Friday, April 30, 2010

"Showing My Sunny Disposition"

Showing My Sunny Disposition

"Showing My Sunny Disposition"
©David A. Ziser

Here is one of the images I made on Wednesday during my Master Class. We were on the the top of the pavilion at Ault Park about 4 o'clock in the afternoon on a bright sunny day - nasty conditions for wedding photography. There was barely a cloud in the sky, so what do you do to get the shot?  My quick answer is, When ever outdoors, always backlight the subject."  That way she won't be squinting into the sun.  Since her face is in shadows, I can easily bring in my off-camera flash to add the key light to her face. I like to use small F stops and fast shutter speeds to really darken the sky. This adds quite the dramatic look to the image. I love how the clouds seem to lead right to my bride. I also like how the sun gives us a little accent light to the right side of her gown. Camera specs: Canon 7D fitted with 10-22mm lens at 22mm, F 22 @ 1/200 second, ISO 200. Light coming from camera right - Quantum Trio at full power (80 w.s.) about 6 feet away. Enjoy!  -David

Friday: The Week In Review

Good Morning Everybody,

0001-DAZ MC Spr10-John_WGS1716 Today is out last day of my Digital Master Class. We had a great week and I think everyone enjoyed themselves.  As a matter of fact, that's Jesica from B&H jumping for joy because she was having so much fun;~)

It was a fun week and we all put in some long hours.  Robert, one of our attendees, was telling us on Wednesday about how he was so engrossed in working on his Tuesday images, that time sort of slipped by that evening.  He knew it was getting late so he thought he should be "hitting the sack."  Just as he was about to turn in he heard showers being turned on in the adjacent rooms. Whoops! He had worked through the entire night on images he had taken the day before.  That's what I call student dedication.  Everyone had a good giggle.

Today I thought I'd share with you a few of the students' images so you get an idea what goes on during the week.  Here we go.

I love this first image that Robert took during our Tuesday shoot.  I love the blowing of the hair and veil.  The bride’s simple expression, the background, and soft lighting all make for a great shot.0002-DAZ MC Spr10-Robert Ash - Rebecca on wall Craig, one of my coaches, found this great urban setting while we were shooting in downtown Cincinnati. The class loved the location and got some great shots. Don captured this fun shot near the same location.

0003-DAZ MC Spr10-Ziser.Day2.Don.Race-2

The next day we headed to Ault Park for an entire day of shooting.  With lots of time and my four coaches working with each person individually, we tried to give everyone an opportunity to capture and create some nice images.  One of my favorites is this one by Jost.

I love how he found the slight opening in the foliage, positioned Leonora right in that spot and shot away.  He has her carefully positioned at nodal point #2 which gives a nice visual balance to the scene.

I really love this next shot. Because we were in the park on a very bright sunny day, you just like on a wedding day you have to make the best of the situation.  One of the best solutions is to make the sun your friend.

0005-DAZ MC Spr10-Jeff_POR3658That’s exactly what Jeff did in this image.  He used the sun as the main light getting this great result.  Look how rich and blue the sky looks because of his sunny day exposure.  Another thing I love about this shot is how he used lines to finesse his composition. The bride leaning to the right is complimented with the groom leaning in the opposite direction.  The strong clouds lines add the final touch to a great shot.

Stephan captured this great shot of Leonora. I’m not quite sure how Stephan lit the image – either with off-camera flash or with our Westcott reflectors, but is a beautiful image.  I love the sun supplying the accent light, and how he threw the background out of focus with his long lens and wide aperture too.  Having a gorgeous subject didn’t hurt either ;~)

0004-DAZ MC Spr10-Stephen_4 After we left Ault Park, we headed up to Drees Pavilion.  This is one of the most popular places in the city for photographs.  The view down the Ohio River Valley is spectacular. 

Bryant made this great image with my Z-Ray technique [link]. A tungsten high intensity flashlight illuminates our subject with the camera color balance set to 3200 Kelvin.  The non-tungsten part of the scene goes blue because of the color balance setting on the camera resulting in a very dramatic night time bridal portrait.

0007-DAZ MC Spr10-Bryant - 2BA23619

You know, I say early in the week, that the lighting techniques I teach during my class are not “rocket science”. The type of light source does not make much difference.  It’s always about the direction of light – how it hits the subject and how it creates that dimensional look to the scene that makes all the difference.

I loved what Stephanie said yesterday afternoon. She said, “I was really frustrated, I just wasn’t getting it. But I kept at it and finally later in the day, it finally all came together for me and THAT is exciting.”

And when it does come together, it really is exciting.  This week provided a couple of nice surprises for me, too.  I picked up on a brand new lighting technique I have hardly ever used. I’ll tell you about in next week so stay tuned.  I always said, “One of best ways to learn is to teach.” The energy of the entire class, from students and teacher alike, results in a great learning experience for all.

Our next Digital Master Class will be held in October.  We haven’t nailed down the exact date yet, but it’s looking like that 3rd or 4th week in October. I’ll let you know as soon as we have it on the books.  If you are interested, give Jennifer a call at 800.292.2994 to reserve your seat. I hope to see you in the fall.


Hey gang, that’s it for me today.  Class starts in just a few minutes.  Today we wrap at noon but not before we give away about $1000 worth of door prizes – yep, $1000 worth.  I told you we have a great time during my Master class.

