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DSLR Guide News, Nov. 2005 - Tips For Holiday Photos
November 29, 2005

How to Improve Your Holiday Photos

Table of Contents

Intro - The holidays
SLR Q and A - What causes red eye?
5 Quick Tips - How to take better holiday shots
The Gear - Features of external flash
Recent Updates - What's new at the Guide
Coming Soon - New cameras around the corner


The holidays are here! Seems like just last week it was still Summer-time and now it's cold and dark outside.

The good news for anyone seeking a new digital SLR camera is that the time has never been better. It's during this time of year that retailers make their biggest profits, and each one is trying to beat the other with special incentive offers.

This means that it's an ideal time to shop. Digital SLR cameras are discounted, there are plenty of rebates to choose from, and if you can't get free shipping for you camera (if you buy online) then you didn't shop around enough.

I will try to keep you posted of all of the latest rebates and best deals, but even I have a hard time staying on top of it all since it changes on a weekly basis. Heck, some sales only last 2 days!

Keep your eyes open and you're bound to find a great deal. You can also check by my Best Digital SLR Deals links page and the Digital SLR Weblog for updates on good deals when I find them.

Let's get on with the newsletter!

Digital SLR Q&A

Question: What causes red eye?

Answer: Red eye is caused when light from a camera's flash bounces off the back of the eyeball of the subject being photographed. This happens the most when the flash is close to the lens.

When the flash is close to the lens the light that it emits is reflected right back into the lens. This causes red-eye for human subjects and those bright green ghost eyes for animals.

Light reflected from the eyes can be completely avoided when the flash is far away from the lens. It can also be eliminated when the source of the light is not coming from the camera. This is why professional portrait studios use lights that sit to the right and left of the camera, rather than directly above it.

Light that is not hitting the subject dead-on also creates more flattering three dimensional portraits. Straight-on light tends to be flat and unappealing.

If you take a look at external flash units for digital SLR cameras, you'll notice that some are called bounce and swivel. This means that you can adjust the flash so that it is pointing left, right or straight up. With a flash like this, you can bounce the light of the flash off a white surface (like a wall or the ceiling) and create much softer and more even lighting for your flash photos.

You can learn more about flash and red eye at DigicamGuides.

5 Quick Tips

It's that time of year. Family gatherings abound for Thanksgiving, and the seasonal holidays (take your pick). Everyone spends more time indoors with friends, and capturing the moment becomes a photographer's favorite passtime. With that in mind, here are some tips that will help you improve those family photos.

1. Use Natural Light
If you can, use natural light as much as possible. This prevents you from using the flash at all. The best way to take natural light photographs indoors is to increase the ISO setting on your digital SLR to 800 or higher. Your photos will have a bit more grain, but not a single bit of red eye.

2. Take Every Photo At Least Twice
Here's a way to surprise family members who hate to be photographed: line them up in front of the camera. Take a photo. A half second later, take another photo. Most people who are nervous in front of a camera immediately RELAX when they hear that click. Your second photo will probably be much better than the first.

3. Capture the Mood
Do you really want to play around with your digital SLR? Try capturing some natural light photos of the Thanksgiving table, complete with candles. Candles produce a warm light and they cast a glow onto any objects sitting nearby. Food, centerpieces and other props of the holiday season make for some interesting photo opportunities.

4. Get in Front of the Camera
One problem of being the house photographer is that there are never any pictures of you. Many digital SLR cameras are going to solve this problem for you, either with a self-timer mode or a remote control that you can use to take a photo. Now you can get out from behind the camera and be a part of the group photos with everyone else.

5. Protect Your Camera
Not only is it the time of year for holiday gatherings it's also the wet weather season. If you enjoy taking photos in the great outdoors, make sure you take precautions with your digital SLR. Condensation is the bane of all precision electronics - your digital SLR is not as weatherproof as your old film camera. There are several good camera pouches you can buy that will protect your SLR from the elements. My low-cost solution? A zip-lock bag. Just make sure you cut a hole for the lens to peek through and you're ready to go.

