Abstract A Photography FAQ

Bob Atkins Photography


The answers given here are mostly harmless

Q: My camera doesn't work [insert problem here]. What can I do?
A: Not much other than get it fixed. Most cameras are sufficiently complex and delicate that you will almost certainly cause further damage by attempting to "fix" it. If you are SURE you have a good battery and you are SURE the battery contacts are clean then you've pretty much exhausted your options. Contact the camera manufacturer for repair information. 

NB: Canon EOS ECF cameras like the EOS 3 and Elan 7 are supposed to rattle when you shake them. It's the horizonal/vertical sensor. They aren't broken, or at least they weren't before you started shaking them...

Q: Are Sigma/Tamron/Tokina any good, as good as the Nikon /Canon equivalent etc.
A: Yes, some 3rd party lenses are good, but generally not as good as the equivalent Nikon or Canon. They cost less and you generally get what you pay for. Remember that good enough is good enough. Not everyone actually needs a $1000 lens when a $400 lens is almost as good.

Q: I don't understand how my camera/flash/other gadget works
A: Read the manual. Then read it again, slowly and in detail. Then look on Amazon.com for books on your camera that do a better job of explaining how it works than the manual does.

Q: Do B&H/Adorama sell XYZ and how much does it cost?
A: Call them and find out. It's toll free.

Q: Why do my prints look so bad?
A: Because 90% of the consumer photofinishers (drug stores, supermarkets etc.) don't know or care about what they are doing. Complain, ask for reprints or find a better lab.

Q: Do I need to get a signed release to sell this picture?
A: Usually yes. If it's an image of a recognizable person or piece of property and you are selling it for commercial use (e.g. advertising, wall art, trading cards) you need a model release or a property release. If it's a horse at the racetrack, a baseball player, a car at the Daytona 500, your favorite pop star or just someone you saw standing on a street corner, you need a release. Technically you don't need releases for editorial material (e.g. magazine articles), but many editors like to cover themselves against potential law suits and ask for them anyway.

Q: When will Nikon/Canon release their next camera/lens?
A: Nobody who knows will tell you, and nobody who will tell you knows.

Q: When will digital capture be as good as film?
A: It already is and never. It's already better than disk cameras, 110 cameras and APS. It's probably better than 35mm. It's not likely that it will ever be as good as a 20x24 plate camera (probably not even an 8x10).

Q Will digital kill film?
A: No, it will just make film harder to find, you'll have less types to chose from and it will get more expensive.

Q: Do I need a tripod?
A: Yes. Even if you don't use it, it's good for the soul to own one. If you don't use one and your pictures aren't sharp, nobody will be at all suprised.

Q: How do I clean my lens?
A: Very carefully and as infequently as possible. The best way to make sure your lens is clean is not to get it dirty in the first place. Fingerprints, ice cream, jam, glue and other assorted gunk shouldn't be on there. If you must clean it, first blow off any loose dust and dirt, then gently brush the rest off. If you must remove anything left on the lens, use a lens tissue or (better) microfiber cloth. Breath on the lens and gently wipe away the condensation. Lens cleaning fluids are an absolute last resort. Don't use them unless you have to.

Q: Should I keep a UV filter on my lens to protect it?
A: Yes, if it makes you sleep better at night. Of course then you have the problem of how to protect the filter. You can add another filter of course, but the problem still remains...

Q: What's the best camera?
A: For pounding in nails, a Nikon F4 is pretty good. For taking pictures they all work well in the hands of a competent photographer.

Q: What's the best digital camera/scanner/printer
A: I don't know, but it's probably different from last week's best and whatever you buy there will be a newer, cheaper, better model released by the time you've owned it for a week.

Q: I've got all the best equipment but my pictures are still not very good. Why?
A: Buying a camera has about the same chance of making you a photographer as buying a piano has of making you a pianist. Even buying the latest Casio keyboard with built in bells and whistles (literally) won't help if you don't know the fundamentals and don't take the time to practice, practice, practice. If you think an EOS 1Ds MkII and a bunch of "L" series lenses will turn you into the next Ansel Adams, then you'd be better off buying a pen and a notepad and becoming the next Stephen King (he makes more money than any photographer!).

Q: How do I copyright my photographs?
A: You already did. Images are copyrighted at the moment of creation.

Q: Which TC should I use with my lens?
A: The lowest power, most expensive one which fits it, prefereably the one made by the manufacturer of the camera and/or lens you are using.

Q: How can I improve my photography?
A: Take more pictures. Either you'll go bankrupt, die of boredom or you'll learn when and when not to push the shutter.

Q: Where can I find a cheap, long, fast, high quality telephoto lens?
A: You can't, not unless it's stolen property (and probably not even then). The third party 400/5.6 APO lenses came closest, but they aren't very long or very fast and nobody makes them anymore.

Q: Will X-rays at the airport fog my film?
A: They might. Despite notices saying only film over 3200 speed will be damaged by the carry-on baggage X-ray machine, some film does get damaged [Note that there IS no film rated at over 3200. If there was I'm sure the signs would cahnge to include it]. It's the luck of the draw. Odds are small that you'll see damage, but not zero. Checked bags can get really nuked, so that's the last place you want your film. Try requestion a hand inspection. In the US they are SUPPOSED to do this on request, but since 9-11 the rules seem to be made up on the spot. X-rays don't damge digital memory cards or cameras.

Q: Should I freeze my film?
A: Film ages. Over time colors and speed will change. Refrigeration slows down this process, freezing slows it down even more. "Consumer" film is released early, ages through a "premium" point and then ages again. When it reaches this "premium point" is anyone's guess and it depends how it is stored. The difference between fresh, aged and "premium" film is small enough that you probably won't notice the difference. "Pro" film is released at it's "premium point" and so should be cold stored to prevent changes. NOTE that pro film does not age faster then consumer film, it just starts out at a different point. So if you intend to store your film for years, freeze it. If you intend to store it for a few months, refrigerate it. Always let it warm to ambient temperature before you use it though.

Q: Why do my photographs have dark corners?
A: Probably because you have between 1 and 3 filters on the lens. Take them off and see if it solves the problem. 1 filter should be OK (but even that's not always true). 2 or more filters is asking for trouble. Also also cheap wide-angle zooms often have such a problem. The solution then is a better lens.

Q: Should I give up my day job and become a photographer? Will I make more money?
A: No, and only if your current job requires you to say "would you like fries with that", perhaps not even then. See if you can sell your work while keeping your current job. If you get no takers, the answer is obvious.

Q: What's the best Internet Photography website?
A: This one of course

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