. You should be able to find ICC profiles on the manufacturers Web sites, although it may take some digging. I can't recommend one specific brand over another as I just haven't had enough hands on experience with these screens yet.

My Question is not of a technical nature but is regarding selling photo equipment on your site. What is the fee and what do you recommend as far as transacting between seller and buyer?

Satir Gonzalez

First there's no fee to list an item for sale. We're in our fourth year of doing this and thankfully there has only been one bad transaction between a buyer and seller that we're aware of. The methods of transaction we've heard of include everything from personal checks to online services such as PayPal. It comes down to what you're comfortable with and how trusting your are. Frankly we think services like PayPal are a good idea.

But PLEASE keep in mind the old saying "If it sounds too good to be true it probably is?"

Several people listing expensive equipment have written us recently about a variation on the infamous online Nigerian scam. This scam has hit Ebay hard according to news reports. 

In this scam someone offers to buy your camera. They claim they've received a check for a large sum of money that they can't cash because of banking problems in their country. They'll send you the check for big money, you just send them back the camera and a check for the difference. You can even keep a little something extra above the price of the camera for you troubles - as long as you turn the transaction around quickly. Unfortunately if you're foolish enough to fall for this and you send the check and camera, you'll be out both and have only a bounced check for a large dollar amount for your troubles.

Maybe the best advice is to listen to your instincts. Is anyone really going to offer you more than you're asking for that piece of gear? Is anyone really going to offer a "New D100, never used, in the box" for $500?

I am facing an idiot problem: I imported a RAW file from my Canon 10D camera then converted it with the Canon Software utility into Tiff 16 bits.

But once I opened it into Photoshop 7.01, the layer seems to be locked and there is no way to unlock it, why? I noticed that generally, 16 bits converted files are impossible to work with !

Do you have any suggestions ? 

The best I can suggest is an upgrade to Photoshop CS, which has more functions that are 16 bit-compatible. But before you do you might be surprised at the results you can get with standard TIFF files or even JPEGS.

I'm getting back into photography after being out for a while. I started back when I purchased a D100 (which I love) but using it has also gotten me to pull out my old Nikon FA and lenses. When I went to the camera shop I was surprised to find that Kodachrome 25 is no longer available. The salesman told me that Fuji Astia 100 is actually finer grained than Kodachrome 25 used to be. Does he know what he's talking about?

I want to get a scanner and start scanning some of my old slides. He told me the Astia also scans better than Kodachrome and that I may have trouble scanning my old Kodachromes. Can you help me out here?

Thank you, 

The guy at the camera store was right. Kodachrome 25 is no more; though Kodak is still making Kodachrome 64 and 200. Film quality has improved so much over the last several years that there isn't much need for films lower than ISO 100 anymore. You can shoot a higher speed and keep the same quality. Fuji Astia does have a finer grain structure than the old Kodachrome, but does not have quite the same contrasty saturation. You can also use the Fuji Provia 100F. It will provide the same fine grain with a little more contrast and saturation compared to Astia. You can check out our film cross reference table for additional information.

As far as scanning, most people I have talked to have all said that Kodachrome is harder to scan than other E-6 films. How hard will depend on your scanner and software.

Recently, I've gone from news photography to weddings. I've been shooting digital for years, and it was a natural transition for me to do all my weddings digital (SLR). People love it. Along with prints, I offer some multimedia end products that are extremely popular and not offered by the competition (at least not yet).

The problem I'm having is that many clients still want 4x5s or 8x10s. Of course, my Canon EOS 10D shoots to a 4x6 aspect ratio. Because of years of "cropping in the viewfinder," my brain is sort of programmed to shoot pretty tight to the frame, leaving me no room in Photoshop to crop for an 8x10.

Do you have any tricks for "cropping to 4x5" in a 4x6 viewfinder?

Bob Castelline

Reprogramming your brain can be one of the toughest things for a photographer to do. You need to put a little voice in the back of your head that constantly reminds you "open up a little" every time you crop tight. Maybe take some weekday afternoons when you're not shooting weddings and exercise some of your old news instincts by going out and street shooting. Concentrate on pulling out a little from your tight crop on each shot and evaluate your results on the computer when you get home. Eventually you'll retrain your eye to see things a little differently. Here's where digital has a distinct advantage. You can shoot hundreds of practice images and simply delete them at the end of the day.

I recently purchased a Smith Victor floodlight kit, 1250 watt total, two 500 watt floods, one 250 watt flood. I was reading some of your past articles and noticed that you recommended strobes instead of floods. I'm only just starting to learn about lighting techniques and understanding how studio lighting works. Would it be wise to get the strobes now?


Floods can be a good starting point as floods provide a good, easy to use light source. But if you're already comfortable with lighting, you could jump right into the strobes. Strobes will allow you to use lower film speeds with much shorter exposure times, while still giving you a modeling light so you can see your lighting effect. Because of the higher output, you can use accessories like umbrellas and softboxes and still keep your exposures short.

The down side with the strobes is that they'll have a much bigger price tag. You will also need a flash meter to get correct exposure settings, which will run you a couple hundred dollars in addition to the strobes.

Black & white is back in . I have a darkroom and a place to go in my town to produce black and white photographs. It is wonderful but I do not know every thing and I could use some help about. Any information you can give or books you could recommend would help.

Thank you 
Louvinia G. Malott Oak Park IL.

We've only reviewed one book specifically on black and white photography, Elegant Black & White Wedding Photography by Sara Frances.

We've also run the following articles on black & white photography:

Black And White Films and Developers 

Black & White Papers and Developers, An Overview 

Black and White Filters 

Black & White Inkjet Printing, Tools of the Trade 

Creating Fine Art Prints at Home: Black & White Printing 

Black and White Printing with Your Inkjet 

Never Buy Black & White Film Again 

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