Adios Everybody,  -David

Thursday, April 29, 2010

"Magnificent Beauty"

Magnificent Beauty

"Magnificent Beauty"
©David A. Ziser

This image was made during Tuesday’s session. I told you we were working to some beautiful locations. I used a very wide angle lens for this shot. I wanted the view to encompass the stained glass window, the largest hand painted stained glass window in North America, by the way. I also wanted to pick up the architectural features of the front of the cathedral too. The soaring walls and pillars created by the wide angle lens' perspective adds the overall dramatic impact to the shot. Light was from camera right, a Quantum Trio shooting through my Zumbrella. Camera specs: Canon 7D fitted with 10-22mm lens at 10mm, F 5.6 @ 1/80 second, ISO 800. Enjoy!  -David

Business Day Thursday: Give The Money Back Or Not? --Updated

Good Morning Everybody,

We had another great shoot yesterday and wrapped about 9:15 p.m. last night.  I think everyone was pretty "beat" - me included ;~)  We reviewed the classes best images yesterday and there were some beautiful images in their set. I'm planning to share a few of their good ideas with you next week and show you what we were up to this week. I think you'll like what I've got in store, so be sure to check back. Tonight we all get back together at our home for a great dinner and a little R&R - that should be fun, too.

Hey, I'm running a bit behind today because of the long day yesterday so let's get right to today's post.  Let me know your take on my friend's situation in the comment section below. Here we go...

Give The Money Back Or Not?

Money - Fotolia_798663_Subscription_L Last week I received an email from a good friend of mine asking my advice on a "customer service" issue that had popped up in his business.  He felt he had a client that was about to sue him - yep, it was a BIG "customer service" issue.

He also had forwarded me the email correspondence that had transpired between the both of them. Here is the basic story recap:

He got a call from a high school senior, let's call him Bob, about shooting his senior photos.  My friend, let's call him Tom, was happy to oblige.  He recently started his business and was looking to book all the sessions he could.

Tom explained his studio policies to Bob and asked Bob, who was at the legal age of 18, to sign the agreement which laid out the policies of the studio and the price for the shoot, $300.00. Everyone was happy and Tom got some great shots of Bob. I saw them myself and they were really good. Tom forwarded the images to Bob who seemed very excited about them as well. Everything was shaping up into a great studio/client relationship, or so Tom thought.

A few days had gone by and then Tom gets his first communication, an email, from Bob's mother. She was quite insulting about what she felt was not a good set of photographs and she wanted the $300.00 back. My friend Tom responds in an email to Bob's mom that stated that Bob, being of sound mind and legal age, entered into the binding contract, loved the photos, and was not entitled to give her a refund. Let me say that his response was in no way offensive. He was simply "sticking to his guns" as per his studio policy.

Hit the "Read More..." link below for the rest of the story.

Bob's mother fires off another email to my friend Tom - this time she "amped it up" even more.  My friend Tom, wrote back a lengthy response outlining the entire episode from booking, to shooting, to delivering the images to HIS happy customer.  There was still no reason for him to make the refund - he had fulfilled his contractual arrangement and his customer was happy.

One more email from Bob's mother - this time things are fully "amped up".  Shortly after the mother's last email I get an email from my friend Tom, who by the way,  had forwarded me copies of all the emails.  He tells me that he feels he is going to get sued, could I PLEASE offer some advice?

OK, what would you do? You've got a signed copy of your policy agreement, $300.00, and a happy customer - Bob. It's the mother that's upset - do you give the money back?

Folks, I writing on this topic today because it speaks to how we all should handle our own customer service issues. Is the customer always right? Should the money be returned? How should we or could we have handled this situation to keep it from getting out of hand?

First, let me offer you one very important observation I've learned over the years. You can't learn much about customer service from happy clients. You learn your greatest customer service lessons from your most difficult and most demanding clients.  Do not shy away from these kinds of situations if they come up, and I guarantee you, they will come up a number of times in your business career.  Embrace the challenge, think through your approach to the issue, and plan for it to have a amicable outcome.

OK, how would I have handled the situation?

He are my Eight Steps To Handling Difficult Customers.

1. NEVER, EVER become involved in an adversarial relationship with your customer - EVER!!! It is a sure way not to torpedo any kind of reasonable outcome.

2. After being contacted by the customer, try to analyze what the essential issues are. Try to determine how severe the issues are. Sometimes the problems can look bigger that they are and there probably is an easy solution that satisfies both you and your client.

3. If a customer is upset with some level of your product or service, NEVER respond with an email!  Emails are the least efficient way to secure a solution to any kind of problem and can sometimes have a very damaging effect on the final outcome, as my friend Tom found out last week.

4. ALWAYS plan at least a phone call response to the customer.  If it’s a particularly serious issue you are trying to resolve, plan to do it at a personal, face to face meeting. 

5. When calling the distressed client back, always be upbeat and positive. Your main message should always be, "Don't worry about a thing. I promise we'll get things resolved."  Let your customer hear the words from your mouth and feel the words from your heart. Emails don't let you do that in the slightest sense. Words can be communicated in an email, but your feelings can only be effectively  communicated by the tone of  your voice and voice inflections in that phone conversation.

6. Most important - Give your customer a "good listen". Verbally nod affirmatively that you understand the issues the client is trying to communicate to you. You can verbally nod your understanding of the issues by simply repeating back short snippets of what the customer is telling you.

7. Once you fully understand the issues you are set to work with your client on reaching an amicable solution. That solution could include refunds, allowances, additional photography, additional photographs, or any combination of the above.

8. Remember, working towards a good customer solution is a process. You don't want to be reactive, you want to be proactive in reaching that win-win solution.

In all my years in business, there has never been a time when I haven't been able to achieve a reasonable solution. Sometimes, if you really messed up, a heartfelt apology along with #7 above will get the problem solved, too.

So what did I advise my friend Tom to do in his situation? I scolded him slightly for all his email responses and told him he needed to talk to Bob's mother personally. And, if she is still really upset after the telephone conversation just make the refund and be finished with it.

I was amazed when he told me he had asked the same advice of several other people and I was the only one to suggest he refund the money. You know, life is too short to fill it with hassles.  His email solution and his re-iterating the facts to Bob's mother in follow-up emails only served to escalate the situation. 

