Friday, December 2, 2011

Don't miss Photography and Photoshop: A Creative Fusion with Ben Willmore!

Push your photography way beyond what is possible "in camera" to produce fine art imagery that takes full advantage of a purely digital workflow. Only a week left to register!

Prevent snapping
When dragging a layer or selection near the edge of a document or layer, Photoshop snaps the edge of the object you’re working with to the edge of the document, layer, or selection that’s currently active. To prevent this, hold down the Control (PC: Ctrl) key after you start dragging the layer or selection and the snapping will be temporarily disabled.

Reposition selections
Click-and-drag with the Rectangular Marquee tool (M) or Elliptical Marquee tool and then press-and-hold the Spacebar to reposition the selection before releasing the mouse button. This is especially useful when attempting to create an elliptical selection
that aligns with an existing object.

Cycle through blend modes
When the Move tool (V) is active, hold down the Shift key and press the plus (+) or minus (–) key to change the blend mode of the active layer in the Layers panel. If the Brush tool (B) or a retouching tool is active, then the same keyboard shortcut will change the
blend mode of the active tool instead in the Options Bar.

Fit on Screen
If you ever copy-and-paste an image from a larger image into a smaller one, and then proceed to transform (Command-T [PC: Ctrl-T]) the resulting layer, you’ll  find that the transformation handles appear outside your view of the document (because they’re beyond the document’s bounds). When that’s the case, press Command- 0 (PC: Ctrl-0) to use the Fit on Screen command to see the transformation handles that are attached to the active layer.

Reset any tool
If any tool is acting oddly, consider resetting the tool. Right-click on the tool icon in the upper-left corner of the Options Bar and choose Reset Tool from the menu that appears.

Multiple undos
Command-Z (PC: Ctrl-Z) works fine when all you want is to undo a single step. If you need to undo multiple steps, add the Option (PC: Alt) key to the aforementioned keyboard shortcut first to be able to apply multiple undos. You can also control how many undos are available. Choose Photoshop (PC: Edit)>Preferences> Performance and in the History & Cache section, change the History States setting.

Cycle through open windows
Press Control-Tab to cycle through the open documents in Photoshop. Adding the Shift key will reverse the direction that the documents are displayed in.

Brush to Eyedropper
Any time the Brush tool (B) is active, hold down the Option (PC: Alt) key and click on an open image to choose a color within the document to paint with. This is the same as temporarily switching to the Eyedropper tool (I).

Painting on a mask
When painting on a mask with the Brush tool (B), press X to swap the Foreground and Background colors, press D to reset the Foreground and Background colors to their defaults, and use the number keys on the keyboard to change the Opacity of the active brush in the Options Bar.

Target a layer
When the Move tool (V) is active, hold down the Command (PC: Ctrl) key and click to target the top-most layer that contains information that’s directly below your mouse position. Hold down the Shift key to add additional layers to the ones that are already selected.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The final chapter for your checklist!
By Hal Schmitt. Embellished by Victoria Schmitt

Select Desired Aperture
Do you want a shallow depth of field to isolate your subject or do you want as much of your scene in focus as possible? Remember the bigger the hole (smaller the number f4.5) the more shallow your depth of field, the small the hole (larger number f22) the more depth of field you will get.

Compose the rough scene
Look into your viewfinder and start to compose your scene. You can scan left right, up and down see what you want included or centered in your frame.

Meter and set exposure
Hopefully at this point your back-button focus is going to be your primary meter and focusing button. Depending on what exposure your aperture is giving you adjust the shutter speed to compensate for your exposure. If you are having a hard time getting a fast enough shutter speed, you will have to either change your ISO or your aperture to get the desired focus and exposure for the scene.

Make sure the primary subject is in focus.

Fine tune composition
If you now have to move your composition so that your subject is not smack dab in the middle, make sure your focus is set and move accordingly.

Fine tune your exposure

Shoot! (Or just take a photo, picture or snapshot if your lingo does not include a shooting reference)

Review as necessary
Look at the back of your LCD. Make sure you are looking at your histogram!!! You don't want your histogram piled high on either side, but don't worry if there are parts of you scene that have a black point and a white point built-in. If you have a large amount of 1 "gray" tone (Blue sky, red rocks) you may have strange peaks and valleys in your histogram. What you're looking for is a balanced exposure. Do not depend on the picture you see on your LCD and always refer to your histogram. Remember, these are pixels. It's information being captured on a sensor, so rely on the information it gives you and not how pretty the LCD picture is.

Happy Shooting and Fiat Lux!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Last week I started with a checklist created by Hal to help you set up your inner camera settings before going out to shoot. Here I have another great checklist to help you start getting your camera working the way you want it to work.

