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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.

What type of films should I use to take pictures of vintage articles?


Your question is very broad. For starters, you need to consider what your end result needs to be. If you need prints, shoot print film, if you need slides, shoot slide film.

Beyond that, you need to consider your lighting conditions. If these are items that you can take outside or if you are using studio lighting, go with a slower film such as an ISO 50 or 100. These films will give you more detail and have a finer grain. If you are shooting inside, don't have studio lighting, but have off camera flash you can use the same kinds of film. Just be sure to avoid a direct flash that would cause part of the object to wash out. If you are shooting inside with artificial light, use a tripod with a cable release and a corrective filter to adjust for the color temperature of your lights. If you're shooting under tungsten lights use a tungsten-balanced film. If you are shooting under fluorescent lighting, use daylight film and an FLD filter to correct for the fluorescent lighting. If you can't use a tripod, increase your film speed.

I have a polarized filter lens that I used for the first time but the pictures did not turn out that good. I do not know if I used it under the wrong conditions or I just didn't know how to use it properly.

The pictures were taken from a cruise ship while we were on vacation in Hawaii. We were at sea when I took the pictures. The sun was shinning pretty bright at the time. The picture was of a mountain the clouds and the ocean. The pictures came out with a dull look. Not the bright color I had expected them to be. Also I was having some trouble with my camera off and on. I suppose it was due to the high humidity and the different climate we were in; because after we were at home for a few days it started to work again.

More than likely it was probably me. I noticed some of the other pictures that I had taken has washed out colors. Perhaps that was in the developing of the film.

Hope this is enough information and haven't taken up your time foolishly.

Thank you very much for your help. 
Debbie Cabler

Problems with color could be a problem in printing. If you had the pictures developed at a specialty lab, they should be able to confirm this. (Yes, even specialty labs can mess one up once in a while, but most are usually good enough to admit to the mistake and fix it.)

A "discount" lab such as a drug store, mass merchant, or grocery store usually doesn't have technicians trained to recognize and fix problems. If you suspect the lab you can try having one or two prints made from your negatives at another lab. You may be pleasantly surprised at the results.

The problem could also be in how the filter was used. Polarizers rotate to vary their effect. You can see this effect when looking through the viewfinder and you'll get the same effect on film. I would assume that you are letting the camera meter adjust for the light loss of the filter automatically. If you are setting your exposure manually, be sure to increase you exposure by one and one-half stops or two stops.

Given the conditions you describe and the problems you were having with your camera, it could be possible that there was condensation on the filter. This could have happened if you went outside and started shooting without letting the equipment adjust to the difference between air-conditioned air and tropical humidity.

I would like to get an opinion of some of my digital images from someone with more of an artistic eye than my grandma and 15 year old cousins. Any suggestions or resources would be greatly appreciated.

Much thanks 
Danyial Rock

There are a couple of good sources for finding an unbiased eye to critique your work in your local community. One is to find a camera club. These clubs often welcome new faces and members are usually willing to critique work and give suggestions. Another is to check with any local photo specialty stores in your area. The people that work in them are usually photo enthusiasts. Many of them are into digital imaging and may be willing to critique your work. Just remember that they have to put the paying customers first, so it's best to come in on off hours when the store isn't busy.

Help! I may have made a terrible (and costly) mistake! I have a Minolta XTSi with a 35-80 (Minolta)lens and a 100-300 (Sigma)lens. Having to constantly change lenses was becoming increasingly inconvenient, so I recently purchased a Sigma 28-300/3.5-6.3 DL Aspherical IF lens to take the place of the other two. I plan to shoot with my Minolta and the new lens on a photo trip to Wyoming in July; however, someone recently told me they heard of someone who used a similar lens (same focal length, different brand) to shoot landscape pictures in Wyoming and everything they shot over 250mm seemed to be blurry. It's unknown whether a tripod was used with those shots, and from hearsay, all other snapshots seemed to be okay.

What should I expect from this lens I have purchased? I don't want to return from my trip with similar disappointing shots! I know that camera shake is a big factor when shooting at longer focal lengths, so can I assume that use of my tripod whenever possible will help to eliminate this problem or have I purchased a dud?

Kristi Esarey

I would guess that a tripod was not used in those shots. Some people have had some difficulty getting accustomed to the heavier weight of the 28-300mm lenses and when they are shooting close to 300mm, they have some difficulty holding the lens steady. There is no reason you can't get sharp images from that lens.

When shooting with the longer focal lengths, be sure to cup your left hand under the lens to help stabilize it. Also, if possible use a tripod. I would also recommend shooting a couple of rolls with the new lens, at all focal lengths, to get used to it. This would also allow you the chance to see how sharp the images will be, then you can make a fair decision as to whether the lens will produce images you'll be happy with.

I will be traveling to Bora Bora in the Pacific Ocean around the Society Islands in a month.

There will be many opportunities to take pictures with blue, blue water, historic volcanic mountains and countless number of wonderful sunsets. The camera I have is a Canon Rebel 2000 with a 28mm - 80mm lens & 75mm - 300mm lens. I normally use Kodak or Fuji 800 speed film. I have been experimenting with this camera for year. I am a beginner.

What would you recommend to use in this situation? Should I change apertures & shutter speeds? Your thoughts and comments are deeply appreciated.

Thanks for your time! 
Neil Loupe

With the amount of light that you'll have in Bora Bora, 800 ISO is a lot more than you'll need during the day. A 100 ISO film will give better detail and color. You can also use 200 ISO films if you want something with a little more range for dark or overcast situations. The 800 films would be great for night or action shots.

As far as changing apertures and shutter speeds, you your aperture to increase or decrease depth of field. Be sure if you are using a smaller aperture, to watch your shutter speeds to make sure that you are not going slower than you can hand hold.

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