Friday, July 30, 2010

"Let's Go Shopping"

Lets Go Shopping2

"Let's Go Shopping"
©David A. Ziser

The bride and groom were from out of town but loved coming to Cincinnati, Ohio for shopping and just plain hanging out. They were very specific in our planning sessions that they wanted several photographs throughout the downtown Cincy area.The wedding was taking place at a downtown hotel, and the couple had no problem seeing each other before the ceremony. This allowed me plenty of time to roam the downtown area and capture some great shots for them around the various Cincy landmarks - shopping landmarks included ;~)

We were on our way back to the hotel and I suggested a shot in front of Tiffany's. The problem was the curved reflecting surface of the big front door. Although I wanted to "put a little light" on the subject, there was just no place I could position the light to avoid the reflections on the door. I opted for no flash at all. Making the photograph B&W made for a very appealing image because of all the shades of grey throughout the composition.

Positioning the bride diagonally in the scene at the fourth nodal point (bottom right quarter of the scene) worked very well compositionally with the centered symmetrical framing of Tiffany's entrance. The bride loved it. Camera specs: Canon 40D with 18-200mm IS lens at 18mm, F5.6 @ 1/400 second, ISO 500. Enjoy! -David

Fast Break Friday: FREE Kelby Training; Faster Editing In Lightroom; New Slide Shows From Animoto; and My Business Is Going to the Dogs

Good Morning Everybody,

CBTL Small Logo First off I want to confess a BIG WHOOPS with yesterday's announcement of our "Captured By The Light 2010" tour coming up [link]. I made the big announcement but then forgot to give you the secret promo code to save you $20 off the registration fee. I’ve since made the corrections. Anyway, be sure to use the promo code below when registering to save the $20!

Use Promo Code CBLDPT10

Save $20!

I have to tell you, I'm pretty excited about all the VALUE we were able to build into this seminar. Everybody walking through the door gets Kelby Training FREE for one month.

Kelby Training Free

Wow! You get the best on-line training available anywhere for one month just for registering. That's worth $24.95 right there! I've always tried to give our attendees the most value packed experience possible and I think "Captured By The Light 2010" is about the best ever!

After yesterday's super long post and launching the "Captured By The Light 2010” tour, we are all "fried" around here. That means today, I'm taking it kind of easy. Hope you don't mind ;~)

All New Just a quick note about the tour, I've already received a note or two from a few folks mentioning that we are not making it back to their city. Unfortunately, there are just not enough days in the week or months left in the year to hit all 60 cities like we did last year.

I know the 20 city schedule would disappoint some of our friends, but don't despair, 2011 is right around the corner. Let's see how things go in the fall and you may just see us in a few more locations in the Spring of 2011. LaDawn is going to kill me when she reads this;~)

My Quick Hit Monday post got set aside because of our Photo Walk recap. So why don't I share a few things I had planned to write about last Monday. Here we go....

Fast Break Friday:

Super Workflow Rocket Speed Editing In Lightroom:

I caught this post at fellow blogger, Gavin Seim's blog a few weeks ago. Here is the link right here. Gavin has some good tips up his sleeve when it comes to editing large numbers of images like we as wedding photographers deal with every day.

Gavin moves at a about a million miles an hour with all the projects he has going on. That probably explains why he developed his rocket speed editing techniques. We certainly are going to give them a try at my studio.

Best Little Cable In The World

On Wednesday of this week I did a post on shooting tethered [link]. I mentioned the the weakest link of the entire experience was the fact that the USB cable sticking out of the camera was an accident waiting to happen.

Left Angle Mini B My thanks to those that commented about a possible solution to the problem. I checked them out and have to say, the USB cable offered by suggested by Robbie really filled the bill for me [link]. It is a left handed cable that plugs into the camera – Nikon or Canon, does a quick right hand turn, and drops quickly out of the way letting you attach the active extension cables. I've ordered mine today and can't wait to see how it solves my small problem. Thanks Robbie!

Animoto Announces Slower Slide Shows For Wedding Photographers

Elegance I've been a fan of Animoto since their beta days several years ago. They continue to enhance and improve their product. Their latest offering is their Elegance collection. Their are several templates you can choose from. The nice thing is that the tempo of the slide show is much softer than the M-TV style of years past.

Now I have to admit, I liked the M-TV fast, upbeat presentation, but it certainly was not everyone's cup of tea. These new shows fit the bill very well for any wedding/portrait photographer. Just think of it as the softer side of Animoto. Check it out right here.

My Business Is Going To The Dogs

Dogs LR - Fotolia_7951927_Subscription_XXL[1] Case #1:

I don't know what it is, but I've talked to two of my photographer buddies lately and both were telling me how they had begun shooting pet portraits - and they are loving' it! I just talked with my friend, Michael yesterday and he was telling me about a gig he did at a local pet store.

He set up his lights and camera, tethered his camera to his computer via Lightroom 3, attached a printer and was off to the races. As he shot, the images downloaded to his laptop where the client could view them instantly and select their favorite. He set up a few print packages in Lightroom 3, took their order, and printed them out on the spot. He hit 30 sales in 6 hours - not a bad way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Dogs Mansion Hill Case #2

During a phone call with another buddy, Craig a few days ago he told me how his pet business has really taken off. I asked him what he was doing differently. He tells me that he is using his regular "people backgrounds" (my choice of words) for all his pet photographs and his clients are going ga-ga over the images. Craig’s images are simply beautiful – no kidding.

He sent me a link to a slideshow he has on-line. Here is the link right here. Check it out - great idea and beautiful photography. It will put a smile on your Friday face today ;~)


DAZ FPS Hey gang, that's it for me today. With the CBTL tour launched, I’m spending this weekend gearing up for my "live" Friday Photo School  presentation next week in Chicago, Il.

We've really had our thinking caps on for a brand new presentation idea. If I can eliminate all the kinks to the process it’s sure to add a sizzle factor or two to the presentation. It should be a kick. Be sure to check it out right here.