Camera Setup Checklist - Part 2
Checklist by Hal, embellished by Victoria

Select Mode– We recommend Manual- Always. Yes, there are those out there who want the "P", "professional mode" because life happens fast, right? Well, yes, but do want to capture life the way your camera brand wants, or how you want to capture it? Your camera doesn't know that your subject is back-lit and running quickly. But you can make your own adjustments in order to accommodate what you want exposed properly, in focus etc.
AV and TV is nice, but the camera is still making those critical decisions for you. Practice in Manual now so that later on you know how to control your camera quickly. If you have a camera that can create custom functions then you can set those to help you quickly change from your custom portrait settings into action settings as good starting points. But never assume that a camera should or can think for you.
Set White Balance- Cloudy? Sunny? Are you using a strobe? Yes, you can kind of "correct" this later in RAW, but there are more than a few reasons to save yourself a step or a few steps before you even take the photo.
ISO- We recommend starting at your lowest ISO that your camera will give you for the cleanest noise-free image possible. If you're in lower light see if you can adjust your aperture (smaller number, bigger hole) to get a fast enough shutter speed to hand-hold your camera. If you're on a tripod then there's are very few reasons to be on a higher ISO. You don't want your stars to be dots of noise from your sensor. 
Metering modes- Try to stick with Evaluative metering, or Matrix metering. 
Auto focus- Set correct mode for the scene you have. A simple guideline:
If you are photographing a moving object you will want Ai Servo, if you are shooting a non-moving subject/object then put it in "one shot" mode. 
Drive mode- You have single, continuous, or timer. Single (one square) is 1 shot per press of the shutter button. Good for portraits or slow moving scenes etc. Continuous mode and Continuous mode "H" for high speed (multi-squares and a multi square with an "H") is awesome for the soccer mom/dad, shooting horses on the beach at the California Photo Festival, or birds etc.
Select Auto Focus point/points: If there is a moving object you may want to set these point on one of the sides of your focus choices. if the object is running from Left to right, I will set my primary focus point on the far right side of my viewfinder. That way as I follow the object the front of the object is always the point of focus.
Lens modes: These are for the larger lenses and lenses that have these options. not all lenses have these options available.
-IS/VR: Image stabilizer/Vibration reduction- This send out a small vibration to counter the vibration you are giving your lens while holding it.  We recommend you turn it on when hand-holding and turning it off when you're on a tripod.
-Mode 1 or 2 for IS/VR? Mode 1 is better if you are simply hand-holding your camera. Mode 2 is better if you are panning or moving while you're shooting.
-Focal Distance? On my 100-400, for instance, it has a choice of either 1.8m to infinity, or 6.5m to infinity. This is setting your minimum focusing distance on your lens.

I hope this helps you during your next adventure or local photo-shoot!
Fiat Lux!
Victoria Schmitt

Here is a sneak peak to next week's list:

Select Aperture (which one and why)
Select your shutter speed
Is your Shutter speed or Aperture more important?
Compose the scene (how and why)
Review as necessary (where, why and what to look for)
...and more...

Friday, October 28, 2011

Part 1 Camera Setup Checklist – In General
Written by Hal and Embellished by Victoria

I have received a few inquiries about how Hal and I set up our cameras and our gear before we go out on a shoot. Hal, being the thorough instructor that he is, has created checklists for this very thing. We usually hand these checklists to our "Basics of your DSLR" workshop attendees. In this class Hal teaches, in detail, his methods and recommendations for camera set-up as they go through the checklist.   Since you don't have his in-person charm to explain his points, I went through them and added a few embellishments.
So here is his simple check-list (the first of 3 parts) as good starting points for you to set up your camera before going out to shoot. 

In your camera setting menus
1. Set Image Quality
Picture Style for JPEG? All cameras give you “JPEG preview” for your LCD. We recommend the Neutral setting which gives you the closest “look” to your RAW image.
2. "Shoot without card" Option
Turn this Off! That way you don’t realize 100 shots in that none of your images have been recorded because you didn’t put a card in your camera…This has never happened to us, of course.
3. Color Space
Adobe is preferred: Adobe 1998 etc. Give yourself the largest color space possible to start out with. That way you have the choice of minimizing color space later on if needed.
4. Highlight Alert
Enable (remember to check your histogram also!) This is a friendly reminder from your camera that you have over exposed your highlights. It says you are “void” of pixel information where the “blinkies” occur.
5. Auto rotate
On- Save yourself some time in the post process!
6. File numbering
Continuous- If you aren't renaming your files when importing, this will keep from having duplicate numbers- which could create confusion or overwriting your files in your folder.
7. Set Correct Date and Time
Ultimately, you will be using this for your import process, key wording, searching for images. For wedding and event photographers that use a second shooter or camera, this REALLY helps when combining second shooter/camera images into your catalog or “time-sorted” folders.
8. Program back button focus only
AF-On: Opposed to shutter button focusing.
AF-On or the “Back-button” (*) focus is what we recommend to all who use auto-focus.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Important Information for all Festival Attendees

Dear California Photo Festival Attendees!
We are getting very close to festival time and we hope you are getting excited!
Here are a some important things to know and to bring on your trip for a smooth and memorable experience during the week! There is a lot of information, but it is important that you read through it all so you can make the most out of your experience at Click!

