Tuesday, November 24, 2015


In Part 1 it was all about natural light portraits outside—nothing better—and with horses and the guy with his car and dog it’s pretty much the only way; not many of us have studios that large! However, if you want to make a living in photography you must be able to go inside when the weather forces you or when the client requests a studio session. That being said, going inside does not mean being limited to studio flash. You can opt for natural light here as well. 

So, I’ll break down INSIDE into two parts:

Inside Portraits — Studio Flash

Using studio flash is very useful for pet photography for two important reasons: 
  1. Action: Studio flash will freeze the action of the most excitable animal and still maintain a nice low ISO.
  2. Depth-of-Field: Because of the power you have with a studio flash (as opposed to wimpy speed lights) you can use f11.0 or more for the depth-of-field you may want when photographing large animals or groups of animals with or without their owners.

f11.0 @ 1/200 sec., ISO 200
In the portrait above we had a very “antsy” cat. You can tell by the woman’s hair that there was some action here as she tried to control her Large cat! 

 f11.0 @ 1/160 sec., ISO 200
With small excitable dogs we like to place then on something, off the ground.  That way I get at least one image before they figure it’s OK to jump down!

 f9.0 @ 1/200 sec., ISO 200
Big black labs can be challenging to photograph.  First, I don’t have anything I can put them on so we do a sit and down pose, and if they will stay well we’d do this standing pose.

Second, I’ve seen many photographers have trouble pulling detail out of portraits of black labs. I don’t have much of a problem with them because I’m using a large 7 foot Photoflex, Octadome, as my main, that requires NO Fill Light. I added a 42” silver reflector, on the right, opposite the main. In addition there is a strip box (hair light) mounted to the ceiling and two background lights.

Inside Portraits — Natural Light

The only problem with doing natural light portraits indoors is that you will need to bump-up your ISO to get a usable shutter speed—especially if you’re hand holding the camera as I am. In addition with window light indoors you won’t be able to stop down as much as in the studio, so you’ll be giving up some depth-of-field. You can always use an even higher ISO, but at the expense of more noise; can your camera produce wall prints at ISO’s over 800?

f4.0 @ 1/800 sec., ISO 800, lens at 200mm
In this image of our Gadget, when she was a puppy, I needed a high shutter speed because; First, this little quadruped was quick! Second, to back-off and fill the frame @ 200mm and hand hold that lens required that shutter speed.  Her light was a very large 6x12 foot window about twelve feet away that was illuminated by clear blue sky, NOT direct sunlight. I don’t generally allow direct sunlight on my subjects. Still the light here is very hard and she’s got very small catch lights because, even with the very large window, at that distance window light becomes very hard. That’s why when we do people portraits by window light we place them within a couple feet of the window, giving us a large, soft, source.

f8.0 @ 1.200 sec., ISO 400, lens @85mm
One of my favorite ways to light people with their horses is by “barn light”! This is the light created by a large barn door open to sky light. Again NO direct sun!  The directional source you get with this large open door is very dramatic. Because of the volume of light coming through this large opening I was able to use my usual outdoor ISO of 400 and still use f8.0 of good depth-of-field.

Let me know if you have any comments or questions…’Till next week…

Author:  Jerry W. Venz, PPA Master Photographer, Craftsman, Certified
Training site:  http://www.LightAtTheEdge.com

Tuesday, November 17, 2015


My personal favorite environment to do portraits of people and their animals is in natural light outside. (And if you’ve read this Blog before—well, yeah, so what’s new about that!)

Yes, Natural Light, I believe, is still the best light money can’t buy! Sometimes I go inside (a little more difficult with horses) and still use natural light.  Then again, I do photograph people and animals in the studio (not horses!) with studio flash when the weather is really bad.  So, you see, I’m not as rigid in my style of photography as some assume! After all , a true professional photographer should be able to excel using ALL types of light.

Starting with my favorite….

Outside — Natural Light:

Being outside not only gives me great light—It gives me more Lens Choices. I can back-off and use my absolute favorite zoom—my 70-200 f2.8 lens—or go wide, placing my subjects in a scenic with my 17-50mm or 24-105mm lenses.