What Gear You Need

When you're taking a lot of photos around the dinner table at night, you're going to have to use a flash. There's no way around it. This leaves you with the following options:

1. Purchase an External Flash
You can get an eternal flash unit for your digital SLR camera. The simple ones cost about $100 and the fancy ones run up to $500. The benefit? An external flash will never cause red eye, and you have more control over the amount and the direction of the light that it puts out.

2. Get an SLR With a High Pop-up Flash
With some digital SLR cameras, the built-in flash on the camera is very close to the lens. This will cause red eye in your holiday photos. When comparing digital SLR models, pay special attention to how high the flash pops up away from the camera. The higher the flash, the less red eye it will cause.

3. Check Out the Minolta 5D
The Maxxum 5D has the best built-in flash of any digital SLR I have used. I almost liked the flash photos that I took better than the ones without. While the Minolta 5D is slower than other digital SLR cameras, it's flash unit is exceptional.

Recent Updates to The Guide

This section this month should really be called "What HASN'T changed".

I have been doing a lot of work on the Digital SLR Guide, and will highlight some of the big changes here so that you can see if there are some new articles or information that will help you learn more about digital SLR cameras.

Digital SLR Lenses
I have added a whole new section on digital SLR lenses. The previous information about lenses was a start, but not what I really wanted.

Now you can use a 4-step process (similar to what I recommend when buying a digital SLR) to find the best lens for your new SLR. Here's a quick run-down of some of those steps:

Step 1 - Find Your Focal Length
Step 2a - Zoom, Prime or Specialty Lens?
Step 2b - Choose Your Lens Type
Step 3a - Decide on Maximum Aperture
Step 3b - Select any Extra Features
Step 4 - Find the right price (this one is still under development, but coming soon)

Digital SLR Weblog
If you really want to stay up-to-date on the changes to the guide, check out the Digital SLR Weblog. The weblog features news, updates, features, sample photos and a wide range of information about digital SLR cameras.

The information on the weblog is designed to supplement what is already included in the Guide, and it will keep you notified about what I am changing and adding more frequently than once a month.

Digital SLR Audio
Drum roll please...introducing the Digital SLR Guide Audio Companion.

What is the audio companion? Simply put, it is every page of the Digital SLR Guide in audio form. Well, not EVERY page yet, but that's the direction it's headed.

Each week I am recording a few more pages of the guide. Think of it like books on tape. Rather than reading all of the information that I am adding to the Guide, you can now download the audio to your computer and listen to it there or on your MP3 player of choice.

Just can now become an expert in digital SLR cameras during your morning commute without having to read a page of text!

Nikon D50 Review
I have just posted my Nikon D50 Review. Overall it's a great camera, and will serve parents and portrait artists equally well. My only complaint about the camera is that Nikon used some non-standard conventions for the camera settings, which makes it harder to use than some other digital SLRs.

Read the Full Review

Coming Soon to A Camera Store Near You

There aren't any new digital SLRs that are right around the bend that you need to know about. I will keep you posted as soon as I hear about any new cameras that will be released in 2006.

I am happy to announce that there is another digital SLR review right around the corner. You have voted and I have listened. My digital camera review poll has indicated that the camera you would most like reviewed is the Canon EOS 350D Rebel XT.

That's the next one on my list - check for that review early next month. I will announce when it is available on the Digital SLR Weblog, so keep an eye on that over the next couple of weeks.

In Conclusion

That's it for the November issue of Digital SLR News - thanks for reading.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to send them to me.

You may also forward this newsletter to anyone who you think might find it interesting or helpful.

If there is a topic you'd like me to address in a future issue of this newsletter, please drop me a line. I am always happy to hear from readers of the Digital SLR Guide News and your input is appreciated.

I hope everyone had a happy and healthy Thanksgiving (I ate way too much yet again) and I'll see you in December!

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