Archive for Porters Cameras

Chimp-less Photography

The advent of digital photography changed the way we capture images forever. Digital also enabled a few bad habits from day one. Chief among them, we all started paying too much attention to the preview image that is displayed on the camera’s rear LCD screen a few beats after the image is captured. Often digital photographers will snap an image and pause for a moment or two waiting on the preview image to be displayed on the LCD screen. Quickly this behavior became known as “chimping”. How the term came to be is pretty clear if we imagine a photographer head down looking at the back of a cameras saying “Ooo!” through pursed lips.

The problem is that while we have our heads down the action keeps on going. How many excellent photo ops have been missed while we weren’t looking? Things are happening all around us but as photographers we may be oblivious to them if we aren’t paying attention. Imagine how many outstanding picture opportunities have been missed because the photographer was looking at the back of the camera instead of paying attention to what was going on right in front of them. Nobody will ever know the opportunities that have been missed but there is something we can do to avoid losing out on the next important photo op.

Tip: Prevent the problem by not looking at every preview image after capturing a picture. If the preview image is too tempting and demands your attention, you can disable the preview image through the camera's menu system thereby avoiding the temptation to chimp.

Sometimes we do need to pay attention to the preview image. Properly used, the preview image can help the photographer prevent problems with exposure and composition. A brief inspection of the preview image will affirm what the photographer saw through the viewfinder. However after the first few previews have been inspected the photographer doesn’t need to inspect more image captured in the same location and light.

Our tip to beginning photographers is to shoot more, chimp less! Keep right on shooting pictures right up until the event is complete, review your images later. By remaining focused on what is happening in the immediate environment the photographer will miss fewer photo opportunities and increase the odds of capturing their next great picture!

Kirk Tuck’s Summer Storytelling Tips

An interview of photographer Kirk Tuck:


Austin, Texas based professional photographer Kirk Tuck looks forward to summertime and all the opportunities for this season’s storytelling. He relishes the time he has to shoot without an agenda; he loves roaming the streets of Austin in search of whatever captures his imagination. Kirk’s favorite subjects include Austin’s architecture, the city scene and portraits. We asked Kirk to give us a few tips on how to make the most of this summer’s photo opportunities:

The Quickest Way to Miss Great Shots… comes from not having your camera on you! “You really need to keep your camera with you at all times because you never know when the opportunity will present itself,” says Kirk. This sentiment is particularly important when choosing a camera. While many of us love the flexibility and advanced features the latest DSLR models offer, they can be cumbersome at times and difficult to keep at your side on a daily basis. “There are so many great compact cameras on the market today,” Kirk advises. “Several have advanced manual features and pack a lot of power in a small form factor.”

Note the Narrative: When on vacation this summer, consider what story you want to tell. Kirk says it’s important to include certain aspects from your subjects’ point of view. “Did they have fun? What did they enjoy the most? Why? What didn’t they like about the experience?” All of these considerations combine to tell a more comprehensive story about a particular moment in time.

Stay with the Story: “Most people shoot looking for that one perfect picture and then they put the camera down,” says Kirk. “There is an emotional resonance to the entire curve of photographs when you’re shooting, so keep shooting through the episode and you will have captured different nuances over the course of the event. It’s a more comprehensive story that wouldn’t otherwise be told.”

Never Sneak a Shot: Today’s technology gives us options that include lenses that can capture action from a substantial distance. However, if your inspiration includes a person or people, don’t manipulate your gear for the mere purpose of stealing a shot. “People are reticent about having their photos taken without their permission,” says Kirk. “If you want to photograph someone, introduce yourself and ask them for their consent first. There’s a social contract in a situation such as this. By starting a dialogue, you can establish a connection and you now have an effective collaboration. Your photos will reflect elements that you would have otherwise never captured.”

This summer is filled with promise and possibility so make sure to fully embrace this special time by keeping your storytelling partner close at hand. You won’t want to miss a thing!

To learn more about Kirk Tuck, his work, books and philosophy, visit www.kirktuck.com

Exploring Macro Part 2 – Inexpensive, Effective Accessories

When it comes to photo gear there is always something faster, brighter, longer, bigger… and more expensive. While macro photography is no exception, there are many accessories priced at or below one hundred dollars that can immediately improve the macro photography experience.