Lens choice equals more creative control!  

f5.6 @ 1/1250 sec., ISO 400 Lens @ 180mm
In the above portrait I caught some fun action, as this gal’s horse nuzzled-in, using my 70-200mm lens. This was in January about 2 hours before sunset—so we were getting a nice warm light.

 f8.0 @ 1/500 sec., ISO 400 Lens @ 32mm
With this portrait I went to the other extreme using my wide zoom at 32mm. We had carefully placed her and her horse at a dynamic entry point into the scene and I’m up on a 6 foot ladder! Why you ask? Well, I’m usually on a ladder doing horses, especially when being ridden, because I don’t want to be doing up angle portraits (from below their noses) of people—not very flattering.

However, in this case, I wanted both my subjects to be placed against that field of green behind them. I did not want their bodies or heads bisected by the horizon line which is the view I was getting when I was on the ground.

 f5.6 @ 1/1000 sec., ISO 400 Lens @ 200mm
For this young man’s portrait with his dog and his car we were again out about 2 hours before sunset on a cool February day. I’m backed way-off with my lens at 200mm, compressing the car and my subjects. With my camera on a tripod, it made it possible to squeak my dog toys, getting the dog’s attention!  It Worked! 

Next week, in Part 2, we’ll go Inside using both natural light and studio flash.

As always, should you have any comments or questions, please don’t hesitate to ask. “Till next week…

Author:  Jerry W. Venz, PPA Master Photographer, Craftsman, Certified
Training Site:  http://www.LightAtTheEdge.com

Tuesday, November 10, 2015


There are basically two ways to photography fast action and motorsports.  You can freeze the action at the decisive moment giving your audience a detailed look at a moment that can’t be seen in real time, or you can create the illusion of motion in a single frame by NOT freezing the action. These two styles each have their place.  The stopped action style is what you mostly see in reportage photography media. I think not freezing the action, implying motion, can elevate your action sports images to the next level; they can become art.  Both styles are the result of diametrically opposed techniques, but it’s all about Shutter Speed.

Creating the Illusion of motion with slow shutter speed:

Panning @ 1/15 sec., on Kodachrome 64
Of all the motor sports I’ve done over the years, I loved doing motorcycles the most. You can see the racer doing battle with the pitching and sliding race bike and it’s easier to get more than one racer inside the frame just because they’re smaller than their four wheeled counter parts! Too often today I see stopped motion photos of single race cars where the car just looks parked on the race track! 

The technique that must be practiced to capture race bikes doing 100 mph, at slow shutter speeds, is Panning with the Action.  To do this you must start with your camera pointed towards where the race bike is coming from and as it goes by you match your body rotation to it’s speed, clicking the shutter when it’s at it’s closest point, in front of you, (when the bike is parallel to your camera’s “film plane”) and follow through—panning as it goes by.  

When I did this image of these dirt trackers, on the San Jose Mile, back in 1970, I did not have auto focus or motor driven film advance, so I got ONE image every time the bike(s) passed-by. I manually focused on the track at that closest point where each particular racer tended to be; professional racers are very consistent about maintaining the same “line” on each lap. So, this focusing technique works well. 

Nowadays it’s a bit easier; we just put our auto focus into AI-Servo mode and shoot at 5 to 10 frames per second as the racer flashes by. But it’s still up to YOU to do the panning smoothly.  As you can see the slow shutter speed pan is great at isolating the race bikes by totally bluring the often distracting backgrounds you have at racetracks.

Stopping action with high shutter speed:

For action subjects that are chaotic (you don’t know where they are going to go) or action that is moving away or towards you the slow shutter speed pan is useless.  That’s when you crank-up the ISO and go to high shutter speeds.

 f5.0 @ 1/5000 sec., ISO 800
There aren’t too many other sports more chaotic than a rodeo! You never know where the horse or bull is going to go when the gate opens…and neither does the cowboy!

You’ll notice a couple of things in my exposure data for this rodeo image that is different than what I see other photographers suggest for action shutter speeds and f-stops.  I see many photographers suggest you use 1/1000 sec., as your shutter speed, but I’ve found for the intense action of rodeo I get a higher yield with must faster shutter speeds.  So, I’m usually at 1/2500 sec. to 1/5000 sec. to really stop action. In addition I tend to keep my f-stops from f4.5 to f5.0 for two reasons: First, I want only my subjects sharp and I’ve found that with my lens @ 200mm f5.0 gives me plenty of depth of field while defocusing the background. The Second reason is sharpness; most lenses are not sharpest when wide open—so I rarely have my lens at it’s widest aperture ( f 2.8 ).

