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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 have had my camera (a Canon Rebel G) for almost a year and have very much enjoyed experimenting with it and learning about it. However I want to be able to do more with it. I have read the manual and all, but I think it would be helpful to attend a class on the basics of photography. The nuts and bolts that are sometimes hard to understand in books. Where would be a good place to look for an inexpensive class? 

Shannon Smith 

There are a couple of good places where you can start. Check for adult education classes offered by community colleges in your area. Many offer classes that are taught by local photographers or photography instructors. Another good source is the Nikon School of Photography. The Nikon School is a traveling class that tours the country and conducts in-depth classes that cover the basics of photography, photographic techniques, and even some background on digital photography. It's a full day course that delivers great information for everyone from the beginners to seasoned photographers. It's an easy to understand format and they manage to keep it fun and interesting. All photographers are welcome no matter what camera you shoot with. For more information on Nikon School go to

I am planning to purchase a brand new zoom lens and am not sure which one to choose. I do own a Nikon F65 body. The first option would be Nikkor 70-300mm D f/4-5,6 ED and the second Sigma 70-300 mm f/4-5,6 APO Macro super. The Nikon lens is more expensive. Am I paying this extra money for better quality or just for the Nikon name? Can you compare these two lenses? I am not interested in Macro function. 

Thanks in advance 

Both of these lenses have similar specs. The Sigma does have a better close-up capability due to the macro feature. The macro function aside, they both have a minimum focus of about five feet. As far as optics go, if you are doing the general photography and not publishing or doing a lot of poster size printing, the Sigma will probably do a good job for you. The Nikon lens should yield a slightly higher quality for more critical work. I haven't handled the Sigma lens so I don't know how the lens feels on the camera. I would suggest going to a dealer that handles both of these lenses, and try them on your camera and see which one feels more comfortable for you to operate. I am sure either lens will do a great job for you.

My question is about pushing film. If you have a 36 exposure roll of film can you push the roll at different ratings, say, your using ISO 400 film, some of the frames are pushed to 800, the others, 1600, etc? 

Edwin Arceo 

Generally speaking you can't change speeds mid-roll for push processing. What happens when film is pushed is that the development times are altered to compensate for the exposure change. For each stop that the ISO is changed more time is spent in the chemicals. There have been some films (such as Ilford XP2 Super) that, because of their design, can be rated anywhere from ISO 50-800. I don't know of any color films that have this ability.

I do know of some professional photographers that shoot sports using Fuji Press 800 that will change to 1600 mid-roll and achieve excellent results. But this is mostly do to with the films wide exposure latitude which allows you to pull out good images even if you are one stop underexposed. You can try this with other films, but I'd recommend doing a test before shooting something important.

I just got a new (to me of course) Nikon f4/f4s/f4e after having my f4e stolen. I'm in a debate over what lens to buy. I shoot skateboarding for a hobby and will need an ultra wide. I'm looking for an AF Nikkor under 20mm. I don't want to go the fisheye or 15mm route because when not shooting skateboarding I don't want to be stuck with such a wide view. I guess what I'm asking is how much would I benefit from the 17-35mm zoom over the 18-35mm zoom? P.s. I am on somewhat of a budget but could hold out for the 17 if I knew it was entirely worth the wait. 


The primary differences are price, weight, ruggedness, and speed. Which lens is right for you. We reviewed both and compared the pros and cons in details. Check out these reviews in the back issues section. When all is said and done though price will make the decision for most non-pros. 



I printed a couple of scanned slides on Epson's Premium Glossy Photo Paper. After some cropping and correcting the color tones (Photoshop Elements), I noted that the printing was not the same as what appeared on the PCs monitor. I noted that the skin tones were more reddish in color, and that the picture was blurred and not sharp.

I'm using the Epson Perfection Photo 1650 and Stylus Photo 895. All the photos were scanned at 300dpi.


Color calibration is a bear on PCs. Your best bet is to go into the printer driver and the color controls for your monitor and make subtle adjustments until you get the two close. If you really want to get technical about it you can purchase a software/hardware package for calibrating your monitor to your printer but that's usually not necessary for the average person.

As for the softness in the final print, it could be caused by a couple of things. First the original image or it's scan may not have been all that sharp. Any imperfections in an image are amplified when it is printed. First make sure you set your scanner to it's highest resolution when scanning your slides. 300dpi is too low.

Resizing the final image in Photoshop before printing will yield vastly better results compared to letting the printer resize the image. Just make sure that when you resize you set the output image size to 300 dpi. For the best results use a program called Genuine Fractals for resizing before printing. It does a better job at resizing than Photoshop alone will do. Genuine Fractals is a Photoshop add-on that costs around $99, but it's only worth the investment for prints larger than 8x10. Otherwise you won't see that much of a difference.

I'm taking my first photography course at school next semester and I thought I'd get a camera and get a head start. I asked at the art department and they told me that a manual camera is recommended for the course. Last weekend I found a Nikon FM 10 at a yard sale. It was in the box and looks new except for a couple of scratches on the bottom. It has a 35-70mm Nikon lens and a camera strap and a couple of rolls of black and white film. 

The woman said her daughter used it for a camera class last year and was selling it because she bought a better camera. After I got it home I started wondering if I got a good deal. I'm taking a 100 level introduction to photography course. Is the FM 10 a good camera for school? Is it a good camera? Is a 35-70mm lens OK for class or do I have to buy another lens? I paid a $100 for the camera. Did I do OK? 

John Moore

If the camera was in good shape, you got a pretty good deal. The Nikon FM10 with the 35-70 and form fitted case sells new for about $280.00. This is an excellent camera to learn photography on. As far as needing another lens, maybe. Most people who shoot with SLR cameras have at least two lenses. The lens you have now has a moderate wide angle and a little bit of telephoto capability. The only reason you would need to add other lenses would be to get more magnification than 70mm to bring object closer, or you may need a wider angle to get more into the picture. I would try using the lens you have now for a while and see how it works for you. After a few rolls you may start realizing that you need more power or wider angle - then again you might be perfectly happy with the lens you've got.

Hi I've been taking pictures of a friend of mine while he does some aggressive skating and just wanted to get your opinion on what kind of film is best to use. The past couple times I used Kodak 200 speed and 400 speed. I'm going to be trying Polaroid 800 speed this week and just wanted to know what you used while you did the X-Games. 

Please get back to me thanks for your time 

When choosing a film speed you have to consider the light conditions and how fast the subjects will be moving. The lower the light level and the faster your subject is moving, the faster film you will need. If you are shooting on a bright day, 400 speed films should be fine if you are using a consumer level lens. If you have a pro level lens (such as a 2.8 lens or faster) you would be able to use the 200 in the same situation. If you are shooting on overcast days or late afternoon use the 800 speed. At the X-Games, indoors we shot mostly Fuji Press 400 and some Fuji Provia 400F (we also pushed some to 800). We shot this cautiously due to the narrow exposure latitude. The Fuji Press was by far the more versatile film in this situation. The outdoor events were shot with Fuji Astia 100.

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