Page 1

Jim Zuckerman’s

PH OTO I N S I G HTS June 2014

• Black and white with color • Topaz simplify • Photographing kids • New post-processing course • Student showcase • Photo tours 1

4. 12. 17. 21. 22. 24. 26. 29. 33.

Black and white & color Topaz simplify Photographing kids New online course What’s wrong with this picture? Short and sweet Ask Jim Student showcase Back issues

On the cover: Mountain lion cubs photographed during the babies workshop. 2


have recently had to re-think the way I carry my gear because of back pain, and I know many people -- both young and old -- suffer from disk problems as well as other painful back issues. Carrying one or two bodies and a few lenses gets very heavy over time, and in the worst case scenario, severe pain makes outdoor photography virtually impossible.

For negotiating large airports, I now put my photo gear in a rolling carryon. I resisted this for years because commuter jets, which I often have to take, have tiny overhead compartments. A rolling bag doesn’t fit, and that means I’d have to gate check my expensive equipment. However, gate-checking means the bag will not be lost, so now I pad the cameras and lenses very well and hand it over to the people at the door of the airplane. They take it directly to the cargo hold, and at the end of the flight I pick it up on the jetway. Admittedly, this is easier than stressing about finding space in the overhead compartments. For outdoor photography, I wear a camera vest as well as a couple of pouches on a belt. This distributes the weight evenly around my body, and the belt, especially, takes the weight from my back to my hips. This means I no longer have to carry a photo backpack. When using a super long lens, I find that I rarely use other lenses in addition to the long telephoto. For example, on safari, I use my 500mm f/4 Canon lens exclusively. Therefore, I can leave most of the other stuff back in the lodge. For those few extra items I do use, such as a 1.4x and 2x teleconverter and possibly a flash, I can carry those in the photo vest. I’ve paid a price for carrying heavy backpacks for my entire career, and now I have to make sure I don’t put unnecessary pressure on the disks and nerves that have finally protested after decades of abuse. 3

Black and White & C o l o r



ombining black and white with color is a technique I’ve enjoyed from the very beginning of my career. When I shot film, I would do things like sandwich a high contrast black and white piece of lithographic film (which was black and clear) with a colorful background slide such as a sunset. The giraffes at right are an example. Digital technology gives us total control over our images, and now the sky is the limit. With the ability to make precise selections of subjects, it’s very easy to select elements that will retain their original color while everything else in the picture turns into black and white. It’s a visually dynamic way to present an image. The key is knowing how to make precise selections.

Quick selections When photographers think of making a selection, the first tool that usually comes to mind


is the magic wand tool. For selecting areas that are clearly delineated from other parts of a picture, such as the sky in the landscape below (the sky was originally solid blue), the magic wand tool works fairly well. I say ‘fairly’ because if you enlarge the picture to 200%, you will usually see imperfections in the selecion. On the plus side of the ledger, this tool is very fast. The quick selection tool, which hides beneath the magic wand tool in the tools palette in Photoshop (near right, red arrow) quickly grabs areas of the picture that, again, are fairly distinct from other areas in terms


of color and contrast. You simply drag the cursor around the periphery of the area to be selected, and it hugs the edges of that area. This is more accurate than the magic wand tool, and it’s a lot faster than the pen tool. To select the mask in the distorted image on the previous page, I used the quick selection tool. It took about 4 seconds to make this selection. (To create the distorted image, I used Filter > liquify to turn a Thai mask into a wild abstract). Pen tool The most accurate way to make a selection around the area that will remain in color or will be converted to black and white is the pen tool. I know this isn’t good news because this tool is slow and laborious to use, but it is extremely precise. The pen tool works by laying down a series of anchor points along the edge of the subject. I typically work at 300% magnification. In the screen capture at right, you can see the anchor points precisely placed along the fabric and the feathers of the costume below. On a



UPCOMING PHOTO WORKSHOPS Baby WildlifeWorkshop Hinckley, Minnesota June 13 - 15, 2014

Baby wolves, skunks, bobcats, lynx, foxes, bears, and more

Frog & Reptile Workshop Close-up encounters with poison dart frogs and exotic reptiles in St. Louis, MO.

Sept. 20 - 21, 2014

The Pantanal, Brazil: Jaguars at the river’s edge plus caiman, giant anteaters, monkeys, pink dolphins, and unbelievable birds.

November 8-20, 2014


straight edge, the anchor points can be spaced further apart. When you are working around curves, place the anchor points much closer together to define the exact shape of that portion of the subject. At this magnification, you will often need to switch to the hand tool to nudge the image so you can continue working since only a small part of the subject’s edge can be seen at 300%. Press the space bar for this. It’s a short cut to access the hand tool. Once you nudge the picture, release the space bar and the pen tool returns. This saves a lot of hand movements. As you lay down the anchor points, you’ll be working at what I call the transition zone, upper right. This is a three or four pixel zone where the edge of the subject becomes the beginning of the background. Do your best to judge exactly where you place the anchor points. Try not to include any of the background pixels. If you make a mistake with several anchor points, find the delete anchor point tool that hides under the pen tool. Choose it, and then touch the anchor points to be deleted. Then go back to the original pen tool, touch the last anchor point you laid down, and continue.