We have to start by acknowledging that there are fewer accessories for compact camera shooters compared to DSLR shooters. Along the way we will point out the components that will work for both types of cameras.
When it comes to macro photography we tend to have two main concerns: getting the camera close enough for magnification and then getting enough light on the subject for exposure. Let’s start with a simple lighting aide.

If getting enough light onto the macro subject is our goal one simple way achieve it is by bouncing light onto the subject. By holding a device with a reflective surface in a way that bounces more of the available light onto the subject we can provide better illumination. This bounce device can be as simple as a piece of white card stock and any bounce device will work for compact or DSLR cameras.


A more versatile option to a white card stock reflector is a 5-In-1 Reflector. With three reflective surfaces – white, silver and gold – it is possible to not only add more light where it is needed but we can make that light warmer or cooler too. Below is an example photo showing a tabletop setup where a silver reflector is used to reflect more light back onto the subject.

Another nice feature of the 5-In-1 Reflector is the diffuser screen. When shooting outside on a bright day the light may be too contrasty. By holding the diffuser over the subject the harshness is reduced and the subjects colors and detail are improved. (Cost $39.99 to $59.99)

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Moving up the ladder from a bouncer / reflector we have a ring light. A ring light can use either a flash or constant LED illumination. A ring light like the RL60 LED Macro Ring Light is much less expensive than a flash version. A ring light mounts directly to the camera's lens and provides illumination directly to the subject.

Unfortunately we can't rely on the camera's built-in flash for macro photography. The closer a camera moves toward the subject the more likely the built-in flash will cast a shadow from the lens. By adding a ring light to the camera we are also able to increase the amount of light on the subject. More light means smaller lens apertures which in turn increase the depth of field in the image.

In the image below we have a pocketknife shot three ways. First on the left is an exposure made using only the available room light. In the middle is the knife picture taken with the built-in camera flash – notice the moon shaped shadow of the lens across the bottom of the image. Finally on the right is the same knife shot with an LED ring light. Initially the right and left images don't appear to be that different but if we look closer we see that the picture taken with the ring light permitted a smaller aperture and the ruler scale on the knife handle becomes legible.


Click To Enlarge

The LED ring light image has more detail than the other examples and the focus depth is greater too. While an LED ring light sells for about $100, a flash version will fetch $250 or more. However a flash ring light will pump out even more light than an LED light permitting even smaller apertures and greater depth of focus.

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Having looked at two affordable accessories to get more light on our macro subject the next tool to examine is the Close-Up Filter Set. For the DSLR shooter getting closer, more magnified images is as simple as changing lenses or adding a close-up filter to an existing lens. While macro lenses start at $300 and quickly go up in price, close-up filter sets range from $55 to $85 depending on filter size.

Close-up filters thread onto the fron of a DSLR lens just like any other filter. Depending on the strength of the filter the camera can move in closer to the subject. As seen in the image above, the middle shot was taken with the camera lens at it's best close focus distance. By adding close-up filters of various strengths the camera could focus closer and closer to the subject. It should be noted that adding a close-up filter prevents the camera from focusing on distant subjects until the filter is removed.

Close-up filters can be stacked to achieve varying degrees of close focus. The lower right corner in the example has all three filters stacked to yield a +7 strength. However please notice that the lens is now so close to the subject that the ring light no longer illuminates the middle of the image! Depending on the subject and the lighting stacked filters may or may not produce useable images.
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In conclusion: While there is expensive equipment available for macro photography there are also much more affordable accessories as well. By adding more light to the subject with a Reflector or a Ring Light the macro photographer benefits from increased depth of field and better details. Using Close-Up Filters on DSLR lenses allows the camera to move in closer to the subject which increases magnification. Each of these options sell for $100 or less and will increase macro image quality.

Macro photography is both fun and interesting. The opportunities for unique macro images can be found just about anywhere. With the added benefit of low cost of entry, macro photography can become an enjoyable hobby of its own.

