Tuesday, October 29, 2019


In my 40 years doing fine art photography, in multiple Western states, it has only been these last ten years in Idaho that my fall colors portfolio has truly blossomed. I’ve never experienced such vibrant, colorful, and varied autumn colors until we moved from California to Idaho. My biggest complaint about fall colors in California—we lived in Silicon Valley—was that all the best colorful trees were in the parking lots of malls and businesses!

When we do portraits our favorite park is Kathryn Albertson Park in Boise. It’s good all year, but it’s exceptional in the fall.  However, if I want the more vivid fall colors for my fine art I’ll look towards Meridian, but for the best variety of colors, with the addition of water features, I always drive a couple miles into Eagle, Idaho. The key to great fall photography is to revisit the good spots periodically—at least every week in October. 

My recent images from Eagle, Idaho….

f11.0 @ 1/40 sec.,ISO 400; Lens @ 15mm
This was done at 11am to get the rising sun backlighting this marvelous tree.

TECH NOTE:  If you want great color and detail in leaves use backlight NOT front light, Front light hides detail and will often blow-out, clipping your high lights, on the shiny surfaces of the leaves.

This composition is about as big as I go with fall trees. I’ll pick ONE tree and then go in for details. I don’t photograph Forests; the best thing about autumn is in the details.

TECH NOTE:  With backlight and proper exposure our fall colors don’t need much work in Photoshop. For this image I reduced highlights and lowered blacks. I only bumped Vibrance +10 and Saturation +8.

MY PHILOSOPHY:  You can reveal more about a subject by showing less.  That means I zoom-in or crop…

f11.0 @ 1/250th sec., Iso 400; Lens @ 105mm
So, I stand INSIDE the tree looking towards the sun and pick a branch with some great backlit leaves. In addition, I move so that the background is darker behind the leaves to really make them “pop” off the background.

Then I move in on a special leaf….
f11.0 @ 1/200 se.c, ISO 400; Lens @ 105mm
I really like these leaves at this stage of fall. You can see the autumn colors progressing through the leaves like a slowly advancing virus.

An Eagle water feature….
 f9.0 @ 1/60 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 70mm
This pond, a favorite haunt of local ducks, is on the edge of a housing development. With the trees around it I look for the reflection of their fall colors in the water to align with features on the edge of the pond. I like to create compositions that include foreground, mid-ground  and background interest.

Hope you enjoyed this years fall colors and I will share more next week.  ’Til then…

Author: Jerry W. Venz, PPA Master Photographer, Craftsman

Tuesday, October 22, 2019


We’ve done a lot of photography of people with their horses and many maternity sessions of our clients, as well, over the years, but this was the only time the two types of photography got combined.  It turned out to be a very special session for all of us.

One of our challenges was the posing of this gal with her horse. One of our mainstays in equine photography was of the owner in mounted poses with their horse. In this type of session I wasn’t even going to ask for that! Only if SHE volunteered a mounted pose would that happen. 

However, the standing poses worked just fine….
f8.0 @ 1/800 sec., ISO 800; Lens @ 200mm
She said her horse was her first baby. They had an obvious connection to each other that showed in all our images.  

A full view of her with her big baby…
f5.6 @ 1/500 sec., ISO 800; Lens @ 75mm
We normally discourage people wearing white in portraits sessions, but in this session the color harmony with her in white was perfect.

A special close-up moment…

f5.0 @ 1/800 sec., ISO 800; Lens @ 200mm
We started about an hour and a half before sunset for some directional lighting and to control the level of light in the background. Then I use the most telephoto focal length I can—in this case 200mm—to blur out my background (bokeh is great!) isolating my subjects.

Next time you get the chance try something fun…’til next week.

Author:  Jerry W. Venz, PPA Master Photographer, Craftsman

Tuesday, October 15, 2019


High School Seniors Photography is among the most creative types of photography. Why? Because we’re photographing an individual we don’t have to worry about group composition and the space it takes to place a group within an outdoor background or a studio set. We are free to creatively use the many small niches in the outdoor environment that we don’t normally use. In addition we can do more variety in poses, with more interesting standing poses, that don’t work for groups. Then there are the clothing changes, something we don’t have time for in group portraits, that can really add creative variety to a session. And since the clothes matter to teens these different outfits tell us something about them. After all isn’t that why we’re doing their portraits at this pivotal moment in their lives?

One of my favorite types of sessions is what we call the Dual Senior Session.  This is where we do both a studio and an outdoor session—usually on the same day. These sessions are far more challenging, but can reveal a lot more about them as well. And because the environment, the background, the depth and lighting is so radically different in our outdoor versus our studio sessions the teens often act differently—the whole look is fundamentally different.  

This young lady is a good example….

f11.0 @ 1/200 sec., ISO 200, Lens @ 110mm
The parents always want their kids to smile in portraits and we do our best to accommodate them, but sometimes the child won’t comply.  This gal had a definite, single minded, style she wanted to portray in the studio. We can relate to most parents. Our oldest son would rarely smile in front of the camera. I actually like this portrait of her—It has emotional content that is real. It tells me more about her than would a cheesy smile.

Then we went to a local park…
f4.5 @ 1/400 sec., ISO 800; Lens @ 123mm
 Now, she’s really cutting loose!  This was the smile she gave us; this is her persona. We were happy with the results and so were her parents.

