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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 Minolta HTsi and recently I bought flash with Minolta mount. Its a high power bounce & swivel from Quantaray. The problem is I shot some pictures at home. Those pictures did not come very well. The quality of picture is same as the built-in flash. I used Kodak Max 400 and set the camera in AF mode with self timer. The reason for the new flash is to get very good picture quality. Your suggestions please on this.

Flash Model No: QTB-9500A


The problem that I keep running into with third party flash units is that they are not set to TTL. TTL is the Through-The-Lens setting which will allow the camera and flash to work together most efficiently. If you find that the flash is set to TTL, tell me what the settings you have the flash set to and what modes you are using in the flash and I will see what else could be wrong.

I have a Nikon F5. I have been use this camera for about 2 years now. I love taking pictures. Just now, I read one of technique - light meters. I always puzzle about this, whether or not to get a handheld meters, because sometime - beach or late afternoon (sometime indoor) when I take pictures during this area, pictures doesn't come out the way I want it. like to bright or too dark. I thought F5 equip best meter of all. should I get a handheld meters? if I do, what brand and what feature?

Ken Yeh

The Nikon F5 has one of the best meters on the market today. However, like any other meter out there, it has it limitations.  The first thing to look at when trying to decide about metering problems, is to look at composition problems. Things like, is the light source behind the subject? Is there any highly reflective surfaces that may fool the meter? You should check to make sure that exposure compensation hasn't been turned on accidentally. Double check that the film speed is set correctly.

If after looking at these areas you still haven't found the problem, evaluate the images that are not coming out correctly. Compare all the ones that are too dark. Is there any common factor involved (indoor/outdoor, day/night, etc.)? If you are shooting print film, check the negatives for these photographs. Do they show the same problem? When prints come back dark, it is usually due to underexposed negatives. If the negatives look thin (little detail), then the exposure would be the problem. If the negatives have a lot of detail in them, then the problem would be with your lab, as they had printed them too dark. 

Go through the same type of evaluation with the photos that are too light. You might be surprised to find out that the camera is doing its job correctly and that your lab has let you down.

If you have gone through these steps and have determined that the problem is with the exposure, try to compare the exposure reading to that of another camera. The readings should be pretty close to the same. If there is a big difference, then the meter in the camera may need to be recalibrated.  This requires sending the camera to an authorized Nikon service center.

If you decide to get a hand held meter, I recommend one that will allow you to do incident readings. This would give you the best exposure for a subject as it measures the amount of light falling on your subject as opposed to the light being reflected by it (which is what your camera's meter measures).

There is an article in the July issue comparing in-camera meters to hand held meters. If you haven't read it, check it out at

Recently, I read an article that was in EMAZING Photo tip of the day. It mentioned having black and white photos developed at a one-hour facility. I have tried this at several places and the results are always the same: pictures are printed on "color" paper which lessens the character of the photo. The pictures are not truly black and white but some kind of bad tone. I have learned to "send out" black and white film to be processed on black and white paper. My question is, what is the difference between the two? (Black and white and "color" paper). I have used the Kodaks, Agfas, Ilfords, etc., etc. All with the same results. 

Thank you

The biggest problem with getting the C-41 process black and white films done in many one hour labs is the color paper. Color paper is designed to produce many different colors from color negatives. Black and white papers will only be able to produce black, white, and shades of gray. 

When printing black and white negatives on color paper, a lab has to color correct the prints to a produce a print that looks black and white. A lot of your "discount labs" (drugstore, discount store, supermarkets) do not color correct heavily (if at all), the result is a sickly black tone instead of a true black. A good quality photo lab should be able to produce a print that is very close to a true black and white print. 

Some labs even have a black and white paper for their printer that can be processed in the same chemicals as their color paper. This style paper will give you a true black and white print from a one hour lab. Your best bet is to call some of the specialty labs, or "pro" labs in your area to see if any of them have this kind of paper.

If there is a significant difference in printing costs then use a good one hour lab to develop the prints as close as they can to black and white to use as proofs, then send your "keepers" out to the pro lab to get the real black and white prints.

I recently bought a Polaroid 640 digital camera. It takes wonderful pictures even in a moving vehicle. I took some pictures and did the computer downloading. Then selected the ones I needed to put on floppy disk to give to a friend for her project. I have a Gateway 98 and use the Microsoft program that came with the Epson 660 printer. I could only get four to six pictures on the 2HD IBM 1.44MB floppy disk. How do I get more pictures on a disk? The program did ask which format and I left it with the one the program was using and that is the question? Which format is good to save picture quality to a floppy? 

Thank you for your help,
Merle Kendrick

This is a good question. The problem with storing photographs on a floppy disk is the little amount of storage that is actually available.

 The first things to consider are how large is the file size and what kind of quality do you want? When putting images to floppy disks, the most common file type to use is JPEG.  The JPEG format utilizes a compression technique to minimize the amount of storage space a file will take.  Many image editing programs will allow you to change the amount of compression that is used.  This will allow you to find a happy medium between the amount of storage the file will take and the amount of quality that will be lost. The more compression you add, the more quality that is sacrificed. 

With lower resolution images, too much compression will kill the image quickly.  A floppy disk holds 1.44MB of storage.  An average image file from a lower resolution camera will take somewhere from 1/4 to 3/4 of a megabyte.  At that rate, you can't fit a lot on a floppy without increasing the compression. For this reason many people use CD's or Zip disks to store photographs. These media types are relatively inexpensive and hold a lot more data. This will allow you to both store higher quality images and fit more images to each disk.


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Double check that the film speed is set correctly.




























discount labs do not color correct heavily



















With lower res images, too much compression will kill the image


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