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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.

I have a cd burner. I stored photos from my digital camera on a CD from 2000. Since that time I reformatted my hard drive and now, using the same photo software, I get an invalid file format message when I try to open the pictures.

Do you have any suggestions?

There could be several things causing this problem. The first thing you should check is that the CD is free of finger prints, dust, smudges, etc. Use a soft cloth such as a micro fiber cloth to clean dust from the CD. If there are stubborn fingerprints or smudges on the CD, try using a mild dish washing detergent, diluted with water, use a small amount on the CD and wipe dry with a clean tissue (do not use tissues with aloe or any other moisturizer in it).

Are you reading the CD on the same drive that created it? Try reading it on the original CD burner that was used to create the disk. If that doesn't work try another computer and see if it will read the files. We have run into some CDs that were recognized on one machine but not on another - but only on CDs created with CD burners never with commercially created CDs. 

I have been trying to put together a darkroom on a tight budget. I can't seem to find complete kits for sale, and I wish to get it all at once. Could you specify exactly what I would need to buy to get started? I would hate to buy a bunch of stuff, and then find out I am missing objects that I need to proceed.

David Frye

Porter's Camera Store in Cedar Falls Iowa sells a kit for film developing and a kit for printing. The only thing you would need to add to the printing kit is the enlarger which they also sell. Anything else that you may want would be a personal choice (and there are always a lot of cool things to want!). You can visit them at

Even if you do not order from them I'd recommend that you get on their mailing list since they have all kinds of stuff for the photographer/darkroom enthusiast some of which is hard to find.

Do you have any books or articles on portrait posing? I am interested in learning more on different poses for individuals, couples, and families including children. Any information would be greatly appreciated.

Marilyn Diener

We haven't done an article on portrait posing yet. There are a couple of books I'd recommend on the subject. One is "Corrective Lighting and Posing Techniques for Portrait Photographers" by Jeff Smith; Paperback - 120 pages (November 2000) Amherst Media; ISBN: 1584280344 and "Master Posing Guide for Portrait Photographers" by J. D. Wacker; Paperback - 128 pages (August 27, 2001) Amherst Media; ISBN: 1584280573.

Also, check out my article on Portrait Lighting in the June issue.

What filter does Gary use to photograph winter scenery? 81A warming or polarizer or another type?


Gary responds:
I generally use a warming polarizer. this filter called a Moose filter is distributed by THK Photo Products (Tokina, Hoya, Kenko) and was developed by Moose Peterson. It combines the 81A warming effect with the polarizer. Snow can appear very blue on film because the air is crisp and the sky is very blue. I don't mind the cold felling that the blue cast gives, but sometimes it's a little to much. The Moose filter helps to make things look a little more natural to me.

I have digital camcorder (sony DCR-TRV30E) and it also takes still pictures which go into the memory stick (64mb).

Would there be any variation in terms of its picture quality if you compared this with other dedicated digital cameras.

I just like to know the differnce between Size (680X480) and Resoultion. And what is megapixels. e.g. 1.55 megapixels or 2.2 megapixels and would the results between the two vary if e.g. you selected size 680X480 and you went for standard printing say 5"X 7"

Rajeev Saini

Resolution is what most people have a problem with in terms of photographic printing.

The quality of the still pictures of the Sony DCR-TRV30 would be similar to other camera with a similar resolution. The TRV-30 has a still resolution of 1360x1020 which would put in the class with 1.5 megapixel cameras. This resolution would be capable of giving you photo quality 5x7 prints. A 640x480 would just about give you a 4x6 print.

As your resolution increases you can create larger prints and still maintain photo quality. The 2 megapixel cameras can give you 8x10 prints and the 3 megapixel cameras can give you 11x14 prints.

If you only need images for email and Internet use, you really don't need anything higher than a 1.5 megapixel camera. Most images on the Internet fall around the 640x480 resolution.

Up to now I've been using color prints - resulting in very variable results, depending on the lab where they were developed. Thats why I'd like to switch to slides (as it was recommended by my friends).

So my questions are:

Do you think switching to slides does improve the quality of my photos (I know this is a difficult one, as you havn't seen any of my old pictures).

I've been browsing through many webpages now and most of the time I find the Fuji Velvia stated as the best choice! Do you agree? Further, as I can't afford the expensive f2.8 lenses (I have a Nikon N80 with a 24-120mm f3.5-5.6 D IF and I'm planning to buy the VR 80-400mm/4,5-5,6D ED lens) I was wondering if it is better to push a Velvia to EI 100 or to buy a ISO 100 film. If the second is the better choice, which brand/type do you recommend?

I look forward to hearing from you, best regards,
Andy Traweger

Shooting slides can eliminate some of the variables that plague printing. With slide film, you know what you did or didn't get. In printing you are at the printer's mercy as to what they think the correct color and exposure balance are. When printing from slides, it is easy to compare a print to the slide to know how close the printer is to the correct settings.

Fuji Velvia is an excellent film. I use Velvia for brightly lit scenes when I want strong color saturation. I also use Fuji Provia with excellent results. As far as pushing the Velvia, I don't usually recommend pushing films unless the extra speed is needed. Pushing can raise the price of your developing as much as twice the normal rate, depending on your lab. I would personally buy a 100 speed film before pushing Velvia.

As far as other films to try, refer to our film cross-reference charts. Read the descriptions and then try the ones that you think may give you what you are looking for. The film that one photographer swears by, may be junk to another. Everyone has a different opinion, so you need to see what works best for you.

In reference to not being able to afford the 2.8 lenses, you don't need them to create superior images. Check out Gary Stanley's articles "Back to Basics"  and "Getting that 4x5 Look" for tips on better composition. Learning and mastering these basics will do more for your photography than any one lens could ever do.

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