Monday, June 30, 2008

"Savannah Abstract"

"Savannah Abstract"
© David A. Ziser

This image was made as part of a series with the personal challenge being to find abstract design and beauty in nature. Not much of an in-depth challenge. Actually this was an easy challenge because nature does such an amazing job at supplying the design. I just wanted to isolate on nature's designs disguising the source subject from the finished art. That's what I've attempted to do in this image. Stylizing it in Photoshop further adds to the almost brush stroked nature of the image. The sharp contrasts and shapes finish the final presentation. Camera specs; Canon 40D fitted with 70-300mm IS lens at 240mm, F10 @ 1/100 second, ISO 800. Enjoy! -David

Quick Hit Monday - Revolutionary Storage Medium Being Offered For Digital Shooters And More

Good Morning Everybody,
Glad to see everyone back after hopefully a great weekend. I worked most of the weekend trying to get everything "off my plate" before we fire up for the workshop beginning next week. I got about 90% of the work done so I feel pretty good about that. But enough said about that. How about all the photo news fit to hear this Monday.

OK, this one kind of blew me away when I head it. I get an email from this company offering a "revolutionary" way to preserve you digital images. No digits, no pixels, no nothing compromised with their system they are offering to us digital shooters. I hit the link and did a double take. What were they using to back up all these digital images? Are you ready - it's......FILM!

That's right - check out the whole story over at right here. Actually, I think it's a fascinating approach to archival storage - from writing the digital image to film, string in their vault, and receiving them when you need to retrive the image. Check it out - it's an interesting read. In the near future, I'll do a piece on archival storage of CD's and DVD's. I've been pulling the info together and it is quite fascinating.

Hey gang, on another note, go check out This is about the coolest way to search for pictures on-line. I first saw the story over at and it is worth the look. I'm always looking for new ways to stay inspired or just fine new ways to check out new ideas for my own photography. Here is the deal - hit the link here, add your first tag, and into the Tag Galaxy you go.
Hit one of the planets to refine your choice, then hit another and another. When you want to see the final choices, hit the main planet in the center. Now spin the globe and click on any picture that looks interesting. It's a really fun way to get some good ideas on improving and refining your style - a good find.

Hear Ye! Hear Ye! David Ziser's Off-Camera Lighting Session Now Live At Kelby Training

That's right folks, my second class just went live over at Kelby Training. In this session, I discuss a lot about my favorite thing - off-camera flash. This is probably one of my favorite DVD sessions I have ever put together. I go into a lot of detail about lens selection, lighting, exposure, composition, and background control plus lots more.

If you really want to get up to speed with off-camera flash, there's a lot of great information available there, so go check it out. Kelby Training is such a "no-brainer" for anyone wanting to know Photoshop, Lightroom, and Photography. It's an "all you can eat" informational, inspirational, educational experience not to be missed. Here is the link again right here in case you missed it.

Hey everybody, that's it for me today. I'll see everybody tomorrow for a pretty darn cool marketing idea and technique in tomorrow's Technique Tuesday. See you real soon, David

Friday, June 27, 2008

"An Elegant Evening"

"An Elegant Evening"
© David A. Ziser

I was just visiting with these clients yesterday afternoon. While looking through their beautiful wedding album of a few years ago, I thought there were several images worth considering for the image of the day post. This image was made shortly before the guests entered this beautiful reception room setting. For me personally, it is still one of the most striking settings I have photographed. Basically, the shot is available light with my supplemental flash coming in from the right to create some directional light on the bride and groom. Camera specs; Nikon D1x fitted with 18-35mm lens at 18mm, F5.6 @1/5 second (I'm guessing tripod here,) ISO 800 and Noise Ninja. Enjoy! -David

A Truly Inspirational Inspiration Friday

Good Afternoon Everybody,
And welcome to another Inspiration Friday. I'm kind of inspired because today we hung LaDawn's painting by artist Melanie Feldman. Here's the story - What do you get a women who has everything and wants nothing for her birthday? By the way, she may have a different view on that. And I know she would kill me if I told which birthday she was celebrating!! Well after some thought, I gave her a painting - and it was a painting of her.

I blogged last January about our good friends Alan and Melanie Feldman who operate a very successful studio in the Tampa, Florida area. After many years assisting Alan with the studio operations, Melanie has returned to her true love - painting, and more specifically, interpretive paintings of women. Here is the link to her site - always cool things to see.

After visiting with the Feldman's in January, Melanie was inspired to paint an image of LaDawn - not a regular portrait, but her interpretation of her feelings after meeting LaDawn. It took several months to complete and when LaDawn saw the finished painting she was blown away. Here is the link to the image and the inspiration behind the art right here. Anyway, I called Alan a few weeks ago and purchased a limited edition print for LaDawn for her birthday. LaDawn was super excited when she saw the finished piece up close and personal. Today, she was thrilled to finally get it hung in our home.

What else is going on - well, I'm also inspired because we hit 100,000 pageviews for the last 30 days, our highest number to date. Thanks to all of you for taking the time to enjoy the articles and passing it along to friends and family. As long as you keep reading them, I'll keep writing them.

Hey, let me tell you about something really cool about one of my assistants, Eric Berenson. Eric came on board about a year ago to assist me on weddings and the other events we photograph around the area. He was only 17 when he started but brought a sense of manner and maturity to the job that made him fit in easily on the "client relationship" side of the job.

I remember last year when we were shooting a family portrait and Eric was my assistant. We walked into the client's beautiful home furnished with some of the most amazing original art from glass blowers around the world. In their entry way was a very valuable Chihuly piece - I love Chihuly's work and recognized it right away. Eric proceeds into the client's gallery of many other pieces and starts naming the artists who produced the artistic creations. Boy, was I surprised at his depth of knowledge. It's those little surprises that make me happy that Eric is part of my team.

