Category Archives: Reviews

Captured by the Light (Book Review)

"Captured by the Light" by David Ziser (Front Cover)

“Captured by the Light” by David Ziser

I recently finished up David Ziser’s guide to all things wedding photography, “Captured by the Light,” [buy now] which I picked up during my Washington, DC excursion. It took me a few months to get through, not for any other reason than my own scattered brain when it comes to reading books, but I finally finished it up and here are a few of my thoughts.

The first thing you need to understand about my perspective is that I don’t shoot weddings as my trade full-time. It isn’t that I don’t shoot weddings at all, but I know too many photographer friends who do weddings and engagements throughout the year and they spend 40 hours a week on marketing, album design, bridal shows, and more and only pick up their camera a few hours a week, if that. I prefer to work with a client or model in an intimate setting and really work a portrait session until I feel I have truly captured an image that they will find timeless.

When I do get to shoot a wedding now and then, I enjoy the experience, but it’s like high school… it was fun while I was there, but I can’t say I would choose to go back except in the right circumstances. For all these reasons, I hesitated to pick up David’s book, but then I saw the man himself give a presentation at Photoshop World and he made wedding images that looked like he had all the time in the world to create them so I had to find out his secrets. I grabbed the book immediately and plowed through half of it on the plane ride back to Illinois.

So, without further adieu, here’s the first book review I’ve done since college.

The Good Stuff

Wedding Rings | Lisa & Billy (2010)

Ring, Ring

My first impression of this book was how easy it was to read and digest. David takes the reader step-by-step through posing, lighting, and how to capture certain moments throughout the day. He spends one chapter on just his gear and another on a walk-through of the wedding day. Each little detail is gone over, but broken up into digestible pieces so you can easily flip through the book to a certain part of the day and get a tip or two and move on.

David also provides a whole load of images, more than most photography books care to do, to illustrate the different techniques he discusses. His use of diagrams and sketches are also very helpful when determining lighting setups. Easily the best part of the book, for me, was the last chapter where David presents pages of album layouts from a single wedding; the design and layout is where I struggle at times so to see how he presents his final images to clients is a very nice touch you don’t often see in other wedding photo books.

The “Could Be Better” Stuff

Damn, It's Good... | Sam & Blake (2009)

Damn, It’s Good… (2009)

No good review of anything is worth a read without a few items on the “con” list so here are mine. Again, keep in mind that this is just one man’s opinion and I’m not a full-time wedding shooter.

One thing that could have been a little better for me was the organization of the book. David does explain why he put his book together the way he did, but I felt it didn’t follow a clearly defined structure.

Each chapter and section went through a logical procession from one technique to the next, but I think working with the compositional and posing pieces first with natural light then moving into the off-camera lighting and finally into the wedding day walk-through would have been more fluid than the current structure.

The other thing I would have liked to see, especially as someone who has experience shooting weddings, and yes I do know the book was really written for someone wanting to dip their toes in and not be unprepared during their first wedding gigs, was a little more “advanced tips and tricks.”

David talks about where he sends his assistants for certain poses and lighting techniques, especially during the ceremony, but it’s only a ripple in a big pond of information; I would love to know some more about shooting as a solo shooter who doesn’t have an assistant or some more tips on how to guarantee you get the “first kiss” or “sand ceremony,” etc.

The Final Word

The Boys Club | Patrick & Jenny (2009)

The Boys Club (2009)

Overall, I thought this was a great read and a quick one at that; quick in the way that you understand it easily and it doesn’t make you pass out from sheer exhaustion. For a beginner with only one or two weddings under your belt, this would be a perfect resource; for someone who might have more experience, you probably have your own methods, and while “Captured by the Light” [buy now] might be able to help you refine your techniques and help you create better, more vivid and lively wedding images, it may also just be a book about how Ziser does it than a guide to something you may already have a solution for yourself.

I really hope, especially after seeing his presentation at Photoshop World, that David decides to do the book thing again, but with a more advanced focus for those shooters who might have a year or two of experience. I think that would really be a great follow-up to an already good start at a wedding photography all-you-need-to-know guide.

Photoshop World

Mike Vujovich & Joe "Numnuts" McNally

Me & Joe "Numnuts" McNally

In case you missed the epic saga that was Washington, DC here on the blog, I recently headed to the nation’s capital to shoot for a couple of days and then attend Photoshop World. I was especially excited to not only visit DC for the first time in my life, but to have my good buddy and mentor, Dave Vernon, tag along for the wild ride.

What is Photoshop World, you ask? Well, the name says it all! Created and presented by the National Association of Photoshop Professionals, the brain child of the great Scott Kelby, this biannual conference is the première conference for photographers, editors, retouchers, graphic designers, and computer geeks. While the name of the conference is Photoshop, the classes and presentations offered ranged in everything from photography to lighting to retouching to portfolio building and more.