Most customers who are upset about your product or service mostly just want to have their complaint heard. Once you get past that, making them happy again is not that difficult to do.

Think about it yourself. You are really upset about something and call customer support. Don't you really remember the customer service folks that give you a good "listen".  And, you get to a workable solution much more quickly, don't you?

I love the word "disarming". I had a client years ago who commented that my studio manager was so "disarming" meaning that she listened and effectively "dis-armed" him - made him put down his "arms" - so she could reach the solution to the problem which was, by the way , for him to pay his bill. Be "disarming" when communicating with your client about their problem.

Back to my friend Tom - where did he go wrong with the shoot? The pictures looked great. Bob loved them. Tom only made one small mistake. He was only shooting for Bob.  When you are shooting high school seniors, you are shooting for the high schoolers and their moms and grandparents. Kent and Sarah Smith said it best two weeks ago in my Business Day Thursday post, "Doing It Right - Part 1". Watch it again right here and you'll see what I mean.


I just recently talked with my friend Tom about how his situation resolved.  Well, he had a real phone conversation with Bob’s mother, offered an apology for the fact that she did not like the images, suggested that he would be happy to suggest another photographer who might shoot images closer to the style she was looking for, gave her a good “listen”, and offered to refund the $300.00.

Bob’s mom apologized for having gotten so upset, thanked him for the call, got to tell her side of the story, said she hoped there would be no hard feelings between them – and took the refund.

That’s how it is suppose to work and it did.  Sometimes you have to get personal – and that’s always the best way to offer customer service.


Hey gang, that's it for me today.  My class starts in about an hour and guess what, we're talking business today ;~)

See everybody tomorrow, -David

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

"The Beauty Of Your Smile"

The Beauty Of Your Smile

"The Beauty Of Your Smile"
©David A. Ziser

Here is an image I made yesterday of one of our beautiful models.  The lighting was supplied by a bank of nearby windows camera left.  I had the bride positioned far enough away from the window in order to reduce the contrast of the scene.  Too close to the window and the highlights would have overpowered the shadows yielding a really contrasty image.  Remember, for window light shooting, highlight density is determined by the proximity of the subject to the window.  The shadows are NOT based on proximity to the window and remain constant as they are the result of the light bouncing around the room and filling the shadow side of the subject.  With my bride in this position, I was also able to work with the background elements for a really flattering window light portrait of my bride. Camera specs: Canon 7D fitted with 18-200mm IS lens at 70mm, F5.0 @ 1/30 second handheld, ISO 1600.  Enjoy!  -David

PhotoFavs Wednesday: Shooting A Wedding Cowboy Style

Good Morning Everybody,

WOW! What a day shooting yesterday - our models were handsome and gorgeous, our locations were fantastic, and the class loved it!  Today we head out on Day Two of shooting with the class.  We are hitting a few very nice parks with lots of great places to shoot.  Today is our LONG 12 hour day since we don't wrap till about an hour after the sun goes down so we can shoot the Cincinnati skyline at dusk - always a prize winner in the camera by the end of the day.

That said, I want to get right into today's post for you.  It's about a really clever mount for your camera and really makes easy work of camera handling when shooting a wedding.  Please read on.

Shooting A Wedding Cowboy Style

At the WPPI Convention, I ran into an old friend whom I hadn't seen in a while.  Anyway, he sees me and comes up and says "Hi". We had a nice visit and then he proceeds to lead me over to this booth showing this very clever camera rig for holding your camera.  It's called the Spider Camera Holster [link].

0001-Spider-3668-DZ_Cohen,Will B10 I strapped it on and gave it a try.  It really was pretty cool how it worked.  I took one home with me and couldn't wait to try it on my next shooting assignment. That happened a couple of weeks ago when I strapped it on for a multi-day Bar Mitzvah I was shooting.  Wow, did it make life easy.

I generally shoot with two cameras at an event - one for the regular shots and the other is my "available light" camera with a 50mm F1.4 lens on it.  I leave the "available light" camera around my neck, which after a while, becomes a bit uncomfortable.  I know there are other straps available but they just don't look good when you're wearing a suit at a wedding.  Ya' know, you've got to look good when your shooting ;~)

0003-Spider-3673-DZ_Cohen,Will B10 Anyway, the Spider comes with a sumo wrestler type belt for the really heavy camera rigs.  That's fine, but remember. you've got to look good on the job.  As I unpacked the Spider, I discovered that I didn't need to use the sumo wrestler belt.  I could just attach it to my regular belt which I did.  After a few tries, I found that I could "draw" my camera out like a "six shooter" and be firing in no time.  I also found that with a little practice, I could "holster" it back to my side quickly and with relatively little effort.

0006-Spider-3683-DZ_Cohen,Will B10 It just worked like a charm all weekend.  I used it again last week in Cabo, Mexico on a family portrait shoot, and all day yesterday during my Master Class.  It is just soooo convenient to have the second camera hanging off of my belt. I sure wish I would have found the Spider earlier and have saved years of neck stress and discomfort.  I give it "two thumbs" way up for shooting events.

0005-Spider-3676-DZ_Cohen,Will B10 Check out Spider's site right here and give their video a watch too.  Then check out my video below to see it in action - shooting a wedding cowboy style. All in good fun.


Hey gang, that's it for me today, we've got a long day, but it should be a blast.  I'll see everybody tomorrow for another episode of Business day Thursday.  Tomorrow's topic, "Should You Give The Money Back?' You'll like the read.

