PHOTOGRAPHY

COMMON QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

When I take a picture through glass, the picture is out of focus, and there is bright glare in the glass. You will need to turn your flash off if the subject is well lit. If not well lit, use a tripod or brace the camera on a wall or ledge. You may me able to get away with flash being on if you shoot at a 45 degree angle to the glass. Also you will need to set your camera to a distance picture mode so the autofocus ignores the glass. Look for mountain symbols on your automatic camera's dial. If the mountain symbol does not improve your focus, use manual focus, and estimate the distance. Anything over about 20 feet will be infinity in your camera's focus, sometimes represented by a sideways 8 symbol (∞).

When I take pictures outside at night, the picture is really bright nearby, but everything in the background is nearly black. You can try using a night portrait mode on your automatic camera. On your camera dial, look for a head with a star or moon symbol. If this doesn't work well, use a tripod or brace the camera on a ledge, and use manual exposure or shutter priority exposure and expose for about 1 to 20 seconds. The best lens opening is about f/4 or f/5.6 and it is best to not use telephoto zoom. Do not use flash unless a person is within 15 feet or so. Even the best professional flash equipment is limited to about 100 feet.

When I look at B&W pictures from the 1920s thru the mid 1950s, women's make-up is sometimes very dark. Why?  Red-blind, or orthochromatic black and white films were popular before 1956. Red objects looked black to these films. Two common examples of these were Kodak Verichrome and Ansco All-Weather film. B&W films that responded to all colors were around for several decades, and became the only type available for amateurs after 1955. They were called panchromatic, or "Pan" for short.

Films and plates from the early days of photography were sensitive to blue light only, and they had a lot of contrast. They could make people like Lincoln look ill, and darker-skinned people looked very dark. This is because blue light makes most skin colorations appear darker.

I have problems with red eyes in flash pictures. Be sure red-eye reduction is turned on. Because today's cameras are small and the flash is close to the lens, it is hard to get rid of this. It will help to buy and use the camera's external flash accessory. The flash will be farther from the lens, and its red-eye reduction flashes will be brighter and cause people's pupils to close more.

My old color slides, negatives, or prints are fading. Keep them in your unheated garage in winter, and in the house in summer. Get the valuable ones scanned. Once your photos are on recordable CDs or DVDs, keep the disks away from sunlight, heat, and water.  The disks are dye-based, like color film, and can become unreadable. They may last 100 years, but their life span may be shorter. It is unknown because they are a new product. Copy them every 10 years. Labeling optical disks or writing on them can shorten their life. There was a link here to a government page about optical media stability but the page has been removed. The federal government is currently evaluating the stability of optical disks and is recommending that computer system administrators have a plan to back them up. This is due not only to stability questions but even more to future technological obsolescence concerns. More comments on computer file longevity are on the new Computer Topics page here.
 

I have really old negatives that are disintegrating. They might be on old unstable nitrate-based film. Get them scanned or copied as soon as possible. If you have a lot of them, they can be a fire hazard. They support spontaneous combustion.

When I send my pictures to friends or my photo site, they are so large that I can only see part of the picture, and I have to scroll it back and forth. And, it takes a long time to send them. See my page on photo size.

OTHER COMMENTS

I have a new copy of PhotoImpact, and a new film and slide scanner. I like the program and have been using older versions since 1997. Now I can scan negatives and slides in the film scanner, and the results are somewhat better than scanning film on a flat bed scanner.

I have found that Kodak Portra 160 NC (not UC or VC), a lower contrast color negative film, gives great results with today’s high contrast film printing. If you still use film and find that pictures of people are too harsh, try this film, available at your local camera store. Also, Fujifilm makes a similar product. I wish there was such a moderate contrast slide film, but all are very - or extremely - high in contrast. (An exception is slide duplicating film, which is difficult to use for everyday use.)  Digital does not yet have a contrast problem, but Pop Photo magazine says digitals are sensitive to overexposure on bright areas.

On the Nikon D90 digital camera, the default contrast is also rather high. I have reduced it by one step in the menu, and the photos now remind me of Kodacolor II or Kodachrome II, films from the late 60s and early 70s. The color remains full, and the photos are more pleasing without loss of detail in dark and light areas.

Now that Kodachrome slide film has been discontinued, I'm sad that it is gone. I liked the Kodachrome II version the best. A camera store owner told me about 15 years ago that the market for slide film had decreased a lot by then, to about 10% of what it was for color negative film. At this time, January 2015, film or processing may still be available at a few places by mail order or downtown New York or Chicago.

