|Suggestions For Better Pictures
by Skip Giddings
Most of us who have been Model Railroaders for a number
of years have accumulated a number of skills. There is one
area that, from my observation, a number of us have ignored.
This is the recording of our efforts on film. This article
is not intended to get into the technical elements of
photography. Rather it gives two or three basic things that
will help the person with a relatively inexpensive,
automatic camera take pictures of their modeling efforts
which they can show to friends and family without the usual
run of whobbly, out of focus, dark or washed out prints
which are too often passed around.
A: Most inexpensive automatic cameras these days are
configured to use 200 ASA or 400 ASA color print film. There
isnt a lot of difference between brands: Kodak, Fuji, Kmart,
Revco etc. Good or bad processing can negate any subtle
difference between brands. I buy mine by the 4 or 6 pack box
at Sams or Walmart and keep it in the refrigerator. It will
stay fresh for 2 or 3 years. Ordinarily, I buy 200 ASA. If
you are going to take a lot of inside pictures try the 400
ASA even with flash.
B: Most inexpensive, $30 to $125 cameras, have a fixed
focus lens. For those of you familiar with lens
designations, they generally are from f 4.5 to f 6.2. The
lesser the price, the higher the number. If your instruction
booklet gives these specs, great. As a rough measurement,
the closest distance between your lens and whatever you are
taking a picture of is the "f" number of your lens
quoted in feet. This would mean that an f 4.5 lens will
probably give good definition or sharpness of picture at 4
feet or greater. Anything closer will get fuzzy very quick.
What you see in the viewfinder is not what you necessarily
Take some time to test your camera. Take the front page
of a newspaper and tape it to a blank wall, preferably a
shop or a garage wall, not the dining room wallpaper. Put
the center of the sheet about eye high. Now take 3 or 4
pictures using a tape measure to measure the distance from
the wall to the lens front. Take a shot at one or two foot
increments starting at 2ft then 3ft then 4ft then 6ft. Be
sure to mark the paper with the foot number so you can
identify the prints later. When you get the prints, look at
them closely with a magnifying glass. You will find out what
the closest distance is for your lens. Another tip is that
you will generally wash out your picture with the flash when
you are too close. Learn to judge this minimum distance or
calibrate the distance from your shoulder to your finger
tips and use this for a yard stick.
C. Another common reason for fuzzy or blurred pictures is
movement of either the camera or the subject or both. Learn
to click your camera without moving it. It only takes a
gentle movement of the pinky to operate the shutter, not
your whole hand or arm. For those of you who are gun
shooters, squeeze off your shots, don't pull the trigger.
D. Clean your camera lens and view finder frequently
using a cotton handkerchief or a Qtip. Breathe on it, then
wipe it gently. I'm always amazed when someone asks me to
take their picture for them, how often the lens and
viewfinder are dirty, dusty and smudged.
E. Last but not least, edit your prints before showing
them to your friends and family. One of the differences
between a good photographer and a bad one is, good ones
don't show their bad shots!
Now go and do likewise.