See ya' then,  -David

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

"Heading Home"

Heading Home-IMG_9043

"Heading Home"
©David A. Ziser

I can't believe I’m posting another shot from 37,000 feet, but I kept coming back to this shot when reviewing the images I made on our trip last week.  I just love the colors and the simplicity of the composition.  It's mostly the graduation of tones that continues to intrigue me in this image.  Looking out the opposite plane window, I could see the last vestiges of the 5 mile high sunset, but on my side the subtle colors were even more beautiful.  What makes this image even more interesting is the fact that of the previous and following image in the shooting sequence, this is the only image in which the plane's wing caught just a glimpse of the light on the wingtip, kind of cool. The image was not overly processed in Lightroom other than a slight Vibrancy tweak and just a little push in the Purple channel. It's always amazing to me how varied the views are from the window seat of a plane. Never book the aisle seat for me. Camera specs; Canon 7D fitted with 18-200mm IS lens at 20mm, F3.5 @ 1/30 second, ISO 250.  Enjoy!  -David

Technique Tuesday: One Light Window Light - Simple Portrait Lighting

Good Morning Everybody,

Class notes - Fotolia_5212268_Subscription_XL Our class is officially underway and off to a great start.  We have such a variety of talent across all walks of life in the class, it should be an exciting  and informative for all of us.  You know, attending a workshop like my Master Class is a learning experience for all of us – myself included.  More importantly, I want to say the learning that takes place is not just from my instruction, but from the genuine interaction of all the class members too.  It’s that synergy that makes for a much richer experience for all of us – teacher and student alike.

Today we head out for our all day shoot and are planning to visit some beautiful locations. I'll do the preliminary shooting to give everyone and idea of how I would handle the situation.  Then I'll step aside and let the class go for it, with my "coaches" standing by to offer guidance and assistance.  Last  fall we gave this concept a try and everyone loved it.

This time around we hired more models.  I'm really hoping the class goes home with some great portfolio images.  We'll see how they did tomorrow ;~)

Hey, time to get on with today's Technique Tuesday. Here we go...

One Light Window Light - Simple Portrait Lighting

A few weeks ago I was shooting a Bar Mitzvah for some of my favorite clients. Part of that shoot included the family portrait session on Thursday afternoon at the synagogue. I set up a portable studio complete with a painted studio background. I still use the background to bring continuity to the shoot - I've used it for the other three siblings Bar/Bat Mitzvahs too.

Anyway, my lighting setup has changed over the years.  I used to use a Paul Buff White Lightning 600 as my main studio light. I placed it in a Westcott 42 inch Halo.  I filled the shadows with a 36 inch Westcott reflector on a light stand.  this has been my standard studio setup for years.

0001-CBTL-IMG_1765DAZNOTE: This is actually this same set up I show in my book, "Captured By The Light" in Chapter 1.

Over the years, I've always been looking for more portable ways to go on location when shooting portraits. A few months ago I used my Zumbrella.  It worked very well but I had to be careful not to cast it's shadow on the background.

I've been working with Westcott on a new product. I'm calling it my Z-Cloud. It's an extra large 60 inch Zumbrella that actually folds smaller than my 42 inch Zumbrella - way cool. More later on the Z-Cloud as development continues. 

Anyway, Westcott sent me a prototype to experiment with.  I decided to see how I might work in a one light portrait setup.  I figured that if I could shoot through it with my Quantum T5d strobe in "bare-bulb" mode, I just might pull it off.

Well, my idea worked just fine.  I created a 60 inch light source which gave me a very nice soft quality of light on the subject almost like window light.   And, it reduced the specularity or "shininess" on the subjects considerably - a nice added benefit which reduced the image retouching time in post production.

Want to see how I put the One Light Window Light studio together and see the results, hit the PLAY button below and enjoy the show.

Pretty cool, don't you think?  I'm always trying to keep it simple and my one light window light is really pretty simple and gives a great result.  A reflector probably would have helped, but my Lightroom trick worked just fine getting to a great result for my clients.


Hey gang, that's it for me today.  We’ve got a big day at my Digital Master Class so I've got to get moving. I’ll have an image or two to share with you tomorrow.  I'm packing my gear bag and heading out the door.

See everybody tomorrow, same time, same station,

Adios, -David

Monday, April 26, 2010

"Houston Blues"

Houston Blues-IMG_9027

"Houston Blues"
©David A. Ziser

I made this image while traveling back home from Cabo, Mexico over the weekend. We had just cleared Customs and were making our way to the next gate.  I think we walked half way home through the Houston airport;~).  I've been through the Houston airport many times but not through this section. The soaring curves of the ceiling offset by the vertical elements really made for an exciting composition. People were pushing past me but I still managed to pull off this shot.  I shot in vertically and horizontally thinking I'd like the vertical shot the best.  This horizontal version emphasized the blue curve elements even more and I think it is the stronger composition.  Camera specs: Canon 7D fitted with 18-200mm IS lens at 35mm, F8.0 @ 1/60 second, ISO 640.  Enjoy!  -David

Quick Hit Monday: More On LR3 Noise Reduction; New PS Actions; Seeing Differently; Recession Time Turn Around

Good Morning Everybody,

We arrived home safe and sound - and tired - Saturday after a full day, nearly 12 hours of traveling.  Clearing Customs in Houston was quite the experience.  I have never seen  the travelers lines so long!  It took over an hour for us to clear! 

I asked the customs agent about all the travelers.  He said that since the air corridors have opened back up over Europe, it's been that way and worst the last few days.  Hey, I bet our travel buddies from Europe didn't care how long the lines were. I'm sure they were just happy to be back home.

We traded in our Cabo sunshine for rainy day Cincy, but heck, even the rain looks good when you're back home;~)

Today we begin my Digital Master Class once again with a full rooster of attendees from around the USA. It will be a good week I'm sure. I'll try to get a Cabo pic or two up this week along with a few of my shots from the class.

Posting this week should be pretty much back to normal but no guarantees with the long  hours spent in class and the short time available for blogging. I've got some good things planned for the week so we should be pretty much OK.

