Tuesday, December 27, 2016


Whenever possible I use window light at most weddings.  Why? It’s simply the best soft, directional (when used properly), natural looking, light we have at our disposal.  It’s infinitely preferable to flash (especially those evil speed lights) in ANY modifier.

It’s no mystery when the great classical painters like Vermeer and Caraviggio used it so much. It’s as thought the glass has some magical property that gives it’s light a soft yet directional quality that delicately wraps my subjects and still reveals details that make the portraits rich and three dimensional. That’s why I’ve sought out any window I could find on most of the weddings I’ve done these past 25 years.

The key to using window light wether your subject is a person or a product, like food or a wedding dress, is proper placement of the subject at the window. Unlike the studio, you can’t move the light source, so the lighting pattern is determined by the subject’s POSE or the angle of view as seen at the camera.
f4.0 @ 1/125th sec., ISO 400
n the image above I placed my bride close to the window (about 3-feet away) and turned her so that I got light in BOTH her eyes. I also used a soft white reflector, on camera right, just out of frame.

  1. Look for windows with NO direct sunlight in them. North or South facing windows are the safest.
  2. For Portraits, the window is your Light Source NOT a background! You would NEVER show the soft box in a studio portrait.  I show no physical evidence of the window—not even drapes or shears. The shears usually over expose and blow-out anyway.
  3. Keep your subject close to the window for the softest light (usually two or three feet); as you move your subject away from the window the light becomes harder and the level falls dramatically.
  4. Because window light is so soft I usually use a white reflector, for a soft fill, on the subject’s shadow side—especially if the subject if looking toward the camera.  This is to avoid split giving the face.  If I have my subject look out toward the window, creating short lighting, then I use NO reflector.
Window light is great for showing detail in most anything—that’s why commercial food photographers use it so much. So, it’s a natural for those wedding details like the wedding cake, the bride & grooms rings or any unusual details like the brides shoes…
f8.0 @ 160 sec., ISO 400
In this image I did show some of the windows because it was an overcast day limiting any blow-out and besides I HAD to put the shoes in this window box!

We always try to do a bridal dress portrait by window light. My wide is great at “posing” the dress with the brides accessories usually while the bride is having her hair and make-up done.

 f11.0 @ 1/30 sec., ISO 400
This pure window light dress portrait was posed just like I would pose the bride, except I used no reflector on the shadow side, because I wanted VERY dramatic lighting here. This image was a PPA (Professional Photographers of America) National Merit Print from one of our first digital weddings in 2002.  

As always, questions are welcome…Look forward to hearing from you!  ’Tis next week…

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

Tuesday, December 20, 2016


Traditional artists know this and have the advantage of only painting (or drawing, etc.) on their canvas what THEY want us to see.  The painter can easily omit any element in a scene that hurts his composition or weakens his center-of-interest. In addition the painter decides on and creates the quality of light, its intensity, and direction EVERYWHERE in his painting.

From what I see on the internet, looking at countless websites, too any professional photographers either don’t care or don’t know how to take control of these basic aspects of their art.

Many photographers just take a “picture” of what’s in front of them (the whole thing!) regardless of the lighting and walk away.  They LOOK at the subject, but don’t SEE the many parts (often better subjects) within the whole that often tell the audience the REAL story about the subject.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about…

f5.0 @ 1/2000 sec., ISO 125; Lens @ 70mm
Below is the over-all subject that contained the small leaf…

Over-all view 
This large backlit bush caught my attention only because of the lighting. As a whole it had little artistic merit—until I walked up to it and saw those individual ice encrusted leaves.

So, don’t just LOOK at your subjects and just trip the shutter; SEE what you can find by NARROWING YOUR VISION (use a Telephoto or Macro lens) and venture INTO the scene (you may have too get your feet wet or muddy!). And, don’t forget, SEEING is also about the light. Don’t settle for flat light; as an artist you wait for the great light or your create it.

Now go out there and SEE! ’Til next week…

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

Tuesday, December 13, 2016


I walked around my neighborhood last night to do some Christmas lights photography.  What drew me out was the fog that developed because it has started to warm up a little; it was up to 32° F and the snow was starting to melt! Even though it was 32° F it felt really cold in the fog and my hands went numb quickly in my thin gloves.  So, I decided to not take the time to set-up a tripod and just hand hold my camera using ISO 1600. 

It took me a good 15 minutes to settle on a camera position to create the kind of compositional interest I wanted. I can’t help myself—even with something as cliche as Christmas lights—the classic compositional building blocks apply:


f5.0 @ 1/15sec., ISO 1600, Lens @ 24mm
What immediately attracted me to this view was the street light’s glow in the background (I loved that hazy glow created by the fog.).

As is usual with my style I tend to build my images from the BACKGROUND—FORWARD. 

The fountain, as center of interest, is in the mid-ground. Then I “placed” my foreground object, that tree on the right, to fill the void on the right. 

This kind of composition is all about alignment of the various elements, which I find much easier to do when I’m not using a tripod. Even with my Canon 5D MKII I expected some noise at 1600 ISO, but the RAW files looked remarkably good and after I ran my JPGS through NICK’s DeFine 2 noise reduction they looked really nice.

Now I’m scouting some more really elaborate Christmas light displays to photograph!  

’Til next week…

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

Tuesday, December 6, 2016


I do most of my portrait sessions with my 70-200mm f2.8 lens. I tend to keep as close to 200mm as I can wether I’m doing a group or an individual. If I’m only photographing an individual portrait session—especially a child—I’ll add my 1.4x extender for a telephoto compression boost.  

You see it’s not just about the telephoto compression effect, knocking the background out of focus or bokeh in the background—Things that I really do Love!—It’s about dramatic impact.  It’s about storytelling (that’s why we renamed our studio The Storytellers seven years ago.) Many times—especially with individuals—the tighter the crop the more dramatic the storytelling. 

Case in point in this session of a high school senior and her horse, I did not have enough lens at the moment of capture….
f5.6 @ 1/1250 sec., ISO 400; lens at 180mm
This marvelous moment came and went in a couple of seconds. Fortunately, I was watching their interaction through my camera’s viewfinder and I was zooming in and caught the moment as I was walking towards them. So, this post capture crop was necessary to create the drama using the composition you see.  In addition, the conversion to B&W (using Silver Efex Pro-2) helped to simplify the scene by eliminating her blue shirt.

Here’s the full-frame original color version…
Original Full Color Version
I think the crop is a huge improvement over the original, but it’s not without cost.  I believe that the single biggest disadvantage we face today with our professional digital cameras versus our medium format film cameras is our loss of image quality when we do serious cropping.

In the above images my file size went from 28mb in the full-frame version to 5mb in the cropped version! So, by my math, to end up with a file size of 28mb AFTER that much cropping I would need a starting file size of 156mb!

It was much easier in our medium format film days when we could crop and use 1/4 of a negative and still produce a great wall print.

Happy Cropping! ’Til next week…

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