1. Make sure you print out your schedule right before you leave! 
To do this use the Export my Schedule button at the top of your schedule after logging into Click.
Each attendee has been given their own account to the festival controlled by your own user name and password. You are in charge of creating and SAVING your own schedule. We do not assume responsibility if you have not successfully saved your schedules. If you have not successfully saved your schedule and find your classes are full, we at Light and the CPF team, will do our best to suggest appropriate classes for you but are NOT obligated to add you to full classes.
**Keep your attendee schedule on you AT ALL TIMES during the festival.

2. Check-in: The Check-in station will be located at Embassy Suites. Check-in is open Wednesday 6:30am-1pm; Thursday/Friday/Saturday 7am-1pm; and Sunday 8am-10:30am.  You will receive your Festival Badge, Canon sponsored Festival t-shirt (week passes only), festival swag bag, and festival booklet at check-in.
**For those of you who are signed up for a sunrise workshop and have a day pass, you must check-in the day before to get your pass. If, for some reason you cannot make the check-in times you must contact us before the festival starts to make alternative arrangements. YOU MUST HAVE YOUR FESTIVAL PASS ON AT ALL FESTIVAL EVENTS OR YOU WILL BE ASKED TO LEAVE.

3. Workshops: When you arrive at your festival events you will need to first sign-in with the volunteer on duty. Each volunteer will have an attendee list (printed the day prior) for each of the festival events. If you are not on the attendee list and the class is full, you will be asked to leave and find another workshop to attend. We are trying to keep all of our classes below a certain number so that each attendee has a chance to have some hands-on time with the instructors.
**Please be respectful of this system. Again, if you simply show up without having added the class to your schedule, you will be turned away from full classes.

4. The Festival booklet: The Festival booklet will have important information on all of our festival events, instructors, and the local area, including GPS coordinates, announcements and other festival information needed to make a successful week for you. You will receive the booklet at check-in. No additional copies will be available so please keep it handy and keep it safe at all times.

5. A few of our events during the festival are comprised of "Part 1" and "Part 2" sessions. We understand that there are many awesome events to take, but these Part 1 sessions ARE IMPORTANT for you to participate in the following sessions. If your workshop has an intro "Part 1" please make sure you have signed up for these before going to the following sessions.
These "Part 1" sessions is where you will be given the necessary instruction to participate in "Part 2".
**Our instructors will NOT be repeating the information discussed in prior sessions out in the field as there won't be time to cover the basic important concepts during the shooting times.

6. Dinner with a Pro (DWP). If you are signed up for a Dinner with a Pro, you are responsible for chipping in and paying for the instructors tab at the end of dinner. The wait-staff will divide the bill amongst the group to make this happen equally. If you want to volunteer to solely pick up the instructor tab you may do so, just let the waitstaff know when you arrive. You will know where your restaurant will be once the festival starts. We will have additional sign-up sheets and information at the check-in desk located at Embassy suites for those who are looking to sign up last-minute.
**If an instructor is not scheduled for a DWP do not hesitate to ask us to set one up! We will make the arrangements to make it happen! Let Victoria or the Check-in volunteers know and we will do what we can to assist.

7. LIGHT Computer Lab: Some of the festival events will be held at the LIGHT Workshops computer lab. You are welcome to bring your own laptop to work on or use one of the LIGHT computers. If you choose to use a LIGHT Computer, you will need to have a PC compatible external hard drive to access and download your images. Please do not download images directly to the LIGHT Lab computers. Your images will not be saved on our machines. For more information about the LIGHT computer lab click here.

Some recommendations of what to bring::
-Valid form of picture ID.
-Your most up-to-date festival schedule.
-Laptop computer: If available, so you can work on your images at night and take notes or follow along with instruction during lectures.
-Wind jacket/rain jacket in case our coastal weather decides to give us some great clouds to photograph!
-A Hat: A sun hat and a warm hat is good to have in your box of tricks for the outdoor shoots as well as the early morning and sunset shoots, it can be windy when the sun is down.
-Water bottle: We will also have water stations at Embassy suites for your water needs through the week.
-Snacks: You never know if you're going to be out shooting past breakfast and lunch! Don't be caught hungry.
-Camera bag: Camera, battery, CF cards, SD cards, lenses, battery charger, tripod, external hard drive and/or flash drive
-Hiking shoes: Some workshops will have a small amount of hiking, scrambling, beach walking and mud to trample through.
-Cell phone charger
-iPad and charger: Download our festival app so you can read up about your instructors throughout the week!
-Extra pair of clean shoes: to change into when entering into Light Workshops and the hotels/restaurants in the area. Don't make your mark by being muddy!
-Cash: Some restaurants in Los Osos, Cayucos and other areas only accept cash. Our raffle will only accept cash as well and you will want to get in on these awesome prizes!
-Additional Forms of Payment: We will have a few vendors at Embassy Suites like Samy's Camera, Alpha Strike Paper company, Really Right Stuff and a few others who will be able to sell items to you during the festival week. Some of our vendors will also offer special pricing for buying on site.