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

Adios, David

Thursday, July 29, 2010

"The Organist"

The Organist

"The Organist"
©David A. Ziser

I made this image a few years ago as a promotional portrait.  I had known Tom for many years as he plays the pipe organ at many of the functions I photograph.  He is considered one of the best in town.   He wanted his portrait made in his home.  I suggested we do it at one of the venues where he plays and we could use the pipe organ as a background.  Tom assured me his home would be just fine as he and his wife had a pipe organ in their home.  I thought WOW, sounds good to me!  We set the appointment for a few days later.  Since I was going to be working in his home, I planned to travel really light gear-wise.  But, heck, I always travel light gear-wise ;~). I set up the shot  and placed just one light on Tom.  You guessed, I chose to shoot my flash through a translucent umbrella positioning it far enough away from the subject to create fairly strong shadows on his face.  I really like the effect of the stronger shadows on the portrait. His dark turtleneck sweater directs all viewer attention right to his face. I controlled the ambient light with the shutter speed till  I just barely had the pipe organ spilling through the background unobtrusively but still noticeably supporting the composition of the portrait.  Camera Specs:  Nikon D1x fitted with 80-200m non VR lens, F4.0 @ 1/30 second, ISO400.  Enjoy!  -David

Captured By The Light 2010 Tour Kicks Off Today! Use Code CBLDPT1- To Save $20 Off Registration

Captured By The Light Tour Kicks Off Today!

Today is the day! I'm officially announcing the the kick off of my brand new digital photography tour "Captured By The Light 2010". Because of the tremendous success of my book by the same name, we are hitting the road and planning to share with you a few highlights from the book, some great new lighting secrets, and lots of dynamite photography and software techniques.

Hit this link right here for all the latest information and to register! Don’t for get to use Promo Code CBLDPT10 – it will save you $20 off the registration $79 fee!

CBTL Brochure page

Hey, I don't plan to stop with just that either. I've also got a few of my latest greatest Lightroom 3, Lumapix, and NIK tips and tricks, just to name a few, to show you. And, I'll wrap with some solid new ideas on how to promote yourself and your photography business.

The cool thing is that this year's program is NEW and jammed packed with information you can start using right away! The program is scheduled for 4 hours, and what I don't cover that evening, we’re throwing in a Tour DVD with and additional 4 hours of extended content covering lighting, Lightroom, photography, marketing, and much more. That means you will be getting 8 solid hours of info all in one evening.

Each attendee will also receive our Welcome Pack with over $350 of REAL value. And, yes, we are doing it again. We are giving away over $3,500 worth of door prizes each evening! That was so much fun last year. So thanks to our sponsors' generosity, we are doing it again. It's always a BIG crowd pleaser.

You can get all the information and register right here. I'm really excited with this year's tour and hope to see everybody there!

Business Day Thursday: Getting Your Prices Right

Good Morning Everybody,

CBTL2 logo It was a long day yesterday, but everything is 99.999% ready to go –  with our “Captured By The Light” 2010 tour and I am really stoked.  I’ll be doing a separate post giving you all the details on it today – so stay tuned.

Are you ready for today’s post?  It’s a fairly long read, but I tried to really give you some insight as to how I set my pricing and what you need to consider to set yours.  This has been a HOT topic lately, so grab a cup of coffee or soda and enjoy the read.

Getting Your Prices Right

Over the last few weeks we've been discussing wedding photography during these Thursday posts. Two weeks ago I discussed how I shoot a wedding and why [link]. That post and it's comments precipitated last week's post about how I structure and sell my levels of wedding coverages [link]. The comments from that post clamored for additional info on my pricing. And that, dear DPT readers, is where we are going today.

Cheap LR - Fotolia_1332338_Subscription_XL[1] When I first set up my pricing in the early days of my studio I was determined to offer the best value wedding services available. For my way of thinking back in those early days, that also meant being the cheapest guy in town. I also quickly learned that being the cheap guy was not going to let me pay the bills on time. Funny, we see a lot of that same kind of thinking today - just do a quick check on Craig's List for a city near you.  Here is what we see in Cincinnati, Ohio [link].

My Early Pricing Schedule

I still remember my first printed price list - I was so proud. I used graphics and everything. Things are so much easier now in our computer driven digital world. Anyway, I had three levels of pricing in my early beginnings.

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

Here they are:

Level One:

36 4x5 color images in a nice TAP album. Heck, I even told my clients that they could use it as a parents' album. I was not very good selling my work back in those days. I was merely an "order taker". Ummmm... any of that going around our profession today?

Also included were 12 8x10's bound in an inexpensive TAP album. Total cost for everything - $ 119.00. Oh, and no time limitations on covering the event. I managed to crank through a whopping 60 images for the entire wedding, too. Things sure were different back then.

Level Two:

Level Two upped the ante slightly. It included 48 4x5's bound in the TAP album and 18 8x10's also bound in a Tap album. And, get this, even included "double lighting" on the job. Yes, I was using off camera flash as early as 1978 - 32 years ago! Where were you back then David Hobby? ;~)

Actually, I used the fact that I was using a more "dimensional" lighting technique to encourage the client to book into that level of coverage. Wow! That was my big attempt at up-selling. Most of my clients booked Level Two at the whopping cost of $179.00! I shot about 72 images for this coverage.

Level Three:

This was my "Big Kahuna" coverage - 72 4x5 images and 24 8x10 images bound in Tap albums. I did upgrade the large album to Tap's White Flower reversible album. looking back…I was such a classy act at the time - NOT!

With 72 4x5s, I even suggested that the couple could break those down into two collections of 36 each, buy another Tap album for $10  and have two parents' albums - what a deal! Total cost - $259.00 - truly a steal of a deal! Oh, and by the way, I shot about 120 images for the entire job.

Extra prints were $6.00 for an 8x10, $4.00 for a 5x7. and $2.50 for a 4x5 print. I did 20 weddings in 1978, over 50 the next year, hired additional shooters the next year, and was on my way to fame and fortune! Not really. The fact of the matter was that I was working my tush off, barely paying the bills, and definitely not putting any money in the bank.

Time To Get Smart

Thankfully I was encouraged to start attending PPA seminars and workshops of the most successful and notable wedding photographers shooting in those days. That list would include Monte Zucker, Rocky Gunn, Al Gilbert, and many, many others. I tell the story occasionally that I was spending more moony on seminars than most college kids were spending on tuition.