Anyway, it seems every year National Geographic conducts it's Student Expeditions program. This involves inviting students from around the United States to accompany one of their photographers to one of several exotic locations around the world for one month. Well, Eric, being the go-getter he is, decided to apply for a scholarship to the program. To make a long story short - out of 1500 applicants, Eric was one of only 15 applicants to receive the National Geographic Scholarship!

High Fives to my man, Eric! Eric heads out to Costa Rica on July 1st and promises to give me the full update when he returns at the end of the month. Hey, take a minute and check out Eric's website right here. I'm a big fan of his "Landscapes" and "Photo Abstracts" pages.

OK, are you ready for something that will really blow your mind. Check out the Top 25 Photoshop Pictures Of May 2008 over at right here. These are some of the most unbelievable Photoshop images I have ever seen. Be sure to cruise around the rest of the site too. Good creative content and several good Photoshop tutorials - well worth the peak.
Wait, there's more. I was cruising Rob Galbraith's site a while back and found these two links to some great photo-journalistic photography. One is the The Big Picture over at the Boston Globe right here, and the other is the Week In Pictures Archives over at MSNBC right here. Remember, I'm a true believer in the fact that by looking beyond our own photographic niche, we embellish our creativity by exploring the art of others working outside our niche. Give both sites a peek, the provocative and thought provoking images will definitely give you pause.

OK, here is another one of my "One For The Road" posts not related to photography, but still really fascinating. I can't remember how I found this site, but it is quite the "time waster" for a Friday afternoon.

Here is the deal - Over at they have taken Google Maps of various cities around the world and have overlayed a Flash driven driving game on top of the maps - here is the link. You get to select your city, your car, or even a Mack truck if you want, and then hit the road. They've got the gas pedal, turn signals, speedometer, and steering wheel all right there. Maybe it's the "geek" in me but I thought it was kind of fun. Check it out if you've got a coffee break coming up soon or instead of those Saturday morning cartoons.

Hey gang, that's it for me today. It's supposed to be my day off, but the boss never gets a break, I guess ;~) Everybody have a great weekend and be sure all your pixels are smiling. See ya' Monday. -David

Thursday, June 26, 2008

"Dancing In The Sunset"

"Dancing In The Sunset"
© David A. Ziser

This image was made with my very first Canon 20D about a week after I acquired it in the fall of 2004. Because of the wedding day constraints of time, location, and sometimes weather, I provide my clients an option of doing additional images at some point in time after the wedding. This was one of those instances. The couple and I gathered at Ault Park, in Cincinnati, Ohio a few weeks after the actual wedding celebration. As luck would have it, the late time of the shoot ended with my being able to capture this wonderful sunset image for them. It was one of the final images of the session and I think one of the best. Camera specs; Canon 20D fitted with 17-85mm lens at 17mm, F5.0 @ 1/125 second, ISO 400. Enjoy! -David

[B]Business Day Thursday - It's Showtime!

Good Morning Everybody,
Let me begin by thanking everybody for the great suggestions you have been posting to Skribit over on the right of the posts. Keep them coming and I'll get to all of them in the upcoming weeks. The top vote getter, "If You Were Just Starting Out, How Would You Build Your Client Base - More Than 60 Ways To Do It!" was answered last Thursday so I hope you gave it a good read.

Are you ready for another [B]Business Day Thursday? I had something different scheduled for this week, but it can wait a week. LaDawn and I attended our monthly ISES meeting yesterday afternoon and had a great time. If you are a wedding photographer looking to connect with your fellow professionals working in the same field, you need to check out ISES - International Special Events Society. Most of the larger US cities have chapters. It is a great way to meet and connect with all vendors working in the special events industry, including weddings, of course. Cincinnati has a great group of photographers, videographers, bridal planners, florists, caterers, sales representatives from several of the larger venues in the Cincy area, lighting specialists, rentals companies.......and many, many others. I was one of the charter members and an original board member of our local group. I always enjoy the opportunity of getting together with my vendor buddies just for a little R&R, a little connecting on upcoming events, and a little inspiration from the contracted program speakers. Yesterday's luncheon was just that.

Anyway, that was nice but let me tell you about the really good part. Every meeting usually has a guest speaker and yesterday was no exception. Our speaker was Jon Petz from Columbus, Ohio and boy, did he give a great program. I made several notes during his presentation because I think his message speaks to every reader of this blog and echoes many of the same sentiments about how to conduct your business.

John's message was simply this, "Every time you interact (notice I didn't say just meet, but interact) with your client or a perspective client - It's Showtime! That the time you put on your best prepared and most enthusiastic presentation to your client. Remember that you always need to be totally prepared at any given moment for your client.

Before every meeting with a client, I want some quiet time to get prepared for the meeting. I want to check the specs of the event - times, locations, other vendors involved. It's this preparation time that puts me on the same plane with the client. If I know her vendor list and she has selected the best so far, I can enthusiastically assure her of her choices. They are Cincinnati's A-Team of wedding vendors with yours truly included in that mix. Heck, if you are unfamiliar with some of the locations and vendors involved, just Google them. All the info is easily obtainable. Then you can have a well rounded and informed meeting with your client.

Jon continued, "An now that you booked the job, you can't just meet their expectations, you've got to blow them away!" What's that mean to us as wedding photographers, or for that matter any small business owner reading these words? It means we have to do more than they expect of us, something more than the competition would do. We have to make the experience of hiring us a "standing ovation" experience. I think we do it with "surprisingly" good service, great quality products, and available for help and suggestions. Occasionally we even like surprise the client with something extra added to their order, as a gift from David.

When shooting a Bar Mitzvah in the morning, I would take the time during the afternoon break to head back to the studio, select a few images, combine them quickly into a 8x10 or 11x14 collage, and present it to the clients when I returned in the evening. They loved it. And it would always be placed on prominent display.
We have done similar things for weddings. During some point during the reception, we would download about about 15 images form the day's shoot, print them out on my Epson PictureMate printer, put them into a Neil Enterprises self stick 4x6 album and present it to the bride and groom later that evening. It always blew them away.

