Tuesday, October 25, 2016


Here in Idaho we do a lot of portraits ( www.TheStorytellersUsa.com ) of people with their animals.  By far the most technically difficult are black horses, dogs and cats WITH their owners—especially if their humans are fair conplextionecd caucasians.  The issue then is lighting for the wide dynamic range of the white skin versus the jet black of the animal.

How do we as professionals handle this?  It’s no different than our film days. We place our subjects in open shade one or two hours before sunset, which brings the light levels in the background down to a recordable level.  Exposure is measured with a hand-held INCIDENT Light Meter—thus measuring only the light falling ON our subject (not what’s in the background).

Your camera’s meter is a reflectance meter that sees your subject (the incident meter dos not see the subject—only the light falling on it), and its designed to average the world to 18% gray. So, if you “zero” the meter on white snow or a black lab it will render both as gray. 

These methods takes care of exposure and dynamic range at the same time…

f5.0 @ 1/160 sec., ISO 800; lens @ 135mm
The background has some nice colors—even some bokeh with the aperture at f5.0 — and the dog has great detail through out.

Using these techniques, with the dog’s humans in place, creates the balance necessary for our digital camera to record this much dynamic range…

f6.3 @ 1/200 sec,m ISO 400; Lens @ 200mm
Some photographers may say why not photograph the dog in direct sunlight to really show it’s detail? I have done that on occasion—but, I would Never put people in such harsh light!

So, let’s compare direct sunlight with open shade on this black lab…

f5.6 @ 1/400 sec., ISO 400
With direct sunlight we have the dogs shinny black coat creating a lot of specular high lights—and that alone can play havoc with many digital camera’s ability to record those highlights without clipping. (My Canon 5D MKII did handled it well). However, my biggest complaint here is with the dog and background in the same hard light there is little separation of the dog with it’s background; the dog is merging into the background. In addition the dog is actually squinting it’s eyes in the harsh light.  

Now compare it with open shade…
f5.0 @ 1/160 sec., ISO 800
The dog looks more relaxed; it’s eyes are open wide.  There’s nice detail without all the specular highlights and we have dramatic separation of the dog and the background because of the DIFFERENT light sources.

Ask your questions or leave a comment…’Til next week…

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

Tuesday, October 18, 2016


This portrait session was done at the Japanese Hakone Gardens in Saratoga, California during their annual Matsuri where I was their official photographer. 

In Part 1 I showed some images of the bride in the traditional all white outfit with the head shroud—which symbolically covers her head to hide the “Horns of Jealousy”. In this part she has changed into the very colorful reception outfit and removed the head shroud.  

During the Matsuri there are traditional Japanese musicians, dancers and artists who combine their talents to recreate the look and feel of Japanese culture centuries old—well aided by the authentic Hakone Gardens ambience.

One of my favorite events was the work by a Japanese performance artist that set-up two very large canvases (each 10 feet x 20 feet) and then painted them using brooms to the accompaniment of traditional music. Then while the paint was still wet he would toss or blow colored powders from his hands to accent the black Japanese calligraphy. Of course, as soon as he was done I HAD to get my bride in front of these perfect backgrounds for yet another look to her portraits.

One of my favorites…

 f4.0 @ 1/400 sec., ISO 400; lens @ 200mm
With the Hakone pond in-between us, my lens at 200mm, I used hand signals to position her where I wanted her to stand, position of her shoulders and where to look.  At least with the pond between us none of the many amateur photographers in attendance could step in front of my camera! 

Close ups of the bride Not Looking at the Camera are one of my required portraits…

 f5.6 @ 1/800 sec., ISO 800; lens @ 200mm
Creating some nice Bokeh in the background; with my lens at 200mm the f-stop does not matter so much. Just like all weddings, I show the details of her ensemble…

f4.5 @ 1/1000 sec., ISO 800; lens @ 200mm
As I said in Part 1, moving the bride around the gardens for different looks (with a variety of backgrounds) is always my goal when I’m outside.  However, using only natural light when your subject is some distance from your camera position requires careful placement of the subject.  One of my basic rules is to not allow direct sunlight to strike my subject’s face (actual sunset light is the exception). Since we were doing these portraits between 3 and 4pm in May the light was high and harsh, so, I kept the sun behind her creating a powerful rim light…

f4.5 @ 1/500 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 200mm
You can see why traditional ethnic weddings are so much fun (and my favorite of all weddings). Their color and details are a joy to photograph and they enable to the photographer, with an artistic eye, to create a truly unique portfolio that will WOW both clients and prospective clients.

