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Jim Zuckerman’s

PH OTO I N S I G HTS January 2017

Impossible DOF Strategy of a model shoot Dawn photography Autofocus failure Photo tours Ask Jim Student showcase 1


On the cover: A portrait of a model using window light. This page: Frost on a window, Canada. 22

4. 9. 16. 23. 26. 28. 29. 33. 38.

Impossible depth of field Strategy of a model shoot Dawn photography Autofocus failure What’s wrong with this picture? Short and Sweet Ask Jim Student showcase Back issues


H

appy New Year 2017! It’s hard to believe how fast time goes. And this

brings me to perhaps the most important lesson in photography and in life: Don’t wait. Don’t wait to do something that’s really important to you because you might run out of time. Many of my clients ask me how I can keep up the pace of leading so many photo tours and constantly taking pictures. In February I’ll be sixty nine years old, and working so hard is definitely draining. But if I am not doing something every day to feed my passion in photography, then I feel the day hasn’t been as fulfilling as it might have been. I’ve known too many people who have passed away unexpectedly, and there were always things they really wanted to do that never got done because they were postponed, delayed, or put off because something else got in the way. I’m trying to squeeze into my life as many places, as many great experiences, and as many exciting photographs as I can while I’m still physically able to do these things. The last thing I want is to be incapacitated due to ill health or worse and wish I would have seen and photographed some incredible place but never made it. If there is some experience that is high on your priority list, don’t wait too long to do it. Days blend into weeks, and weeks blend into months and years and before you know it, life has passed you by. Don’t let that happen. Make this a new year’s resolution and sometime in 2017, do something in photography or in any other area of your life that will make you really happy. Jim Zuckerman www.jimzuckerman.com

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Impossible DOF

am a fan of complete depth of field in most (but obviously not all) cases. It seems to me that the beauty of photography is all about capturing intriguing detail in the world around us. The feathers of a bird, the branches of a tree, the fine hair in a young woman, or the texture of peeling paint gives us a lot to appreciate. When you include a sharp background -- assuming the background is complementary and/or beautiful -- you have a winning combination of elements. Having said that, out of focus backgrounds like in the great blue heron photo at right often work very well. They isolate the subject and force all of our attention on it. That’s a good thing. Still,

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when we include the environment like in the polar bear shot below and everything is sharp -- and the background is worthy of being included -- the results are visually compelling.


The problem with achieving this is that the laws of optics work against us. By that I mean if you are shooting with a long telephoto, such as the Canon 500mm f/4 lens that I used for the polar bear, there is no way you can get both the bear in focus as well as any kind of background. Only if I were far away like 300 feet), took the picture at f/32 and then cropped it, could I get what you see on the previous page. The disadvantage of that, of course, is that the small portion of the center of the image wouldn’t have the quality that an uncropped image would have.

clouds are soft and unfocused. There was no way around that unless I created a composite in which I combined a photo of the bear with a sharp photo of the existing background or any background I wanted. I recognized this problem as the bears walked past the electrified enclosure from which I was shooting. Therefore, I took several pictures of Hudson Bay, making sure they were sharp throughout. In Photoshop, I then selected the

Even at the smallest lens aperture, being this close to the bear (I was about 40 feet away) and filling the frame with it meant that the background was going to be out of focus to a certain degree. If I shot at a reasonable aperture like f/11 to deal with the diffused light, the background would be completely blurred. You can see in the original shot above that the 5


bear using Topaz Remask 5. This is the only software with which I’m familiar that can do a decent job of cutting around the fur. Remask did a remarkable job in separating the bear’s white fur from the very light sky. Once the bear and the ground were selected, I used Select > inverse. That grabbed everything except the bear and the ground, i.e. the sky, and then I pasted in the seascape. When the background and the foreground are both sharp, this simulates what we see with our eyes. We never see out of focus backgrounds unless we are looking through a lens. As our eyes look over a scene, we refocus on objects at varying distances so fast and so efficiently that we don’t even notice it. Everything seems sharp. That’s what this technique simulates. The costumed carnival model on the previous

