Picture Doctor

Uncover great legs, get the gray out, and other beauty treatments for your photos.

Picture-Doctor
Picture-Doctor

Why It Works

•Fundamentals: With its puffy ball of orange chiffon feathers, hooked beak tucked modestly underwing, and comical monopod stance, a flamingo is a study in exoticism and a compelling subject for any photographer. So how hard must it have been for Spanish photographer Marina Cano to turn her lens from the extravaganza above to focus instead on these knobby knees -- and how wonderful!

•Color: Hues are richly and satisfyingly saturated, and the scene's overall contrast, with white legs against the black background, adds an extra jolt of visual stimulation.

•Framing: Expertly composed, with long, vertical subjects set happily within the vertical frame.

•Technique: Shooting through a polarizing filter let Cano tone down bright surface reflections in the water, bringing the scene's subtle and shimmering blue and green undertones to the fore. Also, she found the perfect custom white balance for a scene burdened by a cool cast from an open blue sky and green shade trees.

•Humor: Those crinkly knees seemingly clad in leathery, clown-worthy leggings, as well as the wacky, webbed Daffy Duck feet, add an undeniable comic accent to the scene. Flamingos may be beautiful on top, but, as Cano shows us, their legs are a hoot!

5 Ways to Keep Snow White

Old Man Winter gives us wonderful opportunities for pristine snow images. But you must be careful with exposure, or white snow will wind up looking like gray sand, as in the picture below (left). At fault is the usual culprit: the lightmeter, which, in its relentless pursuit of medium gray, will underexpose snow if you don't override it. Here are ways to do this.

1 Meter the snow and manually set the exposure to 1.5 to 2 stops brighter than the meter reading. White snow usually appears most realistic at this exposure.

2 Alternately, meter the snow with the camera's exposure compensation feature set to +1.5 to +2 stops, and lock the exposure. (No exposure comp? Film shooters can add exposure by setting the ISO to 1.5 to 2 stops slower than the film rating -- ISO 100 for 400-speed film, for example.)

3 Lock the camera's exposure while metering a midtoned object (a gray card or a rock outcropping).

4 If you're shooting in sunny daylight, use the Sunny 16 Rule: At f/16, set the shutter speed to 1/ISO (or any equivalent exposure). Under a moderately overcast sky, increase this exposure by 1 stop; under heavy overcast, 2 stops; and for scenes in the shade, 3 stops.

5 With digital cameras, check the histogram. There should be a slight gap between the image tones and pure white (the right side of the graph). Otherwise the snow is blown out to featureless white.

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| Timothy Edberg| Problem Solver

•Pan Steering: Panoramics are hot again. All you need is a digital camera to take a series of pictures, and software (often free) to stitch the frames together. But even the best program can't make up for lumpy pans -- frames that are taken unevenly, either off-axis from one another, or nonlevel, or both. The best thing to do is put the camera on a tripod with a rotating head, and keep it level. Easier said than done. (Even a bubble level on the tripod head is no guarantee that the camera will stay level.) The Pan

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