That said, let's get on with quick Monday.  Here we go...

Lightroom 3 Noise Reduction, Up Close and Personal:

Last Tuesday I did a short tutorial touting the noise reduction characteristics of Adobe's Lightroom 3.  Here is the link to the video right here.   0001-Noise-3171-DZ_Cohen,Will B100002-Noise-3171-DZ_Cohen,Will B10A few of you commented that it would be helpful to see some really close close-ups since the video didn't do the superior noise reduction capabilities of LR3 justice.  You wish is my command.  Check out the close up "befores  and afters" and be amazed!!!!

Oh, at 12,800 ISO by the way!

Great New Photoshop Actions

Craigs Actions I've mentioned Craig Minielly and his wonderful sets of actions at DPT a few times.  Craig and I always visit when we see each other at the various conventions throughout the year.  Anyway, I just received a notice that he has introduced a brand new set of actions and they look great.  Check them out right here.

Craig's Actions have been voted as the Best Camera Processing Software by Professional Photographer Magazine - definitely worth the peek. 

Symmetry - A Different Way To See

Anyone following this blog knows I like posting more that just wedding images as evidenced in today's post. When I'm just out shooting for myself, I'm always looking for lines, shapes, and forms.  I like seeing how light bends and blends around curved surfaces.  It's just kind of fun for me to "look" at things that way.

Symmetry Another favorite compositional technique I use is symmetrical composition.  Look again at today's image of the day to see symmetry in action.  Well, here is a link right here to a post over at Beyond Phototips which features 20 images based on symmetrical composition.

Got some great samples showing symmetries - throw them up on our DigitalProTalk Flickr site right here for us all to see. Just be sure to tag each image with the word "symmetry".  If we get enough images, I may just award a $25.00 B&H Gift certificate to my favorite image.  Tell you what - let' have some fun and let the challenge run for two weeks and see what might get posted.  Two weeks should give everyone plenty of time to find a favorite to shoot and post.

Recession Time - Something To Think About

Last week I mentioned that my buddy Skip Cohen and three others had started a new site called Ghostwrites where he and his co-partners will assist you in writing and design of your blog posts, newsletters, websites and more.

MEI2 Anyway, Skip is a person of many talents, continues to author a fascinating blog called Marketing Essentials International.  It's purpose is to point it’s readers to more effective marketing and success.  A few weeks back he did a thought provoking piece about the recession and what photogs can do about it.  Here is the link right here.  Reading the article will really give you pause, evaluate your processes and systems to see if you are doing all you can do to beat this recession and stay successful. Worth the read.


Hey gang, before I go, I want to send out a great big "Thank You" to Brian Auer over at Epic Edits for his rave review on my new photography book [link].  I regularly make the trip over to EpicEdits to see what's new - he always has some good information and a lot of great stuff going on. Thanks a bunch, Brian.

Well guys and girls, I've got to get scooting'.  Class starts in a few and I don't want to be late.  See everybody tomorrow for a very cool and super lighting tutorial.

See ya' then,  David

Friday, April 23, 2010

"A Study In White"

A Study In White - 0043

"A Study In White"
©David A. Ziser

I remember walking into the bride's parents home and being pleasantly surprised by all the lighter tones of the decor. It looked like a perfect place to take a beautiful "high key" portrait of the bride.  The flowers weren't available so I had her simply clasp her hands together for the shot.  Lighting was all natural pouring in through the windows and front door.  I positioned the bride on the empty space of the wall between the wall decor on the right and the wall shelving on the left.  I then recomposed the shot so that my subject's face would fall near the second "nodal point" - or top left part of the viewfinder. I turned her head slightly towards the light coming through the front door so that I could look for my loop lighting pattern on her face. Notice too how I have her body turned away from the light source so that the detail in the folds of her gown would be preserved. I thought it all came together very simply making a very beautiful portrait of our bride.  Camera Specs: Hasselblad fitted with Distagon 50mm lens, F5.6 @ 1/60 second, Kodak Vericolor 800 film. Illumination from open door camera right. Enjoy!  -David

Keeping The Faith: Presbyterian, Lutheran, Episcopalian, and More

Good Morning Everybody,

I can't believe this is our last full day in San Jose del Cabo. The weather has been perfect all week and the entire gang has enjoyed their stay. We head out tomorrow about noon and don't get back to Dayton, Ohio till about 10:00p.m. Then make the hour long drive back home. One day off and I start my Digital Master Class on Monday. That's always a good time too.

Friday Photo School Hey, on a completely different note, I got an email from Will Crocket about doing an episode on his brand new Friday Photo School. If you haven't checked it out yet, here is the link to some great education by some of the best instructors.

I talked with Will yesterday and it sounds like quite the operation he has put together. His FPS reaches over 6000 photogs worldwide on a monthly basis and continues to grow. It looks like I'll be scheduled the first Friday in August. It all sounds very exciting - I'll keep you posted.

OK, gang, time to get on with today's post. I've written it a bit differently than the last "Keeping the Faith" posts because of the similarity of two previous posts on Catholic and Baptist weddings.

This week I'm walking you through the service from start to finish and pointing out what to shoot and when. It provides a good overview of non-catholic Christians weddings and some shooting suggestions for good measure. So, let's get to it.

Keeping The Faith: Presbyterian, Lutheran, Episcopalian, and More

I already discussed Catholic weddings [link] and Baptist weddings [link]. Let's try to cover the rest of the bases today. Most non catholic Christian weddings are all pretty similar to the Baptist weddings which I discussed in a previous post.

The order of the events goes something like this.

Hit the “Read More…” link below for the rest of the story.

1. Music starts before the wedding - I always try to get a few shots of the guests arriving and being greeted by the parents. I also capture a few of the guests being seated and take a few over-all scene setters too.

