Reader Questions Answered

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I recently put out a request for your questions under the premise that no inquiry was too basic or advanced.  Here are three which I thought would be helpful for everyone to read.

Q: I am having a problem getting the aperture open wider then f5.6. I set my T3i camera to AV mode and try to change the aperture using the mode dial but it wont let me get wider then f5.6. I cant figure out what I am doing wrong. Any ideas?

A:  Your lens has what's called a variable aperture. This is a common trait on many kit lenses, like the 18-55mm. At 18mm you can open the aperture all the way to f3.5, but when you zoom to 55mm, you will only be able to open up to a maximum aperture of f5.6. Despite these limitations on the maximum aperture, you can still shoot with the whole range of small apertures like f8, f11, f16, f22 regardless of the focal length.  

Q:  I have tried to achieve showing a sense of motion by "Panning" my camera and just have not been successful in doing so. The last attempt I made... I shot a coworker playing basketball in our gym. I set my camera  and panned as she dribbled across the court. The image was almost completely washed out.  What am I doing wrong?

A:  When you choose a slow shutter speed to pan and show motion, it will allow a great deal of light into the camera, potentially resulting in overexposure. To counter this, you can use a lower ISO like 100, and/or a smaller aperture such as f11, or f16 which would both allow less light in and correct the exposure.  Also, to capture quality panning shots you often have to shoot many photos to create the desired effect.  Much of it has to do with the speed of the shutter in comparison to the subject's speed.  For example, a cyclist riding at 25mph could be panned at 1/60th while a car at 50mph would be a total blur with the same shutter.  Of course those are just examples, and you'll need to keep experimenting.  Remember to swivel your hips and follow the subject with the camera during the exposure.  

Q:  I have a silly question about photo umbrellas.  When setting up the flash stand, should I ever shoot through the umbrella (i.e. the umbrella is between the flash and the subject), or should I bounce the light off the umbrella back onto the subject (i.e. flash is between the umbrella and the subject).  Most of the pictures and diagrams that I’ve seen seem to show the latter.  However, what’s the purpose of having a translucent umbrella unless to shoot through it?

A:  I actually prefer shooting through a white umbrella as it's perfect for creating nice big catch lights in the eyes.  Essentially, it's very similar to using a softbox as the quality of the flash will be quite diffused. The bouncing technique is effective as well, but I find it more effective with a silver or gold lined umbrella.  Silver will bounce a cooler temperature of light, while the gold provides a warmer quality. 

Chris Corradino