Thankfully, that was the right decision to make for me. It turned my photography and my business acumen around 180 degrees and I started making money. By 1984 we were shooting 80 weddings a year at a $2,600 average. Not bad in those early days. This was also about the time I was developing my 5 level pricing strategy which I discussed last week.

Wendy's Triple I was always told to price like Wendy's Hamburger chain. You know - single, double, and triple burgers. I basically was using that concept in my price list, but as I interviewed more and more clients, I saw the size and scope of the events was much broader than my near sighted early lack-of-experience had shown me. That’s when I decided to revamp my pricing schedule reviewing my levels of coverage and prices of those coverages.

Getting My Act Together

Last week I discussed those levels of coverages in great detail [link]. Now let's discuss how to set the prices for those levels of coverage. Your pricing needs to be determined by what your market will bear.

Back in the early days, I was the cheapest guy in town. Sure, the word got out that I was pretty cheap and did an adequate job shooting weddings. Notice I said "adequate" job. I was pretty much operating my business like the "low ball" wedding photographers advertising today.

Marketing LR  - Fotolia_9467559_Subscription_XLAs I advanced in my skills and talent I raised my prices accordingly. Hey, I was doing a better job so my work was worth more - better quality = higher price.

About the same time, I was learning from successful photographers how to understand my "cost of goods sold". Even today, this is one of the biggest mistakes most new business owners make, including wedding photographers. They just don't have any kind of grasp on the costs of gear, depreciation, marketing costs, overhead, staff, processing/lab fees, album fees - the list goes on and on.

Thankfully, I got my head around those numbers, and priced my coverages accordingly. If I was going to be in the wedding photography business, I was going to be profitable! That started happening in the mid-eighties. So, let's finally get down to brass tacks as they say and see if I can point you in the right direction in setting your wedding pricing.

How To Determine Your Pricing Schedule:

1- Determine what the average cost of a wedding photography is in your area. Call a few of the prominent photographers in your area explain your situation and ask their prices. Most are nice and are willing to help. Others will never give you the time of day. I know, I've been through it before. It is what it is.

2- Do a Craig's list check just to see what the rock bottom prices are in your area. Now you have the knowledge of the range of pricing. Now decide where you fit in.

3- How good are you? Can your skills support the prices you want to charge? You'll discover this invaluable piece of the puzzle when prospective clients check your web site, blog, see sample images at wedding fares and make the decision to book you for their event or to pass.

4- How well are you at getting the word out about your products and services? If you are really good at it, then that means you should be able to create a lot more traffic to your business. And, more consistent traffic means more bookings.

When you get to the place that you have all the bookings you want or can handle, it's time to raise the prices to control the number of jobs you book. The bottom line is that effective marketing is super important if you want to be successful in your business.

This is the point most are striving to be in your business. Once you have this part figured out, you are on your way to bigger and better things. Don't think you've ever arrived though, there is ALWAYS somebody nipping at your heels that wants the business as much or even more than you do! You must never stop growing and learning.

Time To Set The Prices

I've always been happy with my 5 tier pricing system. It's worked well for me most of my career. If you want to use my pricing system as a model, this is how I would do it. Level 1 should always be the highest priced coverage and Level 5 should always be the lowest. And, always sell from high to low.

Let me give you an example of my pricing in the mid eighties just to give you an idea as to how I set up my levels of coverage. Remember those prices I shared with you earlier - $119, $179, and $259? Well, in the mid eighties those prices were $450 for 20 8x8 images in an album, $650 for 35 10x10 images in an album, and $850 for 50 10x10 images in an album. Proofs WERE NOT included at this point. Thankfully I learned that by giving away the proofs, I was killing my sale.

Chuck Lewis About that same time, 25 years ago, I met a photographer named Charles Lewis .  Chuck has been an inspiration to many, many photographers over the years. You can follow his blog right here. He quite literally turned my think/reasoning and my expectations around when it came to pricing. He told me I was giving my work away considering the quality of my images. He also told me I needed to offer some bigger coverages over what I was offering at the time.

More Lessons Learned

George Clooney The Cincinnati wedding market was much grander than what I had imagined. A case in point is this. I got a call to do George Clooney's sister's wedding years ago. Yes, the real George Clooney. His family lived in Cincy at that time.  In fact he went to grade school about one mile from me. The bride and her mother came in to interview me and review my work. That's how we did things back in the pre-website, blogging days. Anyway, I didn't book the job because I didn't have a coverage available that they felt would adequately cover their event.

I learned that lesson the hard way and decide to revamp my levels of coverage once again. Taking Chuck Lewis' advice, I added two more coverages to the TOP tier of my pricing scheme - $1,150 for 75 10x10 images in an album, and finally $1,450 for 100 images in a top shelf leather album. My new Level One included a casual portrait session of the couple and a 20 image 10x10 leather album in addition to the 100 wedding day images in a leather album!

It was the best I could offer and included everything for the couple. And was the highest priced album plan in Cincinnati, Ohio at the time! I thought if anybody purchased it, I was on my way to early retirement ;~). The fact of the matter is that once I started showing my super big coverages, couples started to select them! I was thrilled.

Finally, Setting The Schedule

Raising PricesLR - Fotolia_8764858_Subscription_XXL[1] As my reputation grew in the area and my expertise increased, I continued to market like crazy, build my vendor relationship, nurture my reputation, and raise my prices about once a year. Every time I raised my prices, my mother who was normally always the optimist, told me I was not going to have any customers left - who in the world was going to pay those prices.

She didn't see the bigger picture, and the much BIGGER parties/ events/celebrations that were happening in the Cincinnati, Ohio market. Thankfully, with my eyes newly opened, the clients kept coming and my business began to thrive. I was doing less weddings but the price difference offset the revenue and made the business much more profitable - all good stuff.

Even today, my pricing structure, while much higher than the 1980's still follows the same general increase as I posted above. For those of you looking for the numbers, here they are.

Level One: 2.5x Level Five

Level Two: 2.0x Level Five

Level Three: 1.75x Level Five

Level Four: 1.4x Level Five

Level Five: 1.0x Level Five

There you have it. It's how I've been doing things for years and it's worked for me. What I ask you to do is re-read this rather lengthy post and and take in the nuances of what I've tried to share with you today. There just simply aren’t any hard and fast rules to follow.