Jon had one more main point too. You've got to sign the autographs. Read that as ask you client how you did. And, thank them for any compliments received. We just delivered an album to a client while I was out of town last week. Jennifer, my studio manager, said she absolutely loved the book. I'm making the call today to sign my autograph. We had another client a few weeks ago who's images we delivered by courier because the client couldn't make it over to the studio to pick them up in time for Father's Day. I heard the message on the voice mail over the weekend that she was absolutely thrilled with the images. Jennifer asked for the autographs on Monday.

Folks that's what it means to be proactively involved with your client. It is imperative we take that approach in today's business climate. It's not just about customer satisfaction, it's about building customer loyalty. It's not always about seeking new clients, but taking care of the clients we already have. It's about your current clients giving the tickets to their family and friends to your next "Showtime."

If you would like a quick peek - about 5 minutes - of an excerpt of Jon's presentation, hit the "Read More..." link below. Give it about 1:30 minutes to get to the really cool part - his "Magical Thumb" trick - definitely worth the giggle.

A Marketing Idea From One Of Our Fellow Readers

I was cruising some of the DigitalProTalk comments the other day and came across a comment from Anna who had been reading my article entitled, "15 Ways To Create Vendor Buzz." Anna had a terrific idea about building her client base by cross marketing with a clothing store in her town.

Here is her suggestion. "I work with a local children's clothing store. I have a contest box , where their customers sign up with their mailing address and e-mail, to win a portrait session. I draw one name a month, which their winning portrait must hang in the clothing store for the following month to draw in more customers to the store. Friends and family visit. I also post a sample of the session on my blog with a link to the clothing store. It works great for both of us. I'm getting new potential clients, and the clothing store is getting referrals from me. It's a win/win."
Hey Anna, thanks for the suggestion. This stuff is not difficult stuff, but it does take a little effort. You can't just WISH for something to happen, you have to WANT something to happen the MAKE it happen.

Hey everybody, that it for me today. Hope you enjoy the ideas and Jon's video. I'll see you tomorrow for Inspiration Friday. Adios, -David

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

"Celebration Day"

"Celebration Day"
© David A. Ziser

I just came across this image and continue to still love it. It was made as part of an ad campaign for Art Leather Manufacturing about 17 year ago. Here was the assignment; photograph the bride and groom in a Spring setting leaving the church showing a lot of excitement and enthusiasm. Sounds simple enough, doesn't it. Well, we were doing the shoot in Toronto, in March! Nothing looks like Spring that far north in March, but we still had to pull it off.

I scouted the church location and decided to use this walkway. The sun was behind them - totally important when shooting outdoors. And, with the sun coming from behind, it added a certain warmth, at least visually, to the scene. In reality, the temperature on this brisk Toronto morning was more like 42 degrees - that's Fahrenheit, not Celsius.

The next challenge was to pick up the Spring look the art director wanted in the shot. OK, we had warmth. We had excitement. We had enthusiasm. Where do I find green? My telephoto lens helped me isolate on a piece of hedge here and a pine branch there. It was just enough green, coupled with the warm sunlight to pull off a semi-Spring like look. The light on the couple was supplied by my off-camera Lumedyne flash (at the time) being held by my assistant on the right. Anyway, it all came together and was the cover of the album catalogue for many years.

Camera specs; Hasselblad camera fitted with 150mm Sonar lens, F5.6 @ 1/500 second, Kodak Vericolor 400 film. Enjoy! -David

Technique Tuesday - Finding Lightroom's Best Kept Secret And More - The Hard Way

Good Morning Everybody,
Well, let's try this again today. Whew, what a day yesterday. I was ready to go with recording the tutorial yesterday, did a quick run through and found out for some weird reason that my image would not export into Photoshop from Lightroom 2 Beta. 90 minutes of "fussing" in the morning never resolved the problem. Time ran out on any further computer tweaking as I was running late for my shoot - hence yesterday's post.

I headed out for my shoot, called Lightroom guru, Matt Kloskowski, on the way, and was pretty bummed when he said he had never seen my particular problem before. I finally got back to debugging the issue about 8:00 p.m. last night and finally had it solved by 10:00 p.m. Whew!! What a day.

Here was the deal. In my work flow, I download my cards, get all the images in one folder, rename them, pop them into a folder with a certain prefix on the folder which alerts me that the files have not yet been backed up. I'm always anxious to see what I got, so I import them into Lightroom 2 Beta, my version choice these days.

Let me add here that I create a NEW Lightroom catalogue for each shoot. Why - because Lightroom starts bogging down with about 30, 000 images in it. For me that would be in about 8 weeks of shooting. It just makes more sense to me to create a new catalogue for each jog to avoid any future performance hassles. Anyway, no big deal, right?? Everything works just fine - I can go into Photoshop all day long from Lightroom 2 Beta. Until yesterday - no problem at all.

Well, after the folder is backed up, I drop the prefix from the folder name and mark it as backed up with a suffix in the folder file name (-bu). That's where the problems begin. In Lightroom 1.41 I'm easily able to rename the folder, search for my Lightroom catalogue in it's new location, and life is good. Read my lips, this is NOT the case for Lightroom 2 Beta! Sure Lightroom 2 Beta will open the job catalogue at the new location and all seems to work just fine. That is except everything EXCEPT the import over to Photoshop!

Re-syncing the folder doesn't help either. I discovered that if I renamed the job folder back to it's original name under which the images were originally imported, all worked fine. I just didn't want and interim folder file name in my work flow. Bottom line is this, I had to delete the old LR Cat file and re-import the images - what a hassle. I sure this will all be rectified when the new version comes out, but in the mean time, running the Beta turned into a time waisting sinkhole. The price we pay to be on the "bleeding edge" of technology ;~)

So gang, that's the rest of yesterday's story, so how about, "On with the show!"