Every day lasted around 10 to 12 hours and was packed with loads of education and fun. I was able to take classes with some of the greatest people in our industry including Joe McNally (scratched that off my bucket list!), Dave Black (official photographer for the Olympics), Jay Maisel (not only engaging and funny, but his work will take your breath away with its simplicity), Joel Grimes, David Ziser, Moose Peterson, Scott Kelby, RC Concepcion, and Greg Heisler (this guy has shot almost every Time Man of the Year cover for years).

Needless to say, I came back with more inspiration and motivation than I’ve had in years. I’m hitting the ground running so stay tuned for more personal projects, concepts, ideas, shoots, images, and all around madness! Mwa ha ha ha… ha… ha…

Okay… serious time. While Dave chose to review Photoshop World, I’m going to take a slightly different approach and present you with some comedic relief, courtesy of two bumbling Illinois photographers in the nation’s capital. Enjoy!

#DCFails

Photoshop World Expo

Photoshop World Expo

What would a vacation be without some comical, “I wish we hadn’t done that” moments:

  1. Strap on Vuji’s suitcase breaks immediately after arrival in DC
  2. Vuji & Dave get lost on the way to the condo
  3. Dave forgets entire PSW registration packet at home
  4. Dave forgets polarizer, also at home
  5. After a brief phone call with the good folks at Arlington inquiring about shooting at sunrise, Dave informs me that… “we will be shot if we enter Arlington before 8 a.m.”
  6. Dave leaves camera cards at condo during first day
  7. Dave also runs out of batteries on first day
  8. Vuji forgets medication at home; fights narcolepsy off for five days
  9. Vuji & Dave miss shooting at sunrise on second day as was planned
  10. Vuji loses conference badge on train to PSW first day; ends up half hour late to opening ceremonies

Things I Learned About Washington, DC

  1. There is not a single working “up” escalator in the entire DC subway system.
  2. Watching Marine One make a landing really is all that and a bag of chips.
  3. Picnics along the Tidal Basin must be the DC equivalent of dinner and a movie.
  4. Tripods are the number one threat to national security, especially in downtown DC.
  5. Everyone, and I do mean everyone, is a photographer in the capital.
  6. Even the dorkiest of dorks looks sophisticated and suave in a business suit.
  7. If it sounds like someone is speaking in a foreign language, they are.
  8. The reflecting pool is not located next to the Washington Monument; the Washington Monument is two-tone.
  9. Cabs aren’t as expensive as you think; use them often and your legs/hips will thank you for it.
  10. In DC, you ain’t one of the cool kids unless you run and/or bike at all times every day.

Review – The HDR Book

"The HDR Book" by RC ConcepcionNo matter what type of photography you shoot or what level of photographer you are, there is always a gem of wisdom or two found in books written by any of the “Photoshop Guys.” Whether it is Scott Kelby discussing his retouching techniques, Matt Kloskowski breaking down his compositions, or Corey Barker showing off the latest and greatest Photoshop tricks, you can always walk away with something new you learned.

These “gems” are more than clear in RC Concepcion’s first book, “The HDR Book.” With a simple title like that, you know exactly what you are going to get: High Dynamic Range (HDR) and all the post-processing intricacies that go along with it. I recently purchased and read this book in less than three days; it’s a quick read, but there’s a reason for that. Like most Kelby Training books, this one will sit on my shelf and be used as more of a reference guide when I can’t remember how to do “that one thing that RC did that one time.”

I love the approach that RC took when putting this book together. Rather than focus on the basics of HDR like shooting, using a tripod, setting your exposures, and using a remote to fire the camera, he discusses the basics in a couple of pages then breezes right into the post-processing which is where the true magic of HDR images come to life.

Once inside the post-processing section, RC really blew me away again. Not only did he show off real images and walk you through his process for creating them, but he actually gives you the images themselves to work along with as you read. He breaks down every button, setting, and slider that he used to create the effect he did and even lets you know about the third-party plug-ins he uses to create some of the “glows” indicative of an RC Concepcion image.

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Before you start thinking to yourself, “I bet RC only talks about Photoshop HDR Pro since he is a Photoshop Guy,” think again! He tells it like it is and lets you know that HDR Pro is his least-favorite of the HDR processing engines, but he does show how he would process the images in the main three engines: HDR Pro, Photomatix, and Nik Software’s HDR Efex Pro!

With that being said, I would have liked to see more of included a better guide to shooting the HDR images ie. what tips and tricks are used to lessen ghosting and halos. I also felt that the removal of halos wasn’t addressed as thoroughly as it could have been. As one of the real obstacles to HDR post-processing, knowing how to properly mask and use tools like Refine Edge and gradient masking might have been helpful.

As a HDR shooter myself, I really enjoyed this book overall. The writing was very well done and could be understood by any level of reader or shooter. The images are beautiful and the “tutorials” are laid out step-by-step so anyone can follow along. RC Concepcion has really done the Kelby Training name proud by creating a book worthy of being on this photographer’s shelf.

Disclaimer: I have no ties to the author other than just loving his work and following his tweets. The opinion above is my own from a photographer who read a book he wanted to talk about and share with all of you.

P.S. A special thanks to RC Concepcion for letting me “borrow” the image of his book from the Kelby Training website.

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