Any Camera type people out there?

I, Shirley Ujest, have always been fond of taking pictures. I am told that my pictures are good, but I’ve always suspected an ulterior motive from these compliments, as Mr. Ujest is Senor Handyman in All Departments and works for free most of the time and the best way to get the Handyman to come over is to be nice to his wife. What, me cynical?

Well, now I’ve gone and signed myself up at my son’s preschool to be the **Official Year Book Photographer ** which includes taking pictures and making individual scrap books for these kids for the end of the year.

So’s, what I am interested in, anyone who is in the know about cameras, is: I would like to learn how to work with filters and what filter to use with what kind of setting.

I have a Nikon Rebel 35mm.

Anyone’s input is greatly appreciated.

For outdoor pictures, get a UV and a Skylight filter. In fact, keep the UV filter on the camera at all times, it’s a cheap way to protect the lens from scratches.

One thing I did years ago when taking portraits (as in, “pictures of people’s faces”, not as in “I was a portrait photographer”) was to smear a thin layer of vaseline on a spare UV filter. This softened the skin tones quite a bit, and gave a nice effect. You oughta try it some time.

I’m sure other folks more knowledgeable than me will have even better suggestions…

start at a local photo store - they should have brochures, books, etc. Cokin has an excellent reference for its filters - Cokin Creative Filter System - check around

or go here:

you do not state the ages of the kids - soft focus is great for wrinkles, little lines, etc., but not often used for the under-12 crowd.

the warming filters (yellow sometimes, usually orange (037 in cokin-speak)) work well, esp. on pale subjects.

the vaseline-on-a-spare-filter is a soft-focus technique.

and, as always, lighting is the critical element - a harsh light directly overhead will make anybody look like frankenstein.

am not familiar with that camera, but see what you can do about providing “fill flash” - this eliminates shadows, makes for a much nicer pic.

(and, while you’re looking for filters, pick up a polarizing one - you will be amazed what it does - often now what you want for portraiture, but fantastic for landscapes)

just checked - i’ve got 20+ filters - damn. they are handy.

oh. pre-school. forget the diffusers/soft focus.

But for pre-school, get a fish eye lens. The basic effect is like looking at the world through a fish bowl, kinda a rounded thing. I’m no good at explaining. But it’s a goofy effect I imagine the young kids would seeing.

I don’t think filters will be the most important thing in making good photographs. It would help to know what kind of camera you have as Nikon doesn’t make a camera called a Rebel AFAIK, that’s Canon’s name for some of its EOS 35mm SLR cameras. Which model of Nikon do you have? A 35mm SLR or a point and shoot pocket camera? Provide us with that clue and we’ll be able to offer more help.

the kids might like a fish-eye effect, but the parents probably would like a more conventional likeness.

and fish-eye lenses are expensive!

is the shooting to be indoors of outdoors?

individual, small groups, large groups?


You got a Canon Rebel (Nikon doesn’t make the Rebel)…

Is it a Rebel G, Rebel X, Rebel 2000, or Rebel?

You need to use a Circular Polarized (CP) for the autofocus and TTL to work right. If you are using fast film (400-1200) and a flash, then use the CP filter – it will brighten colors and make for gorgeous photos, and remove glare. HOWEVER, the CP filter needs to be rotated to the right spot or it will darken your exposure and may even ruin some shots if you don’t use it right – talk to the people in the photo shop because they can explain to you how to use that filter…

It’s worth it to have the CP filter for sunny days too – it makes a rich deep blue sky and bright, very bright colors…

If you have about $800 laying around, go ahead and get a fisheye lens, the 16mm Canon Ultrasonic is pretty good, and you will have to get it used at 8-9 condition for that price.

You could rent one ($50/week) if you know of some good events happening, and want to play with it…

While you are renting it, take some photos of the interior of your house and your cars – it’ll make the rooms look extremely spacious…

As far as any other filters… well, just take good photos and apply digital effects if you want color changes and stuff… don’t worry about buying too much stuff – just keep shooting great photos!