I have to tell you that I'm becoming a really big fan of Lightroom, and more to the point - Lightroom 2 Beta (except for yesterday's giant hiccup.) There are a couple of features in the new version that simply make it one of the most remarkable pieces of software on the planet earth. Watch the video below and see if you don't agree with me. Lightroom 2 - How Great Thou Art!

One For The Road Wednesday - From Here To Infinity - Learning How To Focus Correctly

One of my favorite sites belongs to Michael Reichmann and the good folks over at Luminous Landscape. Michael's site is just jammed packed with great info. I happened on this article about focusing with "swing and tilt" cameras and lenses. Here is the link right here.

If you ever decide to pick up one of those exotic Canon or Nikon perspective control lenses, or you just found your grand-pappy's view camera in the attic, this post is a must read. You too can have everything in focus from here to infinity. Wasn't there a movie by that same name back in the fifties ;~) Hey, gang, I'm out of here. See everyone tomorrow for a scintillating Business Day Thursday. -David

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

"The Handsome Couple"

"The Handsome Couple"
© David A. Ziser

This image was made in one on my favorite locations - the historic Plum Street Temple in downtown town Cincinnati, Ohio. I love shooting to the back of the temple making the magnificent pipe organ part of the composition. By using my wide angle lens and it's perspective, the couple is featured prominently in the foreground while slightly diminishing the large pipe organ in the background. My off camera flash supplies the directional light which I balance with the ambient. Camera specs: Nikon D1x fitted with 18-35mm lens at 18mm, F5.6 @ 1/20 second, ISO 400. Enjoy! -David

Technical Difficulties... Update

... That are now beyond my control...

Good Morning Everybody,

Well, I was planning an early morning Technique Tuesday post today. All was going well till I ran into a little software hiccup which I am working out. Time ran short and I'm heading out to a shoot right now. Anyway, look for the post later on today - I think you will like it.

Got to run, -David

Good Afternoon Everybody,

Well, the shoot took longer than expected and my next appointment just left. So this has become half blog Tuesday. LaDawn and I are out the door right now, so check back tomorrow for the rest of the story. And, by the way, enjoy Half Blog Tuesday. See ya' tomorrow. -David

One For The Road - The Low-down On Sharpening

So do you really know how to use Unsharp Mask? I have to say, I've been using Photoshop since version 5 and never really got the unsharp mask thing. Sure, I could always mess around with it and get pretty close to the result I wanted, but I always wanted to know more.

I wanted to know the science behind that filter, I wanted to know every intricacy of the settings and what they did. I wanted to know it all, no holds barred, just the facts, ma'am. Well, if you too have been losing sleep every night not knowing these life changing facts, this is your lucky day.

Head over to and read the definitive description of this often misunderstood Photoshop filter. OK, all kidding aside, this is about the best article I've seen explaining Unsharp Mask. Give it a read right here.

Monday, June 23, 2008

"Playing In The Park"

"Playing In The Park"
© David A. Ziser

I made this image a few years ago and still enjoy it when I see it. The carefree look of the bride catching a little breeze with the veil works perfectly with the beautiful S-curve of the composition. That coupled with the high key tonalities work for a nice result. Camera specs; Nikon D1x fitted with 80-200mm non image stablized lens at 155mm, F4.0 @ 1/1000, ISO 400. Enjoy! -David

Good Morning Monday - Reporting From Lexington, Kentucky - Tim Kelly, Craig Minielly, And More

Good Morning Everybody,
Hope ya' all (good KY jargon) had a wonderful weekend. LaDawn and I headed out Saturday afternoon for a short drive south to good ol' Lexington, Kentucky. As I type this post this morning we continue to be enjoying the Spring KPPA Seminar. We arrived about 6 p.m. - got ourselves an adult beverage, joined our friend Rick Trummer, from a great lab - American Color Imaging, and just settled into relaxation mode.

A few
minutes later, our friends Tim and Bev Walden made their appearance at the hotel. We were all heading out to dinner minutes later. Tim and Bev, whom I have blogged here before, are two of the best portraitists and photography teachers in the country. They also run one of the most successful portrait studios in the Midwest too.

Tim and Bev conceptualized the idea
of "Relationship" portraiture a number of years ago and were marketing geniuses on spreading the word to their clients about this style of photography in and around the Lexington area. Subsequently their bookings jumped dramatically. Tim and Bev's concept was to bring family members together in meaningful ways through posing that showed the special relationship between those being photographed. Mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, brothers and sisters, mothers and sons..... There were so many photographers in their area copying the relationship style of family photography, that their marketing now reflects that they the one's to introduce the concept with their tag line, "Be sure it's a Walden Original."

Their idea took off like wildfire and they have continued to spread the word about their concept teaching extensively throughout the US and the world. Tim, Bev, and I have been friends for almost 30 years and it has been a thrill to watch their careers blossom. They have so much to share on lighting and posing, and more importantly, marketing, that you need to put them on your "must see" list whenever they come to a city near you. Check out Tim and Bev's web site right here and you will get an idea as to what I mean. Just browsing their images is a great education into itself - really, really an outstanding body of work.

A few minutes after the Walden's arrived, Tim Kelly and his wife Mitzi arrived with their two grown children, Julia and Michael. Tim and I have know of each other over many years, but never really spent much time together until this weekend. Tim, as I mentioned Friday, also is one of the finest portraitists in the country. We all (hello KY one more time) had a delicious dinner and a great time sharing, laughing and relating from the "old days".

Here we are from left to right: Mitzi, Tim, Yours truly, LaDawn, Tim, Bev, and Rick.