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page was standing on a very narrow pedestrian bridge on Burano Island near Venice, Italy, and it was so narrow, in fact, that I could only back up about three feet from her. I used a wide angle lens -- a 24-105mm -- and that meant that the background wasn’t sharp. Even though I used the 24mm focal length, the subject-camera distance was too small to allow for complete depth of field. Therefore, I took a picture of the background in which everything was sharp and then combined the sharp model with the sharp architecture. The wild iguana, below, that I captured in Costa Rica was actually right next to the road. In the background was a bridge spanning a small river, and while the reptile made a great subject, the man-made elements ruined the picture. Therefore, I took some shots of the vegetation that lined the river and used that as


the environment behind the iguana. Had the background been completely out of focus, that would have been good, too. For my sense of aesthetics, though, the look of complete depth of field is more interesting/engaging/visually arresting. Instead of an artificial construct -that of shallow depth of field that is only possible with a man-made glass lens -- the subject’s environment rendered with full detail makes for a powerful visual statement. The same is true for the snowy owl picture, above. Like the iguana and the polar bear, I used a long lens, and since the shutter speed had to be fast to freeze the wings, I couldn’t close the lens all the way down without using a very high ISO. As I’ve already mentioned, even with f/32, the background wouldn’t be sharp if the bird was fairly close to the camera, which it was. Therefore, to show what I could

see with my eyes, I photographed the forest at the back of the meadow where the owl was flying and made the composite. When you combine pictures like this, no matter what the subjects are, in order for the result to look believable the lighting has to match. The owl, for example, was photographed in direct sunlight, and therefore the background had to be lit by the same type of lighting. With the Samburu tribesman at the bottom of the next page, notice the sliver of light on the left side (our left) of his head. That matches the angle of the light coming from the sky. Another important factor that is often overlooked is the depth of field has to be believable. If the subject isn’t sharp throughout, and you combine this with a sharp background, the photo will look wrong. If you’re working with 7


an animal, the head and shoulders might be sharp, the hind quarters and tail could be soft, and the background sharp. That doesn’t make photographic sense. Be careful of that. Selecting the right subject and the best background for any particular composite is the biggest challenge in this technique. Just because you have a landscape you like taken with a favorite lens and lit by beautiful lighting, this doesn’t mean it’s going to look believable behind a chosen subject. At first, these kinds of pictures seem unreal because we are not accustomed to seeing complete depth of field in photographs when (1) long lenses are used, (2) when wildlife and birds are physically close to the shooting position filling the frame, (3) in low light situations such as in the environmental portrait, below, and (4) when relatively large apertures are used. The great horned owl picture at right seems partic-

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ularly unreal because the owl fills the frame and yet the background is sharp. I used an f/9 lens aperture for the original capture of the bird. If you were standing three or four feet in front of the owl with this winter landscape in the background, though, this is what you would see with your eyes when you looked at the owl and then looked at the background. So, don’t think of this technique as a special effect. It simply allows you to capture reality. §


Strategy of a Model Shoot

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t doesn’t make sense to photograph a model without a plan. By this I mean you have to decide what kind of look you want. Are the pictures simple portraits to make the model look as beautiful as possible? As sexy? As elegant? Is the session going to be about fashion, and if so, what type of clothing and accessories will you need? Do you want the images to be completely photographic, or might you want to take artistic license and turn

some of the images into paintings, into surreal composites, or into images that look like sketches? When I had arranged to photograph Lauren Isabella, the model you see on the next few pages, my first thought was ‘what am I going to do?’ What lighting, what clothes, what expressions, what background, and what post-processing techniques might I use? All of these are impor-

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UPCOMING PHOTO WORKSHOPS Carnival in Venice workshop Outrageous costumes in a medieval environment! Venice is great to visit and photograph any time, but during carnival it’s magical. There is nothing like it anywhere in the world. Exotic masks, stunning colors, classic images.

Feb. 17 - 23, 2017

Frog & Reptile Workshop Close-up encounters with poison dart frogs and exotic reptiles such as chameleons, geckos, snakes, and more in St. Louis, Missouri. This is a macro workshop in which everyone consistently gets amazing pictures.