2. Girls line up in the back of church. the bride may or may not be with the girls - she may be with her dad. This is a great time to get a few reportage types of shots.

3. The girls head down the aisle. Once they are all in place in the front of church, the church assistant will open the doors so that all the guests can see the Bride and her dad at the back of church. This is a good time to get some some great shots of bride and dad alone. Often there are shared glances and loving whispers.

ars09474. Bride and dad start down aisle. I position myself about half way down the aisle and take several shots of the bride and her dad both full length and close ups.

5. Next I move quickly to the left aisle, move quickly to the front of the church to catch the dad handing his daughter off to the groom. Dad will stop at the front of church, lift the veil from his daughter's face and give her a kiss.

6. He will shake the groom's hand and place his daughter's hand in the groom's hand. There is lots of action not to be missed. Be sure to get mom's reaction to the moments where the dad gives his daughter away. Be sure to get some great reactions from the groom too. It is OK to shoot all these with flash. We use a two flash set up to get a much more dimensional feel to the images.

7. My flash is now turned OFF until the bride and groom come back down the aisle at the end of the ceremony. I quickly make my way to the back of the church down a side aisle.

aws10848. Next there will be readings from special guests of honor. I always take photographs of the readers, but they are seldom purchased by the couple for the collection. I still take them because I think those images make for a more rounded coverage.

9. One we have the readings and a little more music, the minister will call up the wedding party to be with the wedding couple in the front of the church.

10. Everything proceeds pretty much like I described for the Catholic and Baptist weddings earlier. The minister will ask for the rings from the best man, I always try to get that shot, and then hand the bride's ring to the groom.

auz286711. Next will be the bride's turn to put the ring on the groom. These are super important shots to take. I usually use my 70-300mm IS DO lens on my Canon 7D. that gives me almost 500mm's of up close and personal shooting.

12. The wedding party will make their way back down to their seats after the exchange of the vows. Oh, I forgot to mention it, but I like to take the ring exchange shots from the balcony. Plus, don't forget to get a few overall shots as well as to range your focal lengths for good variety in the images.

avv288613. Now it's unity candle lighting time. Don't miss the bride and groom lighting the center unity candle. After lighting the candle, they will stand usually facing each other while a song is being played.

14. Now it's back to their regular position in the front of church where the service will continue sometimes with the Lord's prayer. OK, here is where things can get changed up a bit depending on the faith denomination of the church. The Catholics ALWAYS have a communion service if it is a full mass. And, the entire congregation participates.

15. Non-Catholic Christian weddings may have a communion service but only for the bride and groom. Pay attention to what's going on and don't miss the communion service if it takes place.

ayc127216. After the communion service, if it takes place, the ceremony wraps up with the minister saying a few final words and the music picking up again. The bride and groom are introduced to the congregation, they kiss, and begin the recessional up the aisle. Be sure to get lots of shots. I would suggest you re-read my post on Catholic weddings, link below.

That pretty much wraps up the services for a non-catholic wedding. They are about half as long, usually 20 – 30 minutes, as a catholic wedding so pay attention and be sure not to miss any of the ceremony's activities. In a nutshell, it's procession, readers, wedding vows, unity candle, prayer, and recessional with a few minor items sometimes added, but you should know what those items are based on your planning meeting with the bride and groom before the wedding.

Next week I wrap the series with a discussion on an Indian/Pakistani wedding. They are really fun to photograph and can be up to a four day event. So, stay tuned!


Hey gang, that's it for me today. This is our last day in paradise and we are going to make the best of it. I'll plan to see everyone back on the Kentucky side of Cincinnati next week.

Have a great weekend and I'll see ya' on Monday.

Adios Everybody, –David

Related Links:

Shooting Catholic Weddings [link]

Shooting Baptist Weddings [link]

Thursday, April 22, 2010

"Autumn's Amber Glow"

Autumn's Amber Glow - 2115 "Autumn's Amber Glow"
©David A. Ziser

How about one more image from my film days. This is one my last shots on film and I still love it. I was made during one of my Master Classes about ten years ago. The beautiful autumn setting provided this wonderful surrounds for this image. I learned from Rocky Gunn, the best wedding pictorialist I had ever met, that beautiful wedding images do not necessarily need to taken on the wedding day.  Rocky met with his couples after the wedding day to create his utterly beautiful images. It's interesting to note that the popular "trash the dress" sessions some photogs are doing these days is simply an extension of what Rocky popularized 30 years ago. This image typifies the style of image that one can take when not tied to all the wedding day constraints of time, weather, and circumstances. It's fun to just go out and play.  Backlight was supplied by my LumaDyne flash at 100 w.s - that was the flash I was using at the time. I metered the scene with my light meter and underexposed the scene by 1 1/2 stops.  It's so much easier to make those adjustments digitally these day;~) Camera Specs: Hasselblad fitted with Distagon 50mm lens, F5.6 @ 1/30 second, Kodak Vericolor 800 film.

Enjoy!  -David

Business Day Thursday: Doing It Right - Part 2

Good Morning Everybody,

officebeach We made the short drive into Cabo San Lucas yesterday and had a really easy day.  LaDawn's wrist is doing fine, not much pain, especially after a margarita at the Office ;~)

The interesting thing we've noticed on this trip is that we have not seen any of the gorgeous sunrises or sunsets that we see down here in November/December - uhmmm, no explanation. Nevertheless, the weather is perfect and the setting is relaxing.  I just hope I'm not too relaxed to begin my Master Class on Monday.

OK, time to get on with today's Business Day Thursday post.  Here we go...