Tim Kelly was presenting the all-day program on Sunday. Tim's work is simply stunning in it's classic simplicity. Each image invites the viewer's participation with the subject. Tim showed us his super simple lighting set ups and gave us some great marketing tips. We learned a lot of useful information and LaDawn and I have over three pages of notes. Tim presented from his heart, truly sharing his passion of the art with the audience. Here are Tim's words that excited me the most from his presentation. Tim asks every client upon their arrival to his studio, "What is the most important thing I can do for you today?" That question gets right to the point of what he needs to accomplish during the photo session for his clients. "Why is this important?" Tim asks, because in his words, "Every session needs to be an ultimate success." Not only for the photographer but also for the client. Read those words again and measure what they mean. They affirm Tim's dedication to his art and his outstanding images speaks for itself. Here is a link to several of Tim's images right here. Tim also teaches extensively around the country and has a great series of instructional resources for photographers available on his web site right here.

We got back to the hotel, not too late and LaDawn and I were heading to our room when Craig Minielli walked up to join the crowd as were were all saying our good nights. Tim and Bev introduced LaDawn and I to Craig as they had just met Craig earlier in the year when they were presenting programs in British Columbia. Those of you who don't know Craig, well he is the inventor of the wildly successful Craig's Actions. Craig is a great photographer hailing from Vancouver, British Columbia. He had his first image published by the local newspaper at age 13! Craig quickly rose to the top of his profession in portrait, commercial, and editorial work. Check out his site available? at AuraPhotographics right here. Once you get there, be sure to check out his galleries - absolutely stunning work. This of Craig's work as sort of an inspiration Monday. What else has Craig been up to? It's his Craig's Actions. You can check out the Craig's Actions feature set right here. They have been featured over at Rob Galbraith's site and even received the coveted "Hot One" award from the Professional Photographers of America. His site is exciting to browse just seeing the "befores and afters ." Take a peek, I think you will enjoy the adventure. Craig was gracious enough to let me check out his actions, so I'll give you the low-down in the next few weeks.

Hey gang, that's it for me today. I'm typing these last words as I'm watching the opening of Craig's program this morning. The kick-off looks pretty exciting, so I'm signing off so I can see the rest of the program. I'll see everybody tomorrow for a very cool Lightroom Technique Tuesday.

Adios everybody, -David

Friday, June 20, 2008

"A Mother's Love"

"A Mother's Love"
© David A. Ziser

This image was made as part of series of images I did for this baby's christening. I arrived at the clients home and made a quick series of images in her living room just moments before we were to leave for the Christening ceremony. The lighting was just available light, mostly very soft window light. I simply moved around the mother and child till I got the composition I wanted. This image was my favorite. A little tweaking in Photoshop to focus the viewer's eyes directly on the baby gave me my finished result. Camera specs; Canon 20D fitted with 17-85mm lens at 85mm, F5.6 @ 1/200 second, ISO 800. Enjoy! -David

Welcome To Inspiration And Recreation Friday - First A Little Inspiration.

Good Morning Everybody,
Is everybody ready for a wonderful relaxing weekend - - I hope so. Tomorrow, LaDawn and I are heading to Lexington, Kentucky. The Kentucky Professional Photographers Association is holding their quarterly meeting this weekend and they have quite the talent lineup this time around. My buddy Tim Kelly, truly one of the finest portrait photographers in the country will be presenting his all encompassing portrait program covering lighting, posing, marketing, and finished presentation. It's an all day program and we are really looking forward to seeing his presentation and visiting with Tim. I'll give you a report next week. Check out this link right here to Tim's website for some pretty cool portrait images.

Many of you know I'm involved with a great group of photographers over at Fine Art Photo Blog. We just had 43 photographers submit their portfolios for review. Check out four of my favorites - the work is truly visually exciting like the image by William Fawcett above. Hit the "Read More..." link below for my favs and the other 39 sites too - good inspirational images to fill your weekend.

Mathias Pastwa - Beautiful Landscapes
Dawn LeBlanc - Very sensuous macro photography
William Fawcett - Some stunning panoramas.
Gregor Winter - I thought his work had a "Henri Cartier-Bresson - decisive moment" look about it.

Hey, if you've got the time, here are the links to the other 39 right here - some pretty cool stuff - enjoy the browse.

Relaxation Friday - And In The Totally Unrelated To Photography Department

... But still some really good time waisting web sites submitted for your approval. I had just picked up a recent issue of my Time magazine and saw a listing of their 50 favorite sites for 2008. I have to say, it was a fascinating list, not all to my tastes, but some were pretty cool. To see my Favorites, hit the "Read More..." link below.

Here are my Top 10 choices from the list:
1. Hulu Couch potatoes of the world , unite. You can watch TV shows and movies for free and with limited commercial interruption. Another good link is Modern Feed for vintage TV shows. Star Trek anyone - here is that link.
2. WikiSky - Maybe we can't go where no man has gone before, but at least we can take a peek at the outer boundaries of the universe with these mesmerizing looks at the cosmos.
3. Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project - This site brings the true meaning to the word "Oldies" - 8000 recordings from the early 1900's - again, a really fascinating site.
4. WikiTravel - 18,000 destination travel guides and tourist helps. Hey, if you can't get there, you can at least look at the pictures.
5. MapJack - This is a totally cool way to check out a possible vacation destination. I think it blows away Google Streets. The site is only in its early stages but still worth the visit. Hit the link to see what I mean.
6. TripKick - Ever check into a hotel and get a really lousy room. Then TripKick is for you. The site actually rates the rooms, floors, and best locations in the hotel. It even tells you what rooms to avoid. This is a great travelers site.
7. Serious Eats - If food is your thing, then this site is for you. Best restaurants, best places to buy food, just all things food. I'm getting hungry already.
8. Zeer - An speaking of good eats, because you are what you eat, Zeer tells you what's inside all that stuff you buy at the supermarket - for better or worse. Great site for the diet conscious - count me in.
9. Genie - Looking for a few skeletons in the closet, then this site is for you. All kidding aside, if your a genealogy buff this is a cool site. I posted the Time link because it links to the other genealogy sites too.
10. Gas Buddy - This is unfortunately the site highly reflecting our times. Where is the best price on gasoline in your city?? Hit the link for your bargain basement ;~) gas prices.

