Photographing Lightning

Adrian writes,

I’ve tried recently to photograph lightning but with little success.
Is there a basic set of rules to follow for this? Or some sort of guideline where I can try to find what works best for me?

I personally haven’t tried lightning, so for this one I turn to the National Geographic Photography Field Guide by Burian and Caputo. They recommend as follows:

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Using your flash

Adrian writes,

I notice a lot of professionals always use their flash no matter the conditions.
I’ve tried this but sadly poor results. Why do they do it and why do most of my flash photos suck!?

Photographers often use their flash for “fill”, especially when photographing people. Rather than blinding them with the sun and getting a photo of a squinting subject, it is often more effective to put them in the shade or even with their back to the sun and then use a reasonably powerful flash to light the subject. It’s just another technique to control the light falling on your subject.

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Photo Editing

Gerry writes,

I get the impression from what I have read so far about digital photography that all pictures have been somewhat modified in a photo editing program before being displayed in magazines. I would have thought that a picture taken by professional photographers would not need photo editing.

It depends upon how we define “modified”. Technically, you are quite correct. At minimum, basic adjustments such as white and black levels, contrast, saturation, etc. are usually required to produce a good magazine print. But that’s not really any different than what we had to do with film. it is also normal to crop images, especially if the camera aspect ratio is different than that magazine page or other space in which the print is required.

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Blurry Indoor Photos

An anonymous reader asks,

I took a bunch of photos at a party over the weekend. They looked fine on the back of my camera, but when I posted them to the web I noticed that a lot of them were blurry. Why doesn’t my camera do well with quick movement?

As we love to say at MyPhotoSucks, the problem isn’t your camera, it’s how you use it. The simple answer is that you should have used your flash.

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Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2.1

Before I discovered Lightroom I opened every image in Photoshop, closed the ones I didn’t like, and adjusted the ones I did. I got pretty good at it and I had macros to do things like create jpegs for use on the web. Lightroom changed all that and introduced me to a much faster and more efficient process.

Lightroom takes a workflow approach that is quite different from traditional image editing software. Once you have imported your images into Lightroom, you can use it to select and/or rate your images, perform adjustments like cropping, levels, and minor retouching, and output the images to various file formats, a printer, or web galleries. While Lightroom has many great features, I love it because it is easy to use, very flexible and completely non-destructive.  It also cut my postprocessing time by more than half.

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CMYK vs RGB

A reader asks,

“I’m thinking of entering [an image in a competition]. The rules state that I can send jpg images on a CD but that they must be in RGB format and not CMYK format. When I capture images on my Canon S2IS what colour format does the camera use? If I use Picasa as my photo program does it use CMYK (I know most printers use these colours)? If I have a jpg image, can I use something like Photoshop to convert from CMYK to RGB?”

Virtually every digital camera on the market produces image in the RGB colour space, so the good news is that you don’t have to do any conversion.  People are often confused by the fact that their inkjet printer uses a CMYK process.  However, the printer appears to your computer as a RGB device, as does your monitor, so you should continue to work in the RGB colour space unless there is a specific reason for you to convert to a different colour space.

Captioning Digital Photos

Ken writes,

“What program or programs are recommended for captioning digital photos? I want to be able to choose the location of the caption, the font, and the colour of the text.”

Most photo editing packages allow you to add text to your images. I seldom add captions to photos (and SmugMug automatically watermarks my uploaded images for me there), but when I do I usually just add a text layer in Adobe Photoshop. I just checked Photoshop Elements 6, and it supports text layers as well. Just click on the “T” in the toolbar, click on the image,and it will create the layer for you.
Many companies have downloadable trial versions online. For example, you can download Adobe Photoshop Elements 6 here and see if it meets your needs.