The CP filter is a must however – for flash and sunlight…

Oh – you might consider getting a 380EX speedlight flash if you don’t have one… it’ll take care of lighting interiors and the automation is very clever on that device… that’ll set you back about $150-200, however…

If you have a Rebel X, it has a built-in Soft focus feature that makes a marvelous soft focus when used with a tripod – it shows “SF” on the feature dial – you must use it with a tripod, though becuse it will shoot two exposures – one in sharp focus, and one out-of-focus, that blend in order to make a soft focus…

The most important part — HAVE FUN TAKING THE PHOTOS!!! – it’ll show in the prints…

just to confuse things -

I have always HEARD that autofocus, Through-The-Lens (TTL) metering, ect. required CP’s.
I run a linear polarizer on my maxxum/dynax with no problems.

p.s. - those cute little ‘pop-up’ flashes on modern cameras are excellent ‘fill flash’ units.

IMHO those cute little built in pop up flashes are the worst feature ever added to SLR cameras. If you want to make your photos look like dime store instamatic snapshots they are just the ticket but I’d avoid using them otherwise. One of the keys to good flash photography is to get the flash away from the camera lens. Moving it a few inches above on a hot shoe is good but farther is better. Not only does moving the flash help eliminate red eye but alters the shadows so images don’t look so flat.

It’s less convenient but when I want good results I use a Metz 45CL-4 “potato masher” with my digital or film cameras. I also have a hot shoe mounted Nikon SB-16 I use with my F3 which is quite good. Both the Metz and Nikon flashes have dual flash heads. The main head can be raised and rotated to bounce off the ceiling or a wall while the second, smaller, flash head aims straight ahead to fill in shadows in eye sockets and give a nice catchlight in the eyes. You can also get good results with a bounce flash aimed up into a small reflector card. It makes the apparent light source bigger which softens shadows.

yes, toys are nice.

but on a rebel? I’m not going to get into wireless flash, auto-synch remotes, flash umbrellas, etc. for a pre-school yearbook.

nor am i going to suggest real portrait lenses.

the pop-ups, unlike instmatics, are metered. and do work well for fill. If ambient light is inadequate, yes, they are inadequate as a primary light source - red-eye being the least of the problems (esp. if the flash has red-eye reduction capabilities).

Shirley -

if you volunteered for the job to provide an excuse to acquire toys, you could set up an entire studio - commercial grade lighting runs $1000’s - go wild.

Who suggested a wireless flash or anything complex? I suggested that if she wants better results an off camera flash, one mounted on a bracket to the camera, would give dramatically better results than a built in flash or most hot shoe mounted flashes. Doesn’t have to be expensive or complex but there is the bulk of a bracket mounted flash to contend with.

Studio setups are a different thing altogether and I don’t think Shirley is quite ready to jump into the deep end. If she was I’d suggest Alien Bees strobes as being extremely cost effective and giving up nothing to far more expensive studio lights. You could squeeze a simple studio setup into $1,000, singular :D, but it would take some time to learn to use it well.

As for pop up flashes they do serve a puropose but few beginners use them where they are most useful, outdoors. Used outdoors they can fill shadows nicely. Problem is most people use them indoors where they become a primary light source. Even when they have adequate power for the distance the results aren’t anything to write home about.

BTW, what exactly is a “real portrait lens.” My definition is something 85-105mm focal length (for 35mm cameras). Lots of inexpensive zooms cover that range nicely. The only portrait specific lenses I know of are intentionally designed with lots of spherical aberation to give soft focus effect sans petroleum jelly.

portrait - fast, low-contrast, 100mm - 150mm (I have a 135, which I never use (don’t like to photograph people)).

newer models have built-in soft focus.

(if you want to blow $600-$1000 on a single piece of glass with no other credible use, these are great!)

for instance:

ok, i’ll be amazed if it works as a link…

I’ll agree with you on that. A soft focus autofocus lens? Sheesh. Much cheaper ways to accomplish the same result. The link worked perfectly BTW. Nice that B&H doesn’t use frames on their site.

Shirley, I hope we haven’t overwhelmed you with all the gearhead, techy responses :smiley: It would help to know precisely what kind of camera you have as it will help us make more specific suggestions.

I’d pretty much stand by what Padeye has told you.

Filters are not your main concern for portrait photography. And please, for the love of cheese, stay away from that god-awful cheesy vaseline-on-the-lens soft-focus effect. 99 times out of 100 it looks like kitsch.

