Scanning Negatives, Shooting the Moon, Fixing the Colors in a Photo

Have a question about digital photography? Send it to me. I reply to as many as I can--though given the quantity of e-mails that I get, I can’t promise a personal reply to each one. I round up the most interesting questions about once a month here in Digital Focus.

For more frequently asked questions, read my newsletters from February, March, and April.

Scanning Negatives

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5 Steps for Great Action Photos

Photo courtesy Flickr user Mariano Kamp.
Summer is upon us, and that means we'll be spending a lot more time outdoors, capturing photos of stuff--kids, friends, cars, planes, dogs--in action. Perhaps you've applied some of the ideas in "Digital Photography Tips: Capture Summer Action," and discovered that some of your action photos lacked the excitement you saw in the viewfinder. That's the problem with freezing the action. Sometimes, it's just too frozen. The antidote? A classic photo technique known as panning. This week, let's review five things you need to know to pan the action to get some exciting, vibrant action photos.

Before we begin, what is panning? In a nutshell, it's a technique that lets you convey a strong sense of motion in your photo by freezing a fast-moving subject, but allowing the background to blur. When done well, panning shots virtually scream action and excitement. Here's what you need to know to take your own.

1. Review Your Stance

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Tricks for Photographing Flowers

I love this time of year. The days are getting longer, the temperature is on the rise, and all around me, flowers are starting to bloom. This is a great opportunity to grab a camera and capture some of the natural beauty around us, whether it's in your backyard, at the local park, or along a hiking trail just out of town. Recently, I've explained some general-purpose photo tricks like "A Fast Trick to Salvage an Underexposed Photo" and "Four Easy Tricks for Better Photos." This week, let's focus on tips for capturing some great flower photos--they are a great addition to the advice I gave last year on photographing spring flowers.

Know When to Get in Close

More often than not, flowers look their best when you get in close, which often calls for using a macro lens or dialing in the macro setting on your camera. Macro mode lets you get very close to your subject, filling the frame with small details. If you have a point-and-shoot camera, the macro setting is generally marked with a tulip. Digital SLR owners have the option of adding a macro lens to their camera.

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5 Essential iOS Apps for Photographers

My friends call me a camera snob because I prefer digital SLRs and typically turn my nose up at camera phones. But lately, I've fallen in love with my iPhone's camera; more and more, I find myself snapping photos with my phone. One obvious advantage that a smartphone like the iPhone has over a traditional camera is portability. I've always got my iPhone in my pocket, while my Nikon often languishes at home. But another great advantage is apps: It's easy to add new features and capabilities to your iPhone by installing a free or inexpensive app. To do the same thing with a traditional camera, you'd need a degree in electrical engineering. Last year, I told you about five reasons photographers should love the iPhone. The apps I mentioned back then are still great, but this week, I've rounded up five more iOS apps that I highly recommend.


One of the reasons that I ordinarily prefer a digital SLR to a camera phone is the control an SLR gives me over shutter speed and aperture. By dialing in a specific aperture setting, I can create a sharp hyperfocal photo or one in which the subject is sharply defined and the background is blurred out of focus.

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Choosing the Right Shutter Speed

One of the most intriguing aspects of photography is that it's both an art and a science. Science tells us that, for most photos, there's a specific amount of light that will generate the "perfect" exposure--sort of like measuring chemicals in a laboratory. But it's not all test tubes and Bunsen burners in photography, because there are a million ways to get the right amount of light into your scene. Lots of different shutter speeds and aperture settings add up to the right exposure, for example. You're already had a chance to experiment with that using an interactive online camera simulator. And therein lies the art: No two photographers will ever capture the same scene in exactly the same way. This week, let's zero in on shutter speed and talk about how you can get a variety of different photo effects and visual styles just by varying this one camera control.

Understanding Shutter Speeds

This Canon camera uses a four-way rocker to adjust exposure: up and down is shutter speed, while left and right is aperture.
You probably already know that your camera's shutter speed setting controls how long the shutter is left open, and therefore how much light is allowed to reach the camera's sensor. Most cameras let you control the shutter with a dial--spin it to change the exposure time--or some sort of rocker switch.

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Taking Photos of Firefighters, Moving the Flash Off-Camera, Resizing vs. Cropping

Have a question about digital photography? Send it to me. I reply to as many as I can--though given the quantity of e-mails that I get, I can't promise a personal reply to each one. I round up the most interesting questions about once a month here in Digital Focus.

For more frequently asked questions, read my newsletters from January, February, and March.

Reflective Strips Are Ruining My Photos

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Make a Radiant Portrait

No doubt you have heard someone be complimented with the effusive expression, "You are positively radiant!" I love the sentiment, but I've never quite seen it in real life. Who has skin that actually glows? Perhaps I'm being too literal. Nonetheless, regardless what you think of this in real life, you can create a radiant glow in your digital portraits through some clever photo editing trickery. Using a technique similar to the Orton Effect--which works very nicely in still life and landscape photographs--you can add a warm and romantic glow to your portraits. Here's how.

Start With a Portrait

Begin by opening the photo that you want to tweak in your favorite photo editor. For starters, choose a portrait of a single person in which the overall exposure is about right, and the person fills a lot of the frame.

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