The transition zone at 3200% magnification enlarged from the photo on page 7.

opens to ask you what feather radius you want. Choose one pixel, and click OK. Now the path has become a selection as seen by the ‘marching ants’. At this point, use Select > modify > contract, and in the dialog box that opens choose one pixel and click OK. This contracts the selection by one pixel. The purpose of this is to eliminate that thin line often seen at the edge of selections. I recommend feathering the selection by one pixel (Select > modify > feather), and now

Once you’ve laid down anchor points around the entire periphery of the area you want to select, touch the first anchor point with the last one. This completes the circuit, and now you have a path. To convert this into a selection, click on the path tab (red arrow, right). Now click and hold on the tiny icon in the upper right corner of the dialog box (green arrow -- in this screen capture, the icon is partially obscured by the menu) and you will see a drop down menu. Choose make selection (magenta arrow), and now a small dialog box 9


you are ready to make a portion of the image black and white.

background, and then use hue/saturation again to desaturate the color.

If you want the selected area to be black and white, open Image > adjustments > hue/saturation. Move the saturation slider all the way to the left, and now the background has remained in color and the selected area is black and white like in the picture of the angel on page 10. In virtually all cases, you will want to add contrast to the b & w area because it will appear too flat, i..e low in contrast. Therefore, use Image > adjustments > levels and tweak the contrast of the black and white area only.

For the portrait below, instead of using the pen tool, I used the lasso tool to encircle the girl’s irises. I feathered the edge of the selection one pixel and then hit Select > inverse to grab everything except the eyes. It was a simple matter at that point to desaturate the rest of the image, thus retaining the original color of the eyes.

If the selected area is to remain in color and you want to turn the rest of the picture into black and white, use Select > inverse. This will select the

Finallyl, I felt that the eyes should pop more, so I lightened them with the dodge tool and added more color saturation. By keeping the entire background dark, all of the attention is directed to the face of my young model and her striking green eyes. §





ne of my all time favorite Photoshop plug-ins is Topaz Simplify. No other software that I’ve seen transforms photographs into paintings as easily and as brilliantly. Simplify will make you feel like the type of artist that Monet, Picasso, and Van gogh would envy! That’s the good news. The even better news is that it’s inexpensive -- only $39. Once installed, you access the plug-in with Filter > Topaz Labs > topaz simplify 4. The dialog box is simple. You really need no


instruction at all. The small screen capture above shows many presets on the left (red arrow) and multiple sliders on the right (green arrow). Those are all the controls you need to produce remark-


able painterly images. You can make them as abstract as you want, or you can retain much of the detail of the original photograph. The tremendous diversity of styles available in this plug-in means that each of the images in your photo library could turn into at least a dozen unique works of art. First I start with the presets on the left of the dialog box, and then when I like the effect, I may tweak it using the sliders on the right. You also have the option of tweaking it to perfection in Photoshop itself. For example, in the picture below, the face of the model became too saturated for my taste. It was a very strong red. I simply made a rough selection around her face, feathered the edge 8 pixels, and then used use/saturation to change the color and decrease the saturation.


The difference between the original and the Simplified rendition is remarkable as you can see in the comparision on the following page between the original autumn foliage shot, lower right, and the final artistic version. And this is only one variation. There are so many others. It’s a great time to be a photographer! §


Become a better photographer with


Click on any ebook to see inside


Photographing kids This article is designed to elevate your pictures of children from snapshots to portraits. When I say portraits, I’m not necessarily referring to anything formal. Outdoor portraits, for example, are informal, but they can be done well or they can be done without any forethought and artistry. Let me show you two snapshots I took of my niece, Emily, many years ago. These were both taken with a 35mm film camera. The photo of my sister and Emily in the pool is very cute and any mother would love it, but it’s definitely snapshot material. Why? Because the two faces are dark, the background is unattractive and distracting, and the highlights on Emily’s hair are blown out. This picture belongs in a photo album, not framed for the wall.

