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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 am very confused when it comes time to select the "correct" aperture setting. I know that if you want to make a photograph where you want everything near and far in focus, you choose a large aperture setting, and how you would use a small aperture just to focus in on something near. My question is how and when do you know to use an "in between aperture? I have read and re-read all of the photographic books I have but I cannot seem to grasp it. Any suggestions would be appreciated. 

Thank you- 
John Derych Jr

The aperture is used to control depth of field. A wide aperture (i.e. 2.8, 3.5, etc.) will give you a shallow depth of field. The smaller apertures (16,22, etc.) will give you greater depth of field (the concept of large and small confuses a lot of people because f22 sounds bigger than f2.8. In reality f-stops are actually fractions. So f22 is actually 1/22 and f2.8 is 1/2.8, making f2.8 the larger f-stop). Each aperture gives you a different amount of depth of field. Depth of field is the area that is in sharp focus. The easiest ways to determine your depth of field is to either use the depth of field preview feature on your camera (if it has one) or using the depth of field markings on your lens (again, if your lenses have them). The depth of field preview button allows the photographer to stop the lens down to the desired aperture to see where the focus falls. The difficulty with this is that as the aperture gets smaller, less light is allowed into the lens making the image darker and harder to see. Some of the older lenses have markings on both sides of the focus mark called a depth of field scale. These markings tell you in both feet, and meters, the amount of depth of field you'll capture. Unfortunately many modern autofocus lenses have done away with depth of field scales. Finally, experience will tell you. Depth of field at a given f-stop varies depending on the focal length of the lens. For example a 28mm lens at f5.6 will still have quite a bit of apparent depth of field. But a 800mm lens at f5.6 will have very shallow depth of field. As you shoot more you'll develop a feel for depth of field at various focal lengths.

What are "catch lights" ? 


When we refer to catch lights, we are referring to a reflection in the pupil of a person's eye in a portrait. They are white (usually) spots caused by the reflection of the studio lights, flash, or natural light. A photographer usually tries to get just one catch light in the eye. If you get two, it looks unnatural.

I would like to shoot under fluorescent lights, in the engine room of a ship. I own and have used an FLD filter, but if I use this then I can't use a strobe as well, is that correct? Do I then rely entirely on the ambient light and use a higher speed film (I usually use Provia 100) and no strobe? 

Steve D'Antonio

When shooting under fluorescent lights, you should use an FLD filter, ambient light and a higher film speed or just a strobe without a filter. Both techniques will balance the light temperature to the daylight temperature of your film. With so many nooks and crannies in an engine room, lighting with strobes may prove difficult. Depending on the size of the area, several may be required to get decent results without a lot of distracting shadows.

I have a Canon EOS88 with a 35-80mm lens. I am looking at buying a telephoto lens for my camera. My question is will any Canon or another make lens fit my camera, if not why?

I had been researching online for the Canon lenses but not able to decide has in their website they have 52mm and 58 mm lenses. What is the difference between these two lens types; will my camera take both the types.

Thank you 

The only lenses that you can use on your camera are Canon EF lenses or lenses that are made for the Canon EOS system. Older style FD lenses will not mount on the EOS cameras because the mounts were changed when Canon introduced its line of autofocus cameras. Lenses made for other camera systems will not work because each manufacturer has their own lens mount and there is no cross compatibility.

There are several third party companies that make lenses that will work on your camera as long as you are getting the lens that is designated for your system. I do not know which lenses you are specifically referring to in your question. 52mm and 58mm are filter sizes that are commonly used on Canon lenses. In general, I would recommend a lens in the vicinity of 70-300mm for a telephoto zoom.

Is there such thing as a film that takes vintage or sepia pictures? Or is this a filter? I have a Canon Rebel 2000, and would like to try this on my toddler.


Sepia toned photographs were traditionally created by toning black and white prints in a darkroom. You can still do this today by shooting black and white film and asking the lab to print the images sepia toned. They can also be created by using color film and a sepia filter. The most important thing to remember if you use the second approach is to tell the people at your photo lab that you have used a sepia filter so they don't try to correct the sepia color out of your prints. One final method if you're shooting digitally is to use the sepia filter in PhotoShop or the sepia setting on your printer driver.

My son has been appointed troop photographer for a scout trip this summer to Philmont (somewhere in the west desert/mountains area) and will be using a point and shoot with a power zoom lens. My goal is to protect the camera while hiking and camping in this harsh environment. I'm sure there will be every type of weather problem to deal with. What type of case or other protective measure would you recommend (I did purchase an extended policy just in case, as long as he brings back the pieces) Thanks for the great new format and look.

Don Crook

The first protective measure is to keep the camera in the case as much as possible when not in use, when climbing, and in bad weather. A good case will be the best protection for the camera overall. There are several good compact cases from Lowepro and Tamrac. These cases have shoulder straps as well as a belt loop to carry the case on a belt. Many (but not all) of Tamrac's cases are water resistant. Some of Lowepro's cases have an attached "rain hood" that stores in a back compartment in the case and can be pulled out to protect it in heavy rains.

Both of these companies make excellent cases. Just make sure the case is not too tight for the camera. A case that fits too snug is just as bad as not having a case. Take the camera with you to the store and fit the case with the camera. I would suggest getting a case with an extra pocket in the front to easily carry extra film and batteries. You'll also want to get a lens cleaning cloth and explain to your son how to clean the lens in dusty conditions. Many point and shoot cameras have plastic lens elements that are easily scratched.

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