Frequently Asked Questions

1.  What's the best make of camera to buy?


Today, all the major manufacturers of photo equipment provide well made, carefully inspected gear.  We rarely hear of a "lemon."  That means that a lot depends on your personal choice.  Perhaps more important than the brand is consideration of what type of camera you want to purchase and what features you desire.  

Do you want a versatile photo system that will give you a lifetime of pleasure?
Then you're probably in the market for a single lens reflex (SLR) system.

Do you want a compact camera that you can carry in a handbag or backpack? 
Then one of today's sophisticated point-and-shoot models is probably your best choice.

Do you like to play with computers and have friends and family to whom you
would like to e-mail photos?  Then now's the time to consider one of the dozens of digital models available.

Regardless of what kind of camera you may own, there are times when you may want to purchase a single use camera on the spur of the moment.  Last year over 150 million of them were sold worldwide.  As long as you use them within their limitations, you can get great results.

With regard to camera features, if you're interested in point-and-shoot models, we recommend that you look at cameras that have a built-in flash and a zoom lens.  If you're interested in a Single Lens Reflex, you'll find lots of different features.  The best way to get familiar with these marvelous tools is to spend some time with a knowledgeable camera dealer.

2. I've heard a lot about the Advanced Photo System, but I don't really understand what it is or why I might benefit from using such a camera.  Can you fill me in?

Sure.  The Advanced Photo System (APS) was introduced in the mid-1990s to provide a system that would make for easier loading and offer user-friendly features.  Sometimes called 24mm or Advantix, the APS cameras use film that's a little smaller than 35mm film, and that comes in cassettes that allow the user to avoid touching film altogether.

There are APS cameras that are point-and-shoot models as well as Single Lens Reflex systems.  Professionals and industry experts agree that the APS cameras are a fine alternative to 35mm cameras.  However, there is a greater variety of film types available for 35mm cameras than APS.

If you have trouble loading a 35mm camera, or if you just want a camera that's very easy to load and handle, then APS may be just right for you.  As an added benefit, it's easy to order prints in three different sizes.  If you like taking panoramic pictures, then APS may be a perfect format for you.

If you're looking for a new camera, APS is worth checking out.  On the other hand, if you love your 35mm camera, there's no reason that you have to switch to APS.

3. What's the best way to clean my camera?

Let's start with the lens, since that's the most important surface to keep clean in order to assure good photographs.  Never clean your lens with facial tissue, paper towel or paper napkins.  The best device is a special microfiber cleaning cloth.  Next best, use either specially formulated lens tissue designed for photo equipment, or a well-washed, soft handkerchief or cotton t-shirt.  Unless the lens is very dirty, a gentle circular rubbing with a proper cloth or tissue will remove finger prints and dust.  

If there's foreign matter actually stuck to the lens, then you'll need a drop or two of lens cleaning fluid.  Apply it to the lens, then gently wipe it off with a piece of tissue or soft cloth.  Then use your microfiber cloth or another tissue to dry the lens surface.

To clean the inside or your camera, we recommend using nothing stronger than a rubber squeeze airbulb to blow out dust, or a camel's hair brush to flick away the dust.  If you use a strong burst device that comes in a can with a propellant, be very careful.  Also, when cleaning a Single Lens Reflex camera, don't clean the shutter or the silvered mirror.  These are very fragile surfaces and you can easily damage them.

If you camera needs extensive cleaning, we suggest you take it to the repair service at your local camera dealer.

4. Help!  I have to take a photo of my boss for the company newsletter.  I use my camera to take pictures when I travel and candid photos of my kids.  I'm not ready for a pro portrait session.

Relax.  Most bosses are just big kids anyway.  However real kids often like having their picture taken.  Since most adults are self-conscious, chances are your boss probably doesn't like having her or his picture taken.  That means that  step number one is to put your boss at ease. Explain that you'll only need a few moments of her time.

We suggest you have your boss stand, or else lean back and rest against a desk or table.  Most chairs make people slouch.  Professionals use something called a posing stool, but since you don't have one, it's safer to keep your boss upright.

Most people look slimmer and more relaxed if one shoulder is turned away from the camera and the other one toward the camera.  Remember that the three most expressive aspects of any person are the eyes, the mouth and the hands.  

For a choice of expression in the eyes, take some photos with your subject looking directly into the lens, and some with the subject looking up and over your shoulder.

For executives, either a slight smile or a mildly serious expression is appropriate.  In today's more relaxed business climate, smiling is often preferred.

Give your subject something to do with his hands even if the hands don't show in the photo.  This will keep your subject's shoulders relaxed and natural-looking as well.  It doesn't matter what the subject holds, but it might be related to the job or the person.  If the subject wears glasses some of the time, perhaps she can hold her glasses.  An executive can hold a report or a book.

Take some pictures using flash and some without.  Try to position the camera so that it is at eye level or slightly below the subject's eyes.  This will give an authoritative look to the subject, because the camera is subtly looking up at the boss.

Work quickly and take lots of photos from several angles.  Watch out for what's right behind your boss's head.  Avoid anything that is distracting.

The tips we've offered are a crash course in portraiture, and we could go on and on, but it's probably better for you to handle the job with just these tips in mind.  If you follow them, you'll get results that will be just fine.

5. When I go on vacation, my photos never look as good as the postcards that I see for sale at the tourist stores.  Why?

There's a very good reason for this.  Let's say you're visiting the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas.  Chances are, you'll be there for a few hours.  The local professional photographer is there all the time and can pick a clear, low humidity day and take photos at a time when there's very little clutter and not too many tourists.

It's the same with the pyramids in Egypt or the Statue of Liberty.  You have a few hours and no control over the weather, time of the year or lighting conditions.  Did you know that there are three days a year when there's a great angle to capture the sun setting behind the Statue's head?  You won't be there.  The local pro will.

Our advice: If you can't lick 'em, play a different game.  Buy the great photos on postcards and concentrate on taking other, more detailed views of the attraction.  Look for close ups, people doing funny things, and pictures of your family and friends at the attraction.  And remember, taking those postcard shots isn't easy, even for the pro.  You'll have the most fun and save the most memories if you concentrate on a more personal view of the things you encounter on your trip.


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