As Michelangelo said, "The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short, but in setting our aim too low and achieving our mark."

Also nothing is ever etched in stone. We each have to find our own way and what works for ourselves and our clients. There are other successful photographers that take a completely different approach from mine and it works for them. But my approach has worked for me and I see no reason to change, or do I;~)

I’m working on an upcoming post entitled, “Food For Thought Friday: Are Wedding Albums Dead?”  Um...........  I’ll keep you posted.


Hey gang, that's it for me today. I am thrilled to have our Captured by the Light 2010 Tour launch today. A lot of work by a lot of people made it happen. My thanks to the great team at Marathon Press for getting the brochures, magazine ads, website designed up and running.

And my SPECIAL THANKS to my entire team around here that manage and coordinate the sometimes infinite number of issues, responsibilities, and arrangements that must be made when putting something like his together for all of you.

Be sure to check out all the latest "Captured By The Light" tour info right here. It's going to be a blast!

How about I see everyone tomorrow, same time, same place.

Make it a great day everybody, David

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

"Storm Clearing Over Jordan Pond"

Storm Clearing Over Jordan Pond-IMG_2207

"Storm Clearing Over Jordan Pond"
©David A. Ziser

I've been wanting to post this image for about a week. It is just about my favorite image from our trip to Maine a couple of weeks ago.  We had walked about half way around Jordan Pond and the view back across the water on this mostly overcast day was just splendid. The soft lighting reflecting off the water contrasted wonderfully well with the undulating hills on both sides of the lake. The hills just framed the water perfectly. I thought the image looked best in Black and White because of the subtle tones and textures in the scene. I also like the pond grasses sticking out every so subtlety in the image foreground. I believe I obtained the full range of Ansel Adams' Zone System captured in this image. Camera specs: Canon 7D fitted with Sigma 8-16mm wide angle lens, F5.6 @ 1/320 second, IDO 200. Enjoy! -David

Shooting Tethered - A Few Things You Should Know

Good Morning Everybody,

CBTL2 logo First off, I’m still planning to announce our tour launch today, but we are in the final stages of polishing up a few last minute items and getting the site links up and running.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed. Stay turned – the news may still pop today.

We’ve got lots of good things to talk about today.  Let’s get right to it!

Quick Tip Wednesday: Shooting Tethered - A Few Things You Should Know

Hey gang, today I thought I would discuss a few things about Lightroom 3's new "shooting tethered" feature. There have been a few YouTube videos on the subject, but they are going on about the "shooting tethered" feature much the way a commercial studio would shoot. I'll post the YouTube links at the end of this post.

Capture Dialogue Anyway, I'm a portrait, wedding, on location shooter. How can I make tethered shooting work for me? As I said, lots of the videos show the camera on a tripod with the photographer using the on screen camera controls to fire the camera. That may be great for the in studio commercial shooter but, it just doesn't work for the photographer shooting portraits.

Cable cameraWe've got to go for the expression, follow the action, and make the exposure at that critical moment to get our best shot. As I make my shots, I want them to sail right on over to my computer so we can get instant gratification from the client.

Lightroom 3 let's you do just that. In fact Lightroom 3 makes the process almost effortless. Notice I said almost. Yes, tethered shooting in Lightroom 3 is about as easy as it gets, but there are still four things you need to keep in mind when your camera is wired to your computer.

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

Let me give you my 4 top tethered shooting tips:

Active USB 1- When shooting tethered, you will most often if not always be working more than ten feet from your computer. More likely the distance will be 10-20 feet away. I like the longer cable run because it creates less of a possibility of yanking the connectors from the computer or camera - not a good thing.

The problem is that USB cables will not give you consistent data transfer over that distance. That means you've got to use USB Active extension cables. These cables boost or amplify the data signal from the camera to the computer. It really is necessary to use these cables and they will set you back a few bucks. I picked up two 16 foot USB Active Extension cables at for $34.99 each. They worked like a charm.  Here is the link to the cables I purchased right here. I love working with this company - great products and great customer service.

Twisted 2 - The weak link in this entire process are the cable connectors/connections over the distance of the cable run. For the cables themselves, to keep them from coming undone over the 35 foot run, just tape them together so they don't become dislidged. I actually knotted mine together on my last shoot, but I didn't think it was good for the cables because of their thickness. Use tape instead.

CAmera bent cableThe bigger thing to watch for is the connection into the camera. I have not been able to find a mini USB jack that does not stick out of the camera any less than two inches. To me it looks like an accident waiting to happen.  More than once I set my camera down right on the cable side of the camera. Fortunately nothing got damaged. It would be nice if somebody like would manufacture a mini USB cable that would fit much more flush with the side of the camera.

3 - Another thing you need to be concerned with is how fast you shoot your images. You've got to take your time when shooting otherwise the data connection will "choke" and will stop transferring your images. That has happened to me more than a time or two. If that does happen; you will need to go though the entire process of closing down Lightroom 3 and reconnecting the camera in order to get back up and running. It's more of an inconvenience than a problem.

Remember too, that the consistency of your data transfer is linked to file size of your image. The larger the file size, the slower the transfer. And the slower the transfer, the slower you must shoot to avoid the "data choke" issue. I was shooting my Canon 7D on mRAW and as long as I shoot at a moderate pace, no PJ shooting here, I had no problems.

4 - I recommend shooting with your regular import presets. That just saves time down the road in your post production. Le's say you had a hang up when shooting tethered as I mentioned above. Don't worry about it now. Just import from your flash card as you normally would into the directory you set for your tethered shoot telling Lightroom 3 to not import suspected duplicates.

That's about it folks. Shooting tethered is really easy with Lightroom 3 and even if you do get disconnected or the camera powers down, Lightroom 3 will not miss a beat getting you back up and running once the connections are back on line. Like I’ve said - way easy shooting with nearly immediate feed-back.

I hope the four tips I given you today give you a few insights as to how to make your next tethered shoot go off without a hitch. If you've got a few tips for our DPT readers, why not share them in the comment section following this post. Happy shooting everybody!