By the way, here is the link to all 50 of the Time magazine sites. Have fun.

Hey gang, that's it for me this week. We are heading out tomorrow, driving south through our wonderful blue grass highways - Kentucky really is a beautiful state. I'll check back with everybody on Monday and give you all the latest from Lexington. See you then. Have a great weekend. -David

Thursday, June 19, 2008

"Hanging With The Kids"

"Hanging With The Kids"
© David A. Ziser

For many years I photographed the most inspiring volunteers in the arts in Cincinnati, Ohio. It was always great fun and at many times a great challenge. In this case, there was no theater to shoot the volunteer. We had to make things up on the fly. I met the client at the production facility and main offices to the Children's Theater. The surrounds were not the best for a nice portrait. Here is what we did. First, I photographed the client in a darkened room so I could extract her out of the setting easily in Photoshop. Yes, light was simple - my trusty off-camera Quantum flash through a translucent umbrella. The back ground was a bit trickier. The offices had many posters of past performances all over the walls. So I started by photographing the posters. The final image was a composite of the volunteer and all the collaged posters. To give the image depth, I used the transform tool on most of the images to bend then back into the composition. A drop shadow or two finished the effect and resulted in a great shot. Camera specs; Canon 20D fitted with 17-85mm lens at 24mm, F11 @ 1/250 second, ISO 400.
Enjoy! -David

[B]Business Day Thursday - If You Were Just Starting Out, How Would You Build Your Client Base - More Than 60 Ways To Do It!

Good afternoon everybody,
This suggestion was the top vote getter from my Skribit widget to the right side of the page - so here we go. Just how do you build your client base when you are starting out? Many regular readers of this blog know that over the last several months I have covered many aspects of just that topic.

I discussed growing your business, building a strong set of portfolio images, working with vendors in you city, how to build a better press kit, and how to keep your clients coming back. Want a quick refresher on the subject and 11 more ideas that will help you grow your business, then just hit the "Read more..." link just below.

Here are the five articles that speak to the point directly with about 50 suggestions on how to do just that.

"HELP....I'm Brand New At This. What Do I Do To Grow My Business?"
Building Your Business - Part 1 - 11 Ways To Build Your Portfolio
Building Your Business - Part 2 - 15 Ways To Create "Vendor Referral Buzz" for Your Business
Building Your Business - Part 3 - 10 Ways To Blow Your Own Horn - Or How To Build A Better Press Kit
Building Your Business - Part 4 - 10 Ways To Keep Your Clients Coming Back

OK, now that you have read those articles thoroughly, committed them to memory, and can recite them backwards, then please read on for additional tips. The real secret is about staying connected with them. Here are 11 more very effective ways to stay connected with your clients and build your business.

1. Send anniversary cards or bouquets. Your clients will be really surprised with the bouquet and never will forget your name.

2. Send birthday cards to their kids asking mommy and daddy to bring them back to the studio. Hey, what better way to invite mom and dad than through the kids. Oh, don't forget to offer something special for the little tykes too when they come in. Off to Toys Are Us you go.

3. Send cards to your clients on the anniversary of their last session with you. Hey, it another reason to connect with them.

4. Make it studio policy for yourself or a staff member call at least two clients a week to thank them for their business over the year. My accountant does this in her office. She calls it "hugging" her clients, and in her office it's every employees responsibility to hug two clients a week.

5. Offer past clients specials on any regular studio promotions you might be running. Their family, give them a deal, and keep them coming back.

6. Send them notes/newsletters to make them aware of any special promotions happening at your studio. This could include the introduction of new employees, special milestones, awards won, etc.

7. Expand that to a bi-monthly newsletter - hard copy or e-newsletter.

8. Keep your blog up to date with your studio happenings - 1-2 posts a week will keep it fresh enough.

9. Leverage the blog in your newsletters to keep the clients checking back.

10. Get personal - when you give your referral cards out as mentioned in the Part 4 article above, be sure the referral cards have their photograph or their kids photograph on it. What better way for your client to show off your work and brag on you than to share their latest photograph when referring a friend.

11. Important - don't back down from this one. Do a client survey with every order delivered. You need to know what you are doing wrong so you can change it now! And, you need to know what you are doing right so you can continue to enhance the policy or procedure.

If you have any more ideas, why not share them in the comments section below.

Looking For Another Source Of Business - How About The Competition

You might think I'm crazy here, and many would say it's true. Your competition can be a great source of finding additional business. Many years ago when I joined our local professional photographers association, I got to meet my competition. In the beginning we socialized at our monthly meetings and then as the months turned into years many of us became very good friends. I was glad to know them. If I was over booked I knew who to send my over flow too based on the clients needs or budget. I still do the same today. Guess what, they still do the same for me. Here are 6 rules to follow to make your completion a good source for new business. Hit the "Read more..." link below for the rest of the story.

1. Never talk negative about them in any way. Remember: What goes around comes around.
2. If a client books one of your competitors, ask who it was and let the client know that you know their work and they should be very happy with the results. Our clients book us for our style, artistry and sometimes our prices just won't work for the budgets. Don't get your feeling hurt if they don't book you. Use the news to show what a true professional you really are. Congratulate them on their photographer selection. Again, what goes around, comes around. Many times I have gotten referrals from potential clients that didn't book us, say because of her budget, but will happily send a friend with a larger budget because we were acted in such a professional manner.
3. If the competition ever gets in a bind and needs help, be happy to oblige if you can when asked. About ten years ago, I went into the hospital for surgery - I had weddings booked over the two weekends I was down. My competition (and friends) jumped right in and not only offered to help, they actually worked the events. What goes around, comes around again.
4. When ever the competition needs a favor, like borrowing a lens, second camera, frame, album pages, etc., always help out if you can.
5. Did I say never, never, never talk negatively about the competition? This applies even if you don't care for them. What you can say is, "Johnson Studios just takes a different approach than us." You are being neither approving nor disapproving with this neutral remark. At least it wasn't negative - and never should be.
6. If the job doesn't fit the services you provide, recommend the best person for the job in your area. I don't do much commercial work, so when I get that kind of call, we send it on to 1 or 2 qualified photogs who can routinely handle it. It's always appreciated.