Doing It Right - Part 2

KentPic3 Today's post is the second part of my conversation with Kent and Sarah Smith who own Kent Smith Photography. Last week they covered what they do to stay current in the ever changing senior market [link]  This week they'll discuss how they shoot and how they sell.  They have close to an $1,800 average on their senior sales, so they really know what they're talking about.

Hit the PLAY button below for the rest of their story.


Hey gang, that's it for me today.  I can't believe we are nearly at the end of our stay.  I’m taking it easy at the house today while the rest of the gang head out to do some snorkeling.  I haven't taken many photographs on this trip which I've been missing so I may get out later today to survey the sights.

Have a good one and I'll see ya' tomorrow for another installment of “Keeping The Faith."

See ya’ then,  -David

Related link: Doing It Right - Part 1 - [link]

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

"Perfectly Poised"

"Perfectly Poised"
©David A. Ziser

Here is another image I made back in my Nikon days.  It was a beautiful wedding at one of our most beautiful venues, the Netherland Hilton hotel in Cincinnati, Ohio.  We were scheduled to do all the wedding photographs before the ceremony - always the best way to get great shots.  The room was set and served as a wonderful back drop for the image of the bride alone. What I like the most is the symmetry of the image, the chairs, fabric, architecture, and the other leading lines presented here in the photograph.  Back in those days I was still using a tripod for my really slow "shutter drag" shots.  Lighting on the bride is coming in from camera left - Quantum through an umbrella at 1/4 power. The slower shutter speed picked up the ambient light nicely complimenting the overall image. Camera Specs: Nikon D1x fitted with 18-35mm lens at 30mm, F 5.6 @ 1/6 second (tripod), ISO 400.  Enjoy!  -David

Guest Blogger Wednesday: So Easy, Even A Caveman Can Do It

Good Morning Everybody,

Things are pretty much back to “vacation normal” after LaDawn’s motorcycle mishap on Monday and time is flying by way to fast down here in Mexico, but we are having a great time.  To ease my blogging responsibilities for this week, my Ace #1 Assistant, Nicholas Viltrakis offered to clone me today.  Thanks a bunch, Nicholas – very much appreciated by me and LaDawn.

Cave Country Nicholas and his wife Terri recently took a little vacation to Mammoth Caves, one of the wonders of the world – it really is. Nicholas didn’t like the result he was getting with his on camera flash.  He decided to try a few on my on-camera flash techniques to see if he could get a better result.  But, why don’t I let him tell you the rest of the story.

Take it away, Nicholas…

So Easy, Even A Cave Man Can Do It

As many of you know I’ve been helping David for the last few years  and I think I’m finally beginning to pick up some of the “how-to” of practical lighting. Canon is not exactly throwing gear at me for endorsements, so in the mean time… I’ll have to do it with less. Which brings me to the point of this post; my vacation to Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky.


Terri, my beautiful wife, wanted to see Mammoth Cave for her birthday this year and how could I say no? I mean, any scenic place, I’m there with my backpack crammed with 30lb of gear and two light stands! Portraits anyone?

Guide: What do we know about caves? Anyone? You there in the back?

Tourist: Well they’re holes in the ground that are cold, wet, dirty, and DARK!clip_image002

Which brings me to my next point; Portrait lighting in a cave just isn’t easy. Let’s face it most of us aren’t ever going to have someone book us for an event or portrait in a place as difficult as a cave, but the principles and techniques behind great portraits are the same in any situation!

Guide: Does anyone know what makes Mammoth Cave different from other caves?

clip_image003Tourist: There are people waiting in line all day to be hurriedly herded through this particular cave?

As if that wasn’t bad enough let me remind you that all of these portraits of my lovely and patient, patient wife were taken with the time constraints of a crowded “Historic Cave tour” or “Diamond Caverns tour” the latter of which our guide, Brent, claimed to have lead 18 times in one day. (Not a lot of “Hang on Mr. Park Ranger, I just need 30 more min to get my lighting right” going on.)

clip_image004What did we do? Well, I had the backpack of gear, but backpacks of any kind are prohibited on all Mammoth Cave tours. So I did what any photographer worth his salt does going to a concert or museum… I loaded my pockets down with lenses, a speed light, and a head-full of the teachings and spirit of David Ziser.

I have to explain to most people who ask me questions like “What’s the most valuable thing that David has taught you?” that, yes I have learned composition, lighting, and the math of the camera from David, but the most important thing I am beginning to realize is the attitude of “Make it happen!”clip_image006


(Tell you the truth we just used David’s side bounce technique, like this, and set the color balance to tungsten because the rocks were orange, but the story above… THAT’s way cooler!)


Here’s the math: I call this the side bounce technique because I had one of my inexpensive wireless radio transmitter/receivers (I mentioned in a previous DPT post) with me too for added distance, but the technique is exactly the same. For the most part the setup was my Canon 580EXII pointed at the cave wall 1/2 or 1/1 power. Camera: Canon 40D at ISO 800, F3.5 (10-22mm), and 1/3 sec hand held! Yep, the flash is fast enough to freeze the subject and if the background was a little fuzzy it was ok. Heck, we were in a cave! I could even make cool effects like this:


The obvious lesson here is that, “Even a caveman can use David’s on camera lighting techniques.”