Fixed-lens or interchangeable-lens digital cameras don’t take the same lenses my older manual focus 35mm does. There are none built to take stereo pictures. Many of them come with flash units too tiny to illuminate anything over 5 to 10 feet away. This is also a problem with many recent film cameras. A slave (extra light-triggered) flash can help some of these cameras. Some digital cameras have custom accessory slave flashes available. These are designed to work with the multiple flashes the camera produces, and respond only to the main flash. Standard slave flash units or triggers would require that you turn off auto-exposure or red-eye-reduction multiple flashes, and test them first. It might also be necessary to turn off the autofocus assist beam (usually a red light that flashes.)

See Extending Your Digital Flash Range.

 STEREO PHOTOGRAPHY

With a lens attachment, one can take a version of stereos that fits in a single picture. This attachment may be found on the used camera accessories market. It’s called the Pentax Stereo Adapter and it’s used with a normal focal length lens. It comes in 49mm or 52mm filter thread sizes. All the stereo pictures on the Copper Harbor page were taken with this attachment. The Pentax attachment creates a mild telephoto effect. Pictures look doubled and split in two but are compatible with all normal developing and slide mounting. A special slide viewer is made for the Pentax kit.

When using the camera adapter, if your camera uses center-weighted or spot metering, you should either change it to full-screen averaging or give one or two stops less exposure than the meter indicates. If you have a digital camera, many of them allow you to change the metering to full-screen averaging. Some point-and-shoots as well as SLRs (digital) have adapters available that let you attach standard filters or accessories with a 49mm or 52mm filter thread.

Viewing of prints would require an antique stereoscope. It is possible to use makeshift methods to view stereos on these pages. I can discuss this with you in e-mail if you wish. There is risk of eye strain unless you do this properly.

I also use an antique stereo camera, a Stereo Realist. I purchased it from a well-known repair shop in downtown Chicago, and it is in good condition. It is best used with slide film, and film speeds of 100 or less, and a separate light meter. Fortunately these cameras used X flash synchronization (timing), so they are compatible with today’s strobe flash units. A special flash shoe adapter is required.

It produces pictures with a normal field of view. Whether you shoot slides or negatives, never let the photofinisher cut its developed film. Their automated equipment cannot handle the non-standard spacing and will cut through many pictures. Its slides should be processed un-mounted. Special mounts are required which may be purchased on the web. I have a surplus of them if anyone needs some. There were several minor variations of the 35mm stereo format. Mine are Stereo Realist size. You will likely find it best to mount the slides at home. In 2000 I took quite a few pictures in Madrid and Granada with this camera. I have posted some 2005 pictures taken with it (Meteor Crater.)

The silent films star and comedian Harold Lloyd enjoyed stereo photography in his retirement.

Stereo in general is not great for close pictures of people. I tried it at a wedding and it seems to make people’s necks and heads project forward too much. It was good for pictures on the dance floor, as it separates the jumble of people in a normal photo.

 INCOMPATIBLE COMPUTER PHOTO FORMATS

Or, are your JPEGs progressive? Here’s one of the few instances where I recommend being conservative. If you use one of the better photo editing programs, you may find an option when saving pictures called “Progressive JPEG” or “Progressive JPG.” It is useful for viewing a large JPEG on a slow dial-up connection as the whole photo comes into view more quickly, then sharpens. The problem is, not all photo viewers or editors are compatible. In particular, as of 2005, Kodak Imaging, found on older Windows computers, cannot open progressive JPEGs nor can Kodak photo kiosks in stores. It’s possible this may have been remedied by now. Also these files cannot be opened by older DOS-based or Windows 3.1-based photo programs. Also, very high compression can trip up some photo programs. Progressive JPEGs are totally unrelated to progressive scan found on newer computer monitors or high definition TVs.

File extensions…generally, JPEGS or JPGs are best for most photos. TIFs and BMPs are quite huge, and GIFs and PNGs do not display enough colors for photos. They are better for artwork. In Macs using iPhoto, it may be necessary to export photos in JPEG format to use them on other devices. JPEGS work on all machines.

If you look at a lot of photos, it’s best to use a photo viewer. Internet Explorer is commonly used to look at photos, but photo programs can sometimes render the color and tonal range better. You generally have to save pictures to look at them with another program. I recommend that everyone enable the viewing of file extension names on their computers. This can be very helpful if your computer will not automatically open a file. You are working blind if you don’t know what program a file is intended for. After a while you will know the type of file by its extension name.

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Updated Aug. 18, 2015