March/April 2006 HelpLine

Getting The Most From A Photo Workshop

    * Making A Workshop Work
    * Affecting Depth Of Field
    * USB Effects
    * The EV Answer
    * What’s In A Name?

Making A Workshop Work

Q)  I’ve been doing more and more with my digital photography. I’ve decided that I need some more personal instruction, so I’ve signed up for a workshop. While it’s still a few months away, I’m a little nervous about it. How do I get the most out of it?

B. Turner
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

A)  That’s great that you want to learn more, and I can’t think of a better way to increase your skill than by attending a workshop. Rather than give you just my opinion of how to get the most out of the experience, I decided to get opinions from several people who actually put on workshops. The first three who came to mind were my PCPhoto colleagues George Lepp, Rick Sammon and Rob Sheppard. They all lead a variety of workshops and deal with students of all skill levels.

I approached each of them with this question: What are the three most common mistakes that you’d let students know about in order to prepare for a workshop?

George Lepp ( mentioned that students need to confirm they read all of the course information sent to them. Make sure you know what to bring (and what not to bring) and what to expect. In other words: Be prepared. If you still have questions after reading the information, get in touch with the workshop leader.


Be familiar with your equipment. You’re probably attending a workshop that will teach you techniques. If you don’t know your camera, then you’ll spend more time figuring out how to operate your camera than on photographic techniques. Well before you leave for your workshop, make sure you know all of your gear’s functions. Don’t just concentrate on the basics; make sure you know how to use key special functions, too.

Here’s a good test: Get out your camera, grab a small flashlight, turn out all of the lights and work your way through setting up your camera for an exposure. This is what you might have to deal with during one of the workshop days if you’re getting up before the sun and traveling to get that sunrise shot.

Rick Sammon ( leads many of Outdoor Photographer‘s seminars ( He also mentioned being familiar with your camera. In addition, he suggested that in order to get the most out of any workshop, you should fully participate. Take every opportunity to get involved in the classes. And don’t forget to share and mingle.

That last point is an excellent suggestion. A workshop is a great opportunity to share your experiences and to meet and learn from others. While it might be difficult for some to mingle, you’re spending your hard-earned money and will get more out of the experience by sharing with others.

Rob Sheppard ( suggested thinking about what you want to get out of the workshop: “Participants should go to a workshop with both a set of questions they want answered and an open mind. You need to have some goals for the workshop reflected in questions, and be sure to ask them.” He also mentioned that while you might have goals, you should also be prepared for the workshop to take you in directions you hadn’t considered. If you just go with a list, expecting to check off items one by one, you’ll probably be disappointed. An open mind can lead to new discoveries.

Rob suggests that students ask questions. I’ve yet to meet an instructor who was a good mind reader. If you sit back and hope your question might be answered, it probably won’t be. Questions help the instructor understand what you’re interested in. And don’t let the fear of asking a “stupid” question slow you down.

Lastly, Rob thinks that a workshop should be an opportunity to try something new. This means you’ll have to fight the urge to do the same thing in the same way that you’ve always done. Take advantage of the new environment that a workshop brings, as well as the sharing with the teacher and other students to expand your photographic thinking.

Good luck with the workshop. Oh, and my advice? Have fun!


Affecting Depth Of Field

Q)  I have two questions for you. First, in the September 2004 issue, you stated that depth of field is related to distance, focal length, aperture and size of the print. I agree with the first three parameters, but I don’t see how the size of the print affects depth of field. Once depth of field has been captured on the film or digital media, it’s fixed in relation to other objects in the photo and shouldn’t increase or decrease with the size of the print or size of the projected image, which is essentially a print shown on a wall or screen. Am I missing something here?

Joe Berke
Via e-mail

A)  I can understand your confusion regarding depth of field. If something is in focus in a specific “range,” then it’s in focus, right? Why should print size matter?

Welcome to the world of optics. The human eye can’t distinguish very small degrees of unsharpness, so the true definition of depth of field is the range of distance around the focused subject that’s acceptably sharp (note: acceptably sharp!).

That’s where the final print size comes into play. Larger print sizes help the human eye see the unsharpness. (It’s generally accepted that depth of field is calculated using both an assumed film or sensor size and an assumed print size. By assuming a print size, the amount of magnification is entered into the formula for determining depth of field. Technically, this is an extreme oversimplification of the science, but I hope the explanation helps.)

What does this formula mean to the average photographer? A 4×6-inch print has a different appearance of sharpness and unsharpness than a 12×18-inch print, resulting in what looks to the viewer to be different amounts of depth of field. (In reality, for many photographers, it isn’t the depth of field, but slow shutter speeds that capture camera jiggle that then make for unsharp images at larger print sizes.)


USB Effects

Q) My second question relates to the USB connections. I was told by a camera company tech support person that I should unplug any USB devices from the computer when I’m not using them. He said the computer runs better when it doesn’t have to look for USB devices that are turned off and not in use. Is this true?

A)  As to your question regarding USB, we need to recognize that the tech person is probably used to dealing with customers who are having problems with the USB connection between camera and computer (this is one of the reasons why I always recommend using a media reader instead). The tech’s answer is useful for solving USB problems, which makes the computer run “better,” in a sense.



The day you bought your computer will always be the day it booted and ran the fastest. As you add hardware, software, drivers, etc., you increase the load on the machine. USB and other external devices don’t arbitrarily affect the efficiency of how your co
mputer runs, although they affect power use. I turn them off to save power (especially when using a laptop).

I also do things like remove CDs from drives to speed things up at bootup. This helps the disk operating system, since it won’t have to spin up the CD when it first looks at the computer directories. And when I’m editing images and I want maximum performance, I reboot my computer and start up only my image-editing application. Rebooting helps defrag RAM and makes sure I don’t have any other hidden applications running.

The EV Answer

A)  In the February HelpLine, I asked: “If the explicit value of EV=0 is ƒ/1 at 1 sec., can you think of another value of EV=0?” Rich Kolson from Verona, Pa., sent in the answer:

“Based on the EV value of 0 being defined as 1 sec. at ƒ/1, equivalent exposures for EV 0 should be: ƒ/1.4-2 sec.; ƒ/2-4 sec.; ƒ/2.8-8 sec.; ƒ/4-16 sec. I don’t believe that reciprocity failure comes into effect since EV is a numerical exposure value rather than a required exposure to produce a properly exposed photo.”

Great, Rich, you win the prize: a copy of the new PCPhoto Best Tips and Techniques for Digital Photography, a collection of articles, stories, how-to tips and more from the pages of PCPhoto.

You’re right on the reciprocity failure (plus, the original question dealt with digital cameras). For those of you unfamiliar with the term, reciprocity failure is when film doesn’t respond to light as quickly during long exposures. In other words, as exposures get longer, more light is required to hit the film in order to create an image. Film manufacturers publish correction factors to counteract this effect.

What’s In A Name?

In the January/February issue of PCPhoto, a minor error crept into the “Digital Camera Fundamentals” glossary: JPEG stands for Joint Photographic Experts Group not Joint Pictures Expert Group. Another term on the video side of compression (not in the glossary) is MPEG. It stands for Moving Picture Experts Group (many people think the “M” stands for motion, but the group wanted to make a point that they were working on compression for everybody, not just the movie studios).

If you have any questions, please send them to HelpLine, PCPhoto Magazine, 12121 Wilshire Blvd., Ste. 1200, Los Angeles, CA 90025 or [email protected].

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