June 2 - 3, 2017

Photoshop workshop The setting is in my home, and in this two day workshop you’ll learn enough to be truly dangerous in Photoshop! How to replace a sky, how to fix all kinds of photographic problems in your pictures, how to handle blown highlights, how to be incredibly creative . . . and more.

April 8 - 9, 2017 10 10


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tant questions in making the shoot successful. The model came to the session in my house with three changes of clothes, and I liked all of the dresses so I photographed her in each outfit. For the lighting, I decided to use my favorite type of light -- and, to be honest, it’s the easiest to use -- window light. This provided soft and diffused complementary light devoid of harsh shadows. If I wanted front lighting, Lauren faced a window or glass door. For side light, she posed next to the window but faced away from it by 90 degrees so the light illuminated her side. If the shadow side of her face and body was too dark, I knew I could use a light panel to bounce light into the shadows. The simplest of backgrounds is a monochromaic backdrop. For the portrait on the previous page, Lauren stood in front of a wall -- my

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improvised studio background. My wall is not that dark, but by exposing for Lauren’s light skin her shadow on the wall went dark. That was perfect because it helps to focus all of our attention on her beautiful face. To create the doll-like look, I used the stand-alone software Portrait Professional. This allows you to soften the skin and remove any types of imperfections, from pimples to thin wrinkles. At the extreme end of the options, you can make a model look almost unreal, like a porcelain doll or a mannequin. That’s what I did with the closeup portrait on page 11. For the picture below, Lauren posed next to the French doors in my office. I angled her body for side lighting. My intention for this shot was to cut her out of the interior environment using the pen tool in Photoshop and paste her into another background. The composite be-


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ESSENTIAL

KNOWLEDGE

Photoshop taps into your creative potential like nothing photographers have ever had in the past. Once you feel comfortable working in this program, the sky is the limit. You can do anything your mind can imagine. Pretty amazing, indeed! This eBook explains many of the techniques that Jim uses all the time. These include replacing the sky, compositing images, adding textures to photos, introducing natural looking streaks of light, realistic HDR, combining black and white with color, Jim’s favoritre plugins, using the blend modes, and more. Use this as an idea book as well as a reference. If you’ve limited yourself to Lightroom’s abilities, consider expanding your horizons and learn Photoshop. It’s about time.

Click the cover to see inside the ebook

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low shows her combined with the Walt Disney Theater in downtown Los Angeles. Backgrounds, whether you use Photoshop to change the original environment or you choose complementary elements during the photo shoot, make or break a picture. That’s why I spend so much time and energy in choosing compelling backgrounds for so many of my images. For the cover portrait as well as the image on page 13, I used a set of antique hand carved wood doors I’d brought back from Indonesia. The lion chair Lauren is sitting in also came from Indonesia. I used a 24-105mm lens for both pictures. For the cover shot I used a 100mm focal length, and for the image on page 13 I stood above Lauren and photographed downward with a 24mm focal length. My idea of a successful model shoot, then, is to turn the session into several different end products: a composite, a painting, a straight but usually dramatic photographic portrait, and a stylized portrait such as when I use a wide angle. Here is the list of strategies I use: 1. Cut and paste the model into a compelling background. I draw upon my photo library for various locations. In order to make a perfect selection, I use the pen tool and, if necessary, Topaz Remask 5 for hair. 2. Find, collect, or buy props to create an environment or background that complements the model. Make sure that the props don’t take attention away from the subject. 3. Create a painterly rendition (seen at upper left) by using software such as Alien Skin, Topaz Impression, Topaz Adjust 5, Filter Forge, PhotoArtista - Oil, or the Photoshop pulldown menu command, Filter > Stylize > oil paint.