Hey everybody, that's it for today. Have a great one and I see you tomorrow with a really unusual post, "Inspiration and Relaxation Friday." See you then. -David

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

"Westin Electric"

"Westin Electric"
© David A. Ziser

I just stumbled across this image while browsing threw a collection of travel images from a few years ago. It was one of my favorites and reminded me of some incredible memories from the trip. It was created while on our first trip to Cabo San Lucas. We were heading out to dinner with friends at this beautiful Westin resort. The building's sleek architecture, color, and lines was an amazing visual feast especially in the twilight hour. This image was made on the Westin property while heading to the our restaurant. It was a handheld exposure at a very slow shutter speed. Yes, I took several to be assured of at least one sharp image. I cropped the image so that one's eye is drawn into the curves, color, and textures of the scene. The view is as striking to me now as it was then. Camera specs; Fuji S2 fitted with a Tamron 24-135mm lens at 24mm, F3.5 @ 1/4 second, ISO 800.
Enjoy! -David

It's Wonderful, It's Marvelous, It's Guest Blogger Wednesday Over At Scott's Place

That's right gang, Scott Kelby emailed me a few weeks ago and invited me to be his guest blogger this week - Wow, what an honor. I have to admit, I was a bit nervous being in the company of all the big guns that posted before me - Vincent Versace, Joe McNally, John Paul Caponigro, and Moose Peterson. Man, those guys were writing more words in their posts than I had in my vocabulary.

Hey, all joking aside, the topic I had in my mind from the start was, "What Does It Take To Be A Complete Wedding Photographer." As I proceeded with the article and reflected on what I was writing, it turns out that the points in the post speaks to everyone who wants to excel at anything, not just wedding photography. But instead of me starting to re-write the post again here, why not head over to Scott's place to read, "What Does It Take To Be A Complete Wedding Photographer."
Interesting why my post is in a different font too - wedding photogs must be special!!

Enjoy! -David

p.s. Thanks to everyone for their generous comments and nice remarks, too.

Some Quick Answers From Yesterday's Lighting Tutorials

Every post usually has it's share of comments and all are appreciated. The two lighting posts, the one I did last Tuesday and this week's Technique Tuesday raised a few more questions than usual so let me clear the air on some of the points that were raised. Here we go...

Q: In the examples you show, I assume that you didn't gel the flash, which separates your subject from the background nicely. Are there situations where you prefer to gel?

DAZ: I prefer shooting daylight balanced flash when doing these kind of images. With the camera balanced to the flash, the subject pops out from the background. Do I ever use filtered flash? Check out, "I'm Jellin' With My Zoom Flash" right here.

Q: One quick question, in the second video you were using wireless radio triggers to remotely fire the flash's, yet you still use ETTL to fire the main flash. Is the off camera flash in manual mode, or is it also in ETTL?

DAZ: Even though my Quantum can be set up to run in ETTL mode, I prefer it in manual mode. In manual mode, I have complete control over the flash's output. Relying on ETTL may blow a shot now and then and I don't want that to happen. Yes, the on-camera flash is always on ETTL, but more importantly my camera is always in manual mode whenever a flash is being used for the same reason as stated above. It allows me more control over the finished image.

Q: How high up off the ground does the assistant hold up the umbrella 6ft?

DAZ: The off-camera light source should always be slightly above the faces of those it is illuminating. Too high - you will cause "raccoon eyes" and too low will create "Halloween" shadows on the background. Remember, if you've posed you groups on church steps, you still need to get the light above those heads. We use a 6 foot mono pod with the Quantum attached - sometime my assistant is holding it at full arm's reach over his/her head to get the light in the right position.

Q: I am assuming you are always using a tripod with these slow shutter speeds?

DAZ: Nope, I never carry a tripod to a wedding or family shoot these days. I stopped carrying a tripod when I started using image stabilized lenses. I can work much more quickly and the results are the same. It is true though that I am secretly working with Canon and Nikon to develop a tractor beam that attaches to the camera to hold the subjects still ;~)

Update On Summer Master Class

WOW! We are over $1000 in door prizes for the Summer Master Class coming up July 7-11, 2008. In fact, we have a little something for everybody. I've been told that we only have 3 seats left, so if you are at all interested, please give Jennifer or LaDawn a call at 800.292.2994 to register or to just get some additional info on this class or the Fall Master Class scheduled September 15-19. Remember the second person from the same family/studio saves $100. Also, if have have been to my class before, you can attend again and save $100. You can also get all the info right here. Hope to see you in class.

One last reminder, I'm doing my Marathon Press Webinar this evening at 8:00 p. m. Here is the link again for all the info. It promises to be at least 45 minutes of great info and 15 minutes of questions and answers.

Hey gang, that's it for me today. See everyone tomorrow for Business Day Thursday. What's the topic - Well, as requested, "If you were just starting out, how would you build your client base." See everyone tomorrow. -David

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

"Into The Future"

"Into The Future"
© David A. Ziser

This has always been one of my favorite images over the years. It also was taken a few years ago - back in my D1x days. I love the sky, the direction of light from the off-camera flash, and the beautiful confident expression on the bride's countenance. The clouds add their good measure of dramatics to the scene as the clearing storm promises fairer skies. Bottom line - I think it is a really nice portrait study of the subject. Camera specs; Nikon D1x fitted with 18-35mm lens at 18mm, F4.0 @1/50 second, ISO 400. Enjoy! -David

Technique Tuesday - Perfectly Perfect Lighting - Part 2 - Balancing Off-Camera Flash With On-Camera Flash

Good afternoon everybody,
Today we have the second part of our off-camera flash lighting tutorial. In this tutorial, I'll discuss placement of the second light when photographing groups, the amount of fill light from the on-camera flash to maintain the dimensional look I want to preserve, and the final tweak in Photoshop. It's a good one I hope you enjoy it. As I mentioned yesterday, I'll keep it on the front page this time so it doesn't get missed. I've also posted last week's Part 1 on the front page too so if you missed it, watch it first, then hit Part 2. Anyway just enjoy! -David

Here is Part 1.