Another reason we do a Dual Senior Session is when the clients need a formal studio session for the yearbook in addition to the usual outdoor session.

This young man was really easy to work with….

f11.0 @ 1/200 se., ISO 200; lens @ 165mm
I loaned him one of my tuxedos for his yearbook formal (we also provide the black drape for the gals). Then as part of our service we take care of getting their formal image to the yearbook staff at their High School.  

Then off to the park for casual portraits…
 f4.5 @ 1/200 sec., SIO 400; Lens @ 222mm
Both of these outdoor sessions were done in the fall—our favorite time of the year here in Idaho. These were done in early and late October where we go out about two hours before sunset.

My style is to only use outdoor locations that are lit by the setting sun—so that when I place my subjects the sun is setting behind them.  Then I knock it all out of focus with a relativity wide aperture and as much telephoto lens as I can bring to bear.  

That’s it for this week….as usual don’t hesitate to ask questions…happy to answer you….

Author: Jerry W. Venz, PPA Master Photographer, Craftsman

Tuesday, October 8, 2019


My speciality is environmental natural light portraits. So, when doing family, high school seniors, or any individual portraits outside I decide when we start the photography session. I also usually decide where the session is done from my list of great locations. Since I want every session to be fabulous I need to control as many variables as possible in my portraits. That’s why I have our outdoor sessions start about 2 hours before sunset, depending on the location. Then we work the location saving the best spots for the “magic hour lighting”. Well, then there’s wedding photography; not the best field of photography for a control freak! With my 30+ years as a full time professional photographer nothing has been more challenging than doing weddings. Facing that challenge has made me a much better photographer in every area of my business.

Sometimes you only have 2 minutes to decide where and how you’re going to “get the shot”…
f4.5 @ 1/500sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 200mm
It’s 3 o’clock on a very bright, clear, summer day at the Hakone Gardens in Saratoga, California. Obviously not my favorite time of day and the bride wants an image on the bridge—the most open area of the gardens. I oblige my client giving them what they ask for and then I move on to MY choice of location. 

Using my lens at 200mm with an aperture of f4.5, I blur out the background giving me some nice bokeh and isolating her.

Next I moved her into the shade…
f5.6 @ 1/800 sec., ISO 800; Lens @ 200mm
Putting her into the shade of a big tree gave me the soft light I wanted on her face. Then I looked for some less harsh background light I could de-focus, creating separation against her face and the black wig. It required very careful framing to get the separation around her wig—especially the upper right hand quadrant.

Then I moved her again…
f4.0 @ 1/400 sec., ISO 400; lens @ 200mm
Using this large canvas, created by a visiting Japanese artist, created a relevant background and it blocked the strong direct sunlight behind it. An easy exposure using open sky creating soft light.  

At another shady area….
f4.0 @ 1/400 sec., ISO 800, Lens @ 120mm
Well known for their bamboo gardens I wanted some as a background. This was done in front of the visitor’s center. I liked the spotty backlight—I just made sure that her face stayed in the shade.

Then I moved her into the sunlight…
 f4.0 @ 1/800 sec., ISO, 400; Lens @ 200mm
Now I’m letting the sun light-up her white translucent shroud. This created a soft box effect—except her head is inside the soft-box!

This bridal session was challenging, but with such a great subject I was motivated to create something she would always cherish. We had a lot of fun too!

I’m open to questions…have a great day, until next week…

Author:  Jerry W. Venz, PPA Master Photographer, Craftsman

Tuesday, October 1, 2019


Here at The Storytellers we don’t do “head-shots”. We don’t even use the term with clients; it’s always Executive Portraits. These sessions are custom tuned to the look they want combined with our advice gleaned from over 25 years of studio photography experience.

A vital part of each session is the clothing consultation. We advise that more clothing coverage is better than less. The more skin you show the more it takes attention away from the face. That’s why we recommend long sleeves and at most “V” necks. If we’re doing any standing poses we suggest pants or a dress at knee length. Then we move on to clothing colors and picking a background that will compliment those colors. When done right we have color harmony…

f11.0 @ 1/200 sec., ISO, 200; Lens @ 120mm
When we told this gal about our backgrounds and mentioned our Tuscan, hand painted, muslin, in brown tones with hints of blue highlights, she put together an outfit that was in perfect color harmony and looked great on her!

Here’s the studio lighting set-up….

Studio Set-up
This is my basic 3-Light set-up.
  • Main Light: Photoflex, 7 foot, OctoDome
  • Hair Light: Larson, 9x24”, strip-light
  • Background Light: one Norman head with grid
  • Reflector: Soft white, 42”, Photoflex
Then we changed the background….

f11.0 @ 1/200 sec., ISO 200; Lens @ 150mm
We always do a series of seated poses with this level of framing—head and shoulders or a little wider—to give the client lots of choices This was her favorite image from the series.  

This particular pose is one of our “Power Poses”. In this pose we have the client lean forward slightly with an elbow on a knee.  This put her face forward of her tummy; when the face is closer to the camera than the tummy the size of the tummy is reduced.  It’s a standard pose for men to slim them, but obviously works well with a woman that is comfortable with it!  

’Til next week…..

Author: Jerry W. Venz, PPA Master Photographer, Craftsman