4. Use a wide angle lens to exaggerate perspective as I did with the picture on page 13. 5. Use complementary light. This could be an off-camera portable flash, window light, studio strobes and softboxes or umbrellas, or even shade outdoors. It depends on the look I want. If you are uncomfortable with flash, then the easiest approach is to use simple window light in which the light streaming from outside is diffused. Direct sunlight coming in through a window is too harsh. 6. Choose clothes, hats, gloves, or shoes that are fashionable, stylish, sensual, or that tell a story. If the model doesn’t have any of these things, you can buy clothing and accessories online from Chinese suppliers for very good prices. § 15


DAWN photography P

in the city

hotographing at dawn in an urban environment has a lot of advantages. If you shoot just as the sky is changing from black to cobalt blue, you can capture the same beautiful colors that you can in the early evening but there are far less people. In fact, often there are no people at all. This makes a huge difference. The famous Bean in downtown Chicago, below, is an example. During the day and into the evening there are often hundreds of people milling about looking at their distorted reflections in the chromed surface. This makes serious photography impossible, of course. To

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take this picture devoid of people I was here at 5:30 in the morning. Timing The best time for dawn photography depends on the season because in the winter the sun rises much later than it does in the summer. You can check online what time the sunrises anywhere in the world for a specific date by searching Google for something like: ‘Sunrise Venice, Italy today’. Again, depending on the date as well as the latitude, you should be in shooting position at least one half hour before sunrise. In far north or far south locations,


Expand your photographic artistry with

eBooks

Click on any ebook to see inside

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eBooks continued Click on any ebook to see inside

Fantasy Nudes is in production and is coming soon 18


such as Reykjavik, Iceland and Queenstown, New Zealand, the appearance of the cobalt blue sky may be an hour or more from sunrise. You’ll have to adjust your shooting schedule accordingly to get the best light without people getting in the way of your shooting.

ple. To photograph Big Ben and the Parliament Building at twilight or after dark is impossible because of the vibration. You can’t get a sharp picture, and if you’re wondering about image stabilization, it wouldn’t help in a situation like this.

I would avoid shooting cities on Sunday morning as well because many of the large office buildings that are coming to life during the week are mostly dark for the weekend.

The only solution is to get up early and shoot at dawn. There is very little traffic and most people are still in bed, and the bridges will be the kind of immovable support you want.

Bridges with heavy traffic

Weather

Many bridges offer great views of a city, but the problem with shooting in low light with a tripod is that the bridges vibrate from the traffic. The tripod actually becomes a liability in that case. The picture above taken from the Westminster Bridge in London is the perfect exam-

At dawn there is the best chance of seeing moody weather such as fog and low mist. The picture from Venice, Italy on the next page is an example. While this kind of weather condition can happen at any time, it usually occurs in the very early morning and offers stunning photo opportunites. § 19


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LEARNING TO SEE online course by Jim Zuckerman

The ability to ‘see photographically’, to really grasp how your camera and lenses capture a subject or scene (which is different than how we see with our eyes) underlies successful picture taking. It is the bottom line that you’ve been looking for to take that quantum leap forward in your photography. The great thing about online courses is that they can fit into any schedule. Life gets in the way at times, and Jim puts no limit on the time you can submit your work for his critiques. CLICK THIS PAGE to read more about this course. Shown here is the incredible ceiling of the St. Mary’s Cathedral in Krakow, Poland.

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New eBook for beginning photographers I’ve not seen a book on beginning photography that I thought was clear, concise, and relevant to taking good pictures, so I wrote one. If you are insecure about your knowledge of how f/ stops, shutter speeds, and ISO interact, or what exactly the various exposure modes on a camera are for, this is the eBook for you. Or if you know someone who just bought a camera and is having a hard time understanding the manual that came with the camera, the information in this new publication is essential. It will take much of the frustration in learning photography out of the equation. Instruction

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manuals for cameras do not teach photography. All of the basics of photography are covered including depth of field, the simple mathematical relationships between lens apertures and shutter speeds, the issues surrounding digital noise, basic fundamentals of composition, the features you should look for when choosing your next camera, the different kinds of lenses and how to use them, how shutter speeds and lens apertures allow you to express your artistic vision, and creative considerations that enable you to start taking photographs rather than mere snapshots.


