Jim Zuckerman's Blog
Dealing with white skies
Friday, February 05, 2016 8:00AM
Dealing with white skies

I've been to Burano Island near Venice many, many times, and I've neve seen a pretty sky there.  I'm sure they happen, but I've never seen one.  On Tuesday when my photo group and I went there, the sky was solid white, and in most (but not all) situations, white skies are distracting.  They seriously detract from the picture.  That's why you need a file of many kinds of skies so you can replace them when necessary.  It's important to match the lighting, of course, because to put a sunset sky with a picture taken in diffused light from overcast conditions wouldn't make sense.  In this case, I used a sky showing defined clouds with a range of interesting tones -- ...

Upward angles
Thursday, February 04, 2016 8:00AM
Dealing with white skies

Using a wide angle lens from a very low angle can produce very strong images.  In this photograph, I used a 14mm lens as I lay on the ground looking up at the costumed models.  The exaggerated perspective elongates the models, and because the angle of the lens is so extreme, the depth of field even at a large lens aperture is significant.  It was crucial to hold focus from the foreground to the background to show all of that incredible detail, and the 14mm lens did that.  I hand held the shot, and my settings in this fairly low light situation were 1/60, f/3.5, and 1600 ISO. 

Shooting in fog
Wednesday, February 03, 2016 9:02AM
Dealing with white skies

You have to be careful when shooting in thick fog because the very light environment can adversely affect the meter reading.  Meters interpret everything as middle gray, or middle toned, and when fog is present the meter wants to give you an exposure that makes the whiteness look gray.  In other words, your pictures will be underexposed.  Therefore, check the LCD monitor on the back of your camera to make sure you're getting the exposures you want.  The histogram will not tell you this.  Only looking at the image will give you the feedback you need. If the pictures are too dark, use the exposure compensation feature built into the camera to lighten the exposure in ...

Extreme low light
Tuesday, February 02, 2016 12:06PM
Dealing with white skies

The most incredible costume I've ever seen is this elaborate and brilliantly conceived costume worn by a Dutch couple here in Venice.  The skirt the woman is wearing weighs about 50 pounds! When she took it off and I tried to pick it up, not expecting the weight, I almost lost my balance.  It is illuminated with 1000 tiny lights powered by batteries tucked into the back of the skirt and hidden from sight.  I photographed the couple in the famous Danielli Hotel, and the room was extremely dark.  I had to use 4000 ISO and my shutter speeds were between 1/20 and 1/40.  I switched on the image stabilization to help obtain sharp pictures.  I should have had a ...

Monday, February 01, 2016 2:45PM
Dealing with white skies

Symmetrical images are pleasing to the eye and they make wonderful compositions.  It is important to photograph symmetry from a point dead center in the middle of the subjects.  If the camera position is slightly off-center, it will look like a mistake.  You can be decidedly off-center, but just a little bit to the left or right of center won't work.  I took this picture today in a 16th century Venetian palace as part of my workshop, and everyone in the group loved it.  This is a hand held HDR at 1250 ISO with three frames making up the composite.  I used HDR to prevent the lights from blowing out too much.

Environmental portraits
Sunday, January 31, 2016 8:00AM
Dealing with white skies

When you use a wide angle lens for an outdoor portrait, as I did here in San Marco Square in Venice this morning, you create an environmental shot in which you show context for the subject.  In addition, you now have two subjects, not just one.  When you use a telephoto and blur the background, the subject stands out and competes with nothing else in the frame.  This is a one-subject image.  But a wide angle shows two subjects -- the foreground element and the background -- and therefore they both need to be sharp.  You can make both of them sharp by (1) using a small lens aperture like f/22 or f/32 (nothing less), (2) moving back a few steps from the foreground, ...

Expand your thinking
Saturday, January 30, 2016 3:00PM
Dealing with white skies

A large percentage of my Photoshop work is putting pictures together.  This opens creative doors way beyond what we can see.  For example, there would be no way to capture this kind of image in Venice without making a composite.  To have the models sharp and the background abstracted can only be done with two separate images.  Using the cut and paste technique they can be combined after-the-fact.  I shot the background with a two second exposure, and the models were photographed with a shutter of 1/200th of a second.  I used the pen tool to make the precise selection around the models so when the edges are examined at 100% magnification, you can't tell this was ...

Highlights and shadows
Friday, January 29, 2016 8:00AM
Dealing with white skies

I include a palace shoot in my Venice workshop every year, and some of the rooms are huge.  The lighting to the eye doesn't look extremely uneven, but photos reveal that from the large wall of windows at one end of a room to the other end lit only by incandescdent light fixtures, the f/stop range can be at least three stops and maybe more.  The model in this picture was seating in front of the windows, and even though you can see that she's much brighter than the background, this is after I've worked on this picture quite a bit to even out the lighting.  HDR is required or, at the very least, a lot of post-processing in ACR or Lightroom.  I usually move the shadows ...

Darkening for drama
Thursday, January 28, 2016 8:00AM
Dealing with white skies

One of the techniques I use to add drama and to direct attention toward the subject is to darken the periphery of the image.  I do this either in Adobe Camera Raw (or Lightroom) with the adjustment brush or in Photoshop with the burn tool. I use the tool at about 60% opacity so the changes to the image don't happen too fast.  I keep applying the tool to the corners and edges until I like the results. If I go too far, I simply hit Command/Ctrl Z and do it again.  In this Venetian carnival image, the darkened periphery adds mystery and intrique to a subject and environment that already has both.

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