Jim Zuckerman's Blog
Have fun with Halloween
Friday, October 31, 2014 9:00AM

You can find some very cool Halloween costumes at this time of year, and using Photoshop to combine them with backgrounds you may have in your files is a great way to have fun, engage kids in the creative process, and produce unique and compelling pictures.  A friend's daughter has this witch outfit, and I photographed her on the back deck of my home. I then used the quick selection tool (this hides beneath the magic wand tool in the tools palette) to select the costume from the original background.  I had photographed the foggy forest at dawn in the Italian countryside south of Venice and thought it would make the perfect backdrop.I didn't use a filter for the landscape shot. ...

Focus on the eyes
Thursday, October 30, 2014 9:00AM

When depth of field is shallow and you are shooting an animal, always focus on the eyes.  I took this wild iguana in Costa Rica with a 500mm f/4 Canon telephoto, and because I was hand holding the large lens it was very important that the shutter speed be at least 1/500th of a second -- which it was.  Therefore, with the 200 ISO I used for maximum picture quality, I had to sacrifice depth of field.  The aperture was f/5.6.  That meant that if anything was in focus, it had to be the eyes.  I got down close to the ground for this eye-to-eye perspective.  I couldn't help but think that if this creature were enlarged 100 times, it would be a fearsome dinosaur!

Dried flowers -- macro photography
Wednesday, October 29, 2014 9:00AM

Dried flowers make great subjects.  In the photo you see here, I used dried Dahlia flowers that I found in a garden in Turkey.  There happened to be a nearby table, so I picked the dead flowers from the dried stalks and laid them out on the table, arranging the colors to my taste.  I invited everyone in my photo group to shoot them as well.  Many different species of flowers can work for this kind of picture including rose petals, irisis, mums, etc.  Just make sure that the back of the camera is parallel with the plane of the flowers to maintain good depth of field.  Ideally, use a tripod, but at the very least stand directly above the flowers and shoot ...

Contrast considerations
Tuesday, October 28, 2014 9:00AM

Notice the detail we can see in the shaded areas of this picture -- like the side of its body -- as well as the detail in the highlights.  The cat's sunlit face, for example, shows a perfect exposure with complete detail.  My point is that when the sun is very close to the horizon, either at sunrise or sunset, the contrast between highlights and shades is minimal.  This is one reason photography is so successful at these times of day.  Good exposure is easy, the beautiful detail of nature subjects (and others as well) is seen clearly, and meters are not fooled by extreme in lighting.  In addition, both people and animals are not squinting due a bright sun.  The ...

How did I get this shot?
Sunday, October 26, 2014 9:00AM

I took this picture of laughing gulls in the Outer Banks of North Carolina with a 16mm wide angle lens.  I stood right next to a table on which a fisherman was cleaning his catch of the day.  This attracted a lot of birds, and all I had to do was wait for a great picture.  The low angled sunlight added a wonderful warmth to the scene.  I had to clone out some distracting cottages and docks in the distance, but that made the final result much more graphic, clean, and successful.  My settings for this picture were 1/400th, f/9, and 200 ISO.  I should have raised the ISO to 800 because that would have allowed me to use a shutter speed of 1/1600th to freeze the ...

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. ...

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