Q -I would like to comment on your article on taking wedding pictures. I don't know what church you attend, but I'm sure that most churches do not allow pictures inside the sanctuary. I am enclosing one of our church brochures, which is given to all brides and the photographers they engage, advising them of this regulation.
A - This is a point well taken. I should have added that one has to check with the minister, priest or rabbi to be sure that pictures are permitted because customs vary widely.
The brochure you sent, which explicitly prohibits all photography inside the chapel or sancturary during the entire ceremony, has a photographic illustration of the bride and groom during the ceremony stand in front of the minister. And it is not a posed picture. It must have been taken in another church with different rules.
Q - Can you give me some tips on shooting vacation pictures at the beach? Mine never seem to turn out just right.
A - A very common problem is underexposed faces of family and friends as they are sitting on the brightly lit beach.
How did this happen with all that light?
Very simple. Your meter read the sand and sky, not the foreground faces. The cure for this is equally simple. Move close to your models so that you cut out the background when you take the reading. Then step back and take your picture. With automatic cameras, stay close enough to cut out most of the background.
Another beach-picture problem is the flat front-lighted scene that results when you take that sun-over-your-shoulder shot.
To correct this move to the side so that the sunlight is a sidelight instead of a front light.
To avoid these problems and many more, choose the right time of day to take your photos. Do your picture-taking in the morning when you arrive, or the afternoon and sunset time before you leave. Forget your camera in the middle of the day and just lie in the sun and sizzle.
The reason for the morning and afternoon shooting is that the sun then is at a low angle of light. Then you no longer get that gargoyle-like effect of deep eye and elongated nose shadows but a flattering side light that brings out the best in features and wrinkle-free skin tones.
The beach is a great place for glamor pictures, and most of us try these whether the model is glamorous or not. These modeling shots can be greatly helped by reflectors that kick the sunlight back into shadows to soften the bare-sunlight of the beach.
Almost anything light can act as a reflector. It could be simply a white or light-colored towel held up by hand, a white plastic surfboard, or even the shirt off your back. Or it can be more professional like a white umbrella or a white or silvered card reflector. What the reflector is made of isn't important. How you can use it is.
First pose your model by sunlight. Ask him or her to take a pose and turn until the sunlight is shining at the angle you want. (One sure-fire reflection shot is a back-sunlight with the sun outlining the hair.)
After you have the sunlight just right, adjust your reflector for angle and closeness. Try various positions until you get what you want by eye. If you are metering the difference keep the ratio of no more than two f stops difference between the highlight and shadow areas.
There are other ways to spice up your beach snaps.
Shoot action shots of your models running in the surf, doing handstands or cartwheels, or playing Frisbee or volleyball.
Aim the lens into the highlights reflected on the water. If you stop way down you'll get stars; if you open up, ghost-like globules of light. And if you own a mirror reflex lens it will produce round white doughnuts in back of a close-up portrait.
At sunset try silhouettes. Pose your figures so that they show clearly in outline against the sky and underexpose the sky reading by one stop. This technique will produce a dramatic black outline against a colorful background.
Use filters. For black-and-white use yellow, orange or red, depending on how much sky contrast you want, and for color a skylight to cut the blue and a polarizing filter to increase the contrast and tone down reflections.
Q - I have a Pentax KX with a macrolens, which I bought in Japan in 1976. It's a bit heavy by the new standards but I don't mind. Now, I want to expand my photography to taking pictures of real people and scenes. Should I trade my equipment in or buy an extra lens? I'm thinking of a zoom because of its range flexibility. Are the zooms sharp?
A - If you like the camera you have, stay with it, at least until you find another that has the features you want. I don't think the weight is important unless you have a special problem like carrying a camera in a purse or on trips where you have to watch bulk and weight. There are many zooms on the market, and they're a far cry from what they used to be. Now they are sharp, but some are expensive. If the pictures are not for reproduction, you can get one of the cheaper ones. In any case, go for the shorter focal lengths, from the 40mm to 100mm plus. You could trade in your macro lens on a new macro-zoom, which would combine both the close-in flat field focusing and zoom capability in one lens.