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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.

A couple of questions: 
1) Why does my flash not reach my subject when taking pictures?

2) When taking head shots, what is the key? Shoulders and above, or chest and above? Does it just depend on the photographers preference?

3) When does it become a necessity to used something other than a 35mm camera, i.e. medium format, etc? And can most effects be achieved with a 35mm slr vs. a medium format camera?

Thank you,
Carol McNeece

Generally speaking, when a flash does not reach a subject, the problem is a flash that is not strong enough.  All flash units have a maximum amount of power that is measured by a guide number. The lower the guide number, the shorter the distance the flash will illuminate. You can increase the effective reach of a flash by increasing the film speed you are using. If your flash gives you a 15' range at f/8 with 100 ISO film, by increasing your film speed to ISO 400, your flash range will now be 30' at f/8. Also, sacrificing depth of field by opening your aperture wider will also help to maximize your output range. 

Headshots, typically, are shot from just below the shoulders and up. Good, strong contrast is also desirable. I like to use Kodak T-Max 100 and over-expose by one stop with normal development.

Deciding to go to medium format is a tough call today. With the quality of today's 35mm film and camera systems, the advantages of increased sharpness of the larger negative/chrome are slowly disappearing. The medium format system still allows an image to be enlarged to larger sizes with a minimum of loss, but the difference just isn't as obvious as it once was. Most techniques that can be done in camera, can be done with both systems. Check out my article in the May issue "Traveling with a 4x5 Camera in North Carolina's Outer Banks" where I compare 35mm to 4x5. This may give some insight on the quality difference as the size of your enlargements increases.

If you're running into frequent situations where you need to do poster size and larger prints, then the medium format may be a better solution. 


How would you go about to "Copyright" a group of photos and the address of the U.S. Copyright Office. Thank you.

James H. Avans

Copyrighting photographs is easy.  All the information and forms you need can be found on the web site for the Library of Congress, U.S. Copyright Office, at

The mailing address for the office is: 

Library of Congress 
Copyright Office 
101 Independence Avenue S.E.
Washington, D.C. 


With the advancements in photography, is everything predicted to be digital be the end of the next decade??


This is a great question and a controversial one. There have been many debates as to what will happen to traditional photography as we know it today. Some feel digital will completely replace traditional cameras and film. Others argue digital will never have the quality to replace the silver halide technology we use today.

I personally feel reality will be somewhere in-between these two extremes. I think there will be some areas of photography that will continue to use traditional films while most areas will be replaced by digital technology.

If you look at how digital is being used today you'll find it in some unexpected places. Many major portrait studios have successfully moved on to use digital cameras and printers to allow them to deliver your sitting in hours rather than weeks. But most wedding photographers will only use traditional types of film for weddings.

Most of these photographers are now offering images on CD as a form of high-quality archiving of your precious memories. Insurance companies and real estate agents have switched to digital to reduce the time and cost of processing images for claims and listings.  

As the quality of digital cameras continue to improve, more and more photographers will make the switch to digital. When will it happen? That will be dictated by how fast the technology advances.


Someone in my family (which I will not name) washed a roll of fill that was already used. Is there any way to save it or is it hopeless?


You would be surprised how many times I've heard of this happening. Unfortunately, I have yet to see a roll survive after being put through a washer.  But I would never say it is hopeless. What I would suggest is to call the manufacturer of the film (most manufactures have toll free numbers for customer support) with as many details of the incident as possible (detergents used, temperature of the wash, etc.). They would know better than anyone how well the film will stand up to other chemicals and to different temperatures of water (you would be surprised how resilient some films are).  Good luck.


I'm taking pictures of my 10 year old son at his football games and a lot of them are coming out blurry.  The local camera store told me that using faster film in my camera would make the pictures less blurry because I would have a faster shutter speed.  Are they right?  I'm using a Pentax IQ Zoom 160.



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