Autofocus Failure Our cameras are extremely sophisticated today, but in so many situations they can’t determine what the subject is. If the subject is off-center, if it’s behind foreground elements like grass, and if it is small relative to its environment, the autofocus mechanism may not be able to lock onto it. The result is that the subject is soft while other areas in the picture are sharp. A typical example of this can be seen in the photo below. The grass between the leopard and me presented a problem in that the AF would chose the grass as the subject. That would render the picture useless, of course. I know some photographers think that might be

an artistic treatment in which the grass is sharp and the leopard is clearly delineated but not quite sharp, but to me that is a failed image. There are two ways to handle a situation like this. First, you can switch to spot focus in which a single focus point is selected in the center of the frame. You would place that focus point on the eye of the cat, lock that focus in place with the AE lock button, and then recompose and shoot. I feel this is faster than placing the focus point off-center in the viewfinder because with grass in front of the subject, the focus point may not be in the correct position to achieve focus quickly. While you are trying

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to lock focus on a portion of the leopard that you see through the vegetation, precious seconds are lost and you may miss the shot. The second method you can use is to focus manually. This is actually faster than changing the focus point in the menu of your camera, refocusing on the subject, locking the focus in place, and shooting. Manual focus is simply and fast. You simply rotate the focusing ring on the lens barrel and it’s done. This method works only if your eyesight is good enough to discern when the lens has reached critical focus. In addition, it may be difficult for some people to hand hold a long lens and focus manually simply because of the weight of the lens. If that’s the case with you, then you can use the single focus point method when dealing with challenging autofocus situations.

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When I took the portrait below of a member of the Bushmen tribe in Namibia, I focused manually. I used a 200mm focal length to purposely blur the foreground (something I do rarely on purpose). The grasses prevented the lens from focusing on the subject, thus I rotated the focusing ring on the barrel of the lens to achieve sharp focus. It’s very easy to not even notice you have a focus problem until it’s too late. The moment is gone and then later you study the images on a computer only to discover that the focus was off. I tell the clients who travel with me on my photography tours that they can emote and get excited about what they are seeing later. During the action when great photo opportunities present themselves, concentrate entirely on the task at hand -- getting a great shot. §


PHOTO TOUR to NEPAL March 3 - 14, 2017 Dramatic landscapes

amazing architecture

exotic culture

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What’s wrong with this picture?

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here is nothing terribly wrong with this picture of a traditional Dutch house except that it’s rather mundane. It’s cute but it doesn’t really impress anyone. Any photographer could have taken this shot with a medium telephoto lens. The background isn’t great, but it’s not distracting, either. When I take pictures, I am always thinking of ways of improving the subject or scene to make it more interesting, more artistic, and more visually compelling. This might be a change of lens, a change of shooting angle, waiting for better lighting, adding an interesting element like a model, or using Photoshop to either improve the picture or transform it into something that

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never existed. That’s what I did with this image. Using the pen tool in Photoshop. I precisely selected the entire background. I then pasted a sky behind the house. I keep an extensive collection of sky photos specifically for this purpose. That totally changed the image from ‘nice’ to a much more engaging photograph. Now the beautiful symmetry of the architecture stands out as does the color and design of the house. Notice that I also had to alter the reflection in the water such that the new sky on the right side of the picture had to be seen in the reflection. Paying attention to small details like this insures that your Photoshop work will be believable, assuming that your goal is realistic imagery. § 27


SHORT AND SWEET 1.

Photographing in deep shade means that your pictures can have a bluish cast when you use daylight white balance. They can also be a bit bluish with AWB. That can be corrected in ACR or Lightroom with the temperature slider.

3. You should carry with you at all times a wide angle

lens, and the wider the better. For maximum drama of so many subjects, like this cathedral ceiling in Krakow, Poland (I used a 14mm lens for this), a wide angle lens is essential. For cropped sensor cameras, shoot with at least a 12mm, but 10mm is better.

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2. For rustic subjects like this abandoned truck, I like

to use the tonal contrast filter within Nik Color Efex Pro 4. It adds to the gritty look to the image, and that enhances and embellishes the rustic look of old cars, weathered barns, old fences, etc.

4.

Shooting in dust can make great pictures, but you have to protect your camera. It’s always a good idea to carry a small piece of folded Saran Wrap or something similar in your camera backpack for those occasions when dust is present. It’s weightless and has virtually no volume or weight, but it will protect your camera. §


ASK JIM

Every month Jim will answer a question from his online students, from people who participate in his tours and workshops, or from subscribers to this magazine. If you have a question you’d like Jim to answer, please drop him a note at photos@jimzuckerman.com.