Additional Video Links:

Akel Studio: Lightroom 3 and Capture One 5 [link]

Yanik’s Photo School: Shooting Tethered In LR3 [link]

Lynda Podcast : LR3 Tether Dialogue [link] Tethered Shooting [link] Shooting Tethered Set Up [link]


Hey gang. that's it for me today, we still have a few loose ends to tie up with the tour right around the corner.

Also, I am concurrently working on another project for my buddy, Will Crocket's Friday Photo School which I will be presenting next Friday, August 6th.

Friday Photo School2

I’ll provide additional information to you as we get closer to the date. So for now, mark your calendars and plan to join in. As is usual, things are REALLY cookin' around here so I've got to get scooting. How about I see everybody tomorrow for another episode of Business Day Thursday. Our topic, "How To Set Your Prices".

Hope to see you then, David

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

"Dancing On The Square"

Dancing In The Square - 1443-DZ_Elswick Z09-Edit

"Dancing On The Square"
©David A. Ziser
I captured this image last year during one of my downtown Cincinnati weddings.  The reception was being held in one the most popular downtown hotels.  It’s close proximity to Fountain Square, where we began last Saturday’s Photo Walk, by the way, is always a favorite spot for brides and their wedding photography.  We were doing all the photography BEFORE the wedding which gave us ample time to head to the Square and get some nice shots. We had a moderately overcast day which made my job a little easier.  I wanted to underexpose the setting, back light the couple to have them pop off the page.  With my assistant about 12 feet behind the couple using the Quantum flash on full power, I fired away.  A few Lightroom tweaks added the dramatic look to the final presentation. Camera specs: Canon 40D fitted with Sigma 12-24mm lens at 12mm, F 8.0 @ 1/250 second, ISO 100.  Enjoy!  -David

Technique Tuesday: Shooting What The Eye Can’t See

Good Morning Everybody,
I hope everyone is fully recovered from their Photo Walk weekends and off to a good week.  We are up to our eyeballs getting the the finishing touches on my “Captured By The Light Tour” kicking off on September 7th, right after Photoshop World.  I’m hoping to have all the details ready to unveil in another day or two. Things are shaping up and I promise you are going to like what you see.

Shooting What The Eye Can’t See

Hey gang, I’ve got a pretty cool tutorial for you today.  It’s about portrait photography, lighting, the Zone system, and taking photographs that look completely different than what your eye sees. You know, we can photograph people in front of just about anything.  Hopefully the tones, colors, and textures of the background compliment your portrait.  But there are times when you may want to change the background completely.

In this tutorial I’m going to show you how you can do just that. You don’t have to be chained to the background and what you see within the scene.  I’ll be giving you the specifics of exactly how you can use your off camera flash to create a completely different result that is both striking and dramatic.  Hit the PLAY button below and enjoy the show.

Hey folks, that’s it for me today.  It’s back to the phones, emails, and meetings so we can get the CBTL tour launched.  Don’t forget to check back tomorrow. 

See ya’ then, David

Monday, July 26, 2010

"Turnpike Arabesque"

0001-Turmpike Madness-0079-DZ_Cincy Photowalk Z10-Edit

"Turnpike Arabesque"
©David A. Ziser

Here is one of the images I captured during our PhotoWalk on Saturday.  Well, the original image was made on Saturday ;~)  As we were about to cross the bridge into Kentucky, we had to pass under the expressway overpass.  With my Sigma lens I had a very wide view of the expressway beams above.  The original image did not thrill me that much because there was just too much “other stuff” in the image.  Working it and trying about every slider in Lightroom 3 only partly solved my problem. I was getting the colors I wanted but the image still didn’t “sing” for me.  I just wanted to eliminate the white tones from the image.  Then I thought, “How can I make the white tones work for me?”  One more tweak in Photoshop and I had the abstract image I wanted. Camera specs: Canon 7D fitted with Sigma 8-16mm lens at 8mm, F 5.0 @ 1/40 second, ISO 100.  Enjoy! (I hope)  -David

P.S. Hit the “Read More…” link below to see the “before” image.

Arabesque before

Here is the “Before” shot.  Interesting, but needing a little work, don’t you think?  -David

Quick Hit Monday: Photo Walk Recap

Good Morning Everybody,

Over 33,000 photo amateurs, pros, enthusiasts walked the earth on Saturday just having fun taking photographs and enjoying each other's company during Scott Kelby's Worldwide Photo Walk 2010. Old friends re-united and new friendships were made. But most of all, a good time was had by all.

0005-Cincy 2010 Photo Walk-0232-LD_Cincy Photowalk Z10

That was especially true for our photo walk group in Cincinnati, Ohio. Our group may have been the only group in the country to cover two states, Ohio and Kentucky, and we walked across two different bridges!

Life In A day We may also be the only photo walk group to have been video taped by the Life In A Day video cameras. Interestingly enough, July 24, 2010 was also the day 1,000s of video cameras around the world were rolling to capture life as it occurs worldwide. Its amazing to me that both the Scott Kelby Photo Walk and Life In A Day should fall on the same day. News flash to world, we've got you covered!

0002-Cincy 2010 Photo Walk-0083-DZ_Cincy Photowalk Z10Clearly, the weather was different for all walkers. Even though we were in the mid- 90's for most of our walk, we were fortunate to have no rain, blue skies, and a nice gentle breeze our entire walk.

Oh, and a warning for anyone who joins my Cincinnati Photo Walk in the future, I'm mostly a "one way" walk leader. That means we walked our 2.5 miles through the glass and steel of downtown Cincinnati and over the Ohio River into the historic Mainstrasse Village area of Covington, Kentucky to our final destination.

Yes, we then had to make the return trip too after lunch but we did take a more direct route back to our starting point. Some took public transportation back to Cincy, but those who walked certainly didn't seem to mind the the sights were exciting.

0004-Cincy 2010 Photo Walk-0208-DZ_Cincy Photowalk Z10 In fact we walked back over the historic Roebling Suspension Bridge. The bridge is going through extensive renovation and repainting and is closed to motor traffic, but still opened to foot traffic making it quite a fascinating experience.

Sigma told me I could hang onto their 8-16mm wide angle lens a little longer so that became my lens of choice for most of the walk. And, I took most of my shots at the 8mm widest setting. It was just plain fun visually to play with that lens during our photo walk.