**Look for additional gear suggestions in the event descriptions on your schedule!

Events you won't want to miss!
Wednesday 8am: Opening Ceremony: Including some great announcements that you won't want to miss
Wednesday Afternoon: Parish Kohanim's Canon Sponsored lecture: All are welcome, open to the public
Wednesday Evening: Dinner with a Pro! Sign up online now! Suggest additional instructors to dine with!
Thursday: Festival on the beach! Just imagine 200+ photographers at Morro Bay's Rock!
Friday: Dinner with a Pro! Sign up online now! Suggest additional instructors to dine with!
Saturday: Festival Open House at Light Photographic Workshops
Sunday: Rick Sammon Keynote, Festival Raffle: prizes from Adobe, Nik, Canon and many more! And a closing presentation by Canon regional rep Jim Rose!

Festival Photo Contest
This year we are sponsored by SmugMug for our photo gallery of your images during the festival!
Please read through the terms and conditions for the gallery. You will see that it is a great way to help share your images and get noticed by our models, sponsors, instructors and fellow attendees who will be going to the site. We hope that all of you utilize the gallery and help us allow our models and horse riders to contact you for your images for their portfolio and as a thank you for giving you and our festival these incredible opportunities. Once all of the images are uploaded our instructors and team here at Light will go through them all and take your votes and our votes to announce the "Top 3 Images of the 2011 Festival" in order to win one of 3 incredible prizes. More info will be shared as we get through the week!

Please Remember: Be courteous when out shooting. We are invited guests to many of our venues and we must remember to be respectful and grateful to our hosts. Please, also be respectful and considerate to our fellow attendees and instructors around you. We are all here to have a good time, take turns and get as much education out of the week as we can!

FAQ and more information:
Utilize our  Facebook Page! Carpooling, announcements, information, more FAQ, correspondence and more are all listed on our Facebook page. You can even get a great outline on model release and property release information on our discussions board.
**This letter will be posted on our discussion board as well.

Make sure you check-out our Terms and Conditions for very important and legal information including information about model, property and event image rights and usage. Please read through it to stay informed and protected. You should also take a look at our FAQ page in case any of your questions might be on there. If you have additional questions for the staff and team here at Light please let us know.

We want to thank each and every one of you who have signed up this year. This is an amazing opportunity for us here to have these incredible instructors join us in this beautiful area and celebrate what we all love! We are happy to make it happen as it is a passion of ours. We thank you for coming this year and we hope to see you back for years to come!

-Victoria and Hal Schmitt and the Light Team.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Tim Grey- Your Digital Imaging Guru!

Tim Grey is a highly regarded digital imaging specialist that has been educating photographers for over 10 years. Tim's vast understanding of the various outlets for image enhancement, including Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom, and Photoshop Elements, has led him to write over a dozen books on digital imaging for photographers. He has also been published in several magazines such as PC Photo, Digital Photo Pro, and Outdoor Photographer.

Tim is returning to the Central Coast for a second year of teaching at the California Photo Festival, October 12-16, 2011. Each day Tim will be sharing essential techniques for photographers of all levels. His courses this year will include Fundamentals of Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom, a series on Time Lapse Video and more!

We've asked Tim why he is coming back to teach at the California Photo Festival for a second year...
© Tim Grey

What do you like about teaching at the California Photo Festival?
"Are you kidding?! It is a great event in a beautiful location with lots of incredible instructors and wonderful attendees. This is easily one of my favorite events to teach at."

Why should other photographers join you at this years event?
"It's quite simple. This event is in a beautiful location that photographers will love, it features the best photographers in the industry, and there are many other enthusiastic attendees to mingle with. Don't miss it!"

Learn more about Tim by visiting

© Tim Grey 
Don't miss out on your chance to deepen your photography skills, with hands-on instruction from this digital imaging guru!

Click here to see all of Tim's classes during the California Photo Festival.

With 16 world-class instructors, over 150 events, and the beauty of the Central Coast, this year's California Photo Festival will be an amazing learning experience for all! Get your pass today at!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Juan Pons- Wildlife Conservation One Photo at a Time!