Composition Corner

From Promaster, America's Favorite Photo Accessory Brand

When it comes to composing an image, our eye often glosses over items that can clutter the scene or distract the viewer. For example, one of the most common issues stems from someone standing in front of something tall (such as a tree or light post) and the item looks like it’s growing out of the subject’s head. It is a fast way to ruin an otherwise interesting image.


Paul seems to have two trees growing out of his head, but a step to the left is all it takes to eliminate the distraction.

Another common issue involves image clutter, and this often occurs when there is simply too much going on in a photograph. For example an image may become cluttered because there are too many harsh lines competing for attention, such as the pattern of the power lines running across the flag in our example. They essentially mask the intended focal point and the overall impact is lost.

To combat these issues, take a few moments to study your image through the viewfinder. Adjust your angle, shift over a foot or two and play with your perspective. Move around a bit and see how different positions impact the image. Are there objects or other complications that you didn’t realize were impacting the image until you adjusted your vantage point?

You can eliminate a number of instances of composition clutter by simply making a few minor adjustments and analyzing how they impact your final photograph. We like to think of it as composing ourselves before we compose the picture.

Exploring Macro and Close-Up Photography Part 1

Getting Close
If there is one thing that I like about macro and close-up photography it’s that no matter where you are right this moment, there is a fascinating subject waiting to be shot. Not many other kinds of photography can make that claim. Photographers that enjoy shooting portraits are dependent on a model to shoot. Landscape photographers exist in a seasonal world of changeable weather. A sports photographer has to go to where the sports are played and they too are limited by season.

No matter the season or the time of day I’d wager that a suitable close-up subject can be found within five or six feet of the chair you currently sit in. Photographers who pursue macro photography can find endless inspiration in the details and patterns that surround us. In exchange their photos reveal a tiny world that normally falls below our perception.

When it comes to exploring macro and close-up photography the good news is that anyone can participate. While a DSLR camera is preferred for close-up work, using a compact camera can be just as rewarding.

What is “Macro”?
So far we have used the words ‘macro’ and ‘close-up’ in this article. We also need to add ‘close-focus’ to our list of terms. These three terms will often get used interchangeably and that’s not entirely correct. Without getting too technical here are basic definitions of the three terms:

  • Close-up is a photo term that describes filling the frame with the subject. A close-up isolates the subject from its environment. Any lens or any camera is capable of taking a close-up.
  • Macro defines how large a subject is captured in the camera. Macro is expressed as a ratio like 1:1, 1:2 or 1:4 and it’s really pretty easy to keep it all straight. A 1:1 macro image is telling us that the image on the film or camera’s sensor is the same size as the subject in real life. If I take a 1:1 macro image of a dime using film and develop the film into a negative we would see that the image on the negative is exactly the same size as the dime in real life. If my lens maxes out at 1:2 macro the image will be ½ life size and so on. True macro lenses capture images at 1:1 ratio (some include 1:2 ratio too).
  • Close-focus describes any lens where the maximum size of the captured image is smaller than the real life subject. Here we are talking about ratios of 1:2 or less (eg 1:3, 1:4 etc). Most zoom lenses are actually not macro lenses but close-focus lenses.

We will go over some of the more technical aspects in more depth in a future installment. For this article we will use the term ‘Macro’ in talking about this subject. Purists will just need to bear with us for now.

Peppercorns (Canon 20D, 50mm f/2.5 @1:1)

Some Tools of the Trade
Macro photography is so popular that most cameras have an exposure mode built-in to support it. If your camera has selectable modes you will find macro by selecting the icon shaped like a tulip. Selecting this mode on a compact camera can cause the camera’s lens to lock at the optimum length for close work. On a DSLR the macro mode only changes exposure meter settings and focus zones; selecting the mode won’t do anything to the mounted lens.

The most common DSLR lenses used by hobby photographers for macro photography is a tele-zoom lens; a lens in the 55-200mm or 70-300mm range. These tele-zooms tend to have a macro ratio of 1:3 or 1:4.

If the photographer doesn’t have a tele-zoom a basic 18-55mm kit lens or 50mm f/1.8 lens equipped with inexpensive Close-Up Filters will do the trick.

There are true macro lenses available for every DSLR lens mount. These are the lenses that offer a 1:1 or 1:2 image ratio.