More Cool Photoshop Goodies For All The Goodies Collectors - Brushes, Patterns, and More Fonts

I know too much of a good thing may not be a good thing, but I'm posting them all anyway. I ran across these links awhile back and never got them posted so this is our lucky day. Check out the waaay cool tutorials over at Their designs are simply out of this world - well worth the look. Here is the link right here.

Wait, there's more - check out more than 14 pages of very useful and free brushes over at Just looking at all of them will keep you busy for days. Here is the Brusheezy link right here. While you are there, hit the Patterns tab at the top of page and you get 2 full pages of patterns available. Here is the short cut to that link right here.

Wait, I've still got one more exciting link to explore. Back in May, I posted a link to over 7800 Fonts - here is that link again. I know you're thinking I may still need more - no problem. Check out this link to FontsForPeas right here. OK, now here is the best part. As of today, Kevin and Amanda - they run the sight - will be happy to turn your own handwriting into a font too - pretty cool. Follow their instructions to the letter and you can get your own personalized font!

By the way, there is still time to sign up for my Webinar tomorrow evening - Wednesday - 8:00 p.m. CST over at Marathon Press. Here is the info and link right here.

Hey gang, that's it for me today. Head on back tomorrow - more good stuff. Adios, -David

Monday, June 16, 2008

"Stairway To Beauty"

"Stairway To Beauty"
© David A. Ziser

I made this image a few years ago when I was shooting Nikon cameras. The client flew my team to New York to photograph the wedding at the Ritz Carlton at Battery Park. It was a magnificent event from start to finish. This image was made before the wedding ceremony, just an easy image of the bride by herself on the stairway of the Ritz Carlton. The window light supplied the perfect illumination for the image. The leading lines of the location lead the viewers eyes directly to the subject at the bottom of the composition. The lighting, location, composition, color and great expression made for a beautiful wedding image. Camera specs; Nikon D1x fitted with 18-35mm lens at 31mm, F4.5 @ 1/125 second, ISO 400.
Enjoy! -David

Monday - HOT NEWS, The Missing Tutorials, And The Weekend Browse

Good Morning Everybody,
Good to see everybody back from what I hope was a great weekend. Well, I've been running the blog in a bit more condensed fashion this past week - more stories rolled into one post. Let's keep it moving along that way for a while and you guys let me know what you think. Also, the past two weeks has brought quite a surprise to me for the Technique Tuesday videos. Generally they get about 25,000 to 40,000 views.

The last two have only got 2500 views. I placed them after the "read more..." jump and I think they got missed so I'm bringing them back to the main page this week. Here are the links to the tutorials you may have missed.
Best Studio Setup For Sales
Perfectly Perfect Lighting - Part 1

Just a quick note on the Skribit suggestion widget on the right - we have several new suggestions so far and I'll be reporting on them soon. You can add additional suggestions and/or vote on the existing topic ideas as well - so let your voice be known.

Now some HOT NEWS! I'm on the air, I'm on the air! When - this Wednesday - 8:00 p.m. CST. And, yes you can even ask me questions. My buddies at Marathon Press have just started a series of webinars featuring some of the leading speakers in the country including Bruce Hudson, Vickie Taufer, Andre Amyot, Julia Woods, and Helen Yancy just to name a few. They have quite a line-up scheduled already. Here is the link to register and see what speakers are coming up. Check it out, I hope to see you Wednesday at 8:00 p.m. CST.

What else is happening. Have you checked out I received a call several weeks ago asking if I could forward parts of my Photoshop World power points down to NAPP World Headquarters. The guys have some new project going on and they wanted me to be a part of it. Well, here is the deal. If you are a NAPP member you can go to the April Orlando Photoshop World practically for free, well sort of.

Excerpts from many of the programs, the parties, the Tech Expo - can now all be viewed in the privacy of your own computer screen. NAPP has put together a compilation video of all the happenings of that wonderful week in April. I just checked it out and it's pretty cool. A lot of the instructors are featured, including yours truly, for 10 - 15 minute segments.

What's also cool is the behind the scenes look at Midnight Madness, After Hours Party, Portfolio Review, and a ton more. You've got to be a member of NAPP to view the presentation though. There are 26 segments in all about 2 1/2 hours. It's all fun to watch, plus you get to learn something new along the way and you just may decide to head out to Las Vegas in September for the next Photoshop World. All REALLY good stuff.

And now from the "Weekend Web Cruise" - I know some people call it a link roundup but it still a quick listing of a few items I found pretty darn interesting for our readers. Here we go.
Here is a thought provoking article on 10 Reasons Professional Photographers Charge What They Do. Being a pro photographer myself, I think this piece hits the nail on the head. Give it a read right here.

If you are into HDR, Matt Kloskowski had a great post last week just brimming with his thoughts and overflowing with his favorite links on the HDR subject right here. But wait, there's more. Be sure to survey Matt's Comments section of the post too. Many of his readers have left several additional links to more HDR sites. This is something that has intrigued me as of late and Matt's article is a great resource on the subject. Check it out.

Still got more time on your hands, then check out a recent post over at - 60 Photography Links You Can't Live Without right here. Of course DigitalProTalk is glaringly absent from the list, so just how good could it be anyway ;~) Besides that obvious oversight, it's a good read with some great links.

Hey gang, that's it for today. Stop by tomorrow for Perfectly Perfect Lighting - Part 2. This weeks topic will cover how to balance you off camera flash exposure with your on camera flash. See you then, -David