I’ll try to keep it simple. You probably won’t need any filters. Are you shooting black and white or color? I always have a UV filter on all of my lenses, but that’s to protect the front element, not really for any kind of effect. Sure polarizers are nice, but you are probably not going to need it for portraits. A warming filter? Unless you’re shooting slides, you can always ask your printer to make your prints warmer.

For head shots, the advice I can give you is to shoot in the 70mm-135mm range, depending on what kind of lenses you have available. My favorite lenses for portraits are the 85mm and 105mm. Your main concern is light. Light, light, light. Unfortunately, I can’t give you a whole course in a small post, and I’m still shaky on understanding what equipment you have. You don’t need $1000 worth of lights to make a quality portrait. (Not that $1000 worth of lights don’t have their uses if you know what you’re doing.) The simplest quality portrait I can think of involves the following:

  1. Window light
  2. A backdrop (I like simple backdrops, like plain black. But marbled and other patterns work well.)
  3. A reflector (optional, but highly recommended.)

Here’s some examples of window light portraiture.

There are a million ways you can do this. Make sure the classroom lights are shut off. Then find somebody you can pose a bit and position that person at different angles to the window. Look at how the different angles affect the light on the face. Look at the highlights and shadows the light forms. Since this light is very directional, you may need a reflector (just a big white board) to lighten the shadows on the opposite side of the face. (Optionally, you can use a fill flash, but don’t overpower your main light source - the window.)

Most likely, you will need 400 speed film for this, or 100 film and a tripod. I’d recommend the latter if at all possible.

Sorry. Got kicked off the last computer. Let me continue. For the rest of the photos (which I assume would be candids and the
such). There are three “secrets” of good photography in my book.

One: Understanding light. Seeing light. Loving light.
Two: Getting close to you subject. As Capa said, “if you’re pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” Also known as “fill the frame.” Eliminate all unwanted distractions and compose around what is essential. Get in close.
Three: Finding the “decisive moment.” (with a nod to Bresson there.)

Most of all, have fun. Experiment. Don’t worry about filters at this stage. But if you must, a slight warming filter is useful for window-light portraits. You get bonus points if you can tell me why. :slight_smile:

I think we’ve managed to completely overwhelm her so no sense holding back.

Shirley, one of the reasons to use filters is to alter color temperature. This is something you don’t always have to deal with but it’s good to know about.

All the various light sources you use will have a different color, corresponding to different parts of the spectrum described by temperature. Oddly blue light, which we describe as cold, is at the hot end of the spectrum and amber light is at the cold end. Just remember that this is the case when people refer to warming or cooling filters.

Your headbone is programmed to correct what your eyebones see so you don’t notice this but as you progress in photography you will learn to. Tungsten lights produce a amber/reddish light, florescent lights tend to greenish and daylight is more bluish but can vary depending on the mix of straight sunlight and reflected sky. Strobe lights are made to mimic skylight.

Standard film is balanced for daylight or strobe. If you shoot daylight film indoors with tungsten light it might turn out almost orange. The drugstore print lab will happily try to correct this for you but this isn’t always the best thing as it masks what the negative actually looks like. You may also find that transparencies are preferred for publishing so color errors won’t be hidden.

You can use filters to use daylight film under tungsten or vice versa. Unfortunately it robs a lot of light making existing light photos difficult. You can get tungsten-balanced film as well but that robs you of the flexibility of switching back and forth in the middle of a roll. That’s one reason lots of photographers have at least two camera bodies handy.

Another way to deal with it is to use daylight film everywhere and shoot with strobes inside. This works well as long as you know some simple tricks to keep strobe photos from looking like strobe photos. See above.

That entire hassle is one reason I shoot digital more and more these days. Nearly all digicams have automatic white balance but better ones allow you to select specific color balance settings corresponding to different light source types. Better still is a custom white balance where a white card or wall is used to adjust the color temperature. This way I can take shots under all types of light sources and they will all match each other. If I want to intentionally get a different color cast, such as the golden hour sunlight just before sunset, I can easily do that when I take the photo or in post production.

Whichever advice above you decide to take, take some practice shots first, especially if you are using anything new (filter, lens, lights, flash, or film). Write down what you did on each shot and try different things. Then when the pictures come back, you can see what gives the results you want.

If you are expected to take individual shots of each kid or group shots of each class, you don’t want to shot them all and then discover that you have to do them all again.

That should be “don’t want to shoot them all”.