Jim Zuckerman's Blog
Parallel issues
Thursday, October 23, 2014 6:43PM

When photographing a flat architectural surface where there are windows or doors, you can make their vertical lines parallel with the left and right sides of the frame by making the back of the camera as parallel as possible to the plane of the surface of the building.  If the windows are above you, even a little, they will appear to be angled inward (this is keystoning) because you have to tilt the camera upward to compose the picture well, thus making the back of the camera oblique to the wall.  However, if you move back and use a longer lens, the windows and doors become more and more parallel as they appear in your viewfinder the further you go from the wall.

Diffused light
Thursday, October 23, 2014 6:36PM

You don't need to invest in studio lighting to produce many types of studio-like effects.  In this image of a chocolate woman's shoe, instead of using a studio softbox to expose the shoe, I simply placed it on a piece of black velvet and photographed it in the shade on my back deck.  That produced the soft and diffused type of lighting I wanted.  For the red spot light in the background, I used the gradient tool in Photoshop after the background was selected.  The reflection, which could have been done with black Plexiglas, instead was created by using a Photoshop technique in which I copied the shoe image to the clipboard (Edit > copy) and then pasted it into the ...

Cloudy skies
Thursday, October 23, 2014 1:55PM

Don't think you need to have blue skies and bright sun to make great pictures.   You don't.  I find cloudy skies, especially those with rich and varied tones of gray, much more captivating and artistic than blue skies.  For example, the steam emanating from Mt. Arenal in Costa Rica mixed with the cloud-filled sky is a lot more compelling than pictures I've seen of this mountain on a sunny day.  In addition, cloudy skies offer reduced contrast, making exposure easier.  The gray tones in this picture mix with the palette of greenery of the forest to make a beautiful landscape shot.I actually just discovered this image as I was browsing my RAW files from Costa Rica. ...

Shooting through glass
Sunday, October 19, 2014 9:46AM

I took this picture of beautiful countryside through a hotel window in an airport hotel in Tokyo.  I used a 24mm lens, and there is no evidence that there was glass between me and the outdoor landscape.  You can shoot through glass without an delterioius effect if the glass is clean.  In addition, it's important to shoot straight through it such that the lens axis is a perpendicular as possible to the plane of the window.  As soon as you angle the camera so the lens axis is oblique -- i.e. you shoot downward -- then the image becomes degraded because the thickness of the glass lowers the optical quality.

Dealing with patchy light
Saturday, October 18, 2014 9:00PM

The worst type of light in nature is patchy lighting.  Because digital sensors have a limited dynamci range, shadows tend to go dark (or black depending on how extreme the contrast is) and the highlights become very light or, in the worst case scenario, blow out completely where there is no texture or detail.  In other words, they are solid white.  I had no choice with the lighting in photographing this crocodile -- patchy lighting was what I had to work with.  The sky was blue and the light was filtering down through a tree.  To bring back detail in the highlights and open up the shadows, I shot in RAW mode (of course) and then used the highlights slider as ...

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