We will talk in depth about the equipment and accessory options that can take macro photography from enjoyable curiosity to passionate pastime in future installments. For now we have three assignments designed to get us thinking in terms of small, tiny and details.

Next week: Inexpensive Macro Accessories

Assignments
For these assignments use your camera in the Macro Mode setting. If you are shooting a DSLR and have a tele-zoom lens you might wish to have it mounted to the camera.

For each assignment take 10 images over about 15 minute’s time; make sure to use all of the time and take no more than ten images. Set your lens length for maximum magnification and do not change the setting. Learn to move yourself and the camera toward or away from the subject in order to create your composition or achieve focus.

Assignment number one is an old favorite. If you have an old Hula-Hoop you’re set, otherwise fashion a ring about 30 inches across out of old garden hose, cardboard or another semi-rigid material. Take your ring to a garden spot and give it a toss. Wherever the ring lands is where you take your macro pictures. You may only photograph objects within the ring. Our goal with this exercise is to learn to see small subjects and isolate them into images. (Tip: don’t toss your ring onto empty open lawn! It’s OK to aim.)

Assignment two is fairly basic. Find a toy or model no larger than an inch or two and place it in the middle of a white sheet of paper. Have the paper and your object setup close enough to a window for illumination. Moving your subject as little as possible take your shots as described above. Our goal is to get a feeling for how the subject changes as we move our camera and change our viewpoint.

The third assignment is about discovery.
Walk into any brightly lit room and find ten macro shots to take. Do not move or touch any object that you photograph. Your flash will probably not do you any good so the bright room is necessary. Take macro shots of ten different objects. (Tip: for this exercise I like to use my kitchen)

Toothpick Cup (Canon 20D, Tamron 90mm Macro @ 1:1)

Click any image to see it larger

More Depth of Field – Advanced Information

Fast Glass: Lenses that offer faster apertures are valuable tools for depth of field control. Apertures of f/1.4 and f/1.8 are often associated with fast single-focal length lenses: 24mm, 50mm or 85mm. Zoom lenses with f/2.8 apertures that remain constant at any zoom length are incredibly popular too. Common are: 17-50mm, 28-75mm, 70-200mm and more.

ND Filters: In order to get the most out of fast-glass lenses outdoors photographers need to use Neutral Density filters. To use the widest apertures outdoors the amount of light entering the lens must be reduced. Digital cameras can only reduce ISO sensitivity so far (usually ISO100), the photographer then must use an ND filter in order to use f/2.8 or even f/3.5. Most photographers will have both ND4 and ND8 filters to fit their fast-glass lenses.

Nit-Picking Tech Note: ‘Depth of field’ and ‘depth of focus’ are not the same thing. While depth of field describes a range of focused space in an image, ‘depth of focus’ describes the range of distance inside the camera between the lens focus node and the film / sensor plane that provides acceptable focus. Depth of focus is also called focus tolerance.

One Big Argument for Full-Frame Sensors: Perhaps the most compelling argument for owning a camera with a full 35mm sized image sensor is found in depth of field. An APS-sized sensors doesn’t really magnify the length of a mounted camera lens, it crops the image instead. If we look at the image below we see that a 50mm lens provides the exact same image circle to either an APS or Full-Frame sensor camera.


Click to see full-size

To achieve the same composition on an APS-sensor camera as on a Full-Frame camera the photographer must either back up to increase the distance between camera and subject or keep the same working distance and choose a shorter lens length. Either choice increases the depth of field in the final image. This is true at any lens length or working distance when we compare the two sensor formats. For any specific composition the Full Frame sensor will always provide the option of shallower depth of field.

Bonus Info – Hyperfocal and Depth of Field: Hyperfocal length is the closest distance at which a lens can be focused while still keeping objects at infinity acceptably sharp. (Also called the maximum depth of field of a lens.) This point will vary with the lens aperture; as the aperture gets smaller the hyperfocal point gets nearer to the camera increasing the maximum depth of field. The image below is of a wide angle lens, the callout box shows the focus range indicator.

We see the lens is focused to infinity and we also see that there are aperture numbers arranged on either side of the focus mark. This is where hyperfocal length can come in handy. What the aperture scale is indicating is the depth of field on the focus ring for the combination of aperture and focus setting.

