Frequently Asked Photo Questions for March

Have a question about digital photography? Send it to me. I reply to as many as I can--though given the quantity of e-mails that I get, I can't promise a personal reply to each one. I round up the most interesting questions about once a month here in Digital Focus. For more frequently asked questions, read my newsletters from November, January, and February.

When to Charge Your Batteries

Before leaving on a trip, should you charge all of your camera batteries or wait until they are mostly discharged?
--Bob Berger, New Jersey

The vast majority of modern digital cameras rely on lithium-ion batteries, Bob, so I'll assume you have one of those. These batteries don't have the memory problems caused by "topping off" somewhat charged batteries, and they discharge quite slowly when not in use as well. That adds up to a recommendation to do what's most convenient. Specifically, charge your batteries before you leave on your trip--there's no need to wait for them to run down first.

Blurry Action Photos With a Digital SLR

I bought a digital SLR to obtain great-quality action shots of my children during their sports. I have tried both the sports and auto modes in an attempt to obtain pictures worth saving. Nearly all of the shots of my son playing basketball are blurry--some are very blurry. I have tried a lot of settings, but nothing seems to be giving me clear shots of him. What should I do?
--George Hamm, Miami, Florida

I feel your frustration, George. Keep in mind that a digital SLR will be no better at action photos than a point-and-shoot camera if you stick to automatic and programmed settings.

To freeze the action, you need to use your camera's strength: its extreme configurability. You'll want to use Shutter Priority mode, for example, and dial in the fastest shutter speed possible (increasing the ISO if needed). You might also want to purchase a faster lens and use a panning technique to freeze your subject. For more tips, read "Digital Photography Tips: Capture Summer Action."

E-Mailing Photos

Can you please tell me how to send photos as e-mail attachments? They are always too large to e-mail or the other server rejects them because of size. I know that I can set my camera for the correct size if all I want to do is put them in an e-mail, but I want to take 12-megapixel photos so I can make prints if necessary.
--Neal Allbee, Portland, Oregon

There are many ways to send photos via e-mail, Neal, but I recommend that you stick with the easiest method. If you use Windows XP, Vista, or 7 and a desktop mail program like Microsoft Outlook, right-click one or more photos and choose Send To, Mail Recipient. In the dialog box that follows, choose the Medium or Large picture size and attach them to your e-mail message. This will resize the photos small enough to be e-mailed.

If you use Web mail (like Gmail or Hotmail), and you've got Windows Live Photo Gallery loaded, you can do pretty much the same thing. Open Windows Live Photo Gallery, then right-click the photo and choose Resize. Click Browse and choose where you'd like to put your resized photo (I suggest the Desktop), then click Resize and Save. Now attach that smaller photo to your message in Gmail or whatever program you use. The beauty of this approach is that you can to shoot at full size just like you want, and quickly make small copies suitable for e-mail.

The key thing to keep in mind is that no matter how many photos you attach to your e-mail, the total size of your attachments should not exceed about 2MB, or else you might run into trouble sending your message.

Focusing From Here to Infinity

Can you give me some idea as to where "infinity" begins so I can have satisfactory focus all the way from the camera to the horizon? Is it 10 feet away? 100? Is there any simple way to know when infinity can safely be set and still produce a crisp focus somewhat nearer than the wide blue yonder?
--Colin Burt, Queensland, Australia

You have great timing, Colin! You should check out two Digital Focus articles that I recently wrote about hyperfocal photography (part 1 and part 2). By using your camera's hyperfocal focusing distance, you can maximize the amount of your photo that's in sharp focus (from near the camera lens all the way to infinity).

The distance where "infinity" begins depends upon your lens and aperture setting, but if you have a digital SLR, you can use a Web site like DOFMaster to determine this information.

Dealing With Cantankerous White Balance

I am dissatisfied with my camera's photos. I have the color temperature set to automatic, yet the color always looks bluish. This is easy to fix in Photoshop Elements, but is annoying. Should I just set it to Fluorescent and leave it there?
--Joe Kistner, Fresno, California

Some cameras always seem to get the white balance wrong, Joe. If you find a setting that's more accurate, feel free to set it and leave it.

You might get better results if you use your camera's manual white balance setting, however. Whenever you want to take a photo, point the camera at a piece of white paper and follow the process to set the white balance. It's a little more time-consuming, but it gives you more accurate results. On the downside, you need to remember to reset the white balance every time you turn the camera on to shoot in a new location.

Hot Pic of the Week

Get published, get famous! Each week, we select our favorite reader-submitted photo based on creativity, originality, and technique.

Here's how to enter: Send us your photograph in JPEG format, at a resolution no higher than 640 by 480 pixels. Entries at higher resolutions will be immediately disqualified. If necessary, use an image editing program to reduce the file size of your image before e-mailing it to us. Include the title of your photo along with a short description and how you photographed it. Don't forget to send your name, e-mail address, and postal address. Before entering, please read the full description of the contest rules and regulations.

This week's Hot Pic: "Winter Tree," by Jeff Lenz, Cedar Grove, Wisconsin

Jeff writes: "I took this picture with my Canon 60D and a 75-300mm telephoto lens on a bitterly cold afternoon. I was having trouble with the exposure settings because my fingers were so cold. Time for some glove upgrades."

This week's runner-up: "Nihiwatu Beach," by John DiNardo, Brigantine, New Jersey

John writes: "I took this at Nihiwatu, located on the island of Sumba in Indonesia. This photo was taken with a Canon Powershot SX10 IS. To get this effect, I placed a lens from my polarized sunglasses in front of the camera lens to bring out the detail of the clouds and water."

To see the February winners, visit our Hot Pics slide show. Visit the Hot Pics Flickr gallery to browse past winners.

Have a digital photo question? E-mail me your comments, questions, and suggestions about the newsletter itself. And be sure to sign up to have Digital Focus e-mailed to you each week.

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