The picture of Emily having her first encounter with a giant iguana at five years old is also very cute, and to this day she loves it. It’s even on her Facebook page. But . . . it’s a snapshot because the lighting was harsh and her eyes are squinting because looking toward the sun was uncomfortable, plus I was standing at an adult height and shooting downward. Compare these pictures to the portrait of the young baseball player with a black eye at the top of the next page. This is much better in all regards. So is the picture of the ten year old Pao girl from Burma also on the next page. Both of these portraits are not snapshots at all because I paid attention to a few important aspects of picture taking. Let me list these for you, and when you are photographing chil-


in making a picture work. The background should be: (a) the same tone as the subject or darker, (b) non-distracting, (c) ideally so out of focus it is a complete blur. Pictures of friends and family in front of famous monuments or landmarks like the Eiffel Tower or the Grand Canyon are snapshots. They are happy memories and that’s great, but they are nothing more. dren keep these in mind. 1. Place the child in the shade out of direct sunlight. If you are taking pictures at noon under a blue sky, move to the shade of a tree or building. 2. Always pay attention to the background. Backgrounds are just as important as subjects


3. Use a telephoto lens in the 200 to 300mm range. This forces the background out of focus and, at the same time, compresses the nose a bit. This compression is complimentary to a face. 4. Don’t ask for a fake smile. If the child smiles or laughs naturally, great. But fake smiles look forced. There is nothing wrong with serious or comtemplative expressions.

5. Avoid having the kids wear t-shirts with bright colors, logos, and slogans. These kinds of shirts are always distracting, and they divert attention away from the subject. 6. Fill much of the frame with the child’s face. You don’t need to include the feet in a portrait. Who cares about feet, anyway? The essence of a person is the face, the expression, and the eyes. Even with the action shot of the young girl playing in a fountain, below, I filled the frame with her face by using a telephoto lens. 7. Use a fast enough shutter speed so you don’t have to use a tripod. This insures that the child will be sharp (especially if they are playing or very active), and hand holding the camera is the best way to be spontaneous in your shooting. You can move as the child moves and quickly reposition yourself to get a better

background if necessary. 8. Don’t stand at an adult height and shoot downward. It’s much better to kneel down and photograph your young subject at eye level. This produces a more intimate and engaging portrait. It implies you are in the world of the child as opposed to an outside observer. 9. Watch the child through the viewfinder as his or her expression changes and be ready to take the shot. If you watch them with both eyes and suddenly see a great expression, by the time you raise the camera to your face and shoot it may very well be too late. 10. Set your drive to the ‘multi’ mode. In other words, if things happen fast -- such as a series of great expressions -- you will be able to fire off several frames per second to capture every


nuance. 10. Don’t use on-camera flash. Nothing looks like a snapshot more than this. If you must use flash, place it off-camera at least at a 45 degree angle to the lens axis. However, with modern cameras you can use a fairly high ISO without too much digital noise, and I feel it’s a better option to raise the ISO so you don’t have to use flash at all. The photos in this article were ajj taken in diffused light without a flash. I would even argue against fill flash. Fill flash is fine for creative fashion work or when you are taking snapshots and it’s important to balance the exposure between the child in shade and a much brighter background. That’s a useful tech-


nique, but rarely does it produce a fine portrait. Instead, it produces a fine snapshot. Can there be exceptions to these guidelines? Yes, of course. This is art, after all. The picture below is an example. The lighting is good, I shot from a low point of view, but the yellow tulips in the background are too bright. They divert attention away from the little girl. However, everyone likes this shot, and the floral environment adds life to the picture. If you have not been happy with your shots of kids, use my guidelines exactly as I’ve explained them and I think you will see a big difference with the images you take. §

New OnLine Course:


by Jim Zuckerman

Virtually all digital photos require postprocessing to improve contrast, color saturation, and exposure. In addition, problems like chromatic aberration, keystoning, and distracting backgrounds need addressing. In this four week course, Jim demonstrates techniques to make good images into great images. Jim will critique your work with kindness and honesty, and included is a weekly phone call should you wish to discuss your picture taking, equipment, travel planes, marketing, or anything else photographic. After completing this course, you will have the confidence to process your RAW files with expertise and artistry. Consider the knowledge contained in this course essential to your photographic goals. Click HERE to read more and to register. 21

What’s wrong with this picture?


don’t know if the out of focus branch in the lower right corner of this picture bothers you, but I find it to be extremely distracting. It annoys me bigtime. My eye keeps going to it, and that’s exactly why it detracts from the superb starling I photographed in Kenya. At the time, there was nothing I could do about it. With birds, just keeping them in focus is the primary goal, and after that you want a clean and complementary background, a striking pose, good light, and definition in the eye. Small areas of out of focus leaves or branches are not as crucial as the other aspects of composition, but once all of the other important criteria have been satified, smaller problems seem to become magnified as you critically examine your work. In this case, that small out of focus branch is simply unacceptable. I took this shot with a 500mm Canon f/4 lens plus a 2x teleconverter, giving me 1000mm of focal length. That meant, of course, that the depth of field -- even at f/9 which was the aperture I used -- was very shallow. That’s why that lower right corner is annoyingly blurred.