On the focus ring we see that the distance scale in yellow numbers indicate ‘Feet’. Let’s assume that we have the camera set to use f/16. We read the depth of filed scale in this way: the focus indicator is pegged at infinity and on the aperture scale below the window we see that on the right side of the focus mark aperture f/16 lines up close to the yellow “4” on the focus ring. Reading this scale tells us that focused at infinity with an aperture of f/16 everything from four feet to infinity will be in focus.

Now here is the hidden trick used by those in the know. Since the aperture scale below the focus ring is indicating the lens’ hyperfocal length we can use this information to get even more of our scene in focus. Rather than focusing at infinity we move the focus ring on the lens so that infinity lines up with our chosen aperture on the left side of the focus indicator, in this case f/16. In doing so we have changed the depth of field in our final image from “4 feet to infinity” down to “2 feet to infinity”. This is a huge advantage in landscape photography, by using this technique the photographer is able to capture images with enormous depth of field.

There aren’t many lenses left that still sport a depth of field scale, those that do tend to be prime lenses and not zooms. The scale is accurate for either full-frame or APS-sensor digital cameras. As lens length gets shorter this technique will have less effect.

1/3 and 2/3 – The depth of field of an image isn't equally distributed around the subject. Actually the range of acceptable focus is unbalanced with 1/3 of the range in front of the focus point and 2/3 behind it. This is important to know especially when shooting up close and at wide apertures. For example: a close portrait image at a 105mm lens length and a f/2.8 aperture shot from four to six feet away. If the photographer focuses on the bridge of the subject's nose the ear will likely be out of focus. Focusing instead on the cheek or eye farthest from the camera will often be more successful in achieving an overall focused image.

Because of this imbalance in the range of focus, group shots will often look sharper overall if the photographer chooses the second row of the group as a focus target.

DSLR Next Steps – Depth Of Field

Understanding depth of field and taking control of its effect on an image is an important skill in photography. Depth of field describes the area of acceptable focus in an image. Even though a camera is focused on a specific point in a scene there is a range of space in front of and behind that point that appears to be in focus as well. This range of focused space can be controlled by the photographer and used for creative effect.

A classic example of controlling depth of field can be seen in portrait photography. When a photographer takes a portrait the goal of the image is to focus attention on the subject. By controlling the depth of field the person’s face is sharply focused while the background is a soft blur.

While there are several variables that help create shallow depth of field in a portrait, in combination the outcome is an image that both isolates the subject from the background and creates a feeling of dimension in a two dimensional picture. Photographers can to a great degree control what is and what isn’t in focus in the final image.

The variables that photographers use as tools in creating and controlling depth of field are: lens selection, aperture and magnification. Shorter length lenses set for smaller apertures at a greater distance will have increased depth of field. Longer lenses at wider apertures at closer distances will have decreased depth of field.

The Tools

Turning first to lens aperture the rule of thumb is that larger (wider, faster) apertures create shallower depth of field. Here is a scene to consider: the photographer is shooting a subject that is six feet in front of a bush or tree. If the camera is set to use an aperture of f/8.0 both the subject and the background will be in focus. If instead the photographer sets an aperture of f/3.5 the subject remains in focus but the background is thrown into a blur.

Lens selection impacts depth of field too. The longer the lens focal length is the more shallow the depth of field will be. A 28-75mm zoom lens set to 28mm will offer great depth of field while the same lens set to 75mm will offer much less. This has to do with several technical issues such as hyper-focal length and image compression that we won’t get into here. However we can easily prove this effect by recreating our test scene and then shooting two pictures without moving the camera; one image at our shortest focal length and another at the lens’ longest length.

Last we have magnification. Photographers are used to thinking of magnification in terms of lens length but here we mean how close or far the camera is from the subject. An image taken with the camera closer to the subject will have less depth of field than an image taken when the camera is moved farther away. (Using the same lens length at both distances.)