Q:

Jim . . .I’ve noticed that when I shoot outdoors in winter, my camera battery seems to get depleted rather quickly. Is this a function of an old battery or is this to be expected when photographing in cold conditions? Is there a fix for this? Ryan Moore, Boise, Idaho

A:

Batteries are, in fact depleted faster in cold conditions. This is not an indication that the battery is bad or weak from age. There are two things you can do when shooting in winter to address this problem. First, carry one or two extra batteries and keep them in a pocket that’s warm from your body heat. Don’t put them in your parka pocket. Instead, place them in the front pocket of your pants so when you need to replace a cold battery, they will be warm. Second, in extreme cold strap a hand warmer using Velcro onto the bottom of the camera next to the battery compartment. The warmth from the chemical heat packet will keep the battery functioning longer. §

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Photography Tours 2016 - 2018 CARNIVAL IN VENICE Feb. 2017

NEPAL Mar. 2017

KAZAKHSTAN Aug. 2017

EGYPT Oct. 2017

SNOWY OWLS Jan. 2018

SOUTH AFRICA & NAMIBIA Apr. 2018

WHITE HORSES, FRANCE May 2018

THE BALKINS May 2018

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THE PALOUSE Jul. 2017

TUSCANY/CINQUE TERRA Oct. 2017

NEW ZEALAND Apr. 2018

GRIZZLIES Sep. 2018

For a complete list of all the photo tours/workshops Jim conducts, go to his website: www.jimzuckerman.com.


South Africa & Namibia photo safari April 25 - May 9, 2018

Awesome wildlife exotic birds monster dunes

Leopard drinking at a water hole in front of the lodge, Sabi Sabi, South Africa

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CHINA PHOTO TOUR September 4 - 17, 2017

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Student Showcase Each month, Jim features one student who took beautiful and inspiring images on one or more of his photography tours or workshops. It’s really fascinating how photographers see and compose such different images even though we may go to the same places. Everyone gets great photographs on Jim’s trips.

Wayne and Judy Guenther, Springfield, Virginia China photo tour, Cuba photo tour

© 2016 Wayne and Judy Guenther

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Student Showcase, continued

© 2016 Wayne and Judy Guenther34

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Student Showcase, continued

© 2016 Wayne and Judy Guenther

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Student Showcase, continued

© 2016 Wayne and Judy Guenther

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PHOTOSHOP WORKSHOP in my home

Sat. & Sun., April 8 - 9, 2017

Photoshop is a photographer’s best friend, and the creative possibilities are absolutely endless -- like replacing the background behind this 1947 Delahaye 135M. In a personal and ‘homey’ environment (I have a very cool classroom setup in my home), I start at the beginning -- assuming you know nothing -- but I quickly get into layers, cutting and pasting, plug-ins, using ‘grunge’ textures, modifying lighting, replacing backgrounds, using layer masks, blend modes, adding a moon, and a lot more. I promise to fill your head with so many great techniques that you won’t believe what you’ll be able to do. I go over each technique several times to make sure you understand it and can remember it. Photoshop instructors approach teaching this program from different points of view. My approach is to be as expansive in my thinking as possible in creating unique, artistic, and compelling images. In addition to showing you how to use the various tools,

pull down menus, layers, and so on, I spend a lot of time giving you creative ideas that will inspire you to produce amazing images with the pictures you’ve already taken. I live in the Nashville, Tennessee area, and if you fly into the airport (BNA) I will pick you up. If you drive, I’ll give you my address and you can find my home on Mapquest or with a GPS. For the $450 fee, I include one dinner in my home (prepared by my wife who is an amazing cook and hostess) and two lunches, plus shuttling you back and forth from my home to your nearby hotel. Contact me if you would like to participate in the workshop and I will tell you how to sign up (photos@jimzuckerman.com). All you need is a laptop and a lot of your pictures. If you don’t have a laptop, I have two Mac Book Pro laptops I can loan out for the duration of the workshop. §

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PHOTO INSIGHTS® published by Jim Zuckerman, all rights reserved © Jim Zuckerman 2017 email: photos@jimzuckerman.com mail address: P.O. Box 7, Arrington, TN 37014

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Photo insights january '17