Juan Pons is a world famous wildlife and nature photographer with an uncanny ability to connect with the creatures of this world and their habitats. With more than 20 years of experience behind the lens, Juan has dedicated much of his work to supporting wildlife and natural habitat conservation, often donating his images to non-profit organizations with nature and wildlife conservation goals. 

With the photo industries recent movement towards video, Juan has become a recognized expert in the idiosyncrasies of of shooting High Definition video with the latest DSLRs.
Image © Juan Pons
Taken during the 1st annual California Photo Festival

Juan is part of our incredible line -up of instructors at the 2nd annual California Photo Festival October 12-16, 2011. With events scheduled for all five days of the festival, you can learn essential shooting techniques for capturing beautiful landscape and wildlife images. Juan's workshop topics include vDSLR shooting and editing, Shooting Better Wildlife Photography, Sunrise- Capturing the Pink Light and more!

Here's what Juan is saying about the California Photo Festival...

What do you look forward to the most about this year's California Photo Festival?
Image © Juan Pons
Taken during the 1st annual California Photo Festival
"I love the energy, enthusiasm and the real desire to learn that each and every festival participant brings to the event. Plus I love meeting new people who are passionate about photography."

Why should photographers join you at the California Photo Festival?
"One of the things that is not mentioned enough is the camaraderie and friendships that are forged amongst festival participants as well as with the instructors. Spending 5 days with like minded people does wonders for feeding that love of photography and supercharging your creativity."

To learn more about Juan Pons and his adventures visit

Join Juan and other amazing photographers for the largest photography event on the Central Coast this October for the 2nd annual California Photo Festival.

To see all of our events, instructors and more visit

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Our Tip of the Week by Lee Varis!

The Dreadful Banding, Bane of the Photo Printer
and How to Get Rid of it!

Most photographers who print their work encounter this sooner or later. It often rears its ugly head in clear sky gradients – the dreaded banding, posterized tonal gradients that break into discrete bands that destroy the smooth appearance of the sky. This is a "digital" artifact that is mostly blamed on 8 bit files! The fact is that banding in a print can often result even with high-bit depth files during the conversion to the printer profile for output. The problem is hard to predict or pre visualize and this can result in wasting expensive paper to discover that you have to "fix" something in the file.

The following image demonstrates the nature of the problem.


It looks smooth doesn't it... but, if we look at the individual channels maybe we can spot the problem...

sky red channel

The green and blue channels don't really show anything but here in the red channel we can just barely see that there might be an issue. It's subtle though so we can't really be certain that there will be a problem. The issue of banding in skies, or any smooth gradient for that matter, has been around as long as digital imaging has existed and there have been numerous attempts to solve the problem. Back in the day, when real high-end imaging was only possible using Scitex and Quantel Paintbox systems the solution was more or less the same as it is today - one has to add noise in some fashion or another to break up the bands. Outputting a file only to discover that there were bands was quite expensive so many shops resorted to adding noise as a standard procedure before outputing anything. However, adding noise often resulted in a gritty appearance and if it wasn't necessary it wasn't desireable.

One of the original Quantel Paintbox engineers, Ed Manning, invented a technique to pre visualize the bands and old timers like myself will still refer to this as "Ed's Curves" – Now its mostly referred to as "solar curves." This technique is still useful as part of our strategy to eliminate bands. Begin by duplicating the background to a new layer...

Layer Panel with Curve Adjustment

To setup "Eds Curves," make a new Curves Adjustment Layer at the top of the layer stack and, once you are in the Adjustments Panel, place multiple points on the Curve...

Points on Curve

Now, pull the points up and down so that you end up with an extreme sine wave sort of thing like this:

Extreme Wavy Curve

The result puts all the tone transitions on a mostly vertical segment of the curve so we have a lot of contrast between tones – we also have a fairly psychedelic image...

psychedelic sky

Despite the rainbow color the image shows very obvious sharp ridges running through the sky. We can leave this temporary Curves adjustment on to help visualize just how much noise we need to eliminate the ridges. Select the duplicate layer and run the noise filter: Filter->Noise-> Add Noise...

psycho sky with noise

The idea is to use enough noise to completely hide or obscure the ridges. This is the traditional approach that most prepress professionals use. The problem with this approach is that often quite a bit of noise is necessary and it can lend the image a harsh look...

Noise in sky

Sometimes this will not look as bad in a print but there is a better approach. Instead of using the standard noise filter, use: Filter->Brush Strokes-> Spatter...

Brush Strokes

The large filter dialog allows you to select multiple artistic filters intended for creating painterly effects.

Filter Dialog

For our purposes, we want to have a high "Spray Radius" and a Smoothness setting of "1"

Spatter Settings

This filter is much more effective in smoothing out bands in a gradient than simply adding noise. The only trick is in masking off the dark "spatter" of the non-sky elements at the horizon. For that we can turn to the Blending options dialog...