We can get a sense of how these three tools are applied in general terms by looking at three types of photography:

  • The landscape photographer will lean toward short length lenses while using small apertures. In general their subject is at a considerable distance too. The result is an image with tremendous depth of field. Everything from their toes to the horizon seems to be in focus.
  • On the other hand the portrait photographer looks to isolate their subject from the environment. By using a moderate telephoto lens (75mm to 105mm) set to a wider aperture and shooting from a distance of six to ten feet the resulting image will have a sharp subject and a blurred background. The degree of blur is controlled by the aperture most often.
  • The macro photographer by necessity is shooting with the camera positioned very close to the subject (high magnification). In addition most macro photography is done with a longer lens length. The longer lens permits lighting the subject without casting the camera’s shadow on it. However a camera placed extremely close to the subject and with a long lens mounted is a recipe for unacceptably shallow depth of field – perhaps measured in millimeters. For this reason the macro photographer will set the lens aperture to the smallest extremes in order to maximize the depth of field, favoring f/22 and smaller if available.

Of the three tools available for depth of field control the lens aperture setting is the most measurable and repeatable. For this reason the majority of intermediate to advanced photographers will have their cameras set to Aperture Priority mode (Av) if it isn’t in full Manual mode. Program mode will occasionally hit a setting that creates pleasing depth of field but it’s more often just a happy accident when it does.

Exercising control over depth of field is as much a part of good photography as exposure or composition. Using it to best advantage is a skill worth developing. I suggest practicing using the tools discussed in this article and spend some time reviewing the images you capture in large size on your computer monitor and set the view to show the camera settings with the image.

Be somewhat systematic in learning to use depth of field by taking the same image several times varying one tool only: lens length, aperture or magnification. Keep in mind the relationship between the three tools:

Wider lens + smaller aperture + greater camera to subject distance = greater depth of field

Longer lens + wider aperture + closer camera to subject distance = shallower depth of field

For additional information on Depth of Field please follow this link.

Available Light Basics: Shoot Any Time and Get Great Results

When it comes to photography, available light is a critical component in creating compelling images. You can shoot any time of day and get great results; it’s simply a matter of knowing how to adjust based upon the time of day and the lighting conditions. We understand that you can’t always choose when you shoot, so here are a few tips to help you make the most of any opportunity:


Morning Shots: Many a photographer revels in morning light due to its softness and color transitions; however, the morning spans several hours and the lighting at 6:30 am is quite different from 10:00 am. Shooting before the sun becomes strong is ideal; your images will have a warm and soft feel. Try to find a morning light beam, maybe one cutting through the trees, where you can experiment positioning your subject partially in that space of light. This technique will add to the early morning sentiment in your photographs and will also demonstrate the variances in light.

Mid-Morning to Mid-Afternoon Shots:
The sun’s intensity can be a challenge, but it can also be an asset. Many outdoor sporting events take place during this time of day, and the bright light coupled with fast action can create some amazing picture moments. It really depends upon your subject matter and intentions. The harsh lighting from strong sun coupled with a cloudless day can make it extremely difficult to take great portraits. If you are photographing people in a posed environment, try using your camera flash as a ‘fill-flash’ to keep dark shadows from under your subjects’ eyes. A strong sun can create a powerful effect when photographing architecture or other subjects that benefit from strong contrasts.

Overcast Skies: Photographers often love overcast skies because this environment offers a softer light and can enhance skin tones. If you’re shooting portraits or posed shots, overcast lighting can be ideal. If you’ve been waiting for a time to photograph your kids, this is it! It can also be an excellent time to photograph flowers or experiment with macro photography. Even under overcast conditions a reflector can add just the right amount of fill light to your subject's eyes.


Twilight/Early Evening Shots: The twilight hours are the perfect time to practice your storytelling skills. You can play with backlighting your subjects or capture the sunset in all its glory. In many instances, the lighting becomes part of the subject matter as it can color your entire scene and create a particular sentiment. When experimenting with backlighting, you may want to try to underexpose the image just a bit to create a silhouette. Positioning your subject’s face toward the light at an angle can create an intimate portrait; the key is to use your time wisely as the sun will disappear in just a few minute’s time. And if you’ve ever wanted to experiment with high dynamic range photography, this is a great time of day to do so.

Find out what time the sun rises and sets in your neighborhood!

