Master Class
Shutterbugs First Digital Seminar

Photos © 2001, Monte Zucker, All Rights Reserved

Photoshop Fun
Sammon's photography and knowledge of Photoshop flipped us all out. He inspired me to try things that I have never done before. Here, I've taken one of my simple sunrise shots and in Photoshop modified it by going through Filter/Distort/Spherize.

As if that weren't enough, I got caught up in a couple of the "Distort" applications that Sammon had used. So, naturally, when discovering something new I got carried away with it. Here's one of my sunrise shots that I also played with in Photoshop (Image/Distort/Spherize). So simple and so much fun. Perhaps one of these days the excitement of discovery will allow me to take it easy when playing, but not yet.

My assistant, Joey Pollack, also played with his images every evening while I was entering photographs each night into my web site message boards on

Making Portraits€ Of Photographers
Photographers were seriously shooting beside us all the time. That, of course, was one of our goals; that is, to inspire and help each one in attendance. Here's a photographer who I caught at one of our sunrise shoots. All available light. I used the early morning light as my main light. No reflectors were necessary. All I did was to photograph the 2/3 view of his face, being sure to keep the background very simple, so that it would not detract from his portrait. It was fun creating portraits outdoors with the barest equipment.

I came in close for still another portrait of one of the photographers who shared the excitement of the sunrise with me that morning. Each portrait gave me the ability to explain further how exciting it could be to analyze each and every person's face, photographing them at the most exciting angle and cropping sometimes so closely that you don't even include the whole face. Of course, I explained to them, when you're cutting into faces like this you have to explain what you're doing while you're creating the image. Otherwise, people may think that you made a mistake when you cut off the top of their head. Keeping the eyes about 1/3 of the way from the top of the picture in close-ups is a good rule of thumb, I explained and showed to everyone. Also, you should leave space for the subject to look into when the faces are looking to one side. Again, all available early morning light.

Location Portraits
Talk about timing: the seminar was planned to be in conjunction with a special weekend at a neighboring Seminole Indian celebration. We spent almost an entire day there--each of us creating portraits and scenic photographs under the guidance of the seminar pro instructors.

I photographed this gentleman, who was dressed for one of the events that was about to take place there.

My assistant had two photographers hold up my large Westcott translucent panels to create a soft, diffused light where it was originally bright, direct sunshine. Then, I turned his face to get beautiful profile lighting. All that remained was to simplify the background. To do that another two of the photographers held up my black Westcott background. Pretty incredible portrait--made right in the middle of where everything was happening.

One of the people had painted their face for a battle reenactment that was going to take place in a short while. Working in a shaded area I brought him to the edge of the trees and from a low angle studied his face as I turned it toward and away from the open sky. With his face turned at just the right angle I was able to create strong specular highlights on his cheek and nose. This really brought out the three-dimensional look to his face in what would ordinarily have looked like completely flat lighting.

Look For Details
Just before leaving for the Reservation Sammon had suggested that we sometimes look for little vignettes as we were shooting. As a result, I picked out this detailed portion of this man's attire. The digital camera of mine allowed me to get right into exactly what I wanted in the viewfinder. All I needed to do was to turn this man's body until I could plainly see the detail in his silver ornament. Even the stains on his shirt become a part of the composition.

Photographic Safaris
Each day all of the instructors took groups out to photograph in the magnificent areas that were fairly close to The Sanibel Inn, our home for the weekend. Photogra-phers were looking everywhere, pointing their lenses at everything from the ground, growing upward toward the sky, and birds that were flying above and/or nesting in the trees.

I explained to everyone that they should be looking at the side of the paths where the sunlight was either backlighting or sidelighting what they wanted to photograph. Also, to simplify their photographs; not to try to capture everything in one picture.

Of course we photographed each other at play, always keeping in mind the angle of the light that created the most depth and three-dimension in the picture. I also kept reminding everyone to carefully compose their photographs to take advantage of the full size and shape of their images.

"See the finished picture through your viewfinder before you take the picture," I kept reminding everyone. "You have an additional opportunity to crop again later, but I'd prefer that you crop as closely as possible to what you want in the finished image while you're composing it in the camera."

Since portraiture has always been my love, I explained to everyone how to find opportunities to create beautiful portraits outdoors by finding places where you could control the lighting. Here, I posed one of the couples underneath an overhang where maps of the location were posted. The light came in from my right. I posed their faces to the light and had my assistant hold my small silver reflector below their faces to open up some of the shadows. I explained carefully to everyone how the main light pattern was established, however, by the sunlight. All the reflector did was to allow me to retain detail throughout the portrait, while, at the same time, have a full range of tones. I did a little retouching in Photoshop using the Rubber Stamp and Gaussian Blur on separate layers.

Working In Bright Light
I was struck by the deep color of this man's face. At a 2/3 angle his face just jumped out at me. The portrait took only a few seconds to create. Direct sunshine from above shaped his face beautifully and created a great three-dimensional look. A low camera angle simplified the background, so that you could just concentrate on his face. The only problem was that the bright, direct light that was working so beautifully on his face was also lighting up his clothing too much. It became a terrible distraction.

My assistant quickly held up my translucent panel to cut the light on his right shoulder, toning it down to where it no longer was a distracting element from his face.

Pick Of The Crop
My absolute favorite image of the entire Shutterbug weekend is this picture of a woman working within her lean-to (not a teepee, I was informed).

After receiving permission to enter her home, I crawled inside and looked outward toward her and the entrance to her lean-to. I got the idea of photographing her in profile. To create the base for the picture I turned her body at close to a 45 angle to my lens and turned her head to profile. I had to have her pull back her hair from covering her left eye. She was happy to do it. I asked her to raise whatever it was that she was working on to bring it more into the composition of the picture.

A wooden log outside the tent with two hatchets buried into it was a great prop to fill in that area. Lighting was the diffused light that was coming through the top of the lean-to. The only problem was that the area behind her was way too distracting. I overcame that problem by having my assistant hold up our black background just outside the tent. Look carefully and you can see the white binding around the background where it meets the grass.

One exposure. Everything automatic: aperture priority and I got it! Wow! Even while I was composing the picture through my viewfinder I was aware of the great strength of the lines in the composition. I love this image!

Photoshop It!
Another person had a great face and beautiful clothing, but the picture looked too bland with the pale, white sky behind him.

Since the theme of this whole weekend had been digital, I decided to play with the picture to see if I could make something better of it in Photoshop. Lo and behold, playing in Curves I brought the white point of the curve all the way down to the bottom and reversed the sky to black and did all kinds of fun things to his authentic Seminole attire.

Time Travel
I noticed that one group of three was posing for a family portrait outside of their home. I smiled inwardly at the formal posing. It reminded me so much of the very old photographs that I had seen in historical archives.

My assistant suggested that I change the picture to black and white and then add Filter/Noise/ Add Noise. I couldn't believe how effective the digital transformation looked. This picture could have been taken ages ago, couldn't it?

Before we left the Reservation we took a brief moment to record the whole group of photographers who experienced this first Shutterbug digital seminar. From the reaction of all those in attendance, it looks like these seminars that are being prepared for around the country are going to be a permanent part of photographic education. I, personally, was inspired to the greatest heights that I've ever experienced as a result of these past few days. Maybe, we'll shoot side by side at one of their upcoming events?