Blending Options

Blending Options dialog

Setup the "Blend If" sliders for the Blue channel as shown above - the idea is to blend through the dark, non-sky tones to reveal the "un-spattered" image in the Background. Sometimes you can get away with only using the slider in the top layer – here I've used both to get a cleaner image. Often you'll have to do a little bit of masking for final cleanup – add a layer mask to the "Spatter" layer and mask out the dark speckles with black.

The final result is smooth with less obvious noise...

Smooth Sky

Compare this with the original and with the noise version! Spatter breaks up the bands with diffusion instead of adding light and dark noise so there is no grittiness and no bands. At this point you can throw away the Curves Adjustment layer and print with full confidence that you have vanquished the dreaded bands forever!

Remember "Ed's Curves" and use them whenever you have the slightest suspicion that banding may be present and you can clearly visualize the 'bands" before they bite you in the butt...

Learn more incredible digital imaging techniques from Lee Varis at the California Photo Festival, October 12-16, 2011! Lee will be teaching all 5 days during the festival, discussing topics like The Digital Zone System, Mastering Exposure, High Speed Camera Techniques and more! Click here to see Lee's full festival schedule.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Lee Varis- A Digital Capture Master!

Lee Varis is a well know veteran of the photography industry. Jumping in head-first when the digital age came about, Lee has become an expert in utilizing the particularities of digital capture and digital imaging technologies to create beautifully crafted images.

Lee's creative imaging has been featured in National Geographic and Fortune magazines as well as numerous trade publications including: Photo-Electronic Imaging, Studio Photography, PC Photo, Rangefinder Magazine, Photo District News and Mac Art & Design.

Image © Lee Varis
As a guest instructor here at Light Photographic Workshops, Lee has taught many students how to capture and enhance photographs with incredible detail and "pop" without the plastic feel of many of today's digital photographs.

We talked to Lee about his experiences here at Light and why he is excited to be part of this year's California Photo Festival...

Why do you enjoy teaching at Light?
"Light Photographic Workshops offers a great facility as well as one of the most picturesque locations on the California coast. The students here are passionate about photography and learning– the combination of these two makes for a wonderful experience!"

Why will students enjoy attending workshops at Light and the California Photo Festival?
"The intimate setting provides a truly exceptional learning opportunity, and contact with other dedicated photographers and instructors makes for fun times in picture making!"

Image © Lee Varis
Lee will be sharing many of his digital imaging techniques at this year's California Photo Festival, October 12-16, 2011. His workshops include Intro to the Digital Zone, High-Speed Camera Techniques, and Skin-Natural Enhancements for Portraits (based on his book acclaimed book series!). Click here to see all of Lee's events at the California Photo Festival.

Learn more about Lee Varis by visiting!

Don't miss your opportunity to learn the latest tips and techniques from this digital imaging master! Sign-up today at!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Parish Kohanim and the Dynamic Figure

Parish Kohanim has been successfully involved in the photography industry for over 25 years. Working commercially for a large portion of his career, Parish has shot for advertising agencies, design firms and Fortune 500 companies including IBM, AT&T, DeBeers, and Coca-Cola. His work has also been published in Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, Forbes, Time and Newsweek. 

In recent years Parish has turned his focus towards fine art photography, creating stunning imagery using figure and dance including projects with members of Cirque Du Soleil. 

We are happy to have Parish Kohanim joining our incredible team of instructors at this year's California Photo Festival, October 12-16, 2011. Parish will be teaching a number of workshops including Creating Dynamic Figurative Shots and What Makes a Portrait Successful.

Here's what Parish has to say about the California Photo Festival....

Why do you look forward to teaching at the California Photo Festival?
"I am looking forward to meeting participants of the workshops who share the same passion for photography that I do. I continuously search to find exciting and diverse perspectives of the world around me, evolving and expanding my vision and that is what I want to share with the class."

Why will students enjoy participating in your workshops?
"It is exciting to push all of the workshop participants, as well as myself, not only to see differently, but to shoot in new ways, breaking not only my comfort zone, but every one's in the class. We will find ordinary objects and make them extraordinary through our vision."

Join Parish at this year's California Photo Festival to learn the latest tips and techniques from a portrait and fine art photography master!

Learn more about Parish at To see all of Parish's events during the California Photo Festival click here! Also, take a look at these great videos showing Parish at work in his studio and get a feel for what you can learn from this talented photographer.

Parish will also be giving a free and open to the public Explorer of Light presentation, Wednesday, October 12th from 3:30 - 4:45pm at Embassy Suites in San Luis Obispo, as part of the California Photo Festival and sponsored by Canon.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

This Week's Tip from Rob Sheppard!

