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Bloopers and bungled shots (01/16/2008)
By Tom Hirsch

I like to think of myself as a pretty good photographer, but like other good photographers I could have several albums full of photographic flubs, if I had saved them. Many of our goofs are due to lack of concentration or knowledge, but the problems that really get us flummoxed are the ones that seem to defy logical explanation.

Some ways of avoiding bad shots can be tossed off easily. These include use of the Rule of Thirds, selecting the horizontal or vertical option based on subject format, good camera-handling techniques in order to avoid fuzzy images, keeping the horizon horizontal, keeping fingers or camera straps from covering the lens, paying attention to backgrounds, fresh batteries in the camera, and waiting for the flash-ready light to come on. Such things should become second nature.

Even though we might keep all of these things in mind, other problems can arise. If we are aware of their causes, we can avoid them before they have a chance of occurring. All of the following would have been in my batch of blunders. For you, they might serve as warnings, or they might even come under the heading of, "Ah ha, so that's what happened!"

Focus Failure - your automatic focus gives you a sharp background, but a fuzzy foreground subject in a photo. This is most common with cameras that have a single focus eye located in the center of the viewfinder. The solution is to always point the camera's focus eye at the subject, lock in the focus by pushing down part way on the shutter release, recompose the shot and then continue pressing the shutter release to take the picture.

Suspicious Shake - In 35mm or APS (Advanced Photo System) photography, this is usually the result of light reaching the film in ways other than through the lens. The effect can range anywhere from fog on the edge of the film to orange streaks running through each image. One cause is loading or unloading the film with direct sunlight falling on the cartridge. Another possibility is that someone unintentionally opened the camera back while there was film in the camera (hopefully, this would never happen intentionally).

It is also possible that the camera has a defective light seal. Shortly after I got my new Gismomatic Deluxe XL 5000, I found that many, but not all, of my shots had a light streak through the print. Although the pattern was similar in all cases, the degree of intensity varied.

After taking every precaution, and even having the camera checked at a camera store for light leaks, I eventually found the problem. Light was coming in through the camera's little red film-identification window. I solved the problem by cutting a small piece of black tag-board to just the right size and pressing it over the window, inside the camera. No more orange streaks.

Moisture Menace - Never use a roll of film that has gotten wet. If a roll gets wet after it has been exposed, keep it wet. Put it in a small jar of water and take it in for processing. If a digital image storage disk gets wet, let it air dry, then take it in for processing. You might be able to save all or part of the images, or you might not.

Bright Light - Watch out for spotlights, windows or any bright light source that might be behind the subject. The camera's meter will determine exposure from all the light falling on it, and anything much brighter than the intended subject will cause the subject to be underexposed. To compensate, you could use the camera's backlight button, or, if you have an SLR, you might increase exposure by one or two stops - even more if the light source is exceptionally bright. With a digital camera, you could go to the Exposure Compensation Bar and set it on +2, and check the results on the LCD monitor to see if that's the effect you want.

Another option is to move around or have the subject move to a location where the light source won't dominate the exposure. If you're fairly close to the subject, another good solution is to use the camera's flash as fill-in light to provide even exposure.

See how valuable my experiences have been? Now you won't have to make the same mistakes that I have. 


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