As always, have a question don’t hesitate to ask…’Til next week…

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

Tuesday, October 11, 2016


Whenever I’m outside the studio ( http://www.TheStorytellersUsa.com ) doing portraits on a location with good indoor and outdoor spots for photography two criteria are always the most important to me…

1)  Using Natural Light Everywhere.

2)  Working the location—moving my subject around during the session using as many of the different backgrounds that the location has to offer.

This portrait session was done at the Japanese Hakone Gardens in Saratoga, California during their biggest event of the year—their Matsuri—where I was their official photographer. This actual bride to be was there to demonstrate the look of a traditional Japanese bride. Because of all the other events I had to cover I only had an hour with her and to complicate things there were hundreds of spectators and what felt like hundreds of amateur photographers following us around the gardens getting in my way!  In addition, because there was a pond in the middle of the garden that often separated us I had to communicate with her via had signals (I had NO assistant on this session) to tell her where to stand, which way to face in a pose and where to move to for the next set-up.  Yelling didn’t work due to the constant music and PA announcements during the event.  Fortunately, she took direction well and we got a nice variety of images…

 f4.0 @ 1/800 sec., ISO 400; lens at 200mm
One of my favorite close-ups; I used Silver Efect Pro 2 to Sepia tone and enhance grain in this image.  I had fun working the the “hood” on her white outfit—it could be a scrim as in the last image or a gobo (blocking light) in the following image…

f5.6 @ 1/800 sec., ISO 800; Lens @ 200mm
Sometimes you don’t have to show the whole face in a portrait—I like her little smile and eye lashes! And, to make this image more interesting I zoomed in to 200mm to create some nice Bokeh in the background. 

Note:  I found the bokeh FIRST then I placed her exactly where I wanted her to be to have the bokeh where I wanted it!

We went inside the cultural center because I found a great background with warm incandescent light and placed her near the open door to photograph her by natural light of course!

 f3.5 @ 1/160 sec., ISO 800; Lens @ 80mm
The open door acted like a large window and created a nice contrast to the warm background lights. Because of these mixed color temperatures I did a custom white balance on just the light falling on her.  Natural light is not only the best light it’s easy to control!

I’ll continue with this really fun session in Part 2 next week. ’Til then…

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

Tuesday, October 4, 2016


This time of year I see thousands of fall color images that are usually just record shots of a tree that has changed colors or worse a forrest of colorful trees. I think that the more a photographer shows of a given subject the less he has to say about it. The amateur photographer by taking a picture of a pretty forrest asks nothing of the viewer and often says nothing to the viewer about the scene.

As a professional photographic artist I prefer to narrow my view on most subjects and look for the unique details within a scene. I don’t do forrest and rarely photograph a whole single tree. I find far more interesting compositions when I move into the forrest and then I narrow my view further by using my telephoto lens to zero-in on special details….

 f8.0 @ 1/160sec., ISO 800 Lens @ 150mm
I like the first two weeks of October, so that I can get more of a range of colors—some leaves are still green while others are yellow to blazing red.

I like this image because the leaves really show well against the tree’s black bark. When walking under a tree’s canopy I like to look up for back lit leaves…

f6.3 @ 1320 sec., ISO 800 Lens @ 85mm
Here again, I have a nice color contrast between the orange/yellow leaves and all the green leaves higher up in the canopy.  And then sometimes the story can come down to one solitary leaf on the ground…

f8.0 @ 1/250 sec., ISO 400 Lens @ 200mm
Taken at sunset towards the end of October, this image is truly symbolic of fall. So, I urge those beginning photographers that want to hone their compositional skills to narrow your view (replace that wide angle with a telephoto zoom lens) and get INTO the forrest; Look for the Details!

I tell my students, “You can often show more by revealing less.”  HAVE FUN!

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