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Videos Offer Some Good Instruction on How to Take Pictures

Times Staff Writer

Because photography is a visual medium, it’s only natural that one of the better ways to learn it is through videotape.

Topics available on tape range from the basics of photography to such specialized fields as wedding, studio, travel and glamour photography.

There are dozens of such tapes on the market, many of them produced by well-known photographers such as Dean Collins and by photography product manufacturers such as Kodak.

Renting the tapes is the cheaper, easier approach. You’ll know after you see it whether you will like it well enough to buy as a reference.

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Here are reviews of four tapes that are potentially of broad interest:

Each is available for rent at Pro Photo Connection in Irvine for $3 a day.

“Existing-Light Photography” (part of the “Exploring Photography” series; Kodak Video Programs; 30 minutes). Although it is designed mostly for the beginning photographer, this comprehensive, well-thought-out program for learning photography will help almost anyone.

It suggests simple techniques for improving your photos, and it offers ideas you can put to use right away with your 35-millimeter camera. It tells you, for example, how to avoid those unnatural straight-on strobe shots that leave people with red eyes, and how to get more candid, softer, pleasing looks in your images. Other suggestions include using window light for portraits, panning and peak actions for low light and indoor sports, using a tripod or bracing yourself for long exposures. Basic information covers explanations of fast film, fast shutter speed and fast f-stops.

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“Secrets of Boudoir Photography” by Robert and Sheila Hurth (produced by Price Stern Sloan Inc.; 1 hour). Boudoir photography may sound sleazy, but just run your fingers through the Yellow Pages to see how many photographers are doing it. There is clearly a demand for this specialty.

This fast-paced tape runs through the basics, but it can be appreciated by advanced amateurs as well as by beginners. It explains the necessary equipment, lighting techniques, use of filters and gels, how to pose the subjects, and also how to shoot silhouettes or take the photos outdoors. It also goes into how to build sets and how subjects can be made up and costumed.

“One of the keys to boudoir photography,” Robert Hurth says in the tape, “is to make the image appear suggestive and not necessarily revealing. A hint of an exposed body part is worth much more than revealing it all.”

If you want a more provocative look for your portraits, you need look no further.

“Wedding Sales With Monte Zucker” by Dean Collins (produced by Collins and Finelight Video; 30 minutes). Monte Zucker may have 40 years’ experience photographing weddings, but he offers only the most superficial, obvious advice on how to go about it. For something with the word Sales in the title, there is surprisingly little about setting up a pricing structure that will cover your costs and assure you a profit. What there is a lot of is self-promotion: “I know I can do it better than anybody else can. (The clients) know it too. The question is: Do they want to pay the price?”

“Which Filter Should I Use?” (Tiffen Manufacturing Corp. and Vizwiz Inc.; 30 minutes.) Tiffen should stick with what it knows how to do--make filters--and leave the how-to video business to Kodak and Jane Fonda. This tape is nothing more than an advertising vehicle for the company’s products, and it’s not a very good one at that. The sound track is bad, the selection of still images is boring and the same information is repeated endlessly.


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