My Blog Post: Nicholas Viltrakis (Mammoth Cave)



Hey Nicholas, once again, Thank you! -David

p.s. Don’t forget to check out Nicholas’ website right here and his weekly blog right here.  Thanks a bunch Nicholas!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

"On A Wing And A Prayer"

Wing and Prayer2-IMG_7908-Edit

"On A Wing And A Prayer"
©David A. Ziser

I made this Image from the plane window on the way to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico early Saturday morning. I remember that awful wakeup call at 3:00 a.m. And the hour drive to Dayton, Ohio to catch the flight at 6:55 a.m. - way too early for me. We finally boarded the plane and soon were on our way. I love the take offs, the rise into the clouds, and finally seeing the brand new "skyscape" that presents itself above the clouds. It's always different and always beautiful. And, that's how I felt about this particular morning's "skyscape" too. The view from my seat let me play with the wing's position in the composition either center or to the left of the shot. I chose the position to the left as shown here with the vibrant blue color leading the triangular shape of the wing. I also liked the graduation of tonalities at the "horizon line" and thought the colors would look good with an additional boost in Lightroom. That LR tweak completed the final touch to the image. Camera specs: Canon 7D fitted with 18-200mm IS lens at 18mm, F 8.0 @ 1/200 second, ISO 100. Enjoy, -David

Technique Tuesday: Noise, Noise Go Away In Lightroom 3, Broken Bones - OUCH, and More

Good Morning Everybody,

Three days down here, the weather is perfect and we don't want to come home. OK, only slightly kidding here.

That’s how today’s post was supposed  to begin – nice easy, talking about a little fun in the sun. That all changed abruptly yesterday at about 11:30 a.m. when LaDawn climbed aboard a small rental scooter, drove it for about 30 seconds, made a small turn, and then hit one of the very high curbs down here. The scooter went down and so did LaDawn.


She sustained a few minor scrapes, a big bruise to her pride, and one painful break to her wrist – OUCH! We spent all day yesterday in the hospital with the surgeon finishing up about 9:30 p.m. She now has a metal plate and several screws holding her two wrist bones together.  The prognosis is all positive – she should be good to go in a few weeks, and she is in good spirits. You can send your “well wishes” to if you’d like. The bad news – she can’t have a margarita till tomorrow ;~(

I think we are planning a very easy day today – no snorkeling, zip lining, or bungee jumping.  Anyway, that’s the latest update from San Jose del Cabo.  On with today’s post.

On The Road Blogging Much Easier

iWork LogoI will say, blogging on my new iPad, using, and Windows Live Writer sure makes things much easier than before in getting the posts up. The combo works like a charm. I could use the iPad to post directly to Blogger but I like how I can format things so easily with my combo set of blogging tools. And, the iPad is just WAY COOL to play with.

DRC Sale Ends Today

Hey, and don’t forget today is the last day for our SALE over at our Digital Resource Center. You can still save on my book, my Zumbrella, and lots more goodies.  Here is the main link right here.

I promised LaDawn not too much time on the blog today so let's get right to it. here we go...

Noisy Noise, Noise Go Away In Lightroom 3

Most of you know that from my early experience with the Import functionality of Lightroom 3 Beta 1, I was not a big fan of the upcoming new release. I really wanted to be excited though because of the new noise reduction features I had been hearing about in LR3.

Lightroom 3 Beta 2 became available just a few weeks ago and, after visiting with Tom Hogarty, Adobe's Lightroom Project manager, at Photoshop World recently, I decided to give it a try again. First off - the Import functionality is fixed and works great. I'm a happy camper again with Lightroom 3.

Noise 3So now on to the really good stuff - Lightroom's new noise reduction features. What can I say - OMG, it will blow you away when you see it in action. I shot a Bar Mitzvah recently and really pushed my Canon 7D and 5D Mk II. I took the 7D to ISO 6400 and the 5D Mk II to ISO 12,800.

From my standpoint, the LR 3 noise reduction results were phenomenal. I wanted to see what Lightroom would do in a real world situation, not just what I see in a quick web demo. I ran a few of the high ISO images through Lightroom 3 and then printed them out as 8x10's to see what they looked like up close and personal.

I saw the light, it was a miracle, it was like Lazarus rising from the dead - OK, I'm getting a little carried away. But, I have to tell you - the results were simply amazing - the best I've seen to date in the noise reduction category. Remember, I'm a big fan of high ISOs so I'm always on the lookout for the best noise reduction solutions - LR3 is a really good one and I can’t wait for the final release!

Take a look at today's tutorial and see what you think. I just hope the video captures just a bit of what I saw when I was working with the images. Hit the PLAY button below and enjoy the show.


Hey gang, that's it for me today. We are off on another Mexican adventure today, and I'm not sure what. I'll see what the rest of the crowd has in mind.

Hey, don't forget to check back tomorrow for my "guest blogger" post. Tomorrow I have my "Ace #1 Assistant", Nicholas Viltrakis, covering me on Wednesday. Nicholas recently took a trip to Mammoth Caves and wanted shots that would show more that your borrowing on camera flash would show. He used a few techniques that I talk about here at DPT. Tune in tomorrow to see what he has in store. I've already seen the post - I think you will enjoy it.

Until then, Adios Everybody, –David

Monday, April 19, 2010

"Moments To Go"

"Moments To Go"

©David A. Ziser

Here is an image I made a few years ago which I still enjoy. When working a wedding, I love finding those special moments before the ceremony is to begin, where the girls are waiting for their moment to line up to proceed down the aisle. I'm looking to capture a bit of that nervousness, excitement, anticipation in those moments. This shot does just that. It's just a peek into a slightly opened door of the ready room in the back of church. The expression on the bridesmaid face reveals that the time is near, everyone is excited, and they will be lining up very soon. These shots have to be made quietly and discretely so as to not intrude into those moments. They have to be captured as they are - real and unaltered by the photographer. They then become great storytelling images of the day. Camera Specs: Nikon D1x fitted with 50mm lens, F2.0 @ 1/60 second, ISO 800. Enjoy! -David

p.s. Some of you have commented on the fact about the camera I'm using in some of these recent posts. Remember, I'm enjoying going through my digital archives to find some of these images. I have owned nearly 20 digital cameras over the last ten years - from my first Fuji S-1, next to Nikon, and now Canon gear. Hence, all the different cameras you see listed reflect those shoots over the years. Hope that clears any confusion. -David