A Difference in Seeing

One of the things we do very well is see all sorts of detail in a scene in nearly any light except when it gets very dark. So as photographers, it is very easy to see the subject.

Unfortunately, the camera does not work that way. The camera sees and emphasizes light and contrast. This different way of seeing is a challenge we all face as photographers. Often photos are unsuccessful because what we see and what the camera sees are two different things. We want the camera to see the subject as we do, but it doesn't.
Image by Rob Sheppard © 2011

A good way to see what the camera is seeing is to focus on light, not on subject. That does not mean you don't think about the subject -- that is only what gets you started. Then you try to photograph the light. That makes me remember a really eye-opening exercise, too. Go out for an afternoon and photograph the light and its effects, including shadows. Don't photograph "subjects" at all, just light.

It also helps to check your LCD and see what is emphasized -- the light helping your subject or the light fighting your subject. Remember that bright areas in a composition will always attract a viewer's eye and so they can be very distracting if in the wrong place.
Image by Rob Sheppard © 2011
Finally, realize that sometimes you just have to say "no" to a subject in a particular light that just will not work. As Steve Jobs said once, "It's only by saying no that you can concentrate on the things that are really important."

-Rob Sheppard

For more of these great tips from Rob check out the new iPad app "Rob Sheppard's Digital Landscape" developed by our very own Juan Pons! Based on his recent book "The Magic of Digital Landscape Photography" this app delivers essential tips on how to capture better landscape photographs and is paired with fantastic imagery.

Rob also has a great new eBook "Selling Photos" available for download through the Kindle Reading app (can also be download on to your home computer or laptop)

Rob Sheppard and Juan Pons are both part of our incredible line-up of instructors at the California Photo Festival, October 12-16, 2011. See who's coming, the schedule of our awesome events, and last year's highlights at

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Photo is Worth a Thousand Words with David H. Wells behind the Lens

Davis H. Wells is a master of creating the photo essay. Throughout the years his stories and images have been published in countless publications including Life Magazine, Los Angeles Times Magazine, New York Times Magazine, and Chicago Tribune.

Image by David H. Wells © 2011
David was recently featured in Photo District News as one of "The Best Workshop Instructors." We are very excited to have this experienced photojournalist and inspirational teacher as part of our team of instructors at this year's California Photo Festival, October 12-16, 2011.

David will be teaching a variety of workshops including Creating the Photo Essay, Light Studies, and several hands-on shooting courses.

Here's why David is coming back for another awesome year at the California Photo Festival and why you should join him!

Why do you enjoy teaching at the California Photo Festival?
I love being part of the community that is created at the California Photo Festival! I also love working in the most beautiful part of California. As a teacher, I thrive on helping others become part of that community, enjoy the environment and then make photographs of that experience to share with others.

Why do you think students will enjoy learning at the California Photo Festival?
Learning so many things in smaller doses (as compared to full week workshop) enables you to learn many things that you can practice and refine after the workshops. It also gives you the opportunity to try new styles of working that you may not have tried before and would not likely try if it required the commitment of a full on workshop.

Image by David H. Wells © 2011
Don't miss your chance to get incredible feedback and learn how to create a powerful series of photographs from this world class photographer. Learn more about David H. Wells by visiting

There's only 28 days left to join the largest photography event on the Central Coast! See all of our incredible instructors, festival events and register today by visiting!

Monday, September 12, 2011

So Much to Learn from Jane Conner-Ziser

Jane Conner-Ziser has been teaching digital imaging courses here at Light Workshops for the last couple years and has quickly become one our most popular instructors. As a photographer, media artist, independent consultant and teacher for the professional photography industry, Jane is internationally recognized as a leading expert in digital imaging technology.

Jane will also be a big part of this year's California Photo Festival, October 12-16, 2011, teaching a variety of classes including portrait retouching, painting in Corel Painter and Adobe Photoshop, and several hands-on shooting workshops.

Here's what Jane has to say about her experiences at Light and the awesome events at this year's California Photo Festival...

Why do you enjoy teaching at Light Photographic Workshops?

Light has such amazing energy and the people at Light are tireless in providing variety of locations, newest technologies and meaningful learning experiences - AND they are really, really nice, down to earth people. Come once, and you'll count the days til you get to go back again.

Why will students enjoy learning at the California Photo Festival?

You're going to get a wide variety of creative learning experiences from the best in the business. You'll make new friends, connect with peers from all over the country and you'll have an awesomely (is that a real word?) FUN time!
Image by Jane Conner-Ziser © 2011

Between digital painting, incredible portrait retouching, studio and location lighting and even marketing, there's so much to learn from this talented and fun instructor!
Click here to see all of Jane's events at this year's California Photo Festival.