0001-Cincy 2010 Photo Walk-0023-DZ_Cincy Photowalk Z10-Edit-2 Refreshed, we headed back to downtown Cincy arriving about 2:30 p.m. - about a 5 hour day, but worth every minute.

Of course the next thing you want to do is load up the images in Lightroom and play some more. I'll admit, give me steel and glass, a super wide angle lens, and Lightroom 3 and I'm a happy camper for a few hours running.


As I was working the images, I found myself leaning towards the abstract side for my visual interpretations. You know what I mean, working the tonal ranges, juicing the colors, and just plain having fun. I'm pleased with my results but I know some of the images will not be everyone's cup of tea. Regardless, I still like them - hey, maybe even an upcoming Technique Tuesday in the mix ;~)

Flickr grabYou can check out our groups images, mine included, right here.

So, that's how I spent my weekend and it was a blast, even tweaking the images in Lightroom 3. What's really cool about Scott's Worldwide Photo Walk is the fact that even if you didn't participate, you can still head over to Flickr and do a quick search and view images around around the world on Saturday, July 24th.

It really gives you a peak at not just a lot of photographs, but more importantly where folks live and how they live throughout the world. It is about the best and most fun geography lessons you will ever experience. Just do a search on "Scott Kelby's Worldwide Photo Walk 2010" and begin enjoying the show!


Hey gang, that's the weekend wrap up for today. We are wrapping the last details of our upcoming "Captured By The Light 2010" tour today and tomorrow. If all goes as planned, we should be live with the website by mid-week. At that point I'll be able to fill you in on all the details.

On that note, I'm out of here. Plan to stop back tomorrow for a brand new Technique Tuesday. I hope to see you then.

Adios, David

Friday, July 23, 2010

"Enjoying An Easy Afternoon"

Enjoying An Easy Afternoon

"Enjoying An Easy Afternoon"
©David A. Ziser
Here’s an image I made a few years ago back in my Nikon days.  It’s a very traditional wedding image, but still very pleasing to view.  I remember the beautiful fall location in the soft rolling country hills of Ohio.  The sun was nearly set and the light was gorgeous.  It was at the bride and groom’s request that I do a series of images at this location on the way to the reception.  I’m glad we stopped.  The image was  easy to create and capture.  It’s simply a photograph of the couple backlit by the setting sun. It was getting pretty dark and was one of the last images I photographed at this location.  I chose the very wide aperture in order to really, really soften the background. The background in this scene looks like is was painted by a Renaissance painter- I love how the warm colors and textures add to the overall feel of this image. The clients loved it, too.  Camera specs: Nikon D1x fitted with 80-200 non VR lens at 86mm, F 2.8 @ 1/200 second, ISO 400. Enjoy!  -David

Fast Break Friday: Secret’s Out, Wedding Pricing, Photo Walk; Great Book Review; and More

Good Morning Everybody,

Non Stop LR - Fotolia_643515_Subscription_XL Yesterday was one of those non-stop days and it was one of those days where you only get about half the work done that you needed to get completed.  You know what that means, I’m already behind the “8 ball” today - yikes!

That’s why today is Fast Break Friday.  Let me update you on a few things.

Scott Kelby’s Worldwide Photo Walk Tomorrow!

PhotoWalk_Leader_300X250WebAd_0510 Can you believe it - over 1100 Photo Walks worldwide and over 30,000 folks walking - unbelievable!

My walk is filled to capacity and we are looking forward to a great time with everyone on Saturday morning. The weather is going to be hot they say, but who cares, it’s going to be a great time!  LaDawn and I are really looking forward to it.

Pricing Wedding Coverages

Money BAg First off, I did a post yesterday [link] about how we have our wedding coverages set up at the studio.  I knew someone way going to ask me to put prices on our coverages.  In my next  Business Day Thursday post I’ll plan to give you some direction in the pricing department.  Regardless of where you are now in your career, I think you will find it helpful, so stay tuned.

Great Book Review Over At DWF!

Hey, a GREAT BIG THANK YOU to Digital Wedding Forum for the super glowing book review [link].  For those of you that don’t know, DWF is the leading informational forum on-line when it comes to wedding photography.  They are a tremendous resource for anyone wanting to take their photography to the next level.

DWF plug To have the opening line of the review say, “This new book from David Ziser may just be one of the best Wedding Photo books on the market.“  Wow! I have to say I’m both humbled and honored - thanks DWF.

Whoops! Today’s Post Was Going To Be On Retouching

That’s right,  I had planned to discuss the subject of under and over retouched images.  It looked like it was going to get quite involved and I was running out of time as it was so I’ve decided to postpone it to hopefully next week.

There are some great retouching software solutions available so stay tuned and I’ll walk you through what those solutions are and how we incorporate these software solutions in next week’s Friday “Studio Life” post.

What’s The BIG Secret Project?

Top Secret LR - Fotolia_526571_Subscription_XL OK, I’m going to just let the “cat partially out of the bag”.  Our BIG project is our - not yet public - ”Captured By The Light” lecture tour kicking off September 7, 2010 and traveling to 20 cities around the US.  I was hoping to have the website “live” today, but we still have several bugs to work thru.

For those of you that attended last year’s Digital WakeUp Call tour, this year’s program is completely new with tons of fresh information on lighting, composition, digital design, and marketing!  Did I say we’re giving away nearly $4,000 worth of door prizes in each city!
(Psst, “David, quiet, you’re letting too much out of the bag!”)
We are still working hard to get all the pieces in place and that should happen by mid next week. Stay tuned, I can’t wait to tell you everything that’s planned - it’s going to be a kick!  I’ll give you the whole story next week.
Hey gang, I’ve got to get moving.  We have about a dozen plates spinning to get the tour kicked off on time next week so, please plan on stopping back for all the details next week.

Have a great weekend, enjoy your Photo Walks if you are signed up in a community near you, and I’ll see everyone back here bright and early Monday morning.