I couldn’t clone out the offensive branch with the sky because that would cut off the tail. I couldn’t extend the tail downward using the clone tool because there wasn’t enough of it from which to clone. The branch on which the starling is perched blocks most of that detail. Therefore, to rectify the problem I looked through my pictures from Africa for a tree with a branch I could use to cut and paste over the problematic area. I had to find one in the same light and at roughly the same magnification, and the bark had to fit this picture. When I found one, I selected a section of it with the lasso tool in Photoshop, and then I used Edit > copy to place the selection in the clipboard. Then, I pasted the clipboard image into the photo of the bird with Edit > paste, and moved it into place with the move tool. Then I rotated the new bark so its texture ran the same direction as the perch. I did that with Edit > transform > rotate. Finally, I enlarged the image to 100% to examine the edge to make sure the transition looked natural. I used the healing brush to smooth that transition to make it perfect. § 23


When photographing birds and animals that are close to the ground, get as low as possible when you photograph them. This is often awkward or uncomfortable (especially as you get older), but it makes for better pictures.

3. Wide angle portraits require more planning than

when shooting with a telephoto because you have to plan both the foreground as well as the background, but the results can be dramatic. This photo from Kenya shows what I’m talking about. I shot this with a 16-35mm lens set to 16mm.



Distortion can be fun. Don’t avoid ultra wide lenses because a camera salesman tells you they distort too much. This dynamic shot of the Grande Arche in Paris is leaning at a weird angle thanks to my 14mm lens, but I think it looks pretty cool.


One of the most important things you can learn in post-processing is how to deal with contrast -- i.e. bringing out detail in the highlights and shadows. To make this picture look good, that’s what I had to do. My new online course ‘Post-processing’ addresses this crucial issue in photography. §

Photography Tours 2014 - 2015 INDONESIA August, 2014

MONGOLIA September, 2014

POLAR BEARS October, 2014


CHINA January, 2015

JAPAN February, 2015


MOROCCO March, 2015

MADAGASCAR August, 2015



CUBA October, 2015

Check out the itineraries and photo galleries from these and other tours:



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


Jim ... I took this picture many years ago with slide film. The buildings became silhouettes because I exposed for the sky. Is there any technique I can use now in Photoshop to bring out the detail in the skyline similar to HDR? I’ve scanned the slide with various settings and still can’t pull the detail out of this picture. Can you help? S. Waxman, Dallas, Texas.


: I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but no, there is nothing you can do to bring out the detail in those buildings. Once detail is lost in slides or negatives, you can’t bring it back even with Photoshop. That’s why RAW images are such a breakthrough in photography. We now have the ability to capture tremendous detail in both the highlights and the shadows, and even if the digital capture seems too contrasty with a loss of detail, chances are that it can be recovered simply by using sliders in Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom. And with HDR, we can make miracles happen. Even though we all used film just a few years ago, we are lightyears ahead now in terms of what our cameras, our sensors, and Photoshop can do. §

© S. Waxman 2014


Polar bears from ground level Oct. 28 - Nov. 3, 2014 plus arctic foxes, snowy owls, and other wildlife


Get professionalcritiques critiques of yourof work Get professional your work with Jim’s online courses with Jim’s online courses Learn composition, exposure, Photoshop, beginning fundamentals, techniques in low light photography, flash, making money in photography, and more at your convenience and on your schedule.

28 20

Student Showcase

Each month, Jim features one student who took beautiful and inspiring images on one 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 place. Everyone gets great images on my trips.

Patricia Wessant, Addison, Texas, American Southwest

Š 2014 Patricia Wessant

29 29

Student Showcase, continued

Š 2014 Patricia Wessant



Student Showcase, continued

Š 2014 Patricia Wessant



Sat. & Sun., December 6 - 7, 2014

Photoshop is a photographer’s best friend, and the creative possibilities are absolutely endless. 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, 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.

creative ideas that will inspire you to produce amazing images with the pictures you’ve already taken.

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

Contact me if you would like to participate in the workshop and I will tell you how to sign up ( 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. §


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. 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.

Click on the past issues of

PH OTO I N S I G HTS you would like to read.

Nov. ‘12

Dec. ‘12

Apr. ‘13

May. ‘13

Sept. ‘13

Feb. ‘14

Oct. ‘13

Mar. ‘14

Jan. ‘13

Feb. ‘13

Mar. ‘13

Jun. ‘13

Jul. 13

Aug. ‘13

Nov. ‘13

Dec. ‘13

Apr. ‘14

Jan. ‘14

May ‘14



published by Jim Zuckerman, all rights reserved © Jim Zuckerman 2014 email: physical address: P.O. Box 7, Arrington, TN 37014


Photo insights June '14  

A magazine devoted to inspiring photography and Photoshop techniques published by Jim Zuckerman.

Photo insights June '14  

A magazine devoted to inspiring photography and Photoshop techniques published by Jim Zuckerman.