Learn more about Jane Conner-Ziser by visiting 

Join in on the fun at this year's California Photo Festival, October 12-16, 2011 and get the expert instruction you've been looking for to enhance your digital photography skills! Check out our incredible line-up of instructors and all the events by visiting Sign-up today and become part of the largest photography event on the Central Coast!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Teachers Learning from their Students

Don Monkerud is a writer from Santa Cruz, California, and one of our students here at Light Workshops. Recently, Don sent us a story that we feel is a great lesson for amateurs and pro photographers alike. 

Photography Tip to Keep in Mind

Anyone who photographs people, especially in public, invariably runs 
into the irate subject or bystander who objects to having their, or 
someone else's photograph taken.

My rule of thumb is always to ask permission, but occasionally I'm 
working too fast, already gained permission earlier, or simply 
Image by Don Monkerud
overlooked asking the subject for their permission. Sometimes such oversights can become costly, in embarrassment, rejection, mistreatment or even loss of a job.

A recent incident in the local jazz club where an experienced photographer has been taking photographs for years can be a reminder to all photographers. Over the years, he became somewhat lackadaisical about showing up at the beginning of musicians' sets, instead showing up midway through their sets and simply snapping away.

While posted signs and an announcement at the beginning inform listeners that there is to be no recording or photography during the show, the club photographer volunteers to take photographs for the 
club's website.

The last time he showed up after a show began and started snapping 
away, the singer stopped the musicians in the middle of a song and 
demanded that he erase all the photos on his card. Who the hell did 
he think he was? He mumbled an expletive half under his breath, which 
didn't go over well either.

Image by Don Monkerud
The new photographer makes a point of showing up during the sound check to ask permission. A valuable lesson, for I'm sure the original photographer was not only embarrassed but also humiliated, and he lost his gig. The lesson is to always ask permission and not get so used to a regular gig as to become lackadaisical.

A question about usage also arises. While this has been a volunteer job, what rights does the photographer have to the work? The initial meeting with the musicians is the time to set the parameters: Can the photographer use the photos only for the club? What about art shows or sales on a website? Should an agreement be signed? etc.

Whatever rights are requested and granted, the photographer must to 
be aware of the first rule in taking photographs in such a setting: 
Always ask permission.

By Don Monkerud

We are happy that Don was willing to share this learning experience so that all of us could learn from it. If you have had a photography experience that you feel others can learn from please share them with us! Contact us at with your tips and shooting stories.

For more photography tips you can visit our Light Photographic Workshops Page or our California Photo Festival Page on Facebook. Sign-up to receive our weekly Newsletter and be the first to see the latest updates to our workshop schedule and get more photography tips from our fabulous instructors!

Fiat Lux! 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Great Tip from Wildlife Photography Specialist Juan Pons

Connecting with your subject

The most compelling photos are those that create a connection between your subject and your viewer. This not only applies to wildlife photography, but just about every other type, such as portrait, wedding, human interest, travel, Photojournalism, etc.

As the old cliché goes, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression”, so make sure your viewer connects with your image right from the get go.

The most effective way to create that connection is to maintain eye level with your subject, I am always amazed by how so many people will take images from a standing position without regard to their relative eye level to their subject. I see this all too often when judging competitions at local photo clubs.
Photo by Juan Pons
For example, a beginning photographer will go to a local park or botanical garden to shoot some of the very tame and accessible waterfowl on a local pond, they will stand at the bank of said pond and as the birds are accustomed to being fed, they will approach. While standing the photographer will let it rip and take a bunch of images.

Unfortunately most, if not all, of those images will be very uninspiring. Why? Because they will show the subject while you are looking down at it, with hardly any eye contact. Without that eye contact it will be very difficult for the viewer to make a connection to the subject of your image. Also we are all accustomed to seeing ducks and other waterfowl from a standing position. An image that presents an unusual or fresh view on a subject has a better chance of having an immediate impact on the viewer, hence a good first impression.
Photo by Juan Pons

Getting down low, very low, even lying down on the ground, to get at eye level is crucial in this situation in order to get an eye level shot.

In the two images shown accompanying this tip, I was in such a park, where the birds were tame and accustomed to humans. They would get very close looking for a handout.

I was lying down on the ground, with my lens on a beanbag getting shots as close to eye level as I possibly could. Being eye level to the Wood and Ruddy ducks present images of subjects that are engaged with the viewer and as such they are much more attractive and appealing; hopefully images that connect with the viewer.

We're excited to have Juan Pons as one of our instructors at this year's California Photo Festival, October 12-16, 2011! Juan will be here teaching wildlife photography, video DSLR techniques and more!
Click here to see all of Juan's festival events! 

Join us this year for the largest photography event on the Central Coast! Register today at

Get more tips from our festival instructors by visiting our California Photo Festival Page on Facebook!