See ya’ then,  David

Thursday, July 22, 2010

"Family Ties"

Family Ties

"Family Ties"
©David A. Ziser
This is a family portrait I made a few years ago.  Yes you guessed it, I was digging through the archives again. I actually have a different version of this family group displayed at my studio.  In doing the shoot, we were working into the evening, and although I had several nice images up to that point, the evening sun and clouds started working their beautiful magic on the sky.  My thought was to create a more dramatic family portrait with the very cool clouds in the background.  Using a wide angle lens should enhance the result.   I used my off camera flash directly firing at the subject - no Zumbrella because it would have cut my light output by two stops and I needed all the light I could get in order to darken the sky. Remember, when using your flash outdoors, the secret is to overpower the ambient, underexposing it by at least a stop for the dramatic cloud effect. I’m happy how the photograph evolved and it’s final result. But most importantly, so did the client. Camera specs: Nikon D1x fitted with 16-35mm lens at 34mm, F 5.0 @ 1/320 second,  ISO 400. Enjoy!  -David

Business Day Thursday: How I Sell My Wedding Services

Good Morning Everybody,

Top Secret LR - Fotolia_526571_Subscription_XL Things are pretty exciting and very busy since returning from our vacation. We are working on a very special project which will launch next week. Most of the "i's" are dotted and the "t's" crossed and I can't wait to tell you what's up! Please stay tuned - you won't want to miss it!

I also had a nice meeting with one of my favorite clients yesterday morning who is putting together a wonderful collection of images from her son's Bar Mitzvah celebration. Somehow we need to have the album accommodate over 280 images! Add to that 3 family albums and some additional images for family and friends - yep, it’s going to be a nice order.

I've got to get back to work on our BIG project, so how about we get right on with today's post. Here we go...

How I Sell My Wedding Services

Last week I did a post [link] about how I cover a wedding mentioning that we NEVER leave till the end of the event. The post garnered quite a few comments and debate. The secret with us NEVER leaving a wedding till the end of the party has to do with how I sell my photographic services to my clients.

Levels LR - Fotolia_10542269_Subscription_XXL The quick answer is that we SELL the level of coverage appropriate for the event. Notice I said level of coverage, not packages. To be honest with you, I have never sold package pricing. I've always sold our services ala carte - purchase the level of coverage and add family albums and extras on on top of that level of coverage.

Let's talk about levels of coverage for a minute. We have always had five levels of coverage ranging from 2 hours of coverage up to unlimited time. Yep, we put in a few 14 hour days now and then too.

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

Here is how we have our levels of coverages set up.

Level One

Level One includes all day coverage as needed. This level of coverage includes 100 images bound in a beautiful Zookbinders leather album. It also included a $200 credit toward a wall portrait, or one of our Treasure Boxes. Our Treasure Box has always been a very cool way for our clients to display a select group of 12 -  5x7 most often B&W images.

Level One also includes an image enhancement package, too. That means that we make everyone look like movie stars. And lastly, it includes a casual portrait session of the bride and groom. Total cost - about 3 times more than our least expensive coverage.

A typical sales close would go something like this for a client booking a really BIG event. "Mary and John, for the type of wedding you're planning, I would not recommend anything less than our Level One coverage."

Level Two

Level Two is our second tier coverage. It still includes unlimited coverage for the day and 75 images bound in a Zookbinders leather album. It does not include the image enhancement package or casual portrait shoot of the couple. It is still a nice coverage for the client wanting to save a few dollars and still have complete coverage of their event.

A typical close for the Level Two coverage may go something like this after Mary and John tell me that Level One is beyond their budget. "OK, Mary and John, let me tell you about our most popular coverage." And then I tell them what's included.

They're saving a substantial amount of money with Level Two and it gets them much closer to their budget. The second thing the closing remark does is gives them approval for choosing the next lower coverage. Heck, it is our most popular coverage, which it is, so they feel perfectly comfortable making the same buying decision so many of our other clients have made.

DAZNOTE: Both Level One and Level Two coverages also include a second shooter who does the peripheral coverage of the event. Level One and Two comprise about 95% of our booked coverages.

Level Three

Level Three is our first coverage with a time limit associated with it. The coverage includes 6 hours of coverage and 50 images bound in a nice album, but not a leather album. Leather is a modest upgrade cost.

The secret to my sales success is how I present this option to the client. I let them know what this level of coverage is designed for. It goes something like this. "Mary and John, yes, we do offer a smaller coverage but it's really reserved for a smaller wedding - say for example 75 guests in a much smaller venue that what your planning. I would really recommend our Level Two coverage for your event."

Now if the client is planning an engagement party which typically run about 5 hours long with the preliminary family groups, cocktail party, and then dinner and dancing, Level Three is the perfect coverage for that type of event. Again, I'm selling the level of coverage to fit the length of the event. This coverage is then added to a Level One or Level Two event.

Level Four

Level Four is a 4 hour event which includes 35 images in a nice album, but not a leather album. This kind of coverage is perfect for very small weddings of approximately 25 close friends and family. This coverage is also perfect for Rehearsal Dinners, Birthday Parties, Special Occasions, Anniversary Celebrations and Corporate events.

Level Five

Level Five is our smallest coverage - 2 hours of coverage and 20 medium size images in a smaller album. Again, it's reserved for smaller corporate events, Luncheons, special events at the client's residence.

I hope as you read through these coverages you see how we are selling each level of coverage to accommodate the length of the event. If any of the events booked at the smaller levels of coverage run over by a short amount of time, say 30-60 minutes, we are still going to stay till the end. It's just no big deal.

Average Order

I would be remiss if I didn't tell you that our clients NEVER end up with the contracted number of images. If I've done my job right, they will want many, many additional images and ALWAYS do.

I've mentioned this several times at DPT, we sell pro-actively with our clients. With our clients making a personal visit to our studio in order that they can "fine tune" their album selection from the images they saw on-line. Our typical album leaves the studio with the client's choice of 200-250 images bound in a beautiful leather cover and looks stunning.

In Conclusion

Anyway, I hope you get an idea of how we present our coverages to our clients always stressing the proper coverage for the event. Once that is settled we can move on and show them the other products and services we offer.

Granted, digital has changed the way many photographers are offering their services, many photographers not even offering albums but just burning all the images to a CD. One of the more creative album delivery methods I've heard recently is about the photographer who delivers his images on the new Apple iPad.