Compact Corner – The Family Camera

How do we define Family Photography? While any description of photo styles is somewhat loose we define Family Photography in these terms: Events, gatherings and milestones. These three terms are at the foundation of Family Photography. Graduations, birthdays and reunions get equal coverage with vacations or a day at the beach. Family Photography is a personal history made up of both candid and formal moments.

A Family Photographer is a jack of all trades and anyone in this group needs a camera that can keep up. While it would seem that any compact camera could be called a Family Camera there are two traits that make this group of compact cameras stand out.

Cameras in the Family Camera group can first be identified by their lens. For the most part, cameras of the Family group will shoot pictures as often in living rooms as anywhere else. For this reason a good Family Camera will have wide angle lens coverage equivalent to a 28mm lens or wider.

Wide angle view is important for shooting in tight spaces. In most home environments the size of the rooms limit how far the photographer can step back from the subject. If we need to shoot a picture of three people on a couch for example, a lens equivalent to 28mm or wider will permit us to get the shot.

It is important that we ask what the widest angle setting is on a compact camera. Zoom lens power is something we have become accustomed to using when comparing cameras. We intuitively understand that a 7X zoom lens should be more powerful than a 3.3X zoom lens. But there is a hitch; zoom power is measured as a multiplier of the lens’ widest setting.

Comparing two Canon cameras can help illustrate this point. The Canon Powershot A3300 has a 5X zoom lens with an equivalent view of a 28-140mm lens. The Canon 300HS also has a 5X zoom lens but the view is equal to 24-120mm lens. Both lenses are described as having 5X zooms but we see that the 300HS has a much wider angle of view. When we compare cameras sometimes it is important to ask about the numbers behind the numbers.

Another important feature of a Family Camera is pocketable size. Family Cameras need to be compact enough to comfortably go anywhere but not so small that it is difficult to handle. If the camera is too big and bulky the photographer may be tempted to leave it behind. Family photography opportunities are often spontaneous and unplanned and if a camera isn’t handy the moment is gone.

The two key traits of zoom lens and physical size actually work hand in hand. Because smaller is better in a Family Camera, most models that are in this category will have zoom lenses between 4X and 7X in length. Zoom lenses that fall in this range don’t generally add to the camera’s physical size.

If you think that your style fits the Family Photographer category, using these suggestions can help you narrow the wide variety of available cameras down to a more manageable group. Ask to see compact cameras with zoom lenses between 4X and 7X as a starting point. Add and subtract features until you have found the camera that is an ideal fit. And since you began your search from a logical starting point you are far more likely to find a camera that you will be happy with over its useful life.

See Porter's Selection of Family Cameras HERE

PRO Corner: Social Media Marketing Tip

From our friends at Promaster:

Many working photographers have found a friend in Facebook. This site, along with others, keep photographers Twittering, Four-Squaring and more. While you already know not to post constant updates about what you had for lunch, did you know that a plan of content and contact could greatly improve your ability to connect with your audience?

While many of us send status updates and tweets on the fly, it’s important to remember that you are building a relationship with readers and that you must use their attention carefully and judiciously. Sending sporadic updates several times a day will quickly alienate those you wish to win over. Consider creating a monthly social media contact calendar.

Pick specific dates that you plan on sending updates and decide on those in advance. For example, if you have certain times when you are free to shoot weddings, space out promotions each month to remind others of your availability. If you’re offering a free class or free consultations, build this into the schedule. If you have a discount offer, make sure to promote it far enough in advance, and a few times in sequence, for others to take advantage of it.

You may decide that twice a week is optimum for you. Some working pros offer ‘Facebook Friday’ specials regarding their services. Some may shun the idea of a planned calendar because it feels like a bit of extra work, but some upfront planning will make the month go far more smoothly. Instead of scrambling for ideas and posting topics without careful consideration, a calendar of topics and times will take the pressure off, allowing you to do what you do best–photography!

Facebook is also a great place to promote the latest entries to your photoblog or online gallery. Nothing is more compelling to a prospective client than seeing recent work. Our tip is to link to your photoblog from Facebook, but not to post sample images from shoots. You probably don't want anyone downloading your images to their desktop!

Don't forget to follow Porter's on Facebook