Those are the basics that I’ve found produce the greatest yield in this kind of photography.  The key to really mastering sports photography is attaining experience through Practice, Patience and More Practice!

Don’t hesitate to ask questions or comments…’Til next week…

Author: Jerry W. Venz, PPA Master Photographer, Craftsman, Certified
Training site:  http://www.LightAtTheEdge.com

Tuesday, November 3, 2015


Now that you have some great images of fall colors captured in RAW…what do you do with them?

It begins with the HISTOGRAM.

When you open your images in ACR first look at your histogram. Is the image overexposed—e.g.. hitting or climbing the right wall? It’s always better to start with a properly exposed image especially with brightly colored subject matter.  The number one processing error I see from many photographers’ fall images is clipping in the red channel (over exposed reds). There is no excuse for this because, if your exposure is anywhere in the ball park, you can easily bring the reds down; and, by down, I mean reds with printable detail. 

Aside from over exposure the other ACR sliders that can cause your reds to clip include, too much: Saturation, Contrast or Clarity. One of the ways to control color clipping is to use More Vibrance and Less Saturation when you want more over all color. Vibrance is a smarter slider in that as you move to the positive, it controls reds, unlike the Saturation slider that just saturates all colors equally.  In fact, in a lot of my fall color images I leave my Saturation at “0” and just bring up Vibrance some.

In Part 1 I talked about the three different types of lighting that I use to capture fall colors.  How I process those images is different with each type of lighting.  In addition I often process each type in two stylistically different ways.  I render them either Soft or Hard depending on the mood I want to create.  Everything else being equal in ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) this is done with Negative Clarity (soft) or Positive Clarity (hard). 

So, lets start with OVERCAST SOFT LIGHT:

f8.0 @ 1/160 sec., ISO 800 

Contrast  @  +28

HighLights  @ 0

Shadows  @  +6

Whites  @  0

Blacks  @  -50

Clarity  @  +50

Vibrance  @ +42

Saturation  @  0

 f8.0 @ 1/160 sec., ISO 800 

Contrast  @  +53

HighLights  @ -68

Shadows  @  0

Whites  @  0

Blacks  @  -59

Clarity  @  -52

Vibrance  @ +50

Saturation  @  0

In the image on the top I wanted the leaves sharp and crisp ( +50 Clarity ) and in the images on the bottom I wanted those red leaves to Glow against those white trees, so I went to -50 Clarity .

You’ll also note that with this low level, soft, lighting my ISO is at 800 (not a problem with my Canon 5D MKII). However, if your camera is noisy at this level you should drop your ISO and then use a tripod and use a slower shutter speed.


 f5.6 @ 1/320 sec., ISO 400

Contrast   @  +42

HighLights   @  0

Shadows  @  +60

Whites  @  0

Blacks  @  -38

Clarity  @  -73

Vibrance  @  +28

Saturation  @  0

I wanted this image to have a painterly glow, so, I applied a lot of Negative Clarity. Because that kind of Clarity really enhances the colors I only used a Little Vibrance and “0” Saturation. The backlight is strong, as well, so I also increased Shadows ( +60 ) to bring up the detail in the tree bark.


 f8.0 @ 1/320 sec., ISO 400

Contrast  @  +31

HighLights  @ -76

Shadows  @  0

Whites  @  0

Blacks  @  -28

Clarity  @  +54

Vibrance  @ +19

Saturation  @  +16

I don’t do a lot of front-lit fall colors, but when I do I look for light that is directional—I don’t want FLAT front light.  As I revolved around this tree I saw this spotty light skimming across these leaves. Since the light hit one particular leaf, I got my center of interest I was looking for.  Typically with this type of light you’ll notice that I knocked down the highlights ( -76 ) quite a bit.  Then I brought the clarity up ( +54 ) only moderately increased Vibrance and Saturation.

As one of those old timers with Over 40 years experience in photography, I do not miss the film days!  With this digital technology, being able to dramatically alter any image in an infinite variety of ways, my artistic creativity knows no bounds!  I have surpassed Anything I could have done with Kodachrome or any of my other favorite films with the exception of Ektachrome HS Color Infra-Red; but I’m working on that!

Hope these tips helped you to realize MORE of your creative potential. As always, leave me a comment or ask a question…’Til next week…

Author: Jerry W. Venz, PPA Master Photographer, Craftsman, Certified
Training site:  http://www.LightAtTheEdge.com