Things are changing and they are changing fast. Those of us who have been in this business for several years can never rest on our laurels or be blind to additional creative ways to enhance the photographic experience for our clients and remain profitable ourselves.

The right way to do things is the way that leads to a successful outcome for the business owner and has the client thrilled with the result!


Hey gang, that's it for me today. I should be able to give you a peak at our special project in a day or two, so stay tuned.

Everybody have a great rest of the day and I'll see you same time, same place tomorrow.

Adios, David

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

"Five Hundred Boylston"

500 Boylston-IMG_1233

"Five Hundred Boylston"
©David A. Ziser

What a cool building – and when I hit it with the Sigma 8-16mm wide angle lens – super WOW!  Maybe it’s all the fine detail throughout this image that makes it work for me.  I was reviewing our images from our New England trip and this one just popped out at me. The strong converging lines and all that detail provided me an image reminiscent of some gothic structure out of a Hollywood fantasy movie – almost surreal. I tweaked the colors and tone in Lightroom 3 to finesse the result – no HDR here - and really like the final presentation.  Still, it was the Sigma lens that let me pull off the shot.  Camera specs: Canon 7D fitted with 8-16mm Sigma wide angle lens, F 8.0 @ 1/100 second, ISO 100.  Enjoy!  -David

Quick Tip Wednesday: My First Impressions Of Sigma's 8-16mm Super Wide Angle Lens

Good Morning Everybody,

We wrapped our shoot yesterday about noon, reviewed the images with the client and they loved the results.  Probably the coolest thing for them was my shooting tethered into Lightroom 3 on the spot.  It was easy to catch any nasty reflections, or anything else (extension cords, trash cans, exit signs) that was misplaced.  In reviewing the images, the client could also add their product to areas within the scene as they felt necessary. Everything went great.

Worldwide Webcast Last night's webcast went off without a hitch too.  It made it a long day for me, but I still enjoy each and every webinar.  It was nice to see some of our regular DPT readers be on board too.  I hope all of you that were able to attend had a good time.  I know Peachpit puts all the webcasts on line.  So, if you missed it, I'll keep you posted as to when you can catch it on-line, should be about a week.

That's the latest updates from around here.  I've got a client coming by this morning, so let's get on with today's post.

My First Impressions Of Sigma's 8-16mm Super Wide Angle Lens

Sigma 8-16mm w-glow Most of you reading this blog know that I'm a BIG fan of wide angle lenses. Looking at so many of the currant wedding photographers, and lots of folks seems to be enthralled with their fast glass, shallow depth of field shots.  I have to admit, that has never been my thing.

Don't get me wrong.  I'm not saying those kind of shots are not great photographs.  They just aren't "my cup of tea". The don't "tickle my fancy". OK, enough of the old time phases - the fact of the matter is that I find my photographic excitement, not in those kinds of images, but rather in the dramatic feel of wide angle, well composed, well lit dramatic images. So, when Sigma announced their new 8-16mm super wide angle lens for APS sized sensor cameras, I couldn't wait!

Finally, it became available and I was able to borrow it while we traveled to New England last week.  I have to say, I LOVED walking around with that lens and that lens only attached to my camera all day.  It is just SO much wider than what I've been used to on my 7D.

Sigma 1So, the 10-22mm Canon lens is a nice optic, but that added 7 degrees of wide angle freedom is nice to see in the viewfinder.  The Canon lens comes in at a 107.5 degrees of view.  The Sigma sees 114.5 degrees of view.  It doesn't seem like that much more until you look through the viewfinder.  It's just a WOW wide angle view.

Still the widest, rectilinearly corrected view available on the market is the Sigma 12-24mm lens on a full frame DSLR camera body.  That lens on a Canon 5D Mark II will give you an unbelievable 122 degrees of view.  I was actually hoping that the new Sigma would be closer to that spec, not quite, but still close enough.

Remember, it has to do with the multiplication factor of your camera. Canon 7D has a multiplication factor of 1.6x making the actual focal length of the new Sigma lens 12.8mm.  The same lens on a Nikon with it's 1.5x magnification factor would be a bit wider at 12mm. Anyway, what's one silly millimeter among friends?  It's still one darn WIDE wide angle lens.

DAZNOTE: Curiously enough, Amazon list the field of view at 121.2 degrees not quite sure where that figure comes from.  Sigma lists the figure at 114.5 degrees.

Sigma 3So, how did it do? I found the build quality solid with a nice finish on the lens.  Focusing is fast and really quiet.  Sharpness looked very good to me throughout the zoom range under closer inspection in Lightroom 3 and Photoshop.

You can see some barrel distortion at the widest zoom settings but nothing that can't be ameliorated in Lightroom 3.  Also, with a lens that goes that wide, you will see just a tad of vignetting but nothing serious.  Once again Lightroom 3 makes quick work of that issue if you need it resolved - personally, on a wide angle optic like this, it simply doesn't bother me.

Before I wrap, let me give you a few pointers on shooting a lens this wide.  First of all, be sure to keep you subject near the center of the composition.  The further the subject is to the edge of the frame, the more noticeable distortion you will see.  And, it gets MUCH worse near the corners.

Sigma 4That is not the fault of the lens.  It's just a fact with super wide-angle lenses.  Remember, it's the super wide angle view that is so much fun to play with.  Just think of it as a really sharp knife so use it's "wideangledness" carefully so you don't "cut" yourself when shooting with it - figuratively speaking, of course.

Overall, I'm a big fan of the lens and can't wait to give it a try for some of my wedding and portrait work. Compositionally, it should add quite a bit of impact to my wide angle images.  I'm giving it two thumbs way up.

Oh, by the way, you can find an in-depth review of Sigma’s 8-16mm lens at right here.
Hey gang, that's it for me today.  We have a HUGE project we are working on that needs to be wrapped up by this weekend.  I'll definitely be filling you in next week. 

And, I have one of my favorite clients coming by a little later on this morning to fine tune her album selection from her son's Bar Mitzvah celebration.  It will be fun getting together and reliving that great day with her.

So folks, I'm out of here.  I'll see everyone tomorrow for another episode of Business Day Thursday: How